SoftBank launches massive MIMO in Japan

By:
Alan Burkitt-Gray
Published on:

'Spatial multiplexing' will provide terminals with a dedicated connection, seen as a key ingredient for 5G

Japanese operator SoftBank has started what it called the first commercial operation of a spatial multiplexing mobile technology called massive MIMO (multiple-input and multiple-output) today.

As one of the core 5G technologies, massive MIMO provides mobile communications services simultaneously for multiple end users by deploying a large number of antennas at base stations, says SoftBank, which is working with associate company Wireless City Planning (WCP) for the project.

ZTE is providing SoftBank with commercial massive MIMO base stations, which were also used to demonstrate the 5G experience during a press conference in Japan about the project.

This follows a joint development agreement first signed with ZTE in July 2015.

Massive MIMO uses a technique called beam-forming and spatial multiplexing that can provide terminals – in vehicles along a road, for example – with a dedicated connection, using common base stations.

“Massive MIMO is one of the most important technologies of 5G,” said SoftBank and WCP. “Based on technologies such as multiple antennas and beam forming, it can allocate a dedicated frequency to each person so as to achieve better communication in crowded places, such as railway stations and downtown areas where communication speed slows down.”

The project is starting in 100 urban base stations in the cities of Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. Outside those areas, terminal will use standard LTE, say the companies.

Both Huawei and ZTE have worked with SoftBank and WCP on the project.

When the deal was signed with ZTE, Keiichi Makizono, senior vice president of SoftBank, said: “The technology being developed under this agreement will help define future mobile internet communications. In our plans to develop next-generation mobile networks, SoftBank will derive large benefits from the Pre5G collaboration with ZTE.”

Meanwhile SoftBank has said it will carry out a field test for the emerging LTE Broadcast technology this weekend in Japan, at baseball games between Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks versus Orix Buffaloes on 17-19 September.

Pictures will be transmitted by LTE Broadcast to allow SoftBank to check technical reliability and assess its viability for new services.

During the field test, SoftBank plans to deliver video from various angles by using multiple cameras. In addition to testing technical reliability, SoftBank will analyse customer satisfaction by letting spectators take part in an immersive viewing experience from their terminals.

“The test will also allow SoftBank to consider new ways of delivering sports content,” said the company.