MIMO stands for Multiple-input multiple-output. MIMO is basically a wireless network that can transmit and receive more than one data signal simultaneously over the same radio channel. It is deployed using multiple antennas at both the transmitter (the source) and receiver (destination) ends.
By using multiple transmit and receive antennas, MIMO multiplies the path that signals and data have to go through thereby improving the speed and reliability of a wireless communication link without increasing the required amount of bandwidth or spectrum frequency. This technology to multiply the capacity of antenna links is inherent in current wireless standards such as Wi-Fi, WiMAX and LTE. 4G is based upon MIMO.
Massive MIMO, by definition, scales up MIMO technology to hundreds or even thousands of antennas and terminals. Attached to a base station, this massive network multiplies the capacity of wireless connection even more without requiring additional spectrum. The more antennas in the transmitter/receiver side, the more possible signal paths available and the better the performance of the network terms of data rate, network reliability and response time.
A Massive MIMO network will also be more responsive to devices transmitting in higher frequency bands. This particular advantage will improve coverage and provide considerable benefits in obtaining a strong signal indoors.
The greater number of antennas will also make a Massive MIMO network more resistant to interference and intentional jamming. Existing systems utilize only a handful of antennas and their limited signal paths put them at greater risks to interferences.
By tapping into beamforming technology, massive MIMO networks will enable targeted use of spectrum. Current mobile networks allocate each spectrum and apportion them among users in the coverage area rendering them susceptible to performance bottlenecks.
In short, the significant benefits of massive MIMO include increasing data rate, reduced latency, inexpensive, low power components, robustness to interference and intentional jamming, simplification of the media access control (MAC) layer, and increasing basic link signal to noise ratio.
What MIMO means for 5G
By 2020, 5.5 billion people will own mobile phones. Each of the billions of mobile users will consume gigabytes of data per month and use different smart devices in their daily routines. Consider further the demands in the “hyperconnected future” like 4K video, driverless vehicles, smart factories and broadband access to the most remote places and today’s wireless networks will be in a bind.
In this emerging digital landscape, the next generation of wireless data networks, or 5G, needs to address existing challenges such as network reliability, coverage, energy efficiency and latency on top of future capacity constraints.
Massive MIMO has the inside track to deliver on the promises of 5G. It allows data consumption from more users in a dense area without consuming any more radio spectrum or causing interference. This will result in fewer dropped calls, a decrease in dead zones, and better quality data transmission, without unduly stretching the increasingly scarce radio spectrum.
Massive MIMO technology will almost certainly be a core component of the super-fast 5G networks of the future. In fact, several mobile network operators around the world have already begun rolling it out ahead of the 5G standards scheduled to be announced before the end of 2018.
It must be clarified though that MIMO is not 5G itself. Rather, at this point in time, even massive MIMO will be one of the potential enablers of 5G among other competing superfast communications technologies.