As we see consumers drive usage even higher, so too are we seeing the demands for wireless data. Therefore, with limitations on capital and operating budgets, the challenge today is to efficiently utilize existing assets.
In a recent paper by Mohamed Hamdy, he wrote about one specific option available to network operators, and that is - adding more sectors at macro sites by using multibeam antennas. His "Multibeam Antennas Planning - Limitations and Solutions" white paper considers both technical challenges and possible solutions to deploying multibeam antenna.
Multibeam antennas can increase the capacity of a site by reconfiguring a 3-sector site to between 4 and 6 sectors. It is in certain high-traffic areas where we see these "higher orders of sectorization", and in some specific cases we see the deployment of more than six sectors.
MIMO, which stands for multiple input/ multiple output, is another effective technique used by wireless operators to add capacity. We already see MIMO systems in place for LTE networks. 2x2 MIMO can be described as two data streams for transmit and receive pathways, while four streams is 4x4 MIMO.
The Move to 4-Way Receive.
Today we're seeing operators begin the move to the next level of antenna configuration by moving from 2-way receive to 4-way receive. There's a huge improvement in the connection between the mobile unit and the base station with 4-way receive, with the main benefit being that a user away from the site will experience better call quality. This is particularly important for VoLTE (Voice over LTE) and other similar technologies.
With 4x2 MIMO there will be increased link capacity between the base station and the mobile and improved traffic-carrying capabilities of the RF path. Because both 4-way receive and 4x2 MIMO require the same number of antenna ports, 4-way receive configurations will help simplify the transition to 4x2 downlink MIMO. Transitioning to 4x2 MIMO may also require extra equipment to share paths and ensure the number of tower antennas are kept to a minimum.
Improving a wireless network's capacity utilizing these methods can promote spectral efficiency, without the need to add more sites. They are just one tool in the radio engineer's toolkit for continuing the work to efficiently and effectively add more data-handling capabilities.
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