Ericsson pushes 5G uplink limits with MIMO

Ericsson hit what it claimed was a single-user uplink record using multiple input multiple output (MIMO) technology, taking a step toward overcoming what one executive identified as a key limitation on mobile connectivity.

The vendor ran the trial on its commercial C-Band radio system, combining single-user MIMO with 256-QAM and its Uplink Booster technology in standalone 5G mode. Using a 100 MHz channel of spectrum from 3.7 GHz to 3.8 GHz, it reached a peak data rate of 315 Mbps on a mobile test device equipped with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X60 5G platform.

While that speed might not sound like much when compared to downlink demonstrations which have delivered multiple gigabits per second, Ericsson noted it is actually 15 to 20 times faster than average uplink rates available today.

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Paul Challoner, Ericsson’s VP of Network Product Solutions, told Fierce the current average uplink in the U.S. is 10 Mbps. A 5G benchmarking report issued by OpenSignal in February found the Netherlands offered the fastest uplink, with a speed of 32.5 Mbps. The nine next-fastest data rates ranged from 20.4 Mbps in Thailand and Spain to 26.4 Mbps in South Korea and Taiwan.

Challoner explained networks have traditionally been asymmetric, normally handling more download than upload traffic. But “as uplink heavy use cases get more prevalent – so as you want to stream your 4K video, or if you want to stream your Facebook Live session – user behavior is getting more uplink centric,” he said.

“It’s actually a bottleneck in the system right now," he added. "So we’re opening up that bottleneck to enable those uplink heavy use cases.” 

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In the U.S., Challoner said operators are expected to begin deploying radios with enhanced uplink capabilities later this year as C-Band rollouts get underway following a recent spectrum auction. He added performance will scale based on the amount of spectrum used, with smaller channel sizes yielding slower speeds.

He noted the announcement is just the first glimpse of new uplink capabilities, stating Ericsson is “continuing to evolve the uplink and the technology applied.”

“This is a big advancement on the uplink but there’s more to come,” he concluded.