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Massive MIMO: The future of 5G

The days of 2G and 3G data and network are long gone and the world now thrives on the speed and luxury of 4G networks. Soon, there will be 5G networks harnessed by Massive MIMO – Multiple Input Multiple Output technologies. Massive MIMO is an antenna technology that is considered the future of superfast 5G networks.

While typical wireless network employs two wireless nodes to communicate by transmitting and receiving data on a radio channel, the availability of the spectrum it uses is not always a promised. Here’s where MIMO can swoop in and save the day. It’s range of technologies can easily multiply a wireless connection’s capacity without having to depend on more spectrum. In the recent times, use of MIMO has become common; wireless technologies such as LTE and WiFi rely largely on it to achieve more capacity without more spectrum.

What is Massive MIMO?

A fundamental MIMO technique transmits and receives data on two polarities of the radio wave at once. This is known as dually – polarized system. A more advanced MIMO techniques use multiple antennas to transmit and receive data. A more advanced processing capability in the wireless nodes is required for seamless functioning.  As the number of antennas and the corresponding number of data streams in a MIMO system increase, the complexity required in the wireless nodes rapidly increases. It requires highly advanced signal processing and system design for the network to function well as the number of antennas increases. Systems incorporating a high number of antennas such as this are known as Massive MIMO systems.

Scientists and researchers abroad claim that Massive MIMO’s capabilities are far reaching and that it can be proven mathematically and through simulations. It also sparked the interest of the 5G researchers at an early stage. In the past decade’s study, the research community has agreed upon the fact that there is an upper limit to how much data can be transferred wirelessly per second using MIMO.

By deploying more antennas and processing the signals that are transmitted and received from them in the right way, a system in which there is no upper limit for how much data can be transferred, can be created.

How the system works?

All the antennas send a few tens of signals with carefully determined delays. The delays are chosen so that the copies of a signal arrive at the intended receivers at exactly the same instant, but at slightly different times at all other receivers. This gives a strong signal at the intended receiver and only a slight disturbance at all the others. Pilot contamination arises when the delays are to be estimated using signals known as “pilots.”

What are the future prospect?

Massive MIMO provides a combination of low output power, high energy efficiency and superior capacity, since many receivers can receive signals at the same time. As a result, increasing numbers of antennas can be deployed as and when people consume the ever-growing amounts of wireless data.

Research on Massive MIMO is growing exponentially; Organizations and educational institutions like the IIT-Delhi are all setting up special facilities to tap into its potential. Meanwhile, universities abroad are providing researchers with opportunities and resources in abundance for the same. Premium institutions such as the International Center for Applied Sciences (ICAS), Manipal in India, provide students with hands-on knowledge in relevant subjects such as this and give them the opportunity to take it further through research opportunities abroad. It gives its students the best facilities to engineer into the possibilities of such a vast opportunity.

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