CommScope has launched a new antenna with a particularly broad range of frequency support, that pushes multiple-input-multiple-output technology on the tower to 4×4 at 1400-2700 MHz, with low-band support at 694-960 MHz as well.
Upendra Pingle, VP of CommScope’s base station antenna and Heliax product lines, said that the antenna is the first of its kind with such a wide range and four transmit, four receive MIMO for both Time Division Duplex and Frequency Division Duplex LTE. The antenna is aimed in particular at the European market and supporting additional capacity in LTE networks.
“In general, I’d say we’re adding more and more capacity in base stations,” he said. “In the last 10 to 15 years, we’ve gone from using the phone to talk, to not talk — we don’t talk on the phone any more, people are texting, emailing, Netflix-ing, YouTubing — everything.”
As operators seek to add capacity to their base stations, they have three options: to split the sites by adding more sectors; to add small cells; or to purchase and support more spectrum, Pingle said. In Europe, he added, a number of major operators are interested in adding 1400 MHz support to their networks (particularly Three and Vodafone) — but when operators add new spectrum, Pingle said, that also means new investments in tower equipment, and they want to be careful about the cost, size and weight of new base station antennas.
“They don’t want to add too much size and weight on top of the tower. That’s the biggest concern that you see. The towers are just getting jam-packed, and there are a lot of towers that are exceeding the capacity of what they can handle,” Pingle said. Operators still want low-band spectrum support for coverage, he said, but they also increasingly want high-band support and more advanced MIMO features in order to increase overall network capacity. CommScope said that it also plans to support 3.5 GHz on the same antenna platform in the future.
CommScope was able to achieve the new antenna’s features over its wide range through a combination of filtering and cabling as well as the antenna element design, Pingle said, and advances in antenna manufacturing. He said that CommScope expects its engineering expertise to become even more important as the industry moves to higher-order MIMO in “4.5G” and 5G, with 16, 32 or 128 antenna elements. Manufacturing can be particularly tricky, he added, and even if other companies can provide similar features, CommScope sees its manufacturing reliability as critical to its market position in more complex MIMO environments.
“Very few companies can make 50,000 of the same exact antenna with the same exact performance,” he said.
And, Pingle pointed out, even as some mobile operators explore 5G at millimeter wave, low bands will continue to need support as well. Different markets, and different operators, Pingle said. are going to have different requirements for spectrum support in their own individual 5G networks.
Farid Firousbakht, senior VP for radio frequency products at CommScope, said that an antenna covering that range “did not seem possible even one year ago … . Our speed in developing this antenna reflect the continued, pressing need wireless operators have for increasing capacity in LTE networks while readying for next-generation 5G.”