Operator achieves 74% downlink increase in trial with Huawei, Qualcomm.

MTN South Africa said this week that it plans to upgrade its LTE network with 4×4 multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) this year, following a successful trial with Huawei and Qualcomm.

"MTN is confident in MIMO technology. We plan to roll out the largest 4×4 MIMO 4.5G network in South Africa, and introduce the latest 4×4 MIMO terminal to allow users to enjoy the best 4.5G experience in 2017," said Giovanni Chiarelli, CTIO of MTN South Africa, in a statement on Wednesday.

The operator recently completed a 4×4 MIMO field trial on its live network using multi-antenna network equipment supplied by Huawei and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X12 LTE modem.

During the trial, MTN achieved a 74% improvement in average downlink speed on a four-receiver terminal compared to 2×2 MIMO. A 26% improvement was recorded using a two-receiver terminal. MTN said the field trial demonstrated the ability of higher-order MIMO to ease network congestion.

"The results are very positive; 4T4R (four transmit, four receive) has significant gains both on downlink capacity and uplink coverage," said James Munn, vice president of business development at Qualcomm South Africa. "We encourage the rollout of 4×4 MIMO across the network and maximising 4×4 MIMO capable device penetration to realise more gains."

MTN South Africa began rolling out LTE in 2012. In 2016, the operator recorded an 11.4% increase in data revenue, and the number of smartphones on its network increased by 15.3% to 10.5 million. The number of megabytes consumed per user increased by 46.7%.

"MTN has been committed to providing users with the richest communications life, so that our users can enjoy more movies, music and football in real-time through mobile networks," Chiarelli said. "As a result, we continue to improve our network experience by introducing advanced technical solutions."