BARCELONA, Spain — Sprint hasn’t talked much about its network virtualization plans other than to say that network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) are essential to 5G. But at a press briefing today at Mobile World Congress 2017, the carrier provided a little more detail. Sprint CTO John Saw said that the company is working on its core network and is seeing increasing demand for virtualization.
Saw said Sprint will talk more about its network virtualization plans later this year, but it won’t do what competitor AT&T has done and reveal what percentage of its network is virtualized. “We won’t have a big announcement,” Saw said. “But we will have a growing part of our network done by virtualization.”
Saw also talked about how the 3GPP Release 14 standard will improve the core network and will incorporate mobile edge computing (MEC), which will drive lower latency in the radio access network by pushing more of the computing power back to the edge.
The reason behind the press briefing was to talk about the company’s massive multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) technology, not about network virtualization. Sprint demonstrated massive MIMO using Nokia’s newly launched AirScale massive MIMO adaptive antenna. It also used 3-D beamforming software and devices operating in TD-LTE band 41.
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Nokia says this combination of MIMO plus 3D beamforming technologies allows Sprint to achieve eight times the normal uplink throughput and five times the normal downlink throughput.
Saw said the technology is “coming soon” to the operator’s network. However, earlier this month when Nokia introduced the 4.9G technology, the company said it would not be available until year-end.
Ricky Corker, head of North America at Nokia said that Sprint is the first U.S. operator to deploy massive MIMO using time division LTE. “Nokia’s 4.9G AirScale technology, along with the massive MIMO antenna allows us to drive massive throughput of 3 Gb/s,” Corker said.
Photo: Nokia and Sprint executives demonstrate massive MIMO at Mobile World Congress 2017. From left, Ricky Corker, head of North America at Nokia; Günther Ottendorfer, COO of Technology at Sprint; and John Saw, CTO of Sprint.