Airtel deploys 100K MIMO radios from Ericsson

The Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) is a wireless technology invented by India-born Stanford University professor, Arogyaswami Paulraj

Mobile base station with MIMO antennas and (inset) a WiFi router with multiple MIMO antennas / Supplied

In one of the largest commercial 5G operations of its kind in the country, leading Indian telecom services leader, Bharti Airtel recently deployed 100,000 Massive MIMO 5G radios sourced from Swedish provider Ericsson.

The deployment across 12 circles in India took place within a record time of just over 500 days. The two companies announced that they harnessed Radio System products and solutions from Ericsson’s 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) and MINI-LINK (microwave) mobile transport portfolios.

Multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) is a wireless technology that uses multiple transmitters and receivers to transfer more data at the same time, which results in significantly increased network coverage, capacity, and user throughput.

5G typically uses 32 to 64 MIMO antennas to accomplish this and this large number —and hence effective size — of MIMO antennas has led to the term ‘Massive MIMO’.

MIMO technology has become the basis of all current and future wireless networks, making it arguably the most influential wireless technology in recent decades. Interestingly, MIMO  is the invention of Indian American Stanford University (US), emeritus professor of Electrical Engineering Arogyaswami Paulraj.

Born in Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, India, in 1944, Paulraj joined the Indian Navy at age 15. Impressed with his academic record, the Navy sent him to the Indian Institute of Technology (Delhi), where he earned a Ph.D. in advances to signal filtering theory.

He served in the Indian Navy for 25 years where he led the development of the world-class APSOH sonar, one of India’s most successful military development projects. He also founded three national laboratories spanning High-Speed Computing, AI and Robotics, and Military Electronics. 

Paulraj joined Stanford University (US) in 1992 where he did all of his work on MIMO.  He holds 79 patents and has won several major distinctions. These include both the two top global honors for telecom pioneers – the 2011 IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal and the 2014 Marconi Prize and Fellowship. Paulraj’s recognitions in India include the Padma Bhushan in 2010.

In October 2023, Paulraj was awarded the UK-based  Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)’s Faraday Medal one of the world’s most prestigious awards for engineers and scientists who advance technologies with global impact.  He  became the 100th recipient of the medal, with his citation reading, “For the invention, advancement, and commercialization of MIMO Wireless.”

Prof.  Paulraj serves on several advisory committees across the Indian and US R&D ecosystem and currently serves as the Fabless Committee chair of the India Semiconductor Mission. 

In a comment for New India Abroad on the Airtel-Ericsson deployment of MIMO technology Prof Paulraj said, “Indian mobile operators are rapidly rolling out 5G mobile wireless infrastructure with Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung being the main suppliers.”

“With much larger spectrum allocation and enhanced technologies like Massive-MIMO, India will gain around 10x improvement in data throughput over the current 4G network. This will further enhance the country’s Digital Public Infrastructure,” he added.

India-wide 5G coverage

Since the launch of 5G in India in August 2022, Airtel has acquired over 65 million 5G customers on its network.  Its 5G plus service is expected to cover the entire country by the end of March 2024.

Nunzio Mirtillo, Ericsson’s senior vice president and Head of Market Area Southeast Asia, Oceania & India said,  “The successful deployment of Ericsson 5G radios demonstrates our shared commitment to innovation, speed, and service quality. We remain dedicated to supporting Airtel in delivering a superior 5G experience to customers across India.”

Randeep Sekhon, CTO, Bharti Airtel added, “Ericson is a long-standing partner of Airtel and we are happy to partner with them in achieving this milestone of deploying 100,000 5G radios across 12 Airtel circles. Our customers on our network are now enjoying blazingly fast unlimited 5G data at no additional cost.”

The two telecom players are also partnering to co-create and customize 5G solutions for India. In October 2023, they announced the successful testing of Ericsson’s pre-commercial Reduced Capability (RedCap) software on the Airtel 5G network.

Carried out in collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies, using its 5G RedCap test module, the testing represented the first implementation and validation of RedCap in India.