O2 gears up for 5G with Massive MIMO trial

(Image credit: O2)

O2 is holding a trial of Massive MIMO in London in order to gain a greater understanding of the technology ahead of the operator’s 5G rollout and to immediately improve service in two busy parts of the capital.

Massive MIMO improves the efficiency of a mobile network by sending multiple beams of data from the antennas to the device. This improves speeds and means more customers can access the network.

O2 has deployed Nokia kit at sites at Kings Cross and Marble Arch and is using the 2.3GHz spectrum it acquired in the Ofcom auction earlier this year.

O2 5G trial

The two areas were chosen because of their high data demand – more than 95 million people travel through Kings Cross and St Pancras train stations each year, while 14 million people passed through Marble Arch.

Massive MIMO is seen as a key technology for 5G and O2 says that if the trial is a success, it will roll it out to other parts of its network.

“We recognise that customers’ need for mobile data in London and other urban areas continues to grow at a rapid pace,” said Brendan O’Reilly, O2 CTO. “This is why we are working with Nokia to trial Massive MIMO and to explore the opportunities to provide the increased capacity and denser coverage for our customers, in the areas they need it most.”

O2 has been a vocal proponent of the benefits of 5G and claims its use could save local councils and households £6 billion a year. It plans to launch a 5G testbed at the O2 arena later this year using 3.4GHz spectrum.

However, unlike rivals EE, Three and Vodafone, it is unclear what O2’s plans for a commercial launch are.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.