Sprint today announced a new product designed to boost indoor residential and enterprise coverage and capacity – called the MagicBox. The product, which provoked a fair bit of speculation as to its exact nature, is being made for Sprint by small cell manufacturer Airspan.
That information is included in this post by Sprint CTO John Saw.
TMN contacted Airspan for comment. A spokesperson was willing to confirm that Airspan is indeed the provider of the product, but said that the company was planning its own press release later within which it would provide more details. The company, which has been under NDA with Sprint, is still cautious about what it will say publicly.
There are no images or details of the MagicBox on its site, although its product AirDensity does deploy LTE UE Relay, as can its AirVelocity product, which is the enabling technology for the MagicBox.
In technical terms the Magic Box is an LTE UE Relay node – which means that it acts as a relay between a mobile device and a macro station. It is more than a simple repeater, in that it does not simplify amplify existing signal. Instead, the relay node generates its own, “clean”, signal to users within its limited coverage area. Meanwhile it uses the connection it has established to the macro network as a “backhaul” link.
LTE UE Relay was specified within 3GPP’s Release 10. There are different types of Relay and it would seem Sprint’s will be Type 2, which sees the Relay Node (or MagicBox) retransmit on the same code as provided by its macro “donor” cell.
One obvious potential limiting factor with Relay nodes is that the backhaul link to the donor cell can then become a bottleneck – and it’s here where Sprint is hoping its fat 2.5GHz connectivity will be able to overcome that issue.