Nokia on Monday fleshed out the next step in its path to 5G, announcing its performance-enhancing 4.9G technology will be available by the end of this year.

According to Nokia, 4.9G will include its AirScale massive MIMO Adaptive Antenna technology, which is capable of increasing cell capacity by up to five times. Used alongside 3D beamforming software, Nokia indicated the technology can deliver up to eightfold gains in throughput and fivefold gains in downlink. All told, Nokia said the 4.9G AirScale technology is capable of hitting 3 Gbps peak rates.

The company said it is teaming up with Sprint at Mobile World Congress (MWC) later this month to demonstrate the setup leveraging commercially available devices operating on TD-LTE Band 41.

Nokia also reported the massive MIMO launch complements its 4.9G Cloud RAN technology. That will also be featured at MWC in a demonstration of Cloud Single RAN running virtualized 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G radios and 2G and 3G network controllers over commercial AirScale and AirFrame platforms.

Additionally, Nokia unveiled a new 4.5G AirScale Micro Remote Radio Head that will allow operators to utilize unlicensed spectrum via Licensed Assisted Access to reach gigabit speeds.

The announcements follow Nokia’s introduction of 4.5G and 4.9G as the pathway to 5G in September.

"Nokia introduced 4.5G Pro and 4.9G last year to allow operators to implement network capacity increases where and when it made sense for them. Now we are delivering features that will maximize their resources, speed up deployment times, and cut power and costs especially in the most densely populated locations,” Frank Weyerich, head of Mobile Networks Products at Nokia, commented. “We are making 4.5G Pro a commercial reality now and working with customers to innovate with solutions to their network densification and evolution challenges in 4.9G and beyond."

Back in September at CTIA, Nokia executives told Wireless Week 4.5G and 4.9G would allow for an incremental network approach to build up to 5G without creating a services cliff.

“We need an LTE network that when you go from 5G radio implementation to outside you don’t fall off a cliff,” Nokia’s Vice President of Mobile Networks Marketing Phil Twist explained at the time. “So if we’ve got 10 Gbps in the early 5G implementations, having something which is close to that in the rest of the network means that you can offer ubiquitous services across the network. This service continuity is one of the key elements.”

Nokia said 4.5G technology is already available, and 4.9G is coming fast down the pipe. The latter will be commercially available by the end of this year, the company said.