Vodafone taps Ericsson to halve 5G energy consumption, reinforces 4G network

Vodafone announces update to its network strategy, in particular how it is transitioning and refarming 3G spectrum to 4G, and deployment of a new 5G radio that saw energy consumption decrease

Vodafone has announced a “breakthrough” energy solution from Ericsson for 5G network equipment to reduce forecast energy consumption in its future network.

The announcement was made as the company revealed an update to its network strategy, in particular how it is transitioning and refarming 3G spectrum to 4G and the essential technology roadmap it has taken. Vodafone’s current network estate comprises more than 300 sites based on 1,400MHz supplementary downlink (SDL) band and more than 2,850 transmitting at 2,600MHz.

Its 4G services make up over 90% of traffic on networks and demand is growing at more than 40% year on year. Some 5% of current data traffic is on 5G.

As Vodafone makes upgrades to the network, each cell site visit includes 4G capacity upgrades – with new technology and new spectrum brands, 5G deployment and Massive MIMO deployment.

With Ericsson, Vodafone said it has completed the first deployment of a new 5G radio that saw energy consumption decrease by a daily average of 43%, and as much as 55% at off-peak times. This saw deployment of the Ericsson AIR 3227 antenna-integrated radio system installed on the roof of Vodafone’s Speechmark office in Southwark, central London.

Vodafone said it was committed to deploying 5G in the most energy-efficient, responsible and sustainable manner possible, and the inclusion of the AIR 3227 will help avoid unnecessary energy consumption as customer demand goes up and more equipment to deliver 5G connectivity is added to the network.

Designed for future-proof and sustainable networks, the new radio is also said to be 51% lighter than the previous generation and its more compact design and improved energy management features will help to minimise overall site footprint, making 5G roll-out and 4G upgrades quicker and easier, it said. Vodafone has committed to deploying 1,500 of the new units by April 2022, enabling what it calls an environmentally responsible 5G deployment strategy.

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Turning to what forms the vast bulk of its business, Vodafone said it was also undertaking a project to make the best and most efficient use of spectrum and energy resources. It has announced that 10MHz of 900MHz spectrum that previously provided 3G services has now been refarmed to support 4G.

The operator said spectrum can be transitioned to support 5G using only a software upgrade, as customer demand grows. The contiguous block of 10MHz of spectrum has been deployed across multiple sites in London, with “hundreds” more to follow, said Vodafone.

It added that the project to restructure and reallocate spectrum in the 900MHz band will double low-band capacity for customers, improving the 4G experience and reliability of the network. The reallocated 4G spectrum will also be complemented by deployment of Massive MIMO antenna, further enhancing customer experience.

Extra capacity has been added to ensure a reliable and consistent 4G experience today, as well as building in room for growth, it said. Over the past 12 months, Vodafone saw 4G traffic on its network grow by more than 40% year on year, a trend that it said is expected to continue for the coming years.

At the same time, the operator revealed that 3G data usage has declined rapidly, from more than 30% of total traffic in 2016 to less than 4% today. A dedicated block of 900MHz spectrum will be retained for 2G and 3G services.

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