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EE takes AIR for greater energy efficiency in revamped 5G radio net

BT Group mobile division deploys Swedish comms tech provider’s Massive MIMO radio equipment across key UK sites, accelerating 5G deployment

BT Group is deploying Ericsson’s latest ultra-lightweight radio technology to deliver what it hopes will be improved 5G energy efficiency and network performance across the UK mobile network.

The deployment of Ericsson AIR 3268 technology is said to be the result of a long-term development partnership between BT Group and Ericsson to address 5G deployment challenges. First announced in September 2021, the radio equipment has been designed for 5G mid-band Massive MIMO performance to deliver the benefits of spectrum efficiency, deployment flexibility and improved energy efficiency.

BT Group and Ericsson are founding companies of the 1.5°C Supply Chain Leaders initiative, which sees technology leaders work together to drive climate action throughout global supply chains and support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through the SME Climate Hub, understanding the need to work with and support suppliers to halve emissions before 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions before 2050.

Designed to carry 40% less weight (14kg) and volume (25 litres) than the previous generation of radio equipment, Ericsson’s AIR 3268 is claimed to be the lightest and smallest Massive MIMO radio equipment in the industry and is the most energy-efficient radio equipment of this type deployed in Europe. The mobile tech firm says field measurements in active deployment have shown a reduction of up to 40% in energy usage, helping deliver immediate energy savings as well as contributing to BT Group’s wider sustainability goals.

As well as offering energy efficiencies, the new tech is also seen as improving capacity, coverage and speed to deliver a better mobile experience for customers. It also means that accelerated 5G upgrades will now be possible in some areas previously constrained by building regulations or planning law, because older technology would have required an increase in mast height or load bearing.

Another part of the collaboration will be EE testing more advanced equipment in the future. This will include a new software feature called “deep sleep”, which is designed to save energy by consuming up to 70% less power per radio during low traffic hours. The two companies are committed to continually evolving the network in the most sustainable way possible.

Operating within EE’s 3.4GHz and 3.6GHz spectrum bands, the new radio kit will initially be deployed on more than 1,000 sites with the first roll-out in London and sites in Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh and Belfast to follow this year. The technology will be expanded to more urban and suburban areas where Ericsson is a key partner for EE.

“Our partnership with Ericsson is a further milestone in our journey, enabling us not only to accelerate our 5G roll-out in city centres, but to do so in a more sustainable way,” said Greg McCall, chief networks officer at BT Group. “That’s good for us, but also incredibly important to our customers and the planet.”

Björn Odenhammar, CTO, networks and managed services at Ericsson UK and Ireland, added: “It is incredibly exciting to see our partnership with BT Group succeed with such fantastic results. This is a great step forward for the deployment of 5G in the UK and gives a much-needed boost in both 5G coverage and mid-band performance.

“Together, we are not only leading the delivery of next-generation connectivity across the country, but also reducing energy consumption to build a more sustainable mobile network of the future.”

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