Vodafone deploys Ericsson single antenna technology to accelerate 5G roll-out

UK operator makes ‘game-changer’ in deployment of tech to increase 5G capacity without growing visual antenna footprint and do more with less, especially with regard to power consumption

The UK has seen an explosion in 5G roll-outs over the past two years, but attempting to maximise coverage has come at a cost in terms of technology and operations. Aiming to address this key business issue across the country, Vodafone UK is to deploy interleaved Ericsson antenna integrated radio (AIR 3218), bringing Massive MIMO for 5G mid-band while supporting low bands in a single compact antenna unit that is said to deliver increased 5G capacity and optimised site footprint while accelerating deployment and lowering total cost of ownership (TCO).

Vodafone believes that with accelerating 5G deployments, ever-increasing data traffic and subscriber growth, mobile networks require new levels of site flexibility, spectrum efficiency and energy savings.

Using a single antenna footprint and Massive MIMO (massive multiple-input multiple-output) technology, Vodafone will use the larger bandwidth of mid-band spectrum to increase 5G capacity and deliver enhanced mobile broadband experiences. It is confident that combining the technologies into a single unit improves network efficiency and reduces deployment complexity.  

In form, Ericsson’s interleaved AIR 3218 combines an antenna-integrated radio and multiband passive antenna technology in a single enclosure, allowing additional high-performing 5G capacity to be added with no additional antenna footprint.

The combination of radio and antenna in one unit also brings optimised modular form factor and easy rooftop, tower, wall and pole mounting, meaning that site upgrades and acquisitions will be simplified and 5G deployment accelerated in areas previously constrained by building regulations or planning law. Vodafone added that by using the product for increased 5G capacity provides more with less, contributing to sustainability enhancements and the transmission of more gigabytes per watt of energy utilised compared with 4G networks.

AIR 3218 is set to be deployed across 50 sites in the Vodafone UK network in 2023, and the operator expects a 30% saving in site acquisition and build time. The reduction in site acquisition and build time is calculated based on results from the first five sites where deployment has already been completed.

“5G is the UK’s digital future, but we should never underestimate how difficult it is to deliver a future-proofed network at scale across the length and breadth of the UK,” said Ker Anderson, head of radio and performance at Vodafone UK. “Working in partnership with Ericsson, we are constantly exploring new ways to accelerate this transformation, and this is another example of where innovation is delivered through collaboration.”

Ericsson’s UK and Ireland chief technology officer for networks and managed services, Evangelia Tzifa, added: “This is a game-changer for Vodafone and the UK deployment of 5G Massive MIMO. Together, we are increasing 5G capacity without growing visual antenna footprint on site. By being able to do more with less, we are bringing the benefits of next-generation connectivity to more people in the UK, but also reducing any impact on the environment and continuing our journey to break the energy curve.”

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