Vodafone Germany has partnered with Ericsson to deploy new power-saving radio technology on its 5G network. The radio unit 6646 bundles three different frequencies (900, 800 and 700 MHz) and radio cells in one system in the control center located at the bottom of a mobile base station. By bundling the active technology, 5G base stations function with 32-40% less power.
The advantage of mobile radio stations with area frequencies is that they provide particularly large areas with stable and reliable mobile radio coverage. By bundling the active technology of different frequency ranges and several radio cells in one unit, they now require between 32 and 40 percent less energy, according to trials on the Vodafone network. Following successful tests in the North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) region, the telecommunications group is now successively activating the technology in the live network together with its technology partner Ericsson.
The new energy-saving radio from Ericsson has been intensively tested in the live network in Wachtendonk in the Lower Rhine region over the past few weeks. The positive test results demonstrate an energy-saving potential of up to 40 percent per 5G base station and are the reason for today’s large-scale rollout. The new technology will be installed and automatically activated in NRW, Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse, Saarland and Baden-Württemberg during routine maintenance and modernization work.
Test results on the Vodafone network show that energy requirements can be reduced by more than 2,500 kilowatt hours (kWh) per mobile phone site per year by bundling the active technology. This is roughly equivalent to the annual energy requirement of a two-person household per mobile phone station. If the technology is activated on a large scale in the network, significantly more than 30 million kilowatt hours of electricity can be saved each year. At the same time, stable and reliable network coverage will also be strengthened in rural regions.
Vodafone Germany CEO Philippe Rogge, says: “For the first time, we are bundling the active antenna technology of different area frequencies in mobile communications. This is good for smartphone users in rural areas and good for our planet. Because with the new technology, we are bringing fast and reliable 5G networks even better to people in rural areas and deep into buildings. At the same time, we are reducing the energy requirements of our mobile phone antennas. We expect to be able to save more than 30 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year with large-scale activation in our network.”
Daniel Leimbach, Head of Western Europe at Ericsson, says: “Energy consumption reduced by up to 40 percent, weight reduced by 60 percent – around a year ago, we celebrated a world premiere at the launch of the Radio 6646 at the Eurolab in Aachen. At the Imagine Live Innovation Day in the research and development center, our experts presented the innovative 5G technology for the first time. We are all the more pleased that Vodafone is convinced of its performance and energy efficiency and is installing the technology in the area. Because only innovations that are scalable, economical and powerful at the same time deliver the full benefits for mobile customers and sustainability.
The technology in Ericsson’s new radio:
Ericsson’s new remote radio combines the different 5G area frequencies 900, 800 and 700 MHz as well as the components of several radio cells into one compact system in a more sustainable way. By bundling three frequencies and several radio cells, the transmission technology consumes significantly less energy for each individual frequency range at full power. In addition, the new radio is 60 percent lighter and therefore requires less energy and material in the manufacturing process.
On the way to CO2 neutrality:
The new antenna product is another building block on Vodafone’s path to becoming more sustainable step by step. The Düsseldorf-based company has set itself specific targets to be CO2-neutral by 2025. The network is the biggest and most important lever here. Vodafone Germany has therefore been sourcing 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources since 2020. It is also constantly testing new technologies and solutions to make the German mobile network more sustainable and conserve resources. For example, the dynamic energy-saving mode in the mobile network has already been ensuring an intelligent adjustment between actual energy demand and consumption around the clock for over a year.
Vodafone is rolling out Ericsson’s new compact antenna to bring greater 5G capacity, coverage and performance to locations across the U.K. The Ericsson AIR 3218 combines a radio unit and antenna in a single unit. It can also transmit mobile data over all of the frequencies that Vodafone currently uses in the U.K., without needing additional antenna units, as was the case for previous models.
The combined multiband, Massive MIMO design makes it easier for the operator to add more capacity to a mast without increasing its footprint. It’s also easier to mount on rooftops, towers, walls and poles.
“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. 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,” said Ker Anderson, head of Radio and Performance at Vodafone UK, in a statement.
Ericsson noted that the Interleaved AIR 3218 is powered by the latest Ericsson Silicon technology. It also uses beam-through technology where an arbitrary active antenna can be placed behind the passive antenna, reducing the overall footprint in terms of size, weight and wind load.
So far, they’ve calculated a 30% reduction in site acquisition and build time based on results from the first five sites where deployment has already been completed. The AIR 3218 is expected to be deployed across 50 sites within the Vodafone UK network in 2023.
This week, Ericsson installed a new antenna-integrated radio solution (AIR 3227) on the roof of Speechmark, Vodafone UK’s central London office that, according to the telecom vendor, reduced the site’s daily network energy consumption by an average of 43% in direct comparison to previous generations of radio technology, and as much as 55% at off-peak times.
Designed for future-proof and sustainable networks, Ericsson’s new radio is 51 percent lighter than existing radio’s [1.] and its more compact design and improved energy management features will help to optimize overall site footprint, making 5G rollout and 4G upgrades faster and easier.
Note 1. The comparison is with the 64TR antenna units from Ericsson that Vodafone has been rolling out so far, which are very heavy (about 60 kilos) and less energy efficient, noted Vodafone UK’s Head of Performance and Radio, Ker Anderson, at a media briefing earlier this week.
“Vodafone is looking for ways to deploy 5G in a more energy-efficient way. When we started rolling out 5G we were using a 64-by-64 [64TR] panel from Ericsson and it’s close to 60 kilos in weight and burns electricity for fun,” noted Anderson, who added that the new AIR 3227 unit, while on paper having half the capacity of the 64TR units, “performs just as well… two years of technology evolution means we can now get the same performance from a 32-by-32 that we got with the first generation 64-by-64. Plus, they’re half the weight, and we’ve got a 43% energy reduction. So it’s been a real godsend for us for this product to come along and it’s the right thing for us to deploy – it’s cheaper, it’s faster, burns less electricity and the performance is really, really good,” Anderson said.
1,500 of the new energy efficient Ericsson radios will be deployed across Vodafone’s network by April 2022, helping to reduce Vodafone’s forecasted energy consumption of its future 5G network and support a sustainable and responsible 5G rollout.
Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer, Vodafone UK, says: “Our strategy is simple; turn off anything we don’t need, replace legacy equipment with up-to-date alternatives and use the most energy efficient options available. The success of this trial allows us to explore new ways we can more effectively manage the energy consumption of our network with our partner Ericsson. There is no silver bullet to manage our network energy consumption – it is about putting sustainability at the heart of every decision and adding up all the small gains to make a material difference.”
Björn Odenhammar, Chief Technology Officer, Networks and Managed Services, Ericsson UK and Ireland, says: “Building on the success of an award-winning 5G network in London, it is another fantastic achievement for Vodafone and Ericsson to reduce network energy consumption by a daily average of 43 percent. Sustainability is central to Ericsson’s purpose and our new radio will help Vodafone to reduce network energy consumption, simplify network rollout and efficiently manage the expected growth in data traffic of both current and future 5G networks. Together we are building the 5G network of the future – one that delivers the highest possible performance with improved resource efficiency and low environmental impacts.”
Ericsson and Vodafone UK first launched commercial 5G services in 2019. The strong working partnership was recognised for a high performing best-in-class 5G network in London in 2020. In June 2021, it was announced that Ericsson will be supporting Vodafone’s entire cloud-native 5G Core Standalone for packet core applications – a critical milestone to deliver 5G Standalone connectivity services.
The two companies have also been collaborating to reduce the environmental impact of site upgrades and speed up network deployment through the use of drones and Ericsson’s Intelligent Site Engineering service.