Vodafone’s 5G deployment gets boost from Ericsson’s single antenna technology

Vodafone said it’s started 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.

Vodafone uses 900 MHz, 3.4 GHz and 3.6 GHz for 5G in the U.K.

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.

“This is a gamechanger for Vodafone and for the UK deployment of 5G Massive MIMO. Together, we are increasing 5G capacity without growing visual antenna footprint on site,” said CTO Evangelia Tzifa, Ericsson UK & Ireland, in a statement. “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.”

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.