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11 May 2021

Ericsson plugs Huawei gap with dual band three sector radio

Many Ericsson customers will be pleased that the company has just released a three-sector dual-band radio to increase FDD 5G capacity. The news will be especially heartening for those operators compelled reluctantly to phase out their inventory of Huawei kit, given that the Chinese vendor had already launched comparable capabilities in February 2020. The move will therefore help address the ‘Huawei deficit’ that some operators have feared will blunt their competitive edge in coming years.

Similar to Huawei’s product, Ericsson’s new Radio 6626 supports dual-band operation across 900 MHz and 800 MHz as well as across 1.8 GHz and 2.1 GHz, while converging separate radios for three geometrical sectors down to one. Typically, base stations have employed sector antennas for directional transmission across geometric sectors of varying degrees, but often 120 degrees or one third of the whole circle, with a few degrees extra to allow some overlap. That has meant deploying three separate radios for each sector, as well as for each band supported.

Therefore, by supporting all three sectors, as well as two bands, in a single unit, Ericsson has compressed six radios down to one, saving on space, hardware, cables, while cutting power consumption by around 50%.

The new unit is driven by the Ericsson Silicon family of SoCs (system-on-chip), which can output 720W. The company has also launched a voltage booster, which expands power capacity to the radios by up to 50% by using existing cables. By avoiding swapping cables, operators can save up to 70% on their hardware and installation costs, according to Ericsson.

There are also some other new capabilities, including Baseband 6631, the latest multi-standard RAN compute pathway for towers that run multiple technologies along the whole range from 2G to 5G. Another addition to the portfolio is the microwave-based Mini-Link 6352, supporting up to 10Gbps with E-band, aggregating existing microwave radios. The multiband booster design increases backhaul capacity with zero footprint and reduced opex. Ericsson also pointed out that the new products complement the recently launched Massive MIMO and RAN Compute portfolios, which are aimed at simplifying roll-out of commercial 5G services.

”Our new triple-sector, dual-band radio offers an opportunity for communications service providers to significantly reduce radio footprint and installation time needed on site,” said David Hammarwall, head of product line radio at Ericsson. “At the same time, it lowers total power consumption by up to 50%. This will help our customers to increase capacity and further accelerate 5G coverage with ubiquitous FDD bands.”

Meanwhile, Huawei claimed that its Smart 8T8R package was the industry’s first dual-band offering when released in February 2020, also supporting multi-sector deployments across 2G, 3G and 4G, with antenna lobes adjustable in software. This operates across the 1.8 GHz to 2.6 GHz bands, without requiring antenna replacement for capacity expansion and evolution to 5G.

Nokia, for its part, is moving in this direction with its AirScale Radio Access, incorporating compact antennas designed for congested urban sites as either capacity extensions or coverage fixes. It also includes Nokia’s Massive MIMO adaptive antennas to improve spectral efficiency and throughput, ready to support 5G, while incorporating WiFi access points and a WiFi controller running on the vendor’s AirFrame data center hardware.

There is naturally interest in extending dual-band operation to millimeter wave frequencies as these are deployed. That is still at the research stage, with progress reported by the Centre for Wireless Communications at the University of Oulu in Finland, in an IEEE paper published in March 2020. This demonstration featured a dual-band antenna suitable for 5G mmWave base stations operating on all commercial frequencies allotted so far in 5G NR, from 24.25 GHz up to 40 GHz. The lower band ranges from 24.25 GHz to 29.5 GHz while the higher band covers 37 GHz to 40 GHz.