Vodafone UK and Ericsson have conducted trials of integrated radio/antenna units that reduced energy consumption between 43% and 55% for 5G RAN, compared to 4G. The operator now plans to deploy 1,500 of the low power 5G units by April next year.
The company said in a statement that the test of the Ericsson Antenna-Integrated Radio (AIR) 3227 offering took place at a Vodafone office in south London, and the 5G unit typically consumed 43% less energy per day than 4G equipment with an older architecture. At off-peak times, the average decrease in consumption was as much as 55 % per day.
Vodafone said the integrated equipment was also 51% lighter than its 4G systems, with enhanced energy management features. Deploying these units would enable an “environmentally responsible 5G deployment strategy” and help it hit a goal of net zero emissions across its UK operations by 2027.
“Our strategy is simple, turn off anything we don’t need, modernize our network where possible and use the most energy-efficient options available”, said Vodafone UK’s chief network officer, Andrea Dona. “There is no silver bullet for managing 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.”
Vodafone has also been trialling drones to minimize the environmental impact of cell site surveys for maintenance and equipment upgrades. Also working with Ericsson, the operator has been collecting measurement and visual data via drones with HD-mounted cameras, and LIDAR to collect millions of datasets to build a digital twin of the site.