EE, which is part of BT Group, has begun deploying Ericsson’s Massive MIMO radio equipment across key U.K. sites as part of its 5G deployment and network modernization.

According to the vendor, the Ericsson AIR 3268 is the lightest and smallest Massive MIMO radio in the industry, with 40% less weight (14g) and volume (25 liters) than the previous generation of radio.

That all helps improve energy efficiency. Field measurements in active deployment have shown a reduction of up to 40% in energy usage, Ericsson said. The radio operates in EE’s 3.4 GHz and upper 3.6 GHz bands.

Plans call for deploying the new radio in more than 1,000 sites. The reduced size and weight are expected to lead to accelerated 5G upgrades because they can be deployed in areas previously constrained due to building regulations or planning laws.

The first deployments for EE are in London, with sites in Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh and Belfast to follow later this year. More urban and suburban areas will be added down the line.  

“We’ve already made significant progress in making EE a more efficient network, delivering vast quantities of additional data without equivalent energy increases. Our partnership with Ericsson is a further milestone in this journey, enabling us not only to accelerate our 5G rollout in city centers, but to do so in a more sustainable way. That’s good for us, but also incredibly important to our customers and the planet,” said BT Group Chief Networks Officer Greg McCall in a statement.  

Long-term partnership 

Ericsson said the deployment of AIR 3268 is the result of a long-term development partnership between BT Group and Ericsson to address 5G deployment challenges.

First announced in September of last year, the ultra-lightweight radio equipment has been specifically designed for 5G mid-band Massive MIMO deployment to improve spectrum efficiency in a flexible and energy-efficient way.

EE will be testing more advanced equipment in the future, including a new software feature called “deep sleep” that can save energy by consuming up to 70% less power per radio during low traffic hours, according to Ericsson.

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