UK mobile operator EE is starting to deploy the Ericsson’s latest massive MIMO radios, which promise a bunch of improvements and efficiencies.

The Ericsson AIR 3268 radio was developed in partnership with EE parent BT and was first unveiled by the Swedish kit vendor a year or so ago. The headline feature was its exceptionally low weight of 12kg, illustrated at the time by a female engineer effortlessly lugging a couple of them about. The street-legal version has put on a couple of pounds, but is still significantly lighter than its immediate predecessors.

In its announcement EE claims the AIR 3268 is ‘the lightest and smallest massive MIMO radio equipment in the industry and is also the most energy efficient radio equipment of this type deployed in Europe.’ The key datapoint is 40%, which denotes how much lighter and more energy efficient it is than the previous generation.

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

“It is incredibly exciting to see our partnership with BT Group succeed with such fantastic results,” said Björn Odenhammar, CTO, Networks and Managed Services, Ericsson UK and Ireland. “This is a great step forward for the deployment of 5G in the UK and gives a much-needed boost in both 5G coverage and mid-band performance. Together we are not only leading the delivery of next-generation connectivity across the country, but also reducing energy consumption to build a more sustainable mobile network of the future.”

Since EE was presumably waiting for this bit of kit before commencing with the next phase of its 5G rollout, this news should hopefully herald an acceleration of that process, with over 1,000 of them planned for urban sites, starting with London. EE seems to be dominating the 5G radio scene, in the UK at least, with Vodafone also giving some (presumably) free marketing to an older product last year. It looks like we’ll have to wait until 6G for Open RAN to be a major presence on the country’s towers, masts and buildings.

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