Vodafone tackles urban 5G challenges with Ericsson’s compact antennas

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Vodafone has begun deploying Ericsson’s innovative Interleaved AIR 3218 antennas to boost 5G network performance, capacity, and coverage without increasing the footprint of existing antenna installations.

The scarcity of suitable rooftop locations for additional 5G antennas has been a major hurdle in Germany’s urban areas. Many available rooftop sites fail to meet the static requirements of network planners, while current LTE mast locations often lack space for extra 5G equipment.

Tanja Richter, Head of Technology at Vodafone, explained the complexity of the situation: “Strong winds exert pressure on the antenna surfaces that are mounted on the roofs. The more mobile phone antennas there are up there, the higher the wind load.

“This also increases the demands on wind resistance and statics, meaning that not every existing rooftop location has been able to be upgraded with active 5G antennas to date.”

Ericsson’s new antenna design offers a solution by integrating the active antenna behind the passive antenna.

Richter highlighted the benefits, stating, “This means we need less space on the mast for more 5G in city centres. Innovations like this can further accelerate the expansion of 5G in Germany and help us to cope with the annual increase in data traffic of more than 30 percent.”

The first of these compact 5G antennas has been installed at a multi-story car park in Düsseldorf. Vodafone plans to deploy up to 500 more across its network by the end of 2026—significantly facilitating network expansion, particularly on Germany’s rooftops.

These advanced antennas support frequencies across low and mid-band ranges, ensuring high coverage and capacity crucial for urban environments. They can deliver data rates exceeding one gigabit per second within a comparatively small area and provide 5G coverage up to a one-kilometre radius.

Daniel Leimbach, Ericsson’s Head of Customer Unit Western Unit, said: “The use of a compact active-passive antenna can improve the mobile broadband experience in cities in the future. Ericsson’s Interleaved AIR 3218 will massively simplify site upgrades and accelerate 5G deployment in areas previously restricted by building regulations, planning law or for structural reasons.”

From a technical standpoint, the Interleaved AIR 3218 combines antenna-integrated radio and multiband passive antenna technology in a single solution. This allows Vodafone to add high-performing 5G capacity without expanding the site footprint. Supporting frequencies from 700MHz to 3.5GHz, the antenna enables Vodafone to utilise FDD uplink and TDD downlink to extend both coverage and capacity.

As urban areas continue to grapple with the increasing demand for faster and more reliable mobile connectivity, innovations like Ericsson’s Interleaved AIR 3218 could prove pivotal in overcoming the physical constraints of dense city environments.

With this deployment, Vodafone is taking a significant step towards enhancing Germany’s 5G infrastructure—potentially setting a precedent for other carriers facing similar challenges in urban network expansion.

(Image Credit: Vodafone)

See also: Vodafone and Meta collaborate on European network optimisation

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