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Vodafone and Ericsson use drones for monitoring as they halve energy consumption in breakthrough 5G trial

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Vodafone and Ericsson have completed the first deployment of a new 5G radio that saw energy consumption decrease by a daily average of 43%, and as much as 55% at off peak times.

Vodafone will now deploy 1,500 of the new units by April 2022, enabling an environmentally responsible 5G deployment strategy.

The Ericsson antenna-integrated radio solution (AIR 3227) was deployed on the roof of Vodafone’s Speechmark office, in Southwark, Central London. Comparing the performance of the equipment directly to the previous generation of technology, Vodafone’s controlled trial saw energy consumption decrease by a daily average of 43%, and as much as 55% at off peak times.

Deployment of the new equipment will help reduce Vodafone’s forecasted energy consumption of its future 5G network. Vodafone is committed to deploying 5G in the most energy efficient, responsible and sustainable manner possible, and the inclusion of the AIR 3227 will help avoid unnecessary energy consumption as customer demand goes up and more equipment to deliver 5G connectivity is added to the network.

Designed for future-proof and sustainable networks, the new radio is 51% lighter than the previous generation and its more compact design and improved energy management features will help to minimise overall site footprint, making 5G rollout and 4G upgrades quicker and easier.

Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer, Vodafone UK, says: “Our strategy is simple; turn off anything we don’t need, modernise our network where possible, and use the most energy efficient options available without compromising the service we deliver to our customers. The success of this trial allows us to explore new ways we can more effectively manage the energy consumption of our network with our partner Ericsson. 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.”

Björn Odenhammar, CTO, Networks & Managed Services, Ericsson UK & Ireland, adds: “Building on the success of an award-winning 5G network in London, it is another fantastic achievement for Vodafone and Ericsson to reduce network energy consumption by a daily average of 43%. Sustainability is central to Ericsson’s purpose and our industry-leading new radios will help Vodafone to reduce network energy consumption, simplify network rollout and efficiently manage the expected growth in data traffic of both current and future 5G networks. Together we are building the 5G network of the future – one that delivers the highest possible performance with improved resource efficiency and low environmental impacts.”

Vodafone and Ericsson using drones to limit environmental impact

As well as improving the energy efficiency of sites, Vodafone has also been trialling drone technology to minimise the environmental impact of essential sites surveys for maintenance and upgrades.

In partnership with Ericsson, Vodafone has been trialling the collection of 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. Instead of sending several engineers to the site, sometimes more than once, data and imagery can be collected by one specialist drone operator. By reducing the number of people travelling, often to remote and difficult to reach locations, Vodafone’s impact on the environment can be reduced.

This update follows Vodafone’s recent announcement confirming that its entire operation – including its mobile and fixed networks, data centres, retail stores and offices – is now 100% powered by electricity from renewable sources. This is an important next step in its commitment to achieve net zero for its UK operations by 2027 and across its full carbon footprint, globally, by 2040.  Vodafone has also committed to help its business customers to save 350 million tonnes of CO2e globally by 2030. Over the last year, it estimates that around 54% of its 123 million IoT connections directly enabled customers to reduce their emissions.

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