The Ericsson massive MIMO diet yields 12kg radio

Weight is the fashionable differentiator in the kit vendor world these days and Ericsson has raised the stakes with its latest lean-and-mean radio.

We never really used to bang on about weight but with many of the supposed benefits of 5G requiring ‘massive MIMO’ radios containing loads of antennas, finding a way of making them as light as possible has obsessed the boffins in many a telecoms kit vendor lab. Getting a radio unit under 20kg was considered a big deal a year ago, but Ericsson has found a way to trim even more fat from the AIR 3268.

Ericsson reckons the 12kg, 23 litre unit is the smallest massive MIMO radio in the industry, which seems like a fair shout. It still has 32 transceivers and is happy with passive cooling, so will put the likes of Nokia under R&D pressure for their equivalent products. Vodafone might be wishing it hadn’t just put in a big order for the, presumably heavier, AIR 3227 and could be even more put-out by the fact that this new one was developed in partnership with BT.

“The 3.5 GHz band and massive MIMO technology are important to our 5G network strategy to deliver the best customer experience in urban areas,” said Greg McCall, MD of Service Platforms at BT. “We continue to add capacity within our market-leading 5G coverage, but to maximize our ability to deploy this technology, we need to minimize the burden on our site infrastructure.

“BT is pleased to be working with Ericsson on this product, which is less than half the size and weight of our current solution, reducing wind loading on existing sites and providing potential for adding 3.5 GHz Massive MIMO in new locations. The reduced power consumption will help BT deliver on our sustainability ambition.”

“We continue to revolutionize Massive MIMO with ultra-lightweight radios that allow easier site upgrades and more seamless 5G mid-band deployments,” said David Hammarwall, Head of Product Line Radio at Ericsson. “AIR 3268 widens the options for the radio site, allowing service providers to boost their networks and deliver faster 5G speeds and response times. It is also energy-efficient, which is important to us and our customers.”

Due to its relatively poor propagation characteristics mid-band 5G is going to require a lot more radios to provide any kind of decent coverage. It follows that the market leader in such products stands to flog a lot of gear, so the stakes are high. You never know, maybe the Chinese Communist Party might even let Ericsson shift a few over there.

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