Boosting energy efficiency at Vodafone Netherlands

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Like most operators, Vodafone Netherlands has seen tremendous growth in mobile network traffic in recent years, which has required continuous investment in extra network capacity and new technologies. Since Vodafone Netherlands is committed to ensuring that their energy consumption does not grow at the same pace as network traffic, they have been especially receptive to Ericsson’s Re-Think Energy Performance program and our Antenna Integrated Radio (AIR) solution in particular.

“We operate only on renewable energy and incorporate energy efficiency in every decision we make,” Eelco Ploum, Energy Manager at Vodafone Netherlands, explains. “Energy efficiency is key for us when selecting hardware and in the design phase of our network.  An energy efficient network connects everybody to live a better today and build a better tomorrow.”

Ericsson’s Re-Think Energy Performance program is designed to support customers like Vodafone Netherlands increase energy efficiency in their networks. It consists of various focus areas, including the development of energy-efficient solutions for radio sites. One of the highlights in this context is the AIR solution, sometimes also referred to as active antennas.

AIR is a multi-standard radio solution that integrates the antenna into the radio unit and supports both 3G and 4G. Its compact design drastically reduces energy consumption and installation time. A new standard or frequency band can be introduced to the network by simply adding AIR and swapping the existing antenna. In a site configuration equipped with AIR, the traditional coax feeder cable is replaced with optical fiber, which significantly reduces energy losses.

Vodafone Netherlands started applying AIR in their network a couple of years ago. The rollout continues across their nationwide network, with nearly 5,000 active antennas installed to date.

The picture below shows the relevant components in the radio site. Two AIR antennas are used for each sector, one AIR-11 for the lower frequencies (800 and 900 MHz) and one AIR-21 for the higher frequencies (1800 MHz and 2100 MHz). A fully equipped radio site with three sectors contains six AIR antennas.

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Vodafone Netherlands has a large number of smart meters in their network that enable on-demand collection of energy consumption data. As a result, we have been able to compare energy use at 170 sites with AIR installations with energy use at 193 traditional sites (no active antennas or active remote units). Some sites were monitored for a period of 24 months, while for others data was only available for a more limited period of time. We made sure that both categories of sites had comparable capacity and configuration, supporting 4 spectrum bands: 800 MHz (LTE), 900 MHz (GSM), 1800 MHz (LTE) and 2100 MHz (UMTS).

The field measurements showed that sites equipped with AIR antennas consume on average 227 kWh/month less than an average site equipped with passive antennas. Taking into account the number of radio sites in the network of Vodafone Netherlands, this leads to a monthly energy saving of 189 MWh, or 2.2 GWh on an annual basis. This is equivalent to the energy consumption of about 600 households.

The Vodafone Netherlands case shows that there is much to be gained when operators and vendors work together and share their expertise. Efficiency is in the AIR!


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