From Theory to Reality: Can Green Antennas Deliver on Promises of Sustainable Network Evolution?

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By Sam Bowling | 1Q 2024 | IN-7276

Telco vendors, recognizing the continued significance of passive antennas within the mobile network infrastructure, are revolutionizing their antenna designs with advanced technologies to significantly reduce energy consumption while maintaining performance. With a spate of new green antenna designs on display at Mobile World Congress (MWC) Barcelona 2024, the questions remain on whether now is the time for widespread green antenna adoption, and how sustainable these designs are compared to traditional passive antennas?

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Green Antenna Designs Take Forefront at MWC Barcelona


Green antennas have recently taken a significant step from being discussed as a theoretical concept towards mainstream adoption. Huawei's recognition at MWC Barcelona 2024 by winning the Glomo Award for its Green Antenna, as well as Comba Telecom showcasing their Helifeed green antenna, underscores the technology's readiness for real-world deployment. Operators will be incentivized to adopt these antennas not only due to the developed technology integrated into their designs, but also as the vendors’ have focused on addressing key industry priorities – energy and cost efficiency – within their antenna designs which falls into line with operators’ priorities. Despite the increasing focus of vendors on mMIMO antennas to gear towards Standalone 5G networks, passive antennas are expected to remain a significant part of the market, with this demand driven by regions such as South Asia, Latin America and Africa. Nevertheless, these traditional passive antennas have inherent energy losses, achieved both through their design as well as the manufacturing process, which all add to increased energy output and thus more CO2 emissions. With base stations and their attached antenna units totaling 57% of all electrical power consumption in the passive antenna network, this is a key area for vendors to target in reducing their energy output but increasing their Radio Frequency (RF) efficiency.

How Green Antennas Will Benefit the Cellular Network


New antenna designs prioritizing environmental sustainability are demonstrating significant potential for operators. Industry leading vendors like Huawei are reporting energy savings of a 26% reduction in base station energy consumption during peak hours through innovations like optimized antenna structures, green materials, and sustainable manufacturing. These advancements offer a convincing value proposition for their wider adoption, as green antennas can reduce the network footprint while maintaining performance and coverage, a challenge that traditional passive antennas have not effectively tackled.

Vendors have optimized on increasing sustainability throughout the lifecycle of the antenna through a variety of methods:

  • Highly Integrated Architecture: Technologies such as Huawei’s Signal Direct Injection Feeding (SDIF), utilize air-type striplines instead of feeder cables to integrate the dipole array and feeding network. This results in a reduction of the length of internal cables as well as the number of solder joints and screws required. Comba’s Helifeed green antenna utilizes a new modular phase shifter within its design to achieve the same result in its bid to create a path to a carbon-neutral radio network. These innovations can benefit the cellular network in two ways: by reducing the insertion energy lost through the cables and during the manufacturing process as CO2 from soldering points and non-recyclable plastic used in cables (60% of the total used inside an antenna) are reduced.
  • Recycled Materials: As highlighted by the green initiatives of vendors such as PROSE and Comba, the use of recycled materials will allow for old antennas to be refurbished and reused in the antenna ecosystem, saving on new manufacturing costs to produce new antenna components from scratch.
  • Improved Network Efficiency and Spectrum Utilization: Green antennas enhance signal directionality, as can be seen by Huawei’s MetaLens technology which has been incorporated into their green antennas. Here, the signal is focused more precisely in the desired direction, with this approach reducing the power needed to achieve the same coverage area compared to traditional antennas that might wastefully scatter signals. This also translates to improved network efficiency and potentially frees up valuable spectrum resources that could be used for increased capacity elsewhere, as well as to reduce the number of base stations required to reduce the overall energy output of the network.
  • Simplified Network Deployment: Technologies like Huawei’s Frequency Selective Integrated Plate (FreSIP) and Folding Array reduce the number of separate antenna units needed and their physical footprint by eliminating feeder cables. This simplifies deployment and potentially reduces installation costs. Additionally, Tongyu’s Taurus Platform offers antennas which are reduced in size, achieved through introducing a new concept of “transparent radiators” which allows for high integration density, and a more compact antenna design. This eliminates the need for additional space or power-hungry equipment and means there will be a lower operating cost as less energy is demanded of the network.

Green Antennas: Recommendations for Sustainable Network Evolution


Green antennas hold immense promise for cellular networks, offering compelling benefits such as: improved network efficiency, cost savings for operators, and a significant boost to sustainability efforts. However, their widespread deployment requires addressing several technological and ecosystem challenges. ABI Research recommends the following strategies to facilitate a smooth transition from legacy passive antennas to green sustainable solutions:


  • Standardization: While initial efforts by the GSMA and the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) are underway to increase sustainability in active antennas, industry bodies and vendors need to collaborate on establishing and promoting clear standards for green passive antenna performance. As standardization efforts progress, the technology matures, and costs become more competitive, ABI Research expects wider adoption of green antennas across the globe and subsequently a more sustainable future for cellular networks.
  • Focus on R&D: Vendors should enhance green antenna technology by improving the durability and sustainability materials, optimizing designs for various frequencies (such as 5G), and integrating with technologies like FreSIP for increased efficiency. Furthermore, the creation of specific green antenna alliances could support and accelerate R&D and provide a healthy competitive environment.
  • Lifecycle considerations: Vendors must continue to develop sustainable practices throughout the entire antenna lifecycle, from sourcing recyclable materials to minimizing any waste during manufacturing and facilitating efficient end-of-life recycling programs. Amphenol’s Integra Solution demonstrates the viability of refurbishing old antennas into new and upgraded models.


  • Case studies and testing: While green antennas offer substantial long-term benefits, their initial costs might be higher through sourcing renewable and recyclable materials. Operators should pursue case studies of small-scale deployments with vendors to demonstrate antenna efficiency, energy savings, and the ROI to incentivize a wide scale adoption of this sustainable antenna practice.
  • Strategic partnerships: "Off-the-shelf" green antennas might not optimize energy savings or seamlessly integrate into the existing infrastructure. Through collaboration with vendors, operators can share their specific needs and deployment challenges, allowing vendors to tailor green antenna solutions for maximum efficiency and compatibility.
  • Consumer Awareness: Operators need to raise awareness among consumers about the environmental benefits of green antennas, as environmentally conscious consumers who understand its positive impact can influence operator choices.


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