AI Integration Enables 2D Beam Orientation in Cellular Antennas

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By Larbi Belkhit | 2Q 2024 | IN-7334

This ABI Insight explores the potential for integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) into passive antenna systems to increase energy efficiency, enable real-time optimization, and lay the foundation for broader AI-driven innovations across the network through capabilities like self-sensing, remote Two-Dimensional (2D) beam orientation, and intelligent low-power mode activation.

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The Next Evolution of Passive Antennas Is through Further AI Integration


During the Huawei Annual Summit 2024 (HAS 2024) in Shenzhen, there were many discussions surrounding the various potential applications of AI in various layers of the network. The topic of passive antennas does not get as much attention due to the sheer volume of technology evolution within the active antenna space. However, an idea presented by Huawei focuses on creating a foundation for AI software within the passive antenna to further digitize the base station, based around the lower latency that 5G-Advanced offers. This would redefine what the role of passive antennas is within the network, as the integration of AI would offer operators more data to increase their “visibility” and understanding of their deployed antennas in real time and reduce the time necessary to identify inefficiencies. Operators can then adjust and optimize the network using automation, although to a lesser extent from what is seen in active antennas.

The goal of the AI integration would be to increase the energy efficiency gains of the network and optimize network coverage more intelligently. The new design would also allow for third-party software integration, creating an open ecosystem of solutions for operators. While still mostly a prototype concept, this innovation is very clearly aligned with the industry goals of introducing AI technology throughout the network and to “greenify” the networks to help operators meet their sustainability goals.

What Value Can Integrating AI Bring to the Passive Antenna Right Now?


Huawei claims that this solution could be ready for commercial deployment in the next 2 years. However, there will be significant costs associated with replacing all the passive antennas for operators. While initially not all of them need to be “intelligent” to see benefits, educating operators on the benefits so that they make the switch will be difficult. There are many scenarios in which AI can be integrated immediately to improve the energy efficiency and performance of passive antennas in an operator’s network through coverage optimization:

  • Self-Sensing Technology: This allows the antenna to provide information support for network intelligence, using remote readable engineering principles and offering operators more visibility into their passive antennas by providing more data and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the performance and efficiency of individual antennas.
  • 2D Beam Adjustment: Traditional passive antennas can adjust the beam direction solely along the vertical axis; however, integrating AI enables remote mechanical adjustment along the horizontal axis as well, allowing them to respond to a number of factors such as new high-rise buildings appearing or changes to user data traffic congestion patterns. The cylindrical shape of new passive antennas such as Huawei’s Marconi antenna can make integrating this technology much easier than with the traditional rectangular form factor.
  • Low-Power Mode Activation: AI can be used to optimize the low-power periods based on user data traffic to reduce power consumption, which is made even more effective due to the reduced number of dead zones based on the self-sensing technology it can also utilize.

The Road to Native AI Networks


Passive antennas with AI integrated will be able to generate vast amounts of data that can be key in assisting other AI technologies. An example would be digital twins, which rely heavily on streams of real-world data to simulate and predict network performance under various conditions. As they are considered a key technology for networks going forward, passive antenna innovations can be foundational and critical on the path to fully autonomous networks.

Software vendors must accelerate the development of their AI solutions for passive antennas, as it will allow them to be among the first to capitalize on a new revenue opportunity and provide a competitive edge in the market, helping to cement them as leaders in AI for the telecoms industry. Furthermore, it will be important to showcase the reliability and the benefits of such solutions to operators on their Operations and Maintenance (O&M) expenses, as well as other Operational Expenditure (OPEX) categories. Therefore, collaboration between software and hardware vendors will be necessary to foster innovation and ensure interoperability for an open ecosystem, as well as collaboration with operators to conduct trials and case studies to showcase the benefits and value proposition of intelligent passive antennas.


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