What is ACTIVE ANTENNA UNIT and what are its benefits from 5G user experience perspective?

  • The end-user requirements for performance continue to increase, putting high demands on the radio access network (RAN) to deliver broader coverage, higher capacity, and end-user throughput. The recent developments in the mobile broadband domain have made advanced antenna systems (AAS) a viable option for deployment of high speed and high performance 5G mobile networks.

  • Technological advances in the integration of baseband, radio, antenna, and a reduction in the digital processing cost of advanced beamforming and MIMO enable the shift to AAS. Another main driver for AAS is the need to meet coverage requirements on new and higher frequency bands. This is particularly important when introducing 5G on existing site grids.

active antenna unit

    What is ACTIVE ANTENNA 5G?

  • An active antenna is comprised of active electronic components, like antenna-integrated radio designs, which place the radio frequency (RF) modules next to the passive antenna in order to reduce cable losses. An AAS radio consists of a 5G antenna array that is closely integrated with the hardware and software required for the radio signals to be transmitted and received. It also consists of signal processing algorithms to support the execution of the AAS features.

  • Massive NR MIMO is the backbone for 5G networks. In this system 100 or more antennas, elements are to be used for various benefits. However, it is difficult to integrate massive-elements antennas (100 or more elements) that are required for 5G massive NR MIMO into traditional base stations. Attaching over 100 RF cables between each antenna seems unrealistic and adding more RF losses. Using an AAS that combines the antennas, and RF units, into one unit, proves to be an effective way to resolve these issues.

  • When transmitting a signal, antenna beamforming is the ability of the system to use a radio channel to direct radio energy towards a specific receiver. Constructive addition of the corresponding signals at the UE receiver can be achieved, by adjusting the phase and amplitude of the transmitted signals. This subsequently increases the received signal strength and thus increases the end-user throughput. Similarly, when receiving, beamforming is the ability to collect the signal energy from a specific transmitter. The beams formed by an AAS are constantly adapted to the surroundings to give high performance in both uplink (UL) and downlink (DL).

  • The potential performance of the 5G beamforming techniques tends to increase with an increase in the number of antennas, as a higher number of antennas facilitate a larger degree of spatial freedom for the baseband. This is facilitated by techniques for AAS where the radio is integrated into the antenna. This offers possibilities for finer grained digital control of the beamforming weight of each individual sub-element within the antenna.

    • Advantages of ACTIVE ANTENNA 5G

      Active antenna 5G coupled with 5G massive MIMO provide the following benefits and capabilities:

    • Vastly improved capacity and reliability – Active antenna 5G facilitates a tremendous improvement in network capacity and reliability over previous generations. Users can expect better performance and higher stability. To enable higher system capacity AAS radios will make use of new high-frequency bands from 24GHz up to 42GHz.

    • Higher data rates and lower latency – Active antenna 5G enables higher data rates and lower latency than previous generations. With speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second, 5G is set to be as much as 10 times faster than 4G. Low latency is one of 5G’s most important features. 5G uses a scalable orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) framework. 5G benefits greatly from this and can have latency as low as one millisecond with realistic estimates to be around 1 – 10 seconds. 5G is estimated to be 60 to 120 times faster than the average 4G latency.

    • Better connections – Active antenna 5G enables stronger and better connections. Using larger 5G array antennas provides the system additional beamforming to overcome severe propagation challenges that are encountered at mmWave frequency ranges.

    • Less intercell interference – Active antenna 5G will potentially reduce intercell interference experienced in LTE by a large extent.

    • Greater efficiency and better signal coverage enabled by beamforming – In an active antenna 5G system, using beamforming, cells can deliver extremely fast coverage with low latency.

    • Independent optimization per carrier and per technology – Active antenna 5G enables optimization of individual carriers and technologies.

    • Reduced item count at ground level and on the mast – Active antenna 5G will require a lower item count at the ground level. This makes the technology cost-efficient.


    The recent technological advances enable large-scale deployments in existing 4G and future 5G mobile networks to use AAS as a viable option. AAS enables state-of-the-art beamforming and MIMO techniques that are powerful tools for improving end-user experience, capacity, and coverage. As a result, AAS significantly enhances network performance in both uplink and downlink.

    Active antenna 5G coupled with technologies like beamforming promise to deliver high performance, efficient networks with higher data rates and significantly lower latency. Active antenna 5G provides significant benefits across a large variety of deployment scenarios, enabling mobile network operators to reap the benefits of cost-effective AAS across their network. Subsequently, the importance of AAS is very likely to increase in the future.