Telcos could save up to 70% power usage by optimising 5G hardware

  • Network operators need to optimise hardware to reduce power consumption and associated costs, says ABI Research
  • There are various ways to tackle increasing energy usage, as rollouts of 5G accelerate
  • The analyst company advises telcos to deploy the new generation of equipment and embrace efficient cooling technology
  • Like the world as a whole, the mobile industry is on a mission to reduce its environmental footprint
Telecoms operators need to embrace new approaches to optimise the hardware they use if they are to fulfil a goal of significantly decreasing their energy consumption and associated costs, as power-hungry 5G networks reach scale in developed markets.
This is the main point made in a new report from research company ABI Research, which suggests if operators act wisely and optimise the hardware used in their systems, this will bring about a decline in power consumption of up to 70% and, therefore, will reduce energy bills.
Despite 5G networks being 90% more energy efficient than 4G in terms of power consumption per unit of traffic, they are very likely to cause “a dramatic increase in energy consumption” due to the implementation of massive MIMO and the level of network densification.
ABI Research has calculated that a 5G base station needs three times more energy to provide the same coverage as a 4G network, which, in turn, results in high energy costs and capital expenditure for operators.
“5G energy consumption depends on radio configuration, hardware and traffic load, and over 70% of the consumed energy is in the radio access network (RAN),” said Fei Liu, 5G & Mobile Network Infrastructure Industry Analyst at ABI Research. “A 5G RAN consumes up to 2.7 kilowatts of power with 64T64R mMIMO configurations in a typical condition, whereas an LTE radio consumes about 0.8 kilowatts.”
The dominant contributors to power consumption are power amplifiers (PAs), baseband process modules, digital intermediate frequency (DIF) and transceivers. The analyst company recommends the use of gallium nitride (GaN) for mMIMO, which can result in more than 50% more power efficiency and subsequently reduce power usage and operational costs.
Another suggestion is the deployment of liquid-cooled sites which are 30% lighter and half the size of standard active air conditioning units. A further benefit is that they don’t require any maintenance, which equates to “significant savings”, said Liu.
Telcos can also make use of the new generation of chipsets, which are estimated to save between 30-70% in energy savings. “New architecture can also reduce energy consumption, improve coverage, and enhance performance”, she added.
Network vendors are also investing in other “innovative” hardware technologies such as new materials and designs to improve energy efficiency. “Operators should deploy the new generation of equipment and adopt efficient cooling technology to reduce power consumption at the equipment level,” Liu advised.
In recent years, a number of telcos has been considering ways to combat climate change through cutting down greenhouse gas emissions and being more energy efficient. Reducing costs is also a strong driving force. Some of the moves telcos have already taken include switching to 100% renewable energy sources, embracing circular economies across their operations and committing to industry-wide goals outlined by ITU, GeSI, GSMA and SBTi. (See ICT industry agrees landmark science-based pathway to reach net zero emissions.)
- Yanitsa Boyadzhieva, Deputy Editor, TelecomTV

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