What’s up with… BT, Ericsson, Samsung Networks

  • BT intros sustainable cell site siestas
  • Ericsson offers operators a way to make money as they cut RAN energy costs 
  • Samsung Networks slims down

In today’s industry news roundup: BT cuts its energy consumption and electricity bills using ‘cell sleep’ technology; Ericsson unveils a tool to help operators lower costs and even make money from power management; Samsung reassigns some 4,000 staff as mobile network infrastructure rollout and 5G activity slows down; and much more!

Following successful trials, BT is cutting its energy consumption and reducing its operating costs by introducing AI-enabled ‘cell sleep’ technology across the 19,500 radio access network (RAN) sites of its mobile operation EE. The software technology, supplied by the telco’s two main RAN equipment vendors (Ericsson and Nokia) powers down certain LTE (4G) ‘carriers’ when the capacity is not needed “based on predicted periods of low traffic which have been established for each site through machine learning,” the operator noted in this announcement, with site data used to “inform the statistical algorithms which then autonomously inform the functionality.” The system “automatically wakes up during busy periods, and is also configured to react to unexpected surges which might occur during scheduled sleep modes – in which event, the carriers wake up within a matter of seconds to serve demand without any interruption to customers,” added BT. “An even lower power state, ‘deep sleep’, can also be activated if required, for example during overnight periods of extremely low demand,” the company added. BT expects the technology to deliver energy savings of up to 2KWh per site per day, or 4.5 million KWh per year across the whole network. Greg McCall, BT’s chief networks officer, stated: “There is huge potential for energy savings across our networks by dynamically matching power consumption against network usage. The optimisation and rollout of cell sleep technology to over 19,500 sites across the UK is a significant milestone in achieving this, and an important development in countering the massive growth in data consumption we’re seeing across our networks.” While the impact is positive on many levels, the move isn’t going to shift the needle on BT’s bottom line as TelecomTV believes the savings from the implementation of this technology is not expected to top the £1m mark per year initially. 

Sticking with green radio access network (RAN) technology… Ericsson has launched its Site Energy Orchestration solution that “acts as an intelligent bridge between the RAN and power grids, optimising operations to boost energy cost savings, reduce carbon footprint and open new revenue streams,” according to the vendor. The technology makes use of machine learning and AI-enabled RAN applications, network data and external data to enable mobile operators to “cluster and orchestrate the network sites as a virtual power plant among other applications, allowing [operators] to participate in various utility plans in different markets… [It] intelligently optimises cell sites’ daily energy consumption patterns to avoid peak charges in bills, channelling energy only when and where needed. This optimises operations, which lowers costs including energy bills, and potentially gaining future revenue from new avenues, such as energy trading exchange markets,” the vendor explained in its announcement. The measures being taken by BT and the technology developments undertaken by vendors such as Ericsson are key to helping operators meet their sustainability targets and keep their costs under control: Ericsson noted that the 2024 GSMA report shows that mobile operators still spend around up to 25% of their operational expenditure (opex) on energy, with the RAN accounting for about 80% of each operator’s network-related energy costs. “Ericsson’s Site Energy Orchestration is designed to support our customers in addressing the new challenges that come with the transformation in energy generation and consumption,” stated Martin Högberg, head of product line site, business area networks at Ericsson. “This latest software feature is another significant step alongside our customers to help them power their networks in a smarter way without having to worry about any impact on service level agreements or performance.”

About 20% of the 4,000 staff at Samsung Networks, the fifth-largest vendor in the global radio access network (RAN) market, are being reassigned to other parts of the Samsung Electronics empire due to the current slump in business in the mobile network infrastructure sector, according to Business Korea. About 400 staff are being reassigned as 5G rollout activity declines and any ramp in business associated with 6G looks some way off, noted the report. The move reflects trends in the global RAN sector which, following years of healthy growth as network operators around the world invested in their 5G networks, is now shrinking in value, with research firm Dell’Oro Group recently noting that the market is “still a disaster” after three consecutive quarters of double-digit year-on-year declines. Ericsson and Nokia have been impacted significantly by the investment trends, with Ericsson reporting a 19% sales slump at its networks division in the first quarter and announcing a headcount reduction in Sweden alongside other cost-cutting measures, and Nokia, which is cutting up to 14,000 jobs, recording a 37% dip in revenues at its mobile networks unit for the first three months of this year. Samsung Networks is, as you’d expect, a strong RAN player in its domestic market but has been making inroads in the international sector in recent years. Most notably this has been with its massive 5G deal at Verizon in the US and various engagements related to Open RAN rollouts and plans, particularly with Vodafone (in multiple markets) and most recently at Canadian operator Telus.   

Oven chips anyone? Chiming nicely with our article on the search for alternative energy sources and technologies to power the world’s datacentres as national grids come under increasing pressure, comes news that scientists at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are developing semiconductor technology able to work at 500C (932F). The announcement is particularly apposite given that big technology companies and startups alike are thinking of powering datacentres by geothermal means, drilling thousands of metres into the earth’s crust to tap directly into the practically infinite heat naturally generated at such depths. Geothermal energy is free at source, very hot and rather expensive to get at in the first instance and will require applications and supporting technology capable of operating for prolonged periods of extreme heat (500C is hotter than the melting point of lead). The MIT researchers are looking in particular at gallium nitride in the manufacture of the next generation of super-robust chips. Gallium nitride (GaN), is a compound and a binary direct bandgap semiconductor predominantly used, for the past 30 years or so, in the production of blue LEDs (light-emitting diodes). GaN has a tough crystalline structure and its wide bandgap makes it valuable for use in high-power and high-frequency semiconductors and in optoelectronics. GaN transistors can operate at much higher temperatures and much higher voltages than the ubiquitous gallium arsenide (GaAs) transistors and are excellent power amplifiers at microwave frequencies. GaN-base radio frequency (RF) transistors are now regarded as the technology most likely to replace the heavy and potentially dangerous magnetrons that are the source of microwaves in almost all microwave ovens, industrial and domestic alike. The research is published in Applied Physics Letters, a weekly peer-reviewed scientific journal from the American Institute of Physics: Its purpose is to expediently publish new experimental and theoretical papers relating to applications of physics in all disciplines of science, engineering, and modern technology.

The US government is investigating China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom over concerns that the Chinese telcos could exploit access to US data through their cloud and internet services units and pass it to the Chinese government, Reuters has reported. Despite existing measures barring them from offering traditional telecom services in the US, the three Chinese telcos still have small wholesale and cloud services units serving customers in the US and that is apparently giving the Biden administration cause for concern. Further measures would also make the international service offering of the Chinese trio less attractive to enterprises as the ability to do business in the US market is key to most global operations. 

- The staff, TelecomTV

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