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Mobile industry ‘needs to be aggressive’ on energy efficiency

Anita D NGMN CEO.jpg

The mobile industry needs to set itself aggressive targets in energy efficiency in order to cut consumption as demand grows.

The industry’s own Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance (NGMN) warns in a white paper published today that 5G technology is significantly more energy efficient than 3G or 4G, but increasing usage will push up overall energy use, especially in base stations.

“Cellular data traffic is projected to grow by six times between 2018 and 2024 in emerging economies, and by three times in developed markets over the same period,” says the report. “By 2025 there are forecast to be 100 billion connections, including 40 billion smart devices.”

The report, Green Future Networks: network energy efficiency, warns that “the most challenging elements of a mobile network, in energy consumption terms, are the radio base stations which represent about 57% of the consumed energy”. (PDF here.)

NGMN Alliance CEO Anita Döhler (pictured) said: “To continue improving the energy performance as well as reducing the global networks energy consumption, vendors and operators are encouraged to put a strong focus on the solutions identified by our Green Future Networks project.”

She called for a “path to zero watt at zero load for future network generations”, using artificial intelligence (AI) “to intelligently coordinate and optimise more precise decisions for activation and deactivation of the sleep-mode and shut-down features, as well as on-demand network dimensioning”.

The report is compiled by executives from operators such as Bell Canada, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, Orange and Turkcell, as well as vendors such as Ericsson, HPE, Huawei and Intel, and researchers from King’s College London and TNO.

Orange’s Laurent Leboucher, SVP of innovation networks, expressed confidence that the industry will become more energy efficient. “Tomorrow, networks will be greener by design,” he said. “Today, Orange is already working hard to save energy consumption and reduce the carbon footprint of its networks, making continual progress, through its research efforts and operational deployments.”

But, he said, “this needs to be an industry move and this is where the NGMN Alliance plays a strategic role in unifying the industry”.

The report identified a number of initiatives that the industry should follow, including using the spectral efficiency of the 5G air interface, shutting off hardware when not needed – the path to what the NGMN Alliance calls “zero watt at zero load” – and the use of renewable energy, smart batteries and efficient power supplies.

This report is the third in a series from the NGMN Alliance, which will publish the fourth, Metering for Sustainable Networks, later in November 2021.