As Mobile Networks and 5G are Rapidly Implemented, Limiting Energy Use Remains a Focus

(Credit: Pixabay)

by | Dec 1, 2021

(Credit: Pixabay)

Mobile networks and 5G use are exploding, but providers are working toward making sure that growth doesn’t result in a similar expansion in energy use.

Mobile subscriptions have grown from 6 billion in 2011 to 8.1 billion in 2021 and smartphone use has increased from 700 million to 6.3 billion over the same period, but global network energy use has increased 64% during that time, according to a new report by Ericsson. That means, Ericsson says, there is a weak correlation between the traffic growth and increased energy use.

One reason is spectrum efficiency has significantly increased with every generation of mobile technology. The report says it is up 200% from 4G to 5G implementation.

The report says energy consumption has been a concern for every new generation of mobile networks.

To fight it the industry has focused on efficient technologies and new advances in network features and capabilities that allows for energy efficient procedures. The use of renewable energy is also key lowering carbon emissions.

Beyond consumer use, such networks are increasingly important to run the many efficiency efforts being put into place. Everything from automation of buildings to smart grids and meters rely on them to stay operational.

Earlier in 2021 Qualcomm said 5G can have an impact on any number of sustainability efforts. It even said the network implementation could save 410 billion gallons of water and cut emissions by 370 million tons by 2025. AT&T also says it plans to reduce a gigaton of carbon emissions by focusing on 5G, artificial intelligence, automation, cloud computing and broadband, all of which enable more data to be stored and transferred using less energy.

An example of success the report highlights is Vodafone UK using an antenna that resulted in the equipment’s daily energy use drop by 43% compared to previous generations and up to 55% during off peak times, while still meeting traffic demands.

It also says Deutsche Telekom’s mobile site in Germany installed solar panels in 2020, which have resulting in producing about 14% of the site’s overall power supply. That can reach as high as 83% during peak times, Ericsson says.

Another area where energy use is mitigated is short gaps in data transmissions, even in high use periods. During these gaps, according to the report, power consumption is reduced by putting components into sleep mode. More gaps, mean more components can go offline, saving more power.

For 5G there is a new element called the 5G New Radio standard, which is designed to support sleep states in radio network equipment and that allows for better implementation of energy-saving features, the report says. The standard also has a higher capacity compared to past technologies and can carry lower loads. With the ability to use increased sleep periods, combined it will eventually lower overall network energy consumption.

The report says social impact of connectivity is having additional influence on net zero goals. It says connectivity enables technology that can address climate change and can be a tool to help promote transitions and help reduce global emissions by as much as 15% by 2030 and indirectly support a further reduction of 35% by influencing business and consumer decisions as well as systems transformation.

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