5G deployments: Reducing energy consumption

author: MedUX

5G deployments: The challenge of reducing energy consumption

5G will generate data at an unparalleled speed and enormous volume. It is more than just a new wireless technology that will provide a theoretical speed 100 times faster than current solutions, but also promises network latency of some milliseconds, supports 1 million devices/sq. km, guarantees 99.999% network availability, and endless use cases around it. This technology constitutes the new wireless communication paradigm that is highly scalable and can be the solution to certain existing pain points across multiple industries.

A mature 5G network will be able to support the growing needs of mass Internet of Things (IoT), smart cities, real-time remote management capabilities and more network computing activities, making 5G an essential part in the coming digital transformation.

How much energy 5G infrastructure will consume is among the major concerns of next-generation networks’ environmental impact and operational costs. According to IEEE spectrum, it has been estimated that “a 5G base station is generally expected to consume roughly three times as much power as a 4G base station. And more 5G base stations are needed to cover the same area.”

Among other factors, 5G systems will also serve a large number of connected devices, offer ubiquitous and continuous connectivity, use powerful waveforms and antennas, and require network densification.

Unlike a 4G base station antenna, which typically uses the sub-6 GHz frequency range, spanning from 700 MHz to 2.7GHz and can transmit signals up to several kilometers, a 5G cell would, under certain circumstances, reach only hundreds of meters (or even less, for indoor or density deployments) and require a higher site density.



5G is the first mobile communications system supporting any spectrum between 400 MHz and 90 GHz. The early phases of commercial 5G are more likely to be deployed on lower frequency spectrum. However, it is the use of higher frequency spectrum bands, specially between 24 GHz and 100 GHz, known as millimeter wave (mmWave), that provides new challenges and benefits for 5G networks.

As 5G will require a massive deployment of small cells to cover the same area, it would also contribute to the increase of energy consumption. 5G small-cells, that can build denser networks and reuse bandwidth more efficiently, may overtake 4G small cells by 2024, according to recent research studies. Besides, the rise of massive Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) antennas also demands considerable energy input.

All these changes that come with this tempting new technology could finally pump up the total energy consumption of the whole telecom network.

However, new standards to support 5G energy feeding solutions and management are emerging, since concerns on energy consumption are coming out worldwide. According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), new standards addressed to improve energy efficiency so as to reduce capital and operating costs are already under development.

In this sense, there are several vendors, such as Ericsson, promising 5G is capable of enabling denser network deployments and simultaneously deliver energy efficiencies.

One important issue that had been neglected in the past is that base stations consume 80% of the power in mobile network infrastructure, but most base stations remain idle in a 24-hour period. By intelligently activate the sleep mode (referred to as “ultra-lean design”), 5G base stations can greatly reduce energy consumption during the idle time, whenever there are no active users. Thus, companies can have better energy management, and consequently, reduce operating costs.

We couldn’t agree more about how smart network optimization and management can help achieve energy and deployment efficiency. At MedUX, we measure the network performance and status in real-time and provide insights about customer experience. We help operators prioritize investments and upgrades, not only based on technical network indicators, but also on expected impact on network quality and Quality of Experience (QoE). Among others, we support the identification of the strategical location of stations and radio equipment in high-density areas.

As it was said a long time ago by Emil Björnson, an associate professor at Linköping University (Sweden), “this [5G energy efficiency] is a major problem, but I don’t think it will be a showstopper, […] If new features that make the system increasingly more energy efficient can be delivered as software updates, it will be much easier to improve the efficiency over time”.

In the 5G era, when networks are becoming very dynamic and telecom operators provide services to both consumers and businesses, analyzing and improving QoE becomes an essential factor to build optimized networks capable to meet users’ requirements and support energy efficiency commitments. The need for real-time actionable insights and informed decision-making is more important than ever before.

If you want to know more about the importance of 5G Quality of Experience, subscribe to MedUX blog and follow us on our social networks. Don’t miss our related articles!

For more information contact us at info@medux.com.



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