Breaking the energy curve: why service providers should care about 5G energy efficiency

US telecom service providers consume around 31 million megawatt hours (Mwh) of electricity annually, which is equal to the annual electricity consumption of almost 2.6 million US homes.

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Head of Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility for Ericsson in Market Area North America

Head of Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility for Ericsson in Market Area North America

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With mobile data traffic expected to grow at a 35 percent compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) in North America by 2024, network energy usage and costs are expected to increase as well.

Breaking the Energy Curve

The launch of each successive generation of mobile technology has enabled new services that require extended coverage for more people and places. At the same time, building networks that support this demand for new services has resulted in a corresponding rise in energy consumption.

5G energy efficiency

As we begin commercial introduction of 5G, the challenge is to secure the network's total energy performance despite the introduction of new capabilities like increased gigabit speeds and low latency.


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Engraining energy performance targets into products

Ericsson is helping service providers to "break the energy curve" by developing innovative solutions that will enable them to meet current and future network demands, while simultaneously addressing the energy and carbon emissions challenge. Ericsson has established the following ambitious product energy performance targets by committing to:

  1. Develop a 5G product portfolio that is ten times more energy efficient (per transferred data) than the current 4G portfolio by 2022 (baseline 2017)
  2. Drive 35 percent energy saving in Ericsson Radio System (ERS) versus legacy portfolio by 2022 (baseline 2016)
  3. Innovate for alternative energy sources to be economically feasible in 25 percent of the total installed base of a service provider by 2020

Ericsson also enables service providers with the capability to sustainably upgrade ERS radios from 2015 onwards to run 5G NR technology with a simple remote software installation. This helps service providers to take the first steps with sustainable deployment of commercial 5G capabilities and prolong the life of their existing installed hardware.

Network hardware modernization with 5G

Ericsson has always regarded energy performance as one of the key requirements for 5G. The Ericsson research team has continued to drive network energy-efficiency concepts into the 3GPP standards. The 5G standard now includes the key technical enablers for better energy performance: ultra-lean design and Massive MIMO. The ultra-lean design leverages smart-sleep mode technology to ensure that radio frequency signals are transmitted by the radio hardware only when necessary. Massive MIMO increases network coverage and provides higher capacity requiring fewer sites to be installed. These enhancements provide extended network coverage in a sustainable and resource-efficient way, reducing the total cost of ownership for service providers.

Up to 15 percent energy savings with software features

Ericsson research shows that a major part of energy consumption in mobile networks comes from the radio access network (RAN) and radio base station sites. Typically, the installed base consists of 2G, 3G and 4G that coexists with 5G systems. Ericsson RAN energy saving software features for 2G, 3G & 4G can enable up to 15 percent reduction in overall energy consumption by taking advantage of traffic variations. Also, the Ericsson Site Manager software paired with the Ericsson Site Controller can drive energy saving by switching sites from "always on" to "always available" state, improving network energy efficiency and sustainability performance.

Adopting an integrated approach for energy performance

Addressing the network energy consumption and carbon emissions challenge, requires an integrated approach that looks beyond individual product performance and addresses the whole network. That includes hardware and software, and considers both network modernization and the installed base.

Want to know more? Check out the Ericsson Exponential Climate Action Roadmap.

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