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How can network modernization help CSPs in their sustainability strategies?

Sustainable Networks

The RAN modernization guide

How can network modernization help CSPs in their sustainability strategies?

Modernization has always been a vital part of meeting user experience and business targets, and it has also become increasingly relevant to execute on energy cost reductions and Net Zero ambitions. Ericsson works relentlessly to achieve higher network capacity with reduced energy consumption and carbon footprint - in essence, doing more with less.

Report

Sustainability is a complex challenge. To modernize mobile networks sustainably, we need to consider multiple factors in addition to the energy savings. Embodied carbon emissions of the products and the circular economy shouldn’t be considered in isolation.

This handbook supports communications service providers (CSPs) in sustainably evolving their mobile networks by providing a guide to help them make the best RAN modernization decisions. We will show the different solutions available, the benefits, the factors, and the methodology.
You will find case studies with the challenges that are most relevant for CSPs and advice on how to overcome them successfully. We hope that this handbook will be a valuable resource for CSPs as they work to modernize their RANs and meet the challenges and opportunities with sustainability in mind.

Here below, some highlights of the content. Download the handbook to discover all the insights.

"The climate crisis is the greatest challenge humanity is facing at the moment. How we respond now will define the course of our future."

- Börje Ekholm, President and CEO, Ericsson

The sustainability engagement framework

The Ericsson´s sustainability engagement framework is comprised of three steps:

  1. Wanted position and situational analysis
    We start with a data-driven situational analysis considering the overall ambition and targets, such as halve carbon footprint, and the timeline for those.
  2. Challenges, opportunities, and possible solutions
    We can support CSPs in identifying challenges and opportunities and propose solutions across the full value chain. Energy consumption and energy mix including transition to renewable energy sources are evaluated. Ericsson has different solutions to support CSPs along the entire value chain, from supply to portfolio in use and circular economy.
  3. Conclusions and next steps
    The conclusions include a summary of the situational analysis, wanted position and the selected solutions. As final step, the agreed plan should be integrated in the network evolution work.

Modernization drivers

New hardware adds support for new standards and functionality such as 5G standalone and premium services enabled by network slicing. To fully unlock the 5G experience we need to maintain 5G coverage at all sites and move towards 5G standalone architecture that enables new use cases to be deployed in network slices. With the vision of lowering the total network energy consumption, it’s not enough to deploy the most energy efficient 5G equipment on the new frequency bands. To make room for the 5G roll-out in the energy budget, the energy consumption of the radio base station site needs to be reduced. For all that, we need to modernize the installed base hardware.

Introducing a disaggregated architecture (decoupling hardware and software) such as Cloud RAN, presents an opportunity to modernize radio sites. The recommendation is to use hardware equipment and management solutions that are suited for hybrid architectures, as this will prevent the complexity and site rental costs from increasing. Ericsson is developing its offering to support radios for both architectural choices, purpose-built and cloud RAN. The management solution for this hybrid architecture is the Ericsson Intelligent Automation Platform , which follows the O-RAN Alliance interfaces.

In addition to adding 5G on new TDD mid-band spectrum, new radios can also increase capacity by adding new FDD frequency bands and extending the number of transmit branches. Sites with higher traffic may also need to add baseband capacity to cope with the increasing demand while maintaining an excellent user experience. Multi-band 5G is needed to unleash the full 5G experience. The more frequency bands, the more radio spectrum needs to be activated by your radio equipment.

RAN hardware modernization also presents an opportunity to modernize and connect site equipment. This will enable new site energy management opportunities, allowing service providers to use energy-saving functions across the entire network. Additionally, to achieve Net Zero, service providers may also want to reduce the dependency of fossil energy sources and move towards renewable electricity that can be generated on site. This evolution of energy management on site not only addresses the source of energy, but also the smart use of it. By combining the network management system with smart site solutions, a service provider can take the energy from the grid when the cost is low and use renewable energy sources (such as solar panels combined with batteries) when the cost is high. This will also create opportunities for service providers to engage with utility companies in the demand and response system, enabling them to operate their sites intelligently from an energy perspective.

New hardware can be significantly more energy-efficient, providing higher performance for a given energy consumption or transmitting more gigabytes with the same or fewer kilowatt hours (kWh), as we will see in some of the modernization examples. To drastically lower the total network energy consumption, we need to combine energy-saving software functions and hardware modernization. We have also seen our customers set carbon emissions goals as criteria for site modernization. They also have the goal of reducing embodied carbon emissions, which can be achieved with the new radio solutions with smaller size and weight, as well as multiband and multisector radios.

Even if fiber-based transmission is available on site, microwave modernization may be needed, and the evolution to 5G with potential new network topologies will also create new expectations on the functionality on the transport network, including the site routers.

Hardware modernization enables us to reduce site footprint. Replacing single-band radios with multiband radios, or multiband and multisector radios, helps to reduce the number of physical radio units at the site, which in turn reduces both its size and weight, and saves on site rental. The operational cost is also reduced due to managing less equipment. 

Three steps to secure a successful modernization

1. Holistic evaluation of the targets
2. Identify the sites for the modernization
3. Define when and what (Road map aligned with targets)

Customer cases

Key insights

01

We need a holistic approach to achieve Net Zero and sustainable business growth

02

Moving traffic to 5G is paving the way to more sustainable networks

03

Network modernization is crucial to break the energy curve and to reduce the OPEX