Ericsson shares 5G energy-reduction recipe

Through some clever tech innovations and nifty software – not to mention a change of network planning mindsets – Ericsson reckons it can help buck an unwelcome industry trend of galloping energy usage to cope with growing data volumes.

In a new report, Breaking the energy curve, the Swedish supplier – with a nod to 5G – made what seemed a remarkable claim: It's possible to quadruple data traffic without increasing energy consumption.

According to Ericsson, some communications service providers have estimated a doubling of their energy consumption to meet increasing traffic demands, while at the same time improving their networks and rolling out 5G. Hardly sustainable, said Ericsson, from either a cost or environmental perspective.

The supplier ruefully estimated that the current yearly global energy cost of running mobile networks is an eye-watering US$25 billion.

Although the report concedes that 5G is the most "energy-aware" cellular standard there is, it warns operators that they'll still see a dramatic rise in energy consumption if they deploy the next-gen tech in the same way as 3G and 4G.

By analyzing some of the "most ambitious 5G deployments," and testing what could happen if its so-called holistic approach was applied, Ericsson thinks its energy consumption claim is on solid ground.

Among the supplier's recommendations is not adding new equipment while keeping existing network assets. "This practice must change," said the report. Ericsson bragged too that its own energy-saving software and hardware, and kit that promises greater spectrum efficiencies, was a necessary part of the energy-savings mix.

The supplier also flagged artificial intelligence as a great way to help operate site infrastructure more proactively, which – from some customer use cases – can apparently cut down on-site energy consumption by as much as 15%.

Ericsson is far from unique in trying to burnish its credentials as a responsible supplier of mobile network equipment. Nokia, like Ericsson, has set its emission and product energy performance reduction targets in line with a UN target – the Paris Agreement – of global temperature not rising more than 1.5°C compared with pre-industrial levels.

Hui Cao, Huawei's head of strategy & policy in Europe, recently boasted that the Chinese supplier's 5G equipment, on average, uses 20% less energy than that of its competitors.

— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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