China Mobile Exec Calls for 5G Power Subsidies

Robert Clark
News Analysis
Robert Clark
11/14/2019

A China Mobile executive has called for governments to step in to cut 5G network power costs.

Executive vice president Li Zhengmao says Chinese telcos need preferential electricity pricing or subsidies to aid 5G network deployment.

Speaking at a GSMA seminar on the 5G rollout in Beijing on Tuesday, Li said operators had made little progress in reducing the cost of 5G power supply, C114 website reported.

He said the spike in energy consumption was a result of the fivefold increase in bandwidth. "Each basestation now carries more than 100 Mbit/s per carrier, five times time more than LTE," he said.

He noted that the Shanxi and Guangdong provincial governments were already offering electricity subsidies and he called on other governments to follow suit.

China's three telcos have built out what is already the world's largest national 5G network, with 130,000 basestations expected to be deployed by year-end.

Li said the operator had improved energy efficiency through more flexible deployment of massive MIMO, configuring 32T32R (32 transmit, 32 receive) arrays or even 8T8R in some locations instead of 64T64R.

He said China Mobile also believed the development of open radio access network technologies could improve performance, and that this would have a knock-on effect of lower energy consumption.

The cost of energy needed to drive powerful 5G networks is not just a headache for China. Research firm ABI estimates 5G will drive up operator electricity costs as much as 350% compared with 4G.

Aside from the soaring power bills, Li said basestation equipment was still too expensive.

A year ago, prices were roughly three times those of 4G, and the problem "still has not been completely solved," he said.

"It requires the industry to mature further and scale up. When the quantity goes up, the price will start to fall."


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But one issue that had eased over the year was the anticipated number of basestations required.

Li said China Mobile had believed it may have to build as many as three times the number of 4G cellsites.

But that was based on the expectation of deploying in 3.5GHz, a higher frequency than that used for LTE networks.

When licenses were awarded in June, China Mobile was allocated spectrum in the 2.6GHz band, which is much closer to 4G. Li says China Mobile expects to achieve full coverage with the same number of basestations as 4G.

China Telecom and China Unicom are both building out in 3.5GHz, the most widely used 5G frequency band.

— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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