Energy-Efficient Technologies Wanted

Even before the financial and economic crisis hit, mobile operators were looking hard at ways to lower their operating costs and stay competitive. Now they are looking even harder.

Many see opportunities in optimizing their use of energy. From carriers in developing countries struggling with either insufficient or unreliable power grids (or both), to those in mature markets confronted with rising energy costs, the message from CTOs to their suppliers is loud and clear – they want to spend less on energy and squeeze more efficiency out of their systems.

Although energy consumption has dropped substantially since the early days of GSM technology, it remains a critical cost factor – and one that continues to drive innovation in base-station technology, particularly for advancing 4G networks. These systems aim to transport larger volumes of data at higher speeds over a constant frequency spectrum, creating still greater need for energy-efficient radio access systems.

As detailed in a new research report from Unstrung Insider, "Energy Optimization: More Bang for the Buck," OEMs, vendors of subsystem components, and software design houses are investing much time and money in developing new power amplifier linearization and energy-efficiency-boosting techniques to keep pace with the increase of bits/hertz metrics in evolving wireless technologies. Their research has largely focused on the threefold challenge of increasing efficiency while maintaining high linearity and broadening the operating bandwidth.

While some of these techniques are already used in 3G base stations and, to a lesser extent, in 2G systems, the launch of new 4G cellular networks is creating an opportunity for vendors to implement some of the latest state-of-the-art technologies, including envelope tracking efficiency-boosting techniques in power amplifiers and active antenna systems that integrate many of the radio frequency components directly into the antenna. Network design also plays a critical role.

Technical issues aside, perhaps the biggest challenge facing many vendors is how to enhance their systems enough to meet the rising energy-optimization demands of their operator customers and, at the same time, generate some profit for their efforts. That is not an easy task.

Vendors will need to walk the fine line between investing millions in new energy-optimization technologies and offering enough innovation to satisfy not only their customers, but also their own bottom line. Most operators are unwilling to pay significant premiums for greater efficiency. Yet competition to win or retain their business will force vendors to provide enhancements. The key question they will need to answer is: How much, and at what cost?

For sure, the current economic crunch and the 99.9 percent likelihood of operators trying to squeeze prices even further will not make the situation any easier.

— John Blau, Research Analyst, Unstrung Insider

The report, Energy Optimization: More Bang for the Buck, is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Unstrung Insider, priced at $1,595. Individual reports are available for $900. To subscribe, please visit: www.unstrung.com/insider.

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