At the heart of energy efficiency are granular KPI insights that offer the ability to make network design choices and support eco-friendly practices.

Ruth Brown, Principal Analyst – Mobile Networks, Heavy Reading

March 15, 2024

3 Min Read
Optical fiber with green light glow
(Source: Zoonar GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo)

After a year of energy bill shocks and carbon footprint anxiety, mobile network energy conservation and efficiency will remain a top priority for operators in 2024. Services are designed and built around specific network characteristics. Until now, QoS, throughput, latency, and jitter have been some of the top attributes, but energy efficiency is becoming increasingly important. With net-zero emissions deadlines clearly defined, the need to understand and reduce energy usage to control its long-term environmental impact has never been so clear.

At the heart of network energy savings is comprehending and quantifying energy use and creating uniform metrics and KPIs to measure progress against. Defining, socializing and agreeing on standardized energy efficiency KPIs builds on efforts from multiple organizations, such as the ETSI, GSMA, NGMN, ATIS, etc.

Heavy Reading's recent industry initiative on Power and Energy Efficiency Strategies for 5G Networks discusses the importance of quantifying energy usage and efficiency in 5G networks and how that relates to end-user services. At the core of the debate are the following points:

  • Key metrics and KPIs: Agreeing on standardized granular KPIs will remain collaborative. The 3GPP management, orchestration and charging (SA5) working group is responsible for KPI definitions (detailing progress in TS.28.554). Frameworks created by other 3GPP working groups (RAN1 and SA) and bodies, such as the ETSI Technical Committee (TC) and Environmental Engineering (EE), have contributed to the key energy efficiency KPIs. Success will require a strong understanding of the stakeholders and a process to collect and exchange KPI information. For example, how will a 5G operator extract metrics across multiple data centers, virtualized infrastructure, network functions or other service provider domains?

  • Reporting: Transparent reporting of power and utilization levels for infrastructure, workloads and microservices is essential for energy management and reduction. Many mechanisms have been proprietary, but early progress by open-source collaborative projects such as Kepler (Kubernetes-based efficient power level exporter) is encouraging the development of tools to accurately observe, analyze and document the power consumption of cloud native applications. These insights offer choices for network design and operations, such as deciding when and where optimization will make the most significant impact.

  • Continual progress: Energy efficiency is a long-term endeavor requiring ongoing industry effort and collaboration. As 3GPP Release 19 commences, energy efficiency enhancements are expected to cover service criteria, new radio, low power wake-up, and KPIs. SA5 will also introduce a study of energy efficiency saving aspects for 5G networks and services (TR.28.880) to evaluate potential use cases and solutions and define new energy efficiency KPIs. A concluding Release 18 change request (S5-238235) suggests future work must consider additional energy consumption granularities at the customer/ subscriber level, application/ packet data unit (PDU) level, user equipment (UE) level, etc. It must also translate measured or estimated energy consumption into carbon emissions.

Industry innovation will continue to offer streamlined, more energy efficient hardware and software designs. However, the breakthrough will be insights provided at a granular level via uniform energy efficiency KPIs, which can offer the ability to make network design choices and support eco-friendly practices.

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About the Author(s)

Ruth Brown

Principal Analyst – Mobile Networks, Heavy Reading

Ruth covers mobile network research for Heavy Reading. Key coverage areas include system architecture, core infrastructure and services, and supporting cloud technologies. Prior to joining Heavy Reading, Ruth worked in mobile and fixed network research and design for BT for over 20 years. Her research interests have included convergence, mobile QoS, network slicing, private networks, cloud native mobile core technology and automation. She has filed more than 40 patents on both real world applications and enhancements to mobile core networks. Ruth is an advocate for women in engineering.

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