5G networks are reaching scale in many developed nations, delivering an exceptional user experience and higher data rates to consumers and enterprise users. 5G has proven to be 90% more energy-efficient than 4G in terms of energy consumption per unit of traffic. However, it is still expected to cause a dramatic increase in energy consumption due to the implementation of Massive Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output (mMIMO), and the level of network densification. According to global technology intelligence firm, ABI Research, a 5G base station requires 3X more energy to provide the same coverage as a 4G network, burdening network operators with high energy costs and Capital Expenditure (CAPEX). However, hardware optimization will lead to significant improvement in power consumption, i.e., the new generation of chipsets will offer typical energy savings of 30% to 70%.
“5G energy consumption depends on radio configuration, hardware, and traffic load, and over 70% of the consumed energy is in the Radio Access Network (RAN). A 5G RAN consumes up to 2.7 Kilowatts (kW) of power with 64T64R mMIMO configurations in a typical condition, whereas a Long-Term Evolution (LTE) radio consumes about 0.8 kW,” explains Fei Liu, 5G & Mobile Network Infrastructure Industry Analyst at ABI Research. “Network operators should only deploy 64T64R mMIMO radio in dense urban areas with high traffic demands. Within the mMIMO systems, Power Amplifiers (PAs), baseband process modules, Digital Intermediate Frequency (DIF), and transceivers are the main contributors to power consumption.”
With the growing pressure to fight climate change and the regulations to cut carbon footprints, network operators are demanding more energy-efficient equipment. This forces vendors such as Huawei, ZTE, Nokia, Ericsson, Samsung, and others to invest in innovative hardware technologies that improve energy efficiency. This includes Gallium Nitride (GaN)-based PAs, more powerful chipsets, liquid cooling, and new materials and designs.
GaN is ideal for mMIMO, GaN in a Doherty PA configuration can increase power efficiency by over 50%, significantly reducing the power usage of the power-hungry mMIMO system and lowering operation costs for network operators. Liquid-cooled sites are 50% smaller and 30% lighter than standard active air conditioning units and require no maintenance, enabling significant savings. The new generation of chipsets can yield typical energy savings of 30% to 70% while boosting mMIMO performance. New architecture can also reduce energy consumption, improve coverage, and enhance performance. Huawei’s MetaAAU, for example, allows base stations to achieve the same range with less transmit power and lower energy consumption by 30%. At the same time, Nokia’s liquid cooling has proven to reduce power by 70% and operating expense by 30%.
“Operators should deploy the new generation of equipment and adopt efficient cooling technology to reduce power consumption at the equipment level,” Liu recommends.