Energy efficiency has never been more relevant than it is. Having reached its target of powering 100% of the company’s existing European networks from renewable sources, Vodafone is turning its attention to the technology that will power its network in the future. It is ensuring that next generation Open Radio Access Networks (RANs) are as energy efficient as possible.
At an industry event run under the auspices of the O-RAN ALLIANCE, called Global PlugFest Spring 2022, Vodafone and several other companies last week demonstrated energy saving techniques in a multi-vendor Open RAN environment.
Exceeding the energy efficiency of today’s networks
Vodafone Open RAN Senior Engineer, Nikoleta Patroni, explained: “Our plan is to have 30% of all Vodafone’s EU mobile sites on Open RAN by 2030. Now when we introduce new technologies that provide customers with an even better service, we don’t have to compromise our commitment to the environment.”
She continued: “We plan to exceed the energy efficiency of today’s mobile networks. To achieve this, we need a standardised approach to evaluating, testing, measuring, and monitoring energy consumption of dis-aggregated multi-vendor Open RAN. This will provide a greater degree of transparency and help accelerate the acceptance of Open RAN technology for larger-scaled commercial deployments.”
9-12 per cent reduction in energy consumption
Using a dedicated facility for experimenting on the future of mobile networking called the POWDER laboratory at the University of Utah, home to 35,000 students, Vodafone, Wind River, Intel, Keysight Technologies and Radisys duly delivered. They successfully reduced the power consumption of an Open RAN infrastructure by 9% and 12%, during high and low mobile traffic peak scenarios respectively.
These traffic peaks mirror those typically experienced during busy periods of use on a live mobile network such as during commuting hours, and after school, as well as quiet times when most of us are asleep. It is the first time Open RAN energy savings have been measured using real-life traffic scenarios.
Future tests in a live environment
The test used both simulated and live, non-customer traffic, with both ‘high-peak’ and ‘low-peak’ results showing an improvement over a typical traditional RAN installation. Nikoleta explained that further tests need to be carried out to ensure the energy efficiency gains secured in a controlled laboratory can be replicated across multiple Open RAN sites supporting actual customer traffic.
Commenting on the cross-industry test, Sindhu Xirasagar, senior director of RAN software solutions, Wireless Access Network Division at Intel, added: “Optimizing power consumption is critical to making networks environmentally sustainable. This demonstration highlights the importance of energy-efficient silicon and cross-industry collaboration in achieving this industry goal.”
“Energy efficiency is a key sustainability goal for companies around the world. Keysight is focused on partnering and co-innovating with many vendors and operators to accelerate commercial-scale deployments of 5G and meet 6G requirements to achieve that aim,” said Giampaolo Tardioli, vice president and general manager of Keysight’s Network and Operators group.
Gil Hellmann, Vice President, Telecom Solutions Engineering, Wind River, added: “Wind River is proud to work with Vodafone, Intel, Keysight Technologies and Radisys to demonstrate how Open RAN can be used to effectively reduce power consumption and cost, as well as help support a better future for the environment.”
“We need the industry to pull together”
Nikoleta vowed to continue Vodafone’s pioneering work in this field, which recently included a trial of self-powered masts using a combination of wind turbines, solar power, and battery technology. There’s more to come with additional Open RAN tests across Vodafone European operations.
She concluded: “We have an opportunity to introduce greener technology that at the same time delivers even better connectivity for customers. But we can’t do it alone, we need the entire industry to pull together, and the O-RAN ALLIANCE and the Work Group 6 provides the best environment for vendors and operators to work together and align the Industry on this important topic.”
The photos show the POWDER Lab at the University of Utah and the two racks where our servers were hosted.