Wireless ecosystem energy consumption to grow 160% by 2030 - The EE

Wireless ecosystem energy consumption to grow 160% by 2030

Henry Tirri of InterDigital

The massive projected increase in power needs of the world’s mobile technology a more than doubling by 2030 underscores a call for an increasing role of renewable energy in mobile.

According to a joint study released by InterDigital, Inc., a mobile and video technology research and development company, and ABI Research, the 5G ecosystem will see a 160% increase in power requirements by 2030, reaching the expected equivalent of all UK households in that year.

The study, Environmentally Sustainable 5G Deployment, quantifies the energy footprint for approaching 5G deployment and identifies best practices to encourage energy sustainability as wireless and technologies evolve. Written by ABI Research and commissioned by InterDigital, the report cautions that anticipated advancements in 5G technology are also a catalyst for growing energy consumption a trend that should be closely followed by the evolving tech industry.

“The advent of 5G holds unprecedented promise for the wireless ecosystem and our world, but we must remain clear-eyed about the staggering energy demands of 5G and its life-changing use cases to develop appropriate and timely solutions,” says Henry Tirri, CTO of InterDigital.

“We must consider the environmental footprint, in addition to the technological impact, to ensure 5G and future generations of wireless technologies exist and thrive in a responsible and energy-stable world.”

According to the report, mobile telecommunications represents one of the wealthiest industries in modern times, with 5.3 billion users and US$1.38 trillion (€1.17 trillion) in service revenues. Each generation of wireless has contributed to driving demand for mobile services and opportunities for new use cases around the world and has laid the groundwork for the current race to 5G.

Compared to previous generations of wireless, the expected ubiquity and flexibility of 5G make it imperative to address its energy consumption at the onset of deployment and throughout all components of network infrastructure and end devices, to make 5G as sustainable as possible.

The sustainability research identified key points of consideration to pursue more energy-conscious 5G network deployments:

  • By 2028, 5G networks are expected to achieve widespread adoption in consumer and enterprise ecosystems, resulting in a huge increase in energy consumption and eventual replacement of legacy LTE networks.
  • 5G will usher in aggressive growth in energy consumption. In 2020, overall energy footprint of the global wireless ecosystem, including network infrastructure and end devices, topped 19.8 million tons oil equivalent (Mtoe) per year. By 2030, consumption is expected to grow to 51.3 Mtoe a number equivalent to all the energy to be consumed throughout Sweden, or roughly the same amount of energy to be consumed by all the households in the United Kingdom that year.
  • Connected devices will grow exponentially as enterprises begin widescale deployment of IoT and 5G-enabled devices. This will result in a whopping 37% increase in overall energy consumption by 2030 and spotlights the importance of device-side energy management to tackle the CO2 emissions associated with mobile devices.
  • Communications service providers (CSPs) must deploy an array of new network architectures to support a proliferation of end devices and provide the best 5G user experience. These architectures include a network of millimetre-wave base stations, virtualisation radio access network (vRAN), massive multiple input and multiple output (MIMO) antenna with beamforming, carrier aggregation, dynamic spectrum sharing, network slicing, and edge servers and gateways, and will unlock new capabilities, and new layers of complexity, that result in higher energy consumption in cellular networks.
  • As 5G usurps LTE, energy consumption is expected to increase 61x between 2020 to 2030 due to the energy demands of powerful network elements like massive MIMO and edge servers, the proliferation of 5G cell sites, and the flexibility of the 5G networks in both consumer and enterprise use cases.
  • Power consumption of the 5G network is expected to soar due to active network elements like energy-hungry baseband units, remote radio heads, small cells, and core networks. AI algorithms, new cell sites with improved battery management, real-time monitoring are a few of the solutions to mitigate energy growth in the 5G RAN.

The InterDigital-ABI Research paper is a part of InterDigital’s sustainability research and thought leadership initiative dedicated to identifying the primary challenges, and innovative solutions, to address energy consumption and environmental sustainability across all sectors of the technology ecosystem.

InterDigital’s sustainability microsite includes the latest research and white papers exploring the impact of energy sustainability in the evolution of advanced wireless, video, IoT proliferation, and more. You may learn more here.

To read a final version of the report, Environmentally Sustainable 5G Deployment, please click here.

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