5G Energy Efficiencies - Green is the New Black

The impetus for reductions in energy emissions in the telecoms sector is anchored in the global fight to combat and mitigate climate change, as enshrined in the 2015 Paris Agreement. Urgency has grown markedly over the last two years as governments seek to garner private sector commitments towards the central objective of keeping a global temperature rise this century to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This implies net zero for most countries by 2050.

In telecoms, a number of industry-specific factors rooted in countering rising network costs have further shaped efficiency efforts. The mix effect of LTE and 5G upgrades in emerging and advanced economies (led by the US and China) will result in these technologies accounting for 60% and 20% of the global mobile connections base respectively by 2025. The impact of this shift will be a continued rise in mobile data traffic, estimated at 6.4 GB per user per month in 2019 and forecast to grow threefold on a per-user basis over the next five years. Combined with the rising costs of spectrum, capital investment and ongoing RAN maintenance/upgrades, energy-saving measures in network operations are necessary rather than nice to have.

5G New Radio (NR) offers a significant energy-efficiency improvement per gigabyte over previous generations of mobility. However, new 5G use cases and the adoption of mmWave will require more sites and antennas. This leads to the prospect of a more efficient network that could paradoxically result in higher emissions without active intervention.

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