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5G drives the need for network energy solutions

Fred Saayman, Huawei Business Unit: Executive, Pinnacle ICT, a South African technology distributor, explains the importance of the on-going need for sustainable and efficient energy as the 5G era doubles the power consumption of telecom networks.

It is estimated that within five years, the number of connections between people and other people, people and things and things to other things will number more than 100 billion.

Add to this the increasing uptake of 5G networks, as well as new services including online healthcare and education, smart homes, telemedicine, virtual and Augmented Reality, autonomous cars and it’s easy to see why broader network connections, higher bandwidth and computing that is closer to users are in demand.

In addition, the world has witnessed incredible new technologies that enable surgeons to supervise operations based on real-time 5G ultra HD imaging. Big Data and analytics are helping businesses pinpoint trends and customer needs with astonishing accuracy. Artificial Intelligence is no longer in the realm of science fiction, it is converging with 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) to bring us a world where all things will be intelligent and connected.

While all these technological breakthroughs are helping streamline our work and personal lives, they are seeing energy consumption soar to previously unheard of levels. All these ICTs consume vast amounts of energy and many ICT organisations are the biggest culprits in their countries when it comes to their carbon footprints. Moreover, there in increasing pressure from various watchdogs, the community, and governments to improve energy efficiencies across the board.

Furthermore, the ever increasing amount of devices and services running online has and will continue to lead to growing demands for energy supply, which will see energy costs rise too, putting businesses across the board under long-term financial pressure to lower energy consumption and therefore costs.

However, if you consider that data consumption in a 5G era doubles the power consumption of telecom networks, the picture gets even more dire.

Think too, about cloud computing. Although it undoubtedly makes life easier and smarter, is supported by data centres that use 3% of all power around the world. Add to this the use of now dwindling fossil fuels which has devastated the environment, the production and use of sustainable energy solutions becomes even more of an imperative.

Remember that the large-scale deployment of 5G around the world is in full swing, with spectrum being released in 33 countries around the world as far back as June last year and commercial use has begun in many countries. Moreover, an increasing number of nations have clear 5G spectrum plans in terms of releasing spectrum and deploying these networks, which will see the number of sites get more and more.

Huawei’s Global Industry Vision 2025 estimates that that there will be approximately 6.5 million 5G base stations and 2.8 billion 5G users within the next five years. And although the energy efficiency of its 5G base stations is between 20 and 30 times higher than that of 4G base stations, the difference in power consumption is negligible.

To ensure continuity, 2G, 3G and 4G isn’t going anywhere and will on the live network coexist with 5G for a long time. At this time, more than 70% of operators have around five bands. In the future, when millimetre-waves or the extremely high frequency band of radio frequencies that are suited for 5G networks are deployed, the band number of a site could leap to seven to 10 or even more.

In today’s 5G age, massive multiple input, multiple output, will key technologies for 5G in terms of increasing and enhancing throughput. This is because it employs the diversity of multi-path propagation, enables base stations and multiple pieces of terminal equipment to use the same frequency resources for data transmission and concurrently, supports higher cellular capacity and efficiency in high-traffic areas.

In terms of networking infrastructure, servers will move from data centred to access network equipment rooms and sites to lessen the delay impact during communication. What we will also see at the same time, as already massive data processing requirements get even huger, is that the communications equipment room will develop even more towards ICT convergence. And as an increasing number of supplementary energy devices are needed, the installation space of the equipment room and load-bearing capacity will be significant. The power consumption of this room will also increase and the on-going need for sustainable and efficient energy will grow increasingly critical.

While ICT giants are committed to turning the world digital through harnessing the benefits of 5G and bringing life-changing technologies to every home and business to create this connected and intelligent world, this world needs to be green and smart too. Huawei’s Network Energy Product Line is at the vanguard of energy digitalisation for a world that is both smart and sustainable. It significantly improves energy efficiency and promotes the application of renewable energy. Additionally, as it promotes the convergence of power electronics technologies with IoT, Big Data and AI, it sticks to the concept of ‘bit manages watt, zero bit zero watt’ and provides users with green, reliable, and intelligent telecom energy, data centre energy and smart photovoltaic (PV) solutions.

In the case of 5G deployment, Huawei 5G Power is based on the concepts of simple, intelligent, green and focuses on the performance improvement from sites to the entire network as opposed to a single component. Moreover, critical technologies, such as efficient rectification and intelligent voltage boosting, are employed to promote better, end-to-end energy efficiency.

Huawei is actively looking at efficient technologies from the ground up to lower power usage in data centres and networks. To this end, it has developed the most efficient modular UPS in the industry, which boasts a module efficiency of up to 97.5%. In addition, innovative cooling technologies are being harnessed to get the most out of free cooling sources, achieving industry leading power usage effectiveness.

The Paris Agreement set goals for global actions that need to be taken to address climate change, with renewable energy emerging as the inevitable and only choice. This is why Huawei is actively promoting the use of renewable energy and brings solar energy to telecommunications sites and data centres. In fact, Huawei’s smart PV solutions assist global PV plants to increase energy yields and lower carbon dioxide emissions and in regions where the power supply is unstable or unavailable, it uses solar energy to power base stations.

Through on-going innovation in ICT energy conservation technologies, the average annual carbon emission per connection in the global ICT industry is expected to decrease to 15kg in 2025, 80% lower than it was five years ago.

Besides, technologies such as Huawei’s solutions will promote Digital Transformation and the intelligent evolution across every industry and sector, and at the same time lower the carbon footprint, conserve energy and reduce emissions across the board.

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