5G – Energy Consumption, Carbon Footprint, Climate Change: Environmental Impact

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 5G Profit and Power:

Telecoms operators will need to optimize electricity consumption in 5G networks to make services pay.

The move to 5G could result in increased total network energy consumption of 150-170 percent by 2026.

Research suggests most telecommunications professionals think that 5G is likely to increase telecommunication and mobile operators’ power consumption given the additional equipment and sites needed to provide greater coverage density.

A survey of 100 global telecoms operators conducted last year by analyst firm 451 found 94 percent believed 5G would raise their overall energy costs. Internal analysis conducted by data centre infrastructure specialist Vertiv (previously the data centre power business unit of Emerson Network Power) estimated that the move to 5G could result in increased total network energy consumption of 150-170 percent by 2026.

Telefónica has made a firm commitment to reduce its carbon emissions by more than 50 percent between 2020 and 2030. Its Energy and Climate Change plan aims to reduce its operational costs and align its network expansion with a sustainable strategy going forwards.

Maintaining that ambition whilst simultaneously rolling out 5G infrastructure will be difficult however.

Nilmar Seccomandi David is head of network and system infrastructure at Telefónica’s global CTIO unit. He too feels that moving to 5G and edge computing will “most likely” increase its network energy consumption. The operator is currently examining various ways to minimize that impact, including new cooling systems to improve thermal safety, greater use of renewal energy supplies, virtualized radio cores and remote infrastructure management platforms.

Additional sites need efficient power management:

The augmented capacity, bandwidth and latency requirements needed to take 5G networks beyond existing 4G/LTE provision will almost certainly need higher density infrastructure built on additional wireless antennas and base stations to mobile traffic at the edge.

With existing sites needing to support more equipment, telecoms operators need to think more carefully about how partition existing power supplies to optimize their thermal density and cost efficiency, particularly when it comes to managing a gradual 4G to 5G transition that will need both new and legacy infrastructure approaching the end of its service life to co-exist side by side in the short term.

Many will also need to acquire extra sites at which to install radio equipment, with all the associated challenges of sourcing enough electricity to feed them and providing power backup options such as generators to ensure resiliency and failover.

Ericsson’s Linder points out that the need to increase power efficiency per site as the number of antennae and base stations increases is crucial to ensuring that mobile network operators  can either maintain or reduce their existing consumption in order to keep down the cost of deployment as well as ongoing 5G operations.

A more innovative approach to power management within both 5G network infrastructure and changes in the way telecoms operators procure and supply electricity to 5G networks will become crucial as they expand capacity and coverage over the next five years.

The growing volumes of devices expected to come online due to exponential growth in IoT/M2M connectivity, aligned with huge volumes of video data, will put steadily increasing pressure on infrastructure from day one, beginning early next year. https://www.datacenterdynamics.com/analysis/balance-between-5g-profit-and-power/

5G – Zero Fault Connectivity Tolerance:

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IOT and smart applications like telemedicine and remote robotic surgery — are extremely fault-intolerant. Surgeons are already performing successful surgeries, via robotic arms and 5G connectivity, from distances of up to 30 miles away from the operating room. Needless to say, systems like this cannot fail during use. And neither can communication between autonomous cars and smart city infrastructure.

With 4G, our devices connect to one piece of infrastructure at a time: one cell tower, which transmits to the next tower, and so on. But with 5G, our devices and equipment will have to communicate with multiple cell towers and other infrastructure AT ONCE if they want to achieve “zero tolerance.” https://www.actualtech.io/5g-will-change-data-centers/  Hence the need for a stable electrical supply. * See EMFSA’s post at the bottom of this page regarding Eskom and the roll out of 5G in South Africa: “5G Requires a Stable Electricity Supply”.

5G Will Require More Data Centers –  A Holistic Approach Is Needed:

Image:  A Vapor Edge Module at a cell tower (a rendering) www.datacenterknowledge.com

Traditional data centers will not be enough. To reduce latency many more data centers will be required such as  micro data centers, or “containerized data centers,” located right on network edges (i.e. at the base of a cell tower). Data center diversification—whether through micro data centers, increased investment in proprietary data centers, colocation, or, most likely, a combination of the three—will be a critical component of any successful 5G implementation. https://www.datacenterknowledge.com/industry-perspectives/how-mainstream-5g-will-disrupt-data-center-status-quo

5G  will affect the day in and day out operations and planning that go into managing and maintaining a data center. While the thought of increased speeds, extremely low latency and IoT expansion is exciting, it’s important to take a holistic approach to how 5G technology will impact the data center.

4G technology is geared toward a “one to one” methodology. When user’s endpoint device is connected to a tower, it will transition to the next nearest tower as their location changes. This provides the user with the experience they would expect from 4G or 4.5G LTE connections.

5G connectivity will introduce the idea of “many to one” methodology as it relates to wireless connectivity. The user’s endpoint device will need to communicate with many towers or antennas at the same time in order to deliver higher speeds and lower latency. This will require more towers and antennas, which will require more data centers.

For 5G Internet of Things (IoT) scenarios, massive volumes of data collected from distributed IoT terminals and edge nodes in various industries need to be aggregated, stored, processed, analyzed, and managed in a centralized cloud data center.

The way in which we build these new data centers and retrofit the old ones will also need to adapt to meet the demands of 5G. For example, the “Three Musketeers” of the data center — power, space and cooling — will need to be revamped. 5G networks could demand up to 100x more resources than the typical 4G network.

Overall, more resources means more equipment, power and space requirements. In order to meet the specifications of a 5G ready data center, environmental impact needs to be analyzed. The increase in resources and requirements to build and/or retrofit a data center for 5G readiness could have a negative impact on emissions and carbon footprint. https://www.actualtech.io/5g-will-change-data-centers/

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A Lot Of Waste Heat Is Generated By Base Stations (BTS):

Usually base station sites will be cooled by air condition equipment which transfers the waste heat out of the site. However, every kW of heat power requires 1kW of cooling power and air conditioning equipment is expensive to buy, requires regular and often expensive maintenance (e.g. changing filters) and also generates noise pollution. https://www.nokia.com/blog/nokia-5g-cool-and-green/

5G Heats Up Base Stations

Inefficient conversion of RF to digital and continuous connectivity issues are causing thermal problems, threatening signal integrity and reliability.

5G Heats Up Base Stations

5G Requires a Stable Electricity Supply