Is 5G a waste of electricity? Experts say it’s complicated



As 5G developers look desperately for a “killer app” to prove the usefulness of the superfast wireless technology, mobile carriers in China are complaining about the high energy cost of 5G signal towers.

And the situation is, according to experts, more complicated than many have thought.

The costly 5G

5G technology can be 10 or more times faster than 4G and significantly more responsive to users’ input, but the speed comes at a cost.

A 5G base station consumes “four times more electricity” than its 4G counterpart, said Ding Haiyu, head of wireless and terminals at the China Mobile Research Institute, during a symposium on 5G and carbon neutrality in Beijing.

But concerning each bit of data transmitted, 5G is four times more energy-efficient than 4G, according to Ding.

This means that mobile carriers should fully occupy their 5G network for as long time as possible, but that can be hard at this moment, as many people are still holding 4G smartphones.

“When the 5G stations are running without people using them, they are really electricity guzzlers,” said Zhu Qingfeng, head of power supply design at China Information Technology Designing and Consulting Institute Co., Ltd., who represents China Unicom at the symposium. “Each of the three telecom carrier giants are emitting about ten million tonnes of carbon in the air.”

“We have to shut down some 5G base stations at night to reduce emission,” he added.


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