Upgrading cell towers can provide enough power to power entire cities

Upgrading to more efficient cellular radio towers could provide enough electricity to power cities like Phoenix, New Orleans or Seattle, according to a new study produced by American research firm J. Gold Associates.

US cell sites annually use approximately 21 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of energy. This equates to the average energy used by nearly two million households.

“Cellular services have become a vital component of modern life’s infrastructure. It is hard to imagine not being able to connect on the go with our mobile devices, or increasingly through a wireless home gateway that makes internet services available to individual and corporate customers.” But the burden that cellular sites place is not discussed. The electricity supply needed to keep it running on electricity and the costs associated with the energy being saved.”

Each 10% reduction in total cellular site capacity results in enough electricity to power the equivalent of 195,000 households. The 40% reduction provides enough electricity to power approximately 782,000 households, according to the study, “US Cell Sites – Sustainability Analysis.”

By upgrading both radio hardware and management software, each cellular site can save up to 40% of its electricity needs, the report notes.

Cell tower energy usage and cost graphs J. Gold Associates

“The sustainable reuse of electricity can be used to power a large number of equivalent homes without the need for new energy sources,” the report said. “The amount and cost of electricity to run our modern cellular infrastructure is enormous and has an impact on users’ subscription costs as well as the load on the power grid and the creation of greenhouse gases from power generation.

The study concluded that “it would be beneficial for the industry to move in this direction as quickly as possible”.

A modern, high-performance cellular site will likely cost around $200,000, according to Jack Gould, lead analyst and author of the report. Each carrier will be responsible for its own equipment, even if it shares a physical tower with others. The tower is usually owned by a tower company, which then leases the site to different operators (similar to leasing multiple units such as a condominium or apartment building).

“So every airline is responsible for updating their equipment,” Gould said in an interview.

Ericsson 5g antenna photos Ericsson

Telco workers install a 5G antenna on a cell tower.

according to Internet Society for Cellular Communications (CTIA) There were 417,215 cell sites in the United States at the end of 2020. While this number is a moving target as more cell sites have been added as new regions and/or services are deployed, J. Gold Associates used this number for its report mathematical calculations. (CTIA is a trade association representing the wireless communications industry in the United States.)

The radio component of a cellular communication network is called RAN (short for Wireless Access Network). Gould said a typical RAN lasts about eight years before it requires upgrades or replacement.

(Because there is so much variance in the age of cellular sites globally, it is difficult to estimate how many sites currently need to be replaced, according to a spokesperson for Swedish networking and communications company Ericsson.)

Gould said that rather than simply replacing older hardware, moving to a more virtual environment rather than dedicated hardware would help reduce the overall power need.

AI creates opportunities

Additionally, by using artificial intelligence (AI) in cellular site management software, service providers can operate infrastructure more proactively with tools to control passive equipment and enable predictive maintenance and touchless problem solving to reduce costs, on-site energy use, and site visits.

cell tower savings chart J. Gold Associates

“AI tools are useful for managing cellular location devices, with a better understanding of how much power is required for each connection, rather than just turning radios on and off at full power which basically happens on older devices,” Gould said. “If you’re close to the tower, you don’t need to signal me with full power.”

AI can also learn about past patterns and manage equipment on that basis (the software can “know” that a site rarely has 2am-3am traffic and puts it at a minimum power level). This kind of granular management can greatly reduce power. And better antennas, such as 5G devices with more efficient Multiple Input and Multiple Output (MIMO), could help reduce the broadcast power required.

Single antenna fingerprint solution for massive mimo tdd and multi band fdd Ericsson

5G antenna above the roof.

Ericsson Recently announced a more energy efficient RAN It is powered by the company’s latest generation of silicon, which it claims uses 25% less energy. The portfolio update includes everything from dual-band radios to massive MIMO radios that are extremely lightweight, low-space antennas, and energy-efficient software features.

“Newer machines can also have software installed that can better interact with management to take into account a range of energy-saving features, just as modern computers do this better than older computers,” Gold said.

Another important component of energy efficiency is the power amplifier (PA) in the radio used to generate the signals that will be transmitted, according to Ericsson. PA typically consumes more than 60% of radio power. As a result, the efficiency of wireless devices can be improved for the specific output power or configuration used by continuously integrating more discrete steps into a single package, and adopting new technology such as high-efficiency gallium nitride (GaN) and multi-wideband PA technology. An Ericsson spokesperson said that the bandwidth radios.

The transition to 5G also plays a role

About a quarter of the world’s population currently has access to 5G coverage. About 70 million 5G subscriptions were added during the first quarter of 2022 alone, according to Ericsson. By 2027, about three-quarters of the world’s population will have access to a 5G network, according to Ericsson Mobility Report for June 2020.

Since creating 5G RANs in 2015, Ericsson has said it has shipped 8 million devices to its customers — “the most installed 5G ready radios in the industry,” a spokesperson said via email.

Today there are about 210 5G networks in commercial service, and Ericsson claims to lead the market with about 50% (120 networks) of the world’s 5G network traffic outside of China.

in previous reportEricsson has claimed that there is a perception that legacy equipment on cellular sites can handle the growing demand for traffic from more mobile devices and upgrades to 5G, which the company opposes.

“The transition from 4G to 5G brings a massive increase in computing demands – they’ve increased by a factor of over 150,” an Ericsson spokesperson said. “While 5G public computing solutions can be used, to truly deliver 5G performance at the highest energy efficiency, you need purpose-built silicon. Ericsson’s System on a Chip (SoC) design is the perfect solution to achieve this.”

Ericsson claims that its latest 5G radio system can reduce power consumption by about 30% when used to upgrade existing infrastructure. The system supports standalone and non-standalone access technologies for the fifth, fourth, third and second generation networks. “It provides high levels of coordination and automation for operational efficiencies, and delivers up to 20% savings on infrastructure with cloud-native operations,” the company said.

“In some cases, you pay for the upgrade within three years,” the company said in its report. “Customer cases show that service providers have reduced on-site energy consumption by up to 15% through intelligent on-site control solutions.”

However, some studies claim that the 5G network consumes twice as much energy as 4G systems. Matt Walker, chief analyst at MTN Consulting, wrote in a report titled “A typical 5G base station consumes up to twice or more of the power of a 4G base station.”Operators are facing an energy cost crisis. “

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