Maximising energy efficiency

For several years Australia’s telecommunications industry has progressively been working to reduce energy use.

In 2013 the Mobile Carriers Forum (MCF) finalised training modules centred around energy efficiency in mobile networks – an award-winning program that garnered international interest.

Since then, Australia’s mobile network carriers have continued to innovate, developing the means to minimise energy consumption in their mobile networks through improvements in energy efficiency of the components themselves (such as air conditioning of shelters), as well as including energy efficiency in the decision-making process when planning the network deployment.

Globally, mobile carriers are focusing on energy efficiency in their Radio Access Network (RAN) Base Stations as a primary way to reduce industry emissions. Base Station sites account for 60-80% of the total electricity consumption of mobile networks, with the remaining consumption being attributable to controllers, core and support services.

While adding new technologies to existing networks brings with it a rise in energy consumption, the 5G Standard has been developed with energy efficiency and a reduction in energy use as a core element.

According to the GSMA’s ‘5G Guide – A Reference for Operators”:

  • The mobile telecommunications industry currently consumes between 2 – 3% of global energy.
  • Established international industry standards including 3GPP’s 5G specification calls for a 90% reduction in energy use.
  • A growing number of network operators have taken a leading role in sustainability and the use of renewables to meet or exceed these decarbonisation goals and this will expand in the 5G era.
  • The many solutions to enhance network energy efficiency fall into two major groups: increasing the use of alternative energy sources to reduce dependence on the main power grid & network load optimisation to reduce energy consumption.

All mobile carriers in Australia are continuing to identify, assess and implement carbon management and energy efficiency initiatives. For example:

  • The installation of energy ‘smart meters’ on mobile networks to better understand and manage energy use
  • Working with network partners to install more efficient equipment and using innovative network site design to improve energy performance
  • Installing passive fan-cooling systems to reduce reliance on energy-intensive air conditioners to keep network equipment cool

The installation of solar power on some network sites with the aim to increase use of alternative energy sources where possible in the future.