An executive at semiconductor maker GaN Systems tipped global equipment vendors to begin production of more power efficient 5G kit in 2020, a move which could potentially save operators millions on energy costs.

Paul Wiener, GaN Systems’ VP of strategic marketing, told Mobile World Live two of the world’s top-four vendors are preparing to deploy equipment sporting gallium nitride (GaN) transistors rather than traditional silicon components. He explained the move would improve energy efficiency, with the initial deployments in macro cell equipment coming a year before small cells.

By 2021, all of the top four vendors are expected to use GaN transistors in their network equipment, he said.

While transistors may not get a lot of attention, Wiener said the shift has the potential to save operators a “staggering” amount of money.

He explained GaN transistors can function much faster and are more power efficient than their silicon counterparts. Where silicon transistors offer around 90 per cent efficiency, GaN products yield 96 per cent or more.

Adding up
Though the gap seems small, he said the impact of saving even a few cents can be huge given the millions of kilowatt hours and tens of thousands of cell sites involved.

“This is a huge opportunity for these companies to make these systems more efficient…on a very modest rollout with one of our customers, they have the opportunity to save $17 million of energy costs by converting to GaN versus the legacy designs they’re using now”.

Wiener added GaN transistors require less cooling than silicon, allowing vendors to shrink the size of their kit, potentially offering further savings on installation costs and site rental fees.

The ability to cut energy costs will become even more important as 5G rollouts continue: experts previously noted 5G networks are expected to consume at least twice the amount of energy as today’s networks.