PRESS RELEASE: Following the 2019 commercial launch of 5G in China, the 5G user base and traffic ratio have been growing rapidly, which in turn has spurred the growth of 5G-driven services. The net result is a sharp increase in network energy usage. Against this backdrop, can good network performance and user experience really come with a small carbon footprint? For Huawei, innovation makes this possible.

Earlier in 2023, Huawei launched its latest GigaGreen target network solution which delivers both sound performance and high energy efficiency. This solution includes a portfolio of equipment and technologies, including Huawei’s innovative MetaAAU (active antenna unit), ultra-wideband RRU (radio unit), BBU (baseband unit), signal direct injection feeding (SDIF) technology, GreenSite 2.0 which empowers site-wide intelligent awareness, and iPowerStar which provides network-wide intelligent energy saving. Li Haining, Vice President of Huawei Wireless Network SingleRAN Product Line, said in a recent interview that the GigaGreen solution can help operators deliver excellent user experience and facilitate their low-carbon growth.

Innovative MetaAAU: Superior Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is becoming increasingly more important for socially conscious businesses and society in general. However, due to a sharp increase in service volume since 5G networks were deployed, operators have been plagued by high-energy consumption issues. Energy efficiency is not only an important factor for assessing 5G’s practicability and feasibility, but it also impacts the expectations that operators have on the return on investment from their 5G networks and also of their social responsibility as well. Must they choose between performance and energy efficiency, or can they still provide good user experience using less energy?

To solve this problem, Huawei has been working with partners to drive down energy consumption and reduce carbon emissions of 5G networks. For example, the green 5G target network project that is led by Huawei and China Mobile has won the Global Mobile Award at the 2022 Mobile World Conference (MWC) Barcelona in recognition of it saving more than 10% energy across the entire network.

In exploring network energy-saving technologies, Huawei realizes that the challenges faced by operators are regional-based. For example, in Europe, rising energy prices have led to a sharp increase in their electricity bills, making it imperative to reduce energy usage without affecting user experience. Some operators chose to power off their base stations during off-peak hours, but this led to user complaints regarding service response failures during traffic bursts. Li Haining noted that during the Türkiye earthquake in February of this year, local base stations could not track the status of auxiliary equipment such as power supply and backup power. This complicated fault locating and eventually slowed down network repair. Therefore, it is very important for main base station equipment to learn information such as power supply, microwave transmission, ambient temperature, and location.

It is estimated that, base stations use 70% of energy on 5G networks, whereas 90% of the energy consumption of base stations comes from AAUs. From this perspective, reducing the energy usage of AAUs is critical. “Unlike the scheduled shutdown policy commonly used in the industry, Huawei’s new MetaAAU supports dynamic dormancy. We can drive down energy consumption to as low as 10 W when the MetaAAU is dormant,” said Li Haining.

Huawei MetaAAU is so far the industry’s only solution that supports on-demand wakeup. When the 5G traffic volume is small, UEs can be intelligently and smoothly switched to low frequency bands to achieve the highest level of AAU dormancy. When the service load increases, the MetaAAU is woken up promptly to provide high-bandwidth services, which represents efficient bit-based management of watts, where 0 watts are consumed if there are no bits. According to Li Haining, Huawei will launch a series of MetaAAUs that support more frequency bands to achieve leading energy efficiency.

Ultra-wideband RRU: Larger Capacity at Lower Energy Consumption

To further reduce 5G energy consumption, Huawei has launched the industry’s first true wideband RRU, which uses one wideband power amplifier (PA) for three bands. Li Haining pointed out that the industry’s common solution is to assemble three single-band PAs in one RRU. The drawback is that, different frequency bands cannot share the power capacity under different service loads, so each band can only use a maximum of one third of the total power. Huawei’s ultra-wideband RRU allows the embedded PAs to dynamically share and adjust power based on load changes across the three frequency bands, maximizing the use of radio frequency power.

According to Li Haining, test results show that one ultra-wideband RRU can function as three single-band modules, thereby cutting energy consumption by 30%. After the product is deployed on the live networks in Europe, network capacity increased by 1.25 times, whereas energy consumption was reduced by 15%. “In the future, our true wideband RRU will continue to innovate on super dormancy that supports on-demand wakeup, ensuring 0 watts will be used for 0 bits,” Li Haining said.

Besides RRUs, Huawei has made innovations in BBUs, antennas, cables, and other aspects to reduce the energy consumption of base stations. For BBUs, Huawei developed service-based shallow and deep dormancy through continuous software optimization and refined management of all physical components, saving up to 30% of energy or more. In the context of wide application of Centralized RAN (CRAN) in China, Huawei innovated its BBU subrack design by changing the ventilation channel direction. This improved the heat dissipation efficiency to save energy by more than 5%. “Huawei’s BBU is highly integrated, delivering the industry’s highest specifications with the smallest equipment size and energy consumption. It provides the industry’s lowest single-cell energy consumption,” Li Haining said.

In addition, Huawei has launched exclusive SDIF technology, which improves antenna efficiency by 20% as it dewires each antenna element, thereby saving the transmit power of RRUs. This solution has been deployed at scale in many countries, such as China, Thailand, Belgium, and Denmark. Tests show that it saves between 18% and 21% energy. Huawei also has exclusive Meta Lens technology, which enables more focused signal transmission, delivering 90% of antenna efficiency and, under the same coverage, reducing network energy consumption by more than 25%.

Intelligent Linkage: Network Efficiency Optimization

Based on a series of innovations, Huawei launched GreenSite 2.0 in 2022, the first in the industry to implement intelligent linkage between services and site auxiliary equipment. The solution intelligently learns information about equipment such as power supply, temperature, antenna, and adapts power supply, energy consumption, and air-conditioning temperature to service needs, simplifying operation and maintenance while greatly improving the site-wide energy efficiency. The test results on live networks show that GreenSite 2.0 could reduce site energy consumption by more than 15%.

With the massive deployment of wireless base stations and varying user scales and services in different areas, operators need to optimize base station energy-saving policies based on the characteristics of each cell. To address this issue, Huawei developed iPowerStar, which adjusts network performance based on the time, scenarios, and service types.

Li Haining noted that iPowerStar supports dynamic energy-saving on complex networks with the help of intelligent orchestration of energy-saving policies based on customer intents, real-time optimization of energy-saving parameters, and millisecond-level switching responses for energy saving resources. On a quad-band network, for example, iPowerStar can help customers reduce energy consumption by 30% without compromising network performance.

“Using IntelligentRAN technology, iPowerStar could reduce the energy consumption of complex multi-band and multi-RAT networks while ensuring user experience,” said Li Haining.

Huawei has partnered with several multinational operators to deploy GigaGreen around the world. A European operator who deployed nearly 1,000 GigaGreen sites reaped more than 13% profit from network energy saving. The higher-than-expected benefits prompted them to further adopt Huawei GigaGreen in global markets.

According to Li Haining, Huawei has been pursuing innovation in the wireless field to achieve the best performance and highest energy efficiency in the industry. “Huawei is continuously promoting innovations in antennas, AAUs, ultra-wideband, and intelligence. Huawei also uses unique network energy-saving technologies to reduce the energy consumption of terminals such as mobile phones and CPEs and achieve end-to-end emission reduction on mobile networks. We want to be supportive to the low-carbon strategy and the global telecom industry in general,” he said.