Legacy RAT Exit Help Sustainable Development of Communication Networks – Mobile World Live

Legacy RAT Exit Help Sustainable Development of Communication Networks

14 FEB 2020

New and old RATs changes are taking place in the communications industry. The new-generation 5G technology is gaining popularity all over the world. Up to now, more than 60 operators in more than 30 countries have officially released 5G commercial technical support services. The 5G communications era has arrived.

In addition, the exit of 2G and 3G networks has become an important issue for the metabolism and sustainable development of the communications industry. With the large-scale deployment of 5G, the 4G network is facing great operation pressure. The entire industry is focusing on how to eliminate old RATs, improve the network operation efficiency, and achieve energy saving and emission reduction.

The exit of 2G and 3G networks helps operators reduce O&M costs and energy consumption, and achieve the sustainable development goal of energy conservation in the communications industry. According to the GSMA report, since the communications industry became the world’s first industry to commit to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2016, the communications industry is accelerating to achieve sustainable development goals. Innovative solutions in the communications industry have achieved significant results in reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The GSMA report also points out that the communications industry must accelerate if it is to have its full impact by the 2030 target date. From the perspective of sustainable development, reducing the energy consumption of the entire communication network by 2G/3G network exit and transferring limited energy to more efficient 5G technologies are key ways for the mobile industry to achieve sustainable development.

According to the development trend of global communication networks, 2G and 3G networks are to be replaced. According to statistics, a total of 24 networks, including 14 GSM networks and 8 CDMA networks, have exited the network worldwide, mainly in the United States, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Canada, and other countries.

From the perspective of carrier network operation, 2G and 3G network exit is one of the effective measures to reduce costs and improve efficiency. Telecom networks are large-scale networks. No matter how many users there are on a network, the construction and O&M costs and pressure are similar. Currently, although the number of 2G and 3GSM network users is decreasing, the facilities still occupy a large space, consume power, and maintain the cost, and even the spare parts operation cost still exists, which causes a great waste of resources and energy.

According to the data of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China, by the end of November 2019, the total number of mobile phone users of the three basic telecom enterprises in China has reached 1.6 billion, among which the number of 4G users is 1.276 billion, accounting for 79.7% of the total number of mobile phone users. By the end of September, the three operators had a total of 1.598 billion subscribers, of which 1.264 billion were 4G subscribers, accounting for 79.1 percent of mobile phone subscribers. According to simple calculation, the number of 4G subscribers increases by 12 million and the number of 2G/3G subscribers decreases by 10 million within two months. This indicates that 2G and 3G subscribers are migrating to 4G networks. However, according to the statistics of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China, there are 8.08 million base stations, including 5.19 million 4G base stations, accounting for 64.2% of the total number of base stations. Therefore, the scale of 2G and 3G base stations is still very large, and the waste of energy consumption is also very astonishing, however, the number of users accounts for only about 20%, and the revenue contribution proportion is less than 10%.

According to the practice results of operators, 2G/3G network exit helps reduce network-related OPEX and reduce waste caused by inefficient energy utilization. Generally, the operating expense (OPEX) of a typical operator consists of two parts: network-irrelevant (such as marketing expense) and network-related (including electricity expense, site leasing, and network O&M). The network-related OPEX accounts for about 40%. The withdrawal of 2G and 3G networks will reduce the network-related OPEX including electricity expense.

For example, an operator in a province of China exits the 2G network. The operator has about 7000 GSM installed base sites. The annual operation cost of each site is about CNY13,000/site/year, including the electricity expense of about CNY4,000/year, network maintenance expense of about CNY4,000/year, and site rental expense of about CNY5,000/year, therefore, after the 2GSM network is retired, the OPEX will be reduced by about 90 million yuan. In addition, users will migrate to a higher RAT, and the ARPU will increase, which will help increase the revenue of operators by about 40 million yuan.

It is true that 2G and 3G network exit will not be completed overnight. According to the practice of global operators who have completed network exit, it takes two to three years on average from the announcement to the completion of network exit. However, in this process, the 2G or 3G network is reduced from a thick network to a thin network, this also helps reduce energy waste and operators’ OPEX. Take an operator outside China as an example. On the GSM network, one site is configured with three cells, and each cell is configured with three carriers. The OPEX of each site, including the site rental, network maintenance, and electricity fees, is about US$2,000 per year. After the operator exits the network, the single-carrier configuration is gradually reduced to a thin network, the OPEX of each site can be reduced to about US$970 per year. The OPEX of a single site is reduced by more than 50%, and the electricity fee is reduced by about 70%.

It is believed that as 5G is deployed in batches and the number of user increases, 2G and 3G networks will gradually exit the market in some countries, reducing the OPEX and improving the energy utilization efficiency of the entire network. Whether to withdraw the 2G network or 3G network depends on the specific services of each country and operator.

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