PARTNER CONTENT: Executives from many of the world’s leading mobile operators gathered in Turin, Italy, for the Global ICT Energy Efficiency Summit to discuss how best to “define telecom energy in the 5G era” – and there was a stark message all attendees agreed on: the move to 5G will create many challenges for power supply.

Industry elites from ABI Research, Bell, China Mobile, Huawei, ITU (International Telecommunication Union), Orange, Telefonica, Vodafone and Smart, among others, debated 5G telecom energy evolution trends, strategies, standards and solutions.

A key takeaway from the event was that 5G could cause network power consumption to at least double. There are also concerns around the insufficiency of power capacity, as well as the incompatibility of 5G network power supplies with previous 3G and 4G equipment. In the 5G era carriers need an efficient and smooth evolution, with improved energy reliability, while cutting down on capex and effectively managing sites to reduce OPEX.

Partnerships are key
Moderator Dimitris Mavrakis, Research Director at ABI, opened the fourth annual Global ICT Energy Efficiency Summit by emphasising the importance of this topic. “Telecom energy is rarely discussed but we come across it in all parts of the networks – from rural networks with diesel power to 5G, where we will need a lot more cell sites and existing cell sites will need a lot more power. It’s a topic that needs and deserves more discussion.”

This was a view echoed by Huawei’s Edward Chan (VP of Western European Region MKT Solution and Sales) in his welcome speech: “There is uncertainty ahead but we hope to work with you all. Without your feedback we can’t build the most suitable solution for you. This event is a platform where we share our best will.”

5G will change industries
Before speakers tackled the technical challenges surrounding the move to 5G, Huawei’s VP of Global Wireless Network Marketing and Solutions, Dr Mohamed Madkour (pictured), offered an exciting vision of a 5G world. In fact, Madkour noted that 5G is no longer hype but a reality, with the company already involved in more than 30 global trials.

He noted there are two major challenges the industry faces in moving to 5G; creating demand for 5G and fixing connectivity business economics. “Telecom energy is at the heart of this connectivity,” he declared. “5G and connectivity in general represents the hope of every person to live better and every organisation to conduct better business and every country to place itself on the ICT leaders space.”

Madkour made a bold prediction about the impact of 5G. Whereas 4G changed lives and created new businesses such as Airbnb, Mobike, Spotify and Uber, the Huawei executive argued 5G will change industries and create new economies.

He hailed 5G as not just an enabler of much faster speeds, but “business and economy transformative.” Madkour believes verticals such as health, education, government and many other industries will all work together in open collaboration: “that is what the 5G era enables.”

And as the industry moves towards commercial 5G launches, Madkour stressed that Huawei offers the industry’s first end-to-end solution based on official 3GPP specifications. Huawei produces 5G terminals (currently a CPE solution for fibre-like wireless but 5G smartphones will be launched in the middle of 2019), 5G RAN equipment, 5G Transport, 5G Cloud and – launched at the event – its new 5G Power Solution.

“Synergy is the theme of the 5G era,” he concluded.

5G Power Standards
Standards are a common element of the mobile industry, defining generations of technology. But there has never been an official standard for power – until now.

Victoria Sukenik, Study Group 5 Chairman at the ITU, revealed progress around the organisation’s plans to launch a 5G power standard.

“Network outages are unaffordable in a smart world,” Sukenik warned, noting that such downtime in a 3G/4G world is frustrating and could lead to lost business, but in a 5G world of self-driving cars it could result in lives being lost in accidents.

“We need a 5G power standard because the power consumption will be so different,” she stated. To that end, the ITU is working on the release of a 5G Power Standard by May 2019 and encouraged attendees at the event to contribute to development.

5G Power Solution
As the ITU moves towards a defined standard for 5G power, the major news from the event in Turin focused around Huawei’s launch of the industry’s first full-range 5G Power Solution, providing the best energy solution for network evolution.

Setting the scene for the big launch, Huawei executives alerted attendees to the fact that 5G will bring new requirements for power, including higher reliability and higher capability. With operators spending around US$170 billion on OPEX worldwide each year, energy bills account for approximately 16.5% of that sum (US$28 billion). If the move to 5G results in a doubling of power consumption, this will have a huge impact on OPEX levels.

Tao Hongming, Huawei VP of Network Energy Product Line, unveiled the company’s new solution, declaring it “a new generation of power supply” . But it is not designed solely for 5G: it aims to enable operators to also save more in existing 2G, 3G and 4G networks.

“Next year all the power we ship around the world will be 5G Power,” said Hongming. “It will be a power meet the requirement of 3A – Available, Affordable, Administrable.”

Operator goals
With Huawei and the ITU making clear progress in improving energy efficiency and power supply for the 5G era, a number of the world’s biggest operators laid out their roadmap and success stories in this field.

Operator Telefonica outlined its infrastructure plans to support new 5G services, focusing on three areas: optimising energy consumption, increasing the number of cell sites, and redesigning core and access infrastructure.

Nilmar Seccomandi David, Head of Network and System infrastructure (GCTIO), Telefonica, reiterated company objectives for energy and climate change as part of its 2015-2030 strategic plan. The operator aims to reduce its energy per traffic unit by 50% until 2020 and achieve €90 million in savings from energy efficiency in 5 years. It is also aiming to consume 50% of electricity from renewable sources in 2020 and 100% by 2030, and reduce carbon emissions by 30% in 2020 and 50% in 2030.

“We are in a good position to get to these targets,” noted Nilmar.

And all this is going on as the operator noted that 5G technology will need at least twice the number of cell sites as existing networks.

Meanwhile operator Orange stressed the importance of measurement in a 5G world. Christophe Chaillot, Deputy Director of ITN Green Innovation and Transformation at Orange Group, explained the company is working with Huawei on its Site Power Management technology to monitor and control energy performance, with dedicated engineers in place over the last two years to make it the best tool for its needs, with plans to integrate with its wider management tools next year.

He Feng, Vice President of Wireless Site Domain, unveiled the company’s new PowerStar solution, promising power savings of between 10 and 15%. PowerStar was demoed in the exhibition area as part of Huawei’s Site Solution offering, which also includes RuralStar, TubeStar and Advanced Hybrid Power. Huawei pointed to a case study deployment in South Africa where an operator reaped the rewards of PowerStar.

Data centres
The final speaker of the event outlined how data centres can prepare for a 5G world. Michel Fraisse, Regional VP of Huawei’s Data Centre Business, talked through five stages towards deploying a smart data centre and Huawei’s role in this move. Fraisse also showcased how the company has implemented a cloud-based data centre iCooling practice in Langfang, China, resulting in US$0.54 million of electricity fee savings per year.

The event concluded with a panel session, featuring interactive voting where the audience provided their thoughts on all the hot topics. Executives from Bell, Huawei, Orange, Vodafone and Smart discussed issues such as power deployment strategies for 5G networks and the main challenge for 5G site and power. Other questions posed to the audience – and reviewed by the panel – included what should be the back-up battery strategy for 5G networks and what the biggest pain point of passive site infrastructure in current networks.

As the event wrapped up, it was clear that attendees had learnt that 5G is now, and ultra-bandwidth, low-latency, high-reliability 5G services will generate new business for operators in the next few years. There are challenges ahead as carriers seek to reduce capex and OPEX and improve energy reliability. But with a power strategy based on synergy – site synergy, network synergy and business synergy – and fuelled by Huawei’s new 5G Power Solution, operators can build 5G networks quickly, reduce site energy consumption, and maximise investment value.