PARTNER CONTENT: The fifth annual Global ICT Energy Efficiency Summit from Huawei was set against the backdrop of two major developments. First, this year’s event in Amsterdam took place as commercial 5G deployments are ramping up around the world, bringing superfast speeds and ultra-low latency to mobile users. After years of hype, 5G is real and delivering. Second, the event was held at a time when debate around climate change dominates headlines.

Indeed, there was a real sense at the Summit that mobile has a major role to play in tackling this issue. With the move to 5G potentially causing network power consumption to at least double, the message was clear that Huawei and its partners are helping drive the industry forward in offering solutions that overcome this challenge.

Stellar speaker lineup
The challenges of improving energy efficiency cannot be solved by one company alone, and the lineup of speakers on stage at the Summit demonstrated the important role partnerships will play in the months and years ahead. With a tagline of “Powering 5G Together,” the event brought together industry elites from GSMA, ITU, Orange, China Mobile, Hutchison Austria and ABI Research, among others.

Moderator Jake Saunders from ABI Research opened the event by highlighting the progress of 5G so far this year. “5G New Radio is very much happening now, it’s already gaining critical mass,” he stated, citing 56 operators in 32 countries that have announced 5G infrastructure deployments.

But Saunders warned that while 5G offers much opportunity in terms of new services, a new radio network involves new challenges, particularly in the area of power consumption. “It’s essential we upgrade the energy infrastructure of these networks. We need to be innovative in the way we manage energy consumption and improve our green credentials.”

A welcome speech from Huawei’s Zhou Taoyuan, President of Network Energy Product Line, outlined how the topic of power consumption has become an important concern for the whole industry. Zhou showcased how Huawei’s network energy product line is committed to leading energy digitalization for a smart and sustainable world, by providing customers with telecom energy, data center energy and smart solar energy solutions that are green, reliable and smart. Zhou said Huawei continuously improves energy efficiency with technical innovation, and promotes clean energy applications to reduce CO2 emissions.

Huawei’s Dr Mohamed Madkour outlined the exciting potential of a 5G world, but warned we won’t be able to make the most of these benefits if we don’t take steps to improve sustainability. The VP of Wireless & Cloud Core Network Marketing issued a stark warning: “We’re talking about this fast speed future of 5G but we might not end up living that future because we are hurting our future. The ICT industry will dominate in terms of carbon emissions. If we don’t do something about that now it doesn’t matter how many base stations we have, we must make our industry the most efficient in terms of carbon emission.”

He continued: “At Huawei our fundamental strategy is how to bring simplicity to 5G – that’s what will make it sustainable. If we just focus on speed tests and serving different industries, that isn’t sustainable. We need to make it far more efficient.”

To that end, Madkour said he wants to see power consumption per bit for 5G reduced by a factor of 25 compared to 4G. “That will be a big help,” he declared. “That’s where leadership starts.”

Orange’s objectives
The event was supported by a number of tier one mobile operators. Orange’s Quentin Fousson, Green RAN Manager, noted how the European and African mobile operator group has been working on power saving since 2006 and has an objective of decreasing CO2 emissions per customer usage by 50% by 2020. This target is on track and will be followed by new objectives being set soon.

However, Fousson stressed that its rollout of 5G networks will result in significant additional energy consumption due to new spectrum (3.5GHz band), new Massive MIMO (mMIMO) products for beamforming with a high number of amplifiers and transceivers, and the fact that the first generation of 5G products are unlikely to be fully optimised for power consumption. He gave the example of a 3 sector 5G site with 64T64R that will consume around 2.8kW on average, roughly as much as a legacy RAN site (2G/3G/4G). As a result, he stated that techniques such as “Advanced Sleep Modes” (ASM) will be crucial to reducing power consumption (particularly in low traffic conditions), while there could be big opportunities for AI to help in power saving via automation, traffic prediction and QoS protection.

The Orange executive closed his presentation by calling on mobile operators to push vendors to develop more energy efficient solutions. “Energy efficiency will be a key factor in the selection of 5G RAN suppliers,” he commented, while also urging Huawei to implement ASM and AI from 2020 “to get closer to 0 watts @ 0 traffic principle.”

Huawei success
Three Huawei executives gave updates on how the company is driving down energy consumption in the 5G era. Dr Fang Liangzhou, VP of Network Energy Product Line, explained how Huawei is dedicated to reducing CO2 emissions from operators, improving the reliability of ICT infrastructure and using AI technology to reduce energy consumption for operational efficiency. “Our target is to help operators simplify their deployment and reduce total cost of ownership by using our 5G solution,” he said.

The importance of his message was put into context by this closing statement, referencing why it is so important for the industry to make these changes: “We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

Michel Fraisse, CTO of Huawei’s Telecom Energy business, talked up the company’s success since launching its 5G Power Solution at least year’s Global Energy Efficiency Summit in Turin, Italy. Huawei has shipped more than 365,000 units in the last twelve months. Meanwhile Fraisse revealed its new 5G eMIMO Power Solution will be available in the second quarter of 2020. The 5G eMIMO Power Solution uses technologies such as AI, big data and digitalisation and complies with the three concepts of “simple, intelligent and green.” One set of power supply equipment supports 36 kW ultra-large capacity and multiple input and output modes, meeting diversified power supply requirements and enabling operators to construct and operate 5G networks in a faster, more cost-effective, and simpler manner.

Sanjay Kumar Sainani, CTO of Data Centre Energy, spoke on the role of data centres – a sector which consumes 3 per cent of the world’s electricity. With 20.8 million data centre racks globally by 2022, Sainani unveiled its new 5G data centre facility solutions. “Huawei modular and one-stop 5G edge data centre solutions boast high integration, flexibility, energy efficiency and connectivity,” he said. “The solutions support the deployment of massive number of 5G data centres in batches, allowing customers to roll out services on demand and monetise 5G services.”

Complementing the Huawei presentations was the release of Huawei’s 5G Energy Target Network White Paper and 5G-oriented Data Centre Facility White Paper, both based on insights into, and surveys of, global operators’ pain points in network evolution as well as suggestions from operators in various regions. The white papers provide reference for the design and deployment of 5G energy and facilities.

GSMA tackling climate crisis
With the issue of climate change openly referenced throughout the morning’s agenda, the afternoon session began with an insightful presentation from GSMA’s Chief of Staff, Steve Martineau, highlighting the association’s efforts to ensure the mobile industry works together on the solution for the climate crisis.

Martineau spoke of how “energy efficiency is something very close to the hearts of our members,” citing the GSMA Board’s initiative to bring the sector into line with the Paris Climate Agreement, which sets out to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of this century.

The GSMA’s operator members are taking steps together, through disclosures and then target setting. “As they set their targets, they need the whole value chain to take the same journey,” urged Martineau. “That’s how this thing works. We can do it!”

Operator insight
More operator insight followed, with Hutchison Austria reflecting on the challenges of merging its H3A operation with Orange and the effects on network efficiency. Wolfgang Heuschober, Central Infrastructure Manager, explained the benefits of installing Huawei’s 5G Power Solution and how the vendor will help it overcome next-generation power supply challenges.

The world’s largest operator China Mobile is set to deploy about 50,000 5G base stations in more than 50 cities by the end of 2019, with all medium-sized cities covered with 5G by 2020. Li Yusheng, Senior Consultant of China Mobile Group Design Institute, admitted that power consumption is one of the biggest challenges in building its 5G network, as mMIMO in 5G creates much higher levels of power consumption (a 3-4X increase compared to 4G). Yusheng also noted it has worked with Huawei on a joint innovation; its 5G base station eMIMO, an initiative Yusheng claims will “help make 5G evolution quicker and more cost saving.”

Wider value chain
The wider value chain was represented on the speaker line-up too. Analyst firm ABI Research tackled the subject of why 5G needs to be green, with Research Director Dimitris Mavrakis noting that the industry has “a social responsibility to design 5G in a more efficient way.” Although there is much to be positive about when it comes to 5G’s future – a market which could generate US$6 trillion in economic value by 2035 – Mavrakis warned that “5G power systems need to be more efficient than previous generations” and mobile service providers need to consolidate power systems with a future-proof design.

And the ITU gave an update on its work establishing energy efficiency standards. Reyna Ubeda, ITU-T Study Group Counsellor, explained that work has started on a new standard approval process for “Sustainable power solutions for 5G network”, also known as ITU-T L.1210. A new focus group on “Environmental Efficiency for AI and other Emerging Technologies (FG-AI4EE) is also due to hold its first meeting in Vienna, Austria, 12 December 2019.

Finally, Huawei’s fifth annual Global ICT Energy Efficiency Summit closed with a panel session with representatives from Orange Group, Hutchison Austria, Huawei, etc., featuring interactive voting where the audience provided their thoughts on all the hot topics. Discussion topics included the biggest challenges in 5G power supply, the benefits of different battery technologies, and barriers to 5G site maintenance.

As the event wrapped up, it was clear to attendees that reducing energy consumption using new technologies – and processing more information with less energy – is a major concern of the industry. While we are only at the beginning of both the 5G era and the world’s attempts to tackle the climate crisis, positive early steps have been taken.