PARTNER CONTENT: Huawei used its Global ICT Energy Efficiency Summit 2018 in Turin, Italy, to launch its new 5G Power solution for operators, which is designed to address the key issues facing the industry as networks evolve to 5G.

With early deployments of 5G underway and the market set to pick up pace through 2019 and into 2020, the next-generation technology brings with it a number of challenges for both operators and vendors. In order to meet capacity and coverage requirements, the number of global sites will increase dramatically, leading to sharp rises in network power consumption.

Research from Huawei showed more than 70 per cent of sites will encounter issues including insufficient power supply or lack of suitable battery backup, with more than 30 per cent of sites requiring grid modernisation. This is both costly and time consuming, creating barriers for operators on the road to 5G.

Designed to meet operator needs
Speaking in Turin, Tao Hongming, president of Huawei’s telecom energy business (pictured, below), said changing energy requirements were a real stumbling block for operators.

“Some customers told me, if we have 5G with such high power consumption, they cannot afford it, they have to wait. But actually, the business cannot wait: we have to provide a solution for this challenge.”

Huawei gave the example of an operator which had seen its 4G Massive MIMO deployment reach only 20 per cent of its initial target during its early stages. The reason for the shortfall was the need to modernise grid transformers, which was a big challenge.

The launch of 5G Power follows more than a year’s research, with Huawei surveying some 30,000 sites in China and more than 1,000 overseas in order to gain an accurate picture of network readiness.

“We found that with 4G, a lot of site power was not modernised, because 3G power can support 4G. When we deployed 3G, we had a lot of power requirements in place, but when we deployed LTE, we could use the existing power. But today, with 5G coming, the existing power cannot support such high consumption,” he said.

The 5G Power solution is not a product of Huawei on its own: “For the last year, customers have given my team a lot of feedback and suggestions. So we’ve put it all together to solve these challenges,” the executive continued.

Tao also pointed out that, despite its name, “5G Power is not 5G only power”. For operators that are not as advanced with their 5G plans (for example in emerging markets) there are efficiency savings to be had in existing 2G, 3G and 4G networks. And when the time comes for 5G, the groundwork has already been done.

End-to-end synergy
Huawei said 5G Power is intended to “ensure that energy evolution is simpler, more reliable and more efficient in the 5G network process”. And the company believes that exploiting synergies in sites, with the network, and with business will help operators improve efficiency and reduce operating costs.

“Today, when we talk about power, it’s not only power, it’s about synergy,” Tao said. “This I think is a big change.”

For example, at the site, intelligent management can be used to enable the power supply to work in tandem with installed batteries and the cooling, delivering a 10 per cent to 20 per cent increase in efficiency. Taking it a step further, by integrating closely with the network, it is possible to optimise power resources to reflect traffic levels, for example whether it is operating at capacity, or lightly loaded and therefore in need of fewer resources.

5G Power has the design concepts of “one site, one cabinet” and “one band, one blade”, using technologies based on synergy concept. It also takes into account the capacity expansion of all subsystems, to give operators future flexibility as well as protecting investments.

The three A’s
Tao said Huawei had three targets for the 5G power solution: power should be available as operators scale their networks; it should be affordable, “otherwise it’s two times, three times more expensive; it’s impossible”; and administrable, to support intelligent operation and management as networks grow in size and complexity.

5G Power is multi-energy access ready, meaning it supports a number of different energy types depending on operator requirements: “Today, you can connect to the grid, but if you want solar, you need another system, and then in future we will have [high voltage direct current] HVDC and that’s yet another power system. And I think this means a lot of money. So 5G Power needs to be multi-energy access: any power available, it can access it.”

It is also HVDC ready to support changes in the way radio networks are built: “In the future, we have to feed lots of high power consumption components, like the [active antenna unit] AAU and remote radio sites, so we need HVDC. So 5G Power will be HVDC ready.”

Reflecting the introduction of network slicing in 5G, which enables networks to be provisioned differently depending on service type, there is also a need to be “energy slicing ready”. This means in the event of power restrictions, high priority traffic such as vehicle IoT or telemedicine can be prioritised, while less important apps including entertainment content can be shut.

And being “lithium storage ready” is also important, due to the cost and inefficiencies which can be present with battery installations.

“Today, the batteries are only a backup. I talk with many customers: every year we invest a lot for batteries and they never give a contribution. Three years, five years, then you have to swap; it’s a lot of money. In future we should release this battery potential value, so we think in the future we need lithium or cycleable energy storage for these 5G sites”.

Adding intelligence
The last of what Tao described as being “5G Ready” is being intelligent operations and management (O&M) ready. Due to the increased size and complexity of next-generation networks, “you cannot manage manually. It needs to be a smart management system”. Such technology can ensure operators have “smart capex and smart OPEX”, to ensure they are making the right investments and optimising ongoing operations.

“Every year we have a lot of money to invest in site infrastructure. But the investment is blind, it’s not precision investment, and we meet with customers and it’s a big issue for them. Without the ability to accurately detail the performance of infrastructure and where modernisation is needed, it is difficult,” he said.

Intelligent O&M ready platforms mean customers will have access to a number of tools, in particular PAV management to oversee network reliability, and SEE management for efficiency oversight.

Tools are also available for O&M and security management.

Moving forward
At the event, Tao remarked that “in general, challenges and opportunities coexist for telecom energy as network evolves to 5G. It’s the historic moment for change and we telecom energy industry should stand out and take effective measure to face it”.

And he underlined an openness to work together to best position the industry for success: “Huawei is willing to work with carriers and industry partners on continuous innovation and exploration, and jointly solve the energy challenges in 5G era.”