Interview: Tao Hongming

08 NOV 2018

At the Global ICT Energy Efficiency Summit in Turin, Italy, Tao Hongming, president of Huawei’s Telecom Energy Business, updated Mobile World Live on the challenges associated with the move to 5G and the company’s solutions for operators.

We’re moving to a 5G world. What challenges does this create for energy efficiency and power consumption?
2018 will be marked as the year of 5G. We had the 3GPP standard finalised in the middle of the year. In Huawei, we already have a commercial grade end-to-end 5G solution starting from the RAN, through the terminal, the transport network, to the core. And now we have 5G Power. So really, we cannot be more excited about 5G: it’s a reality.

Through our involvement in more than 30 trials in different parts of the world, we’ve learned a lot of things. With our customers, it has been a really good learning curve. We have learned a lot of things regarding the power and energy consumption. We’ve seen it has nearly doubled for the site. So we’ve needed to learn how to make the power and the energy efficiency higher than for 4G, and how to match the energy performance to the service, to the business. It comes down to the economics of connectivity.

Why has the power consumption gone up so much? If you look at 4G and 5G, the throughput increases around six times, while power has only increased by two– so the Watt-per-bit has already improved.

Also important is reliability. Initial 5G sites are supporting important business in urban areas, where traffic is concentrated. In the future, 5G services will enter vertical industries, such as car networking, telemedicine, and so on, which will not allow for the instantaneous interruption of network communication.

What is Huawei doing to overcome these challenges?
We have not seen a lot happening in the industry regarding this: the power or energy requirements. But at the same time, we’ve seen in our trials that it can be a showstopper if you need to support higher throughput, or if you need to offer more reliability and availability.

Our research found that more than 70 per cent of sites will face insufficient capacity of power, battery or distribution. Over 30 per cent will need grid modernisation, which will be costly and lead to a long time to market for operators.

At Huawei, we have researched the challenges and we have brought the 5G Power solution to the market. And 5G Power is not developed only by Huawei. In the past year, I have visited a lot of customers and they have given me lots of feedback and suggestions. So we brought that all together.

We call it 5G Power, but it is not only for 5G. It is a power solution that the operator can deploy now and it can help them to evolve to the future, no matter which service slices they adopt and no matter how much speed they offer. 5G Power is the new generation power. It can save the most in high-consumption sites. And it can also save in existing networks.”

Some customers told me that if they have 5G with such high power consumption, they cannot afford it. But, actually, the business cannot wait. Huawei is willing to work with carriers and industry partners on continuous innovation and exploration, and jointly solve the energy challenges in 5G era.

How can the 5G Power solution help operators?
The principle is based on three key goals: it has to be available; it has to be affordable; and it has to be administrable. And it’s about synergy: we believe site synergy; network synergy; and business synergy will be the director for telecom energy in the future. All equipment will be synergic from end-to-end, and help carriers reduce investment in site infra modernisation and improve energy efficiency.

We have a concept we call SmartSite – Smart CAPEX plus Smart OPEX – to look not only on the component level, but also on the site level and in the future on the network level, so that things can work in synergy – RAN resources, power resources, cooling, battery, so everything relates as one organic unit. We used to talk about rectifier efficiency: we can make it up to 98 per cent. But if you do not treat energy efficiency as a holistic definition for the whole site, then you are missing a lot.

5G Power Solution has the design concept of ‘one site, one cabinet’ and ‘one band, one blade power’, to offer a simple and scalable system for both new build and site modernisation.

The ITU has plans for telecom energy standards for 5G. How important a step is this and will Huawei support those standards?
Establishing standards for telecom power requirements and solutions is one of the fundamental keys in realising 5G and for carrier transformation readiness. This is because power supply issues will be a qualitative change compared to that in the 3G/4G era. It will be much more critical because of higher speed, bandwidth, computation and reliability requirements, which will lead to double the power consumption.

The establishment of the 5G Power standard will help clarify many questions and indexes in different scenarios, including AC capacity limit, remote powering, business priority, and PAV (Power Availability Value) classification. Once the standard is published officially, it means site power design, product R&D and manufacturing will be unified technologically and 5G Power products can be promoted and implemented rapidly globally, accelerating 5G network deployment and saving investment for carriers. It’s a win-win-win for the carriers, the mobile users and the ICT suppliers.

Huawei had been working with the ITU to develop green ICT standards in the past few years. Jointly we had successfully published the SEE (Site Energy Efficiency) standard and had helped carriers to improve energy efficiency and save OPEX. Another standard, for Li-ion batteries, is under development. We will continue the partnership with the ITU in 5G Power standards.

As an experienced telecom energy supplier who can provide end-to-end ICT solutions, we will do our best to contribute to 5G Power standard development to build a green economy and combat climate change in 5G era.

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