Improving the power efficiency of 5G networks is on the agenda of network vendors and operators alike, according to panel members assembled at the Energy Efficiency Trends in 5G session.

“While 5G deployment and uptake is fast changing the world, the telecoms industry has the opportunity to lead the world by demonstrating that energy usage can be reduced,” said Miriam Tuerk, CEO of Clear Blue Technologies.

But at the network level, which is very likely to be supporting existing legacy technology, the drive to reduce power consumption become more complex. “You need to look at what 2G and 3G assets you have within the network,” cautioned Mats Pellback Scharp, Ericsson’s Head of Sustainability. “We’ve seen 20 per cent of traffic consuming 80 per cent of the power across wide footprints of the network where voice and data traffic has, and will continue to remain low.”

According to the Ericsson exec, networks should now be built to the ‘5G ready’ and any upgrade strategy must be carefully considered. “It might be more energy efficient to build a new 5G network. But any approach is not easy and means hard work.”

At a different level, Tuerk referenced how cellphone users in Africa have adopted a very different approach to changing their handsets. “The recharge cost for the average user is high given their disposable income. To keep this cost as low as possible, users will select 2G data as it consumes less power.”

Alexandra Rasch, CEO of Caban Systems, pointed to the notable progress made over the last 10 years by the automotive industry with regard to moving towards electric cars. “The telecoms industry must look to do the same if it wants to achieve a real reduction in energy usage.”