PARTNER CONTENT: Tanveer Mohammad, SVP and head of operations at Telenor, insisted the search for more efficient networks is not going to end with 5G, with demands for increased capacity expected to continue.

During an interview in Huawei’s extended reality studio at MWC22 Barcelona, he added that making additional efficiency gains is critical to reducing operators’ carbon footprint and keeping prices affordable.

Together with vendors, “we have to go to stakeholders, policymakers and decision makers to push for more greener energy solutions. Only though innovation and making changes in demand and supply can we bring short-term and long-term gains supporting operators and consumers.”

Given the close relationship between energy consumption with overall operating expenses, he noted every gain in power efficiency can have an immediate impact on a company’s business performance.

Mohammad stated there are three main elements to delivering more effective green initiatives: demand, supply and innovation.

Demand side

Starting with the demand aspect, he added it’s vital to “get a grip on the usage side”, which often can be addressed by simple changes in operational processes.

To run mobile services, an operator of course must use electricity to power its network, he stated. However, there are certain elements in the network which don’t have anything to do with traffic generation,  such as air conditioning in base stations. “Earlier base stations required air conditioners, and now we are trying to get rid of them. This is a very simple example of removing all non-value-adding elements from the demand side” when it comes to modernising a network.

Turning to the supply, an operator can source electricity from the grid or from diesel generators in locations where the grid is not stable. “Having the right kind of control on the supply situation is also very important,” noted Mohammad.

Mohammad believes the industry needs to spell out specific KPIs which will help not only operators lower opex, but keep suppliers and vendors focused on continuing to improve operational efficiency across all network components.

Telenor’s viewpoint is in keeping with wider industry focus. A recent GSMA Intelligence Network Transformation Survey indicated that more than 90% of operators rate energy efficiency and sustainability as a priority. This puts it in line with other must-haves such as security, and well above other upgrades.

AI tools

He explained some of its network equipment already uses AI and machine learning tools, for example, to put systems into sleep mode to reduce energy usage. The key, he noted, is for this switch to be applied at the right time and in the right areas to minimise the impact on the customer experience.

“With new advancements, I think the applicability of these features is getting much wider. We are only at the start, but such techniques need to be developed through a structured process involving both operators and network vendors.”

Indeed, the optimism about AI’s role in helping networks become more sustainable is clear: GSMA Intelligence survey data from operators across the world indicates that nearly 70% expect energy savings of over 10% from AI in the next two years. The cost-saving and agility benefits are apparent, so those that are not planning to use AI-driven energy management risk having a long-term competitive disadvantage.

Focus areas

Efforts to improve the efficiency of networks has tended to focus on the radio access network (RAN).

Another important area is antennas, where there is an opportunity to bring in much more efficient solutions, he said. Other elements include more advanced batteries (the main switch is from lead acid to lithium ion, which offers significant emissions savings) or rectifiers.

“Overall, we need more green solutions from our supplier partners across the entire network ecosystem to make a positive impact on power consumption and the environment,” highlighted Mohammad.

Watch the full interview here.