Continuous technological advances provide us with advanced solutions to complete complex tasks. With this great power in our hands should come great responsibility. Modern telecom infrastructure should not only take into consideration optimal electricity consumption, but also be designed to reduce its environmental impact.
The environmental impact of radio access networks
Telecommunications services, particularly those based on the latest technologies, such as 5G, require a vast amount of power to operate. According to GSMA Intelligence’s research, 87% of 5G network power consumed by telecom infrastructure in developed countries is used by the radio part of the network. Despite the fact that 5G is significantly more energy-efficient than 4G, the total power consumption of a 5G radio access network (RAN) is many times higher, due to an increased demand for data transmission and the need to build denser networks to accommodate widespread implementations of Internet of Things solutions.
Optimizing 5G RAN for environmental sustainability
Wise resource management, combined with maximizing the use of renewable energy sources, seems to be the perfect solution to achieve a balance between technological needs, cost reduction, and responsibility towards the environment.
Let's look at some ways to improve such optimization. To achieve it, we can:
• Swap devices from energy-consuming to energy-efficient
• Fine-tune device parameters to reduce power consumption
• Implement dedicated features to limit power consumption
• Periodically switch off carriers (selected devices or even whole technology layers) based on current traffic conditions.
These are common methods that have been used for quite some time. However, new technologies provide much more efficient and tailored possibilities
Energy efficiency of virtualized Open RAN technology
Open vRAN (open virtualized radio access network) allows the separation of software and hardware functions, making it possible to install devices closer to renewable energy sources or areas where energy is easier and cheaper to obtain. This solution, managed and orchestrated by AI/ML-supported SMO (service management and orchestration), not only brings together all the benefits of virtualization, full network visibility, diversity of providers, and multi-vendor interoperability, but also contributes to overall energy efficiency. Another interesting concept is sharing capacity by many operators in the same service area when lower capacity is required – not only pure MORAN (multi-operator RAN) or MOCN (multi-operator core network) implementations but a solution closer to the dynamic roaming approach.
The importance of sustainable Open RAN architecture
Utilizing and optimizing open radio access network architecture in terms of energy consumption is a way to significantly impact the entire telecommunications sector while also having a substantial effect on the environment. The journey towards a more sustainable future in telecommunications isn’t solely about technological breakthroughs. It’s about making mindful decisions, adopting eco-friendly practices, and recognizing that every small step can make a significant difference.