The introduction of 5G will more than double the energy consumption by mobile technology in the next 10 years.
InterDigital and ABI Research said in a joint report that the 5G ecosystem will see a 160% increase in power requirements over the world’s current mobile networks by 2030.
InterDigital CTO Henry Tirri said: “The advent of 5G holds unprecedented promise for the wireless ecosystem and our world, but we must remain clear-eyed about the staggering energy demands of 5G and its life-changing use cases to develop appropriate and timely solutions.”
The study, Environmentally Sustainable 5G Deployment, quantifies the energy footprint for approaching 5G deployment and identifies best practices to encourage energy sustainability as wireless and technologies evolve.
According to the report, each generation of wireless has contributed to driving demand for mobile services and opportunities for new use cases around the world and has laid the groundwork for the current race to 5G.
The industry is already one of the wealthiest industries, with 5.3 billion users and $1.38 trillion in service revenues.
But InterDigital and ABI Research warn that the expected ubiquity and flexibility of 5G make it imperative to address its energy consumption at the onset of deployment and throughout all components of network infrastructure and end devices, to make 5G as sustainable as possible.
Tirri said: “We must consider the environmental footprint, in addition to the technological impact, to ensure 5G and future generations of wireless technologies exist and thrive in a responsible and energy-stable world.”
By 2028, says the report, 5G networks are expected to achieve widespread adoption in consumer and enterprise ecosystems, resulting in a huge increase in energy consumption and eventual replacement of legacy LTE networks.
In 2020, the overall energy footprint of the global wireless ecosystem, including network infrastructure and end devices, topped 19.8 million tons oil equivalent (Mtoe) a year.
By 2030, consumption is expected to grow to 51.3 Mtoe – a number equivalent to all the energy to be consumed throughout Sweden, or roughly the same amount of energy to be consumed by all the households in the UK that year.
The report says that power consumption of the 5G networks is expected to soar due to active network elements like energy-hungry baseband units, remote radio heads, small cells, and core networks.
There are some solutions to mitigate energy growth in the 5G radio access network (RAN): AI algorithms, new cell sites with improved battery management and real-time monitoring are a few.
But it is not just the RAN: the rise in the number of connected devices will increase energy consumption by 37%, says the report.
“Over the years the tech ecosystem has undergone incredible transformation, and we are now thrust into a new era of consciousness around the energy demands that fuel our most cutting-edge innovations,” said InterDigital president and CEO Bill Merritt.
“Our energy footprint is increasingly consequential, and the decisions we make today will reverberate well into our future. Through this initiative, InterDigital is pursuing a deeper understanding of how energy underpins our industry so we’re better positioned to develop solutions that enable a sustainable and tech-driven future for us all.”