Energy Consumption of 5G, Wireless Systems and the Digital Ecosystem
Reports on the Increasing Energy Consumption of Wireless Systems and Digital Ecosystem
The more we use wireless electronic devices, the more energy we will consume. 5G will exponentially increase energy usage. The Small Cell Forum predicts the installed base of small cells to reach 70.2 million in 2025 and the total installed base of 5G or multimode small cells in 2025 to be 13.1 million.
“A 5G base station is generally expected to consume roughly three times as much power as a 4G base station. And more 5G base stations are needed to cover the same area,” -IEEE Spectrum, 5G’s Waveform Is a Battery Vampire
“A lurking threat behind the promise of 5G delivering up to 1,000 times as much data as today’s networks is that 5G could also consume up to 1,000 times as much energy,” Dexter Johnson in the IEEE Spectrum. Why? Because there will be an increase in the number of small cells, massive multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) antennas, cloud computing and an explosion of internet connected devices.
Industry reports repeatedly document that energy efficiency gains have not been met. Energy use will increase as the IOT explodes over the next decade. The phenomenal growth in internet traffic has important implications for energy demand.
“Alarming new research suggests that failure to source renewable energy could make data centres one of the biggest polluters in just seven years. As analysts estimate as many as 50 billion devices to be connected by 2020, with some statistics pointing to more than 100 billion a further five years down the line, new alarming research suggests that data centres will be one of the biggest energy consumers on the planet, beating many countries’ energy consumption levels.”
– João Marques Lima in Data Centres Of The World Will Consume 1/5 Of Earth’s Power By 2025
On this page, EHT lists reports on the ever increasing use of energy for the every increasing wireless rollout on this page.
Readings on the Energy Use of 5G
- Green America, “Smarter, Safer Energy Savers” (short two page document) featuring an interview with Devra Davis PhD.
- IT Magazine “5G has an Energy Problem” August 2019, Swiss article easily translated online.
- “5G has a hitherto little-known problem: the technology is a massive power hog – both in end devices and in infrastructure. Meanwhile, the industry is worried about optimization solutions. 5G expansion is currently being promoted worldwide, with Switzerland playing an important pioneering role (“Swiss IT Magazine” reported ). As “Winfuture” with reference to the radio research department of the hardware and software manufacturer National Instruments reports , has 5G a very relevant, but barely mentioned problem: The energy consumption will rise sharply in both the terminals as well as in the transmission infrastructure.
- “Our Web of Inconvenient Truths: New Views of the Internet, Energy Use, Toxic Waste and Climate Change“ a comprehensive book by Katie Singer
WHITE PAPERS AND PUBLISHED RESEARCH ON INCREASING ENERGY CONSUMPTION FROM WIRELESS
The Shift Project, “LEAN ICT: TOWARDS DIGITAL SOBRIETY”: OUR NEW REPORT ON THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF ICT” February 2019 (EHT link Lean ITC Report) Click here for a two page PDF of the main points
“The current trend for digital overconsumption in the world is not sustainable with respect to the supply of energy and materials it requires.”
- Digital technology also often appears as a means of reducing energy consumption in a large number of sectors (“IT for Green” or “Green by IT” concepts), by allowing more efficient use of resources: energy (smart grids, small grids), transport (connected mobility), industry (factory 4.0), services (e-commerce), buildings (smart building), agriculture (smart farming, smart water), etc. So much so that it is increasingly considered that it would not be possible to control climate change without massive recourse to digital technology. Moreover, the material footprint of digital technology is largely underestimated by its users, given the miniaturization of equipment and the “invisibility” of the infrastructures used. This phenomenon is reinforced by the widespread availability of services on the “Cloud”, which makes the physical reality of uses all the more imperceptible and leads to underestimating the direct environmental impacts of digital technology.
- “The energy consumption of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) is increasing by 9% every year. It is possible to limit this growth to 1.5% per year by moving to sober digital practices. The digital transition as it is currently implemented participates to global warming more than it helps preventing it. The need for action is therefore urgent. “
- “At the current pace of digital GHG emissions, the total over the same period of the additional digital emissions in comparison to 2018 will be about 2.1 GtCO2eq, which would cancel about 20% of the necessary effort made to reduce them. The equipment production phase occupies a very significant share, around 45% in 2020, in the total energy footprint of digital technologies, as well as in the resulting GHG emissions.”
- “ A smartphone user (if they keep their device for two years) will thus see more than 90% of the total energy consumption induced during the life cycle of this equipment before it is even purchased11 . This weight of the production phase in the energy impact is around 60% for a connected television but well above 80% for a laptop. A large share of the environmental stakes of digital technologies is therefore not related to the use we make of it, but largely to the volume of material produced and its production process.”
- “ The reasons behind the strong growth in digital energy consumption are multiple but we can, on the basis of an initial analysis, identify 4 main sources: the smartphone phenomenon; the multiplication of the peripherals of daily life (or “connected living”);the rise of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT); the explosion of data traffic.”
Anders S. G. Andrae Tomas Edler On Global Electricity Usage of Communication Technology: Trends to 2030 Challenges 2015, 6(1), 117-157; https://doi.org/10.3390/challe6010117
Huawei Technologies Sweden AB, Skalholtsgatan 9, 16494 Kista, Sweden
- Abstract: This work presents an estimation of the global electricity usage that can be ascribed to Communication Technology (CT) between 2010 and 2030. The scope is three scenarios for use and production of consumer devices, communication networks and data centers. Three different scenarios, best, expected, and worst, are set up, which include annual numbers of sold devices, data traffic and electricity intensities/efficiencies. The most significant trend, regardless of scenario, is that the proportion of use-stage electricity by consumer devices will decrease and will be transferred to the networks and data centers. Still, it seems like wireless access networks will not be the main driver for electricity use. The analysis shows that for the worst-case scenario, CT could use as much as 51% of global electricity in 2030. This will happen if not enough improvement in electricity efficiency of wireless access networks and fixed access networks/data centers is possible. However, until 2030, globally-generated renewable electricity is likely to exceed the electricity demand of all networks and data centers. Nevertheless, the present investigation suggests, for the worst-case scenario, that CT electricity usage could contribute up to 23% of the globally released greenhouse gas emissions in 2030.
Under Key findings: “5G is widely expected to raise overall energy costs. – Nearly all (94%) respondents indicated that 5G will raise overall energy costs. Given the prominence of energy as an overall percentage of opex, it’s clear that mitigation strategies will be critical to maintain 5G business case viability.”
” 5G connectivity requires a significant amount of energy to run, especially after technologies are put in place to manage and dictate the direction of the traffic. The technology inside datacenters will have to adjust to make 5G adoption cost-effective for telecom providers.”
“As we mentioned above, 5G is going to be significantly more energy-intensive than previous generations of wireless connectivity – so much so that extra efficiency measures will need to be taken to ensure a worthwhile investment for infrastructure and telecommunications providers alike. A whopping 94% of our survey respondents indicated that they expected overall energy costs to increase along with 5G/MEC deployments.”
“The impact of distributed 5G infrastructure on energy consumption will be vast and will require a collaborative effort that will cut across business units, new datacenter designs, technological innovations in battery and cooling, and AI-enabled remote management.”
Under recommendations: • “Order an energy audit ahead of 5G rollout to ensure site-level readiness. – Conduct an energy audit across existing IT facilities in anticipation of 5G net-energy increase.”
An internal analysis by Vertiv discovered that “the move to 5G is likely to increase total network energy consumption by 150 to 170 per cent by 2026. The largest cost increases will be in macro, node and network data centres.
- Read the Report Telco Industry Hopes and Fears FROM ENERGY COSTS TO EDGE COMPUTING TRANSFORMATION 2019
- Read Press release Vertiv and 451 Research Release New Report on 5G Preparedness and Technical Enablers: With 5G Deployments Advancing Rapidly, Operators Share Plans for Dealing with Increasing Densification, Higher Energy Consumption
- Read 2/2019 “5G is likely to increase total network energy consumption by 150 to 170 per cent by 2026″
Energy Consumption in Wired and Wireless Access Networks by Jayant Baliga, University of Melbourne and National ICT Australia Robert Ayre, Kerry Hinton, and Rodney S. Tucker, University of Melbourne IEEE Communications Magazine • June 2011
- Abstract: Energy consumption is becoming an increasingly important issue throughout the community. For network operators in particular it is a concern as networks expand to deliver increasing traffic levels to increasing numbers of customers. The majority of the energy used by the Internet today is consumed in the access network, and this will continue to be the case for the short-tomid-term future. Access technologies should thus be a prime focus for energy use mitigation. In this article, we present a detailed analysis of energy consumption in current and future access networks. We present the energy consumption of DSL, HFC networks, passive optical networks, fiber to the node, point-to-point optical systems, UMTS (W-CDMA), and WiMAX. Optical access networks are the most energy efficient of the available access technologies.
- In ADSL, HFC, PON, and FTTN the customer modem or ONU consumes over 65 percent of the total power in the access network. These units would normally operate continuously, but the power consumption of the access network could be significantly reduced through the use of automated sleep modes in customer premises network equipment .
“Digitalisation, energy and data demand: The impact of Internet traffic on overall and peak electricity consumption” Energy Research and Social Science,
- “We argue that policies and interventions in this area should aim to do more than improve the energy efficiencyof digital infrastructures: they can also focus on the growing demand for data.”
- “Most estimates of ICT-related energy consumption also predict steady growth. For instance, Van Heddeghem et al.  estimate that the electricity consumed by digital devices and infrastructures is growing faster (at 7% per year) than global electricity demand itself (at 3% per year), with the rate of growth of networks highest of all (at 10.4%). Andrae and Edler , also anticipating a compound rate of growth of 7% per year, calculate that the production and operation of ICT will rise to 21% of global electricity consumption by 2030: this is an absolute rise to 8000 TWh, from a base of around 2000 TWh in 2010. In a worst case scenario, this could reach as high as 50% of global electricity use by 2030, but only 8% in the best case. The IEA , who estimate that networks consume slightly less (at 185 TWh in 2015) than data centres (at 194 TWh in 2014), foresee only moderate growth in the energy consumption of data centres of 3% by 2020. But they estimate greater uncertainty for networks, with scenarios varying between growth of 70% or a decline of 15% by 2021 depending on trends in energy efficiency.”
- “These trends in data growth represent grounds for ongoing caution, and concern, as to the overall trajectories of Internet-related electricity use. Firstly, mobile networks are more electricity intensive than fixed-line access networks  yet mobile data traffic is growing faster. Secondly, video traffic is associated with the growth in fixed and mobile network traffic, yet watching video across mobile networks is especially energy-intensive . Thirdly, data traffic in the ‘busy hour’ is growing at a much higher rate than average; leading to increased consumption at particular times of dayas well as the expansion of networks (and associated overhead consumption) since “service providers plan network capacityaccording to peak rates rather than average rates” (: 26).”
In “Total Consumer Power Consumption Forecast Report” (Andree 2017 Huawei) the reality that the communications industry could use 20% of all electricity and emit up to 5.5% of the world’s carbon emissions by 2025 is documented. The report looks at the expected every increasing energy consumption of the Internet of Things with consideration of not only powering the devices, but also to the manufacture and to the infrastructure of the devices (data centres, wireless base stations, distribution networks). The Report states that although there are energy efficient gains, future consumer communications infrastructure cannot slow its overall electricity use until 2025. “The electric power consumption of the present ICT scope will be very significant unless great efforts are put into power saving features.” PPT presentation
Emerging Trends in Electricity Consumption for Consumer ICT, by Peter Corcoran and Anders Andrae of Huawei.
- “Two things are clear – firstly most LTE/G4 networks will operate at much less than capacity and thus at poor overall efficiency; secondly, the local network topology, traffic balancing between different cell sizes and operational policies will determine the practical efficiencies of these networks rather than the digital simulations that are used for most of today’s estimations.”
- “Expert projections indicate that the number of networked appliances could reach 50-100 billion over the next 5 to 10 years.”
- “Baseline estimates for the main categories of consumption – direct, manufacturing related, network-related and data-center related – are determined for 2012. A number of methodological approaches are outlined to extrapolate trends over the period 2013-2017 and projections based on best-case, expected and worst-case scenarios are provided.”
- ” Our best-case analysis shows a decline in consumption from 7.4% in 2012 to 6.9% of total global electricity consumption in 2017; however the worst-case shows a rise to 12.0% driven primarily by expansion of the network and data-center infrastructure.”
- “And while our hopes lie with an overall decline in electricity consumption on the lines of our best-case scenario, the alternative worstcase scenario shows annual compound growth rates in electricity usage of more than 12% for the next 5 years. This can serve as a motivation for all of us in different industry sectors to continue to focus research efforts to improve efficiency and reduce the impact of new technologies across the sector.”
“The Cloud Begins with Coal – Big Data, Big Networks, Big Infrastructure, and Big Power. An overview of the electricity used by the global digital ecosystem.” Mark P. Mills, National Mining Association / American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, 2013
- Demand for technology is outstripping the increase in efficiency of power use in the Information-Communications-Technologies (ICT) ecosystem. Power consumption will increase because electricity is needed to supply:
- Data centers and warehouses
- Broadband wireless networks
- End-use devices like pcs and tablets
- Manufacturing facilities producing IT hardware.
- The Information-Communications-Technologies (ICT) ecosystem consumes almost 10% of world electricity generation and 50% more energy than global aviation.
- “Although charging up a single tablet or smart phone requires a negligible amount of electricity, using either to watch an hour of video weekly consumes annually more electricity in the remote networks than two new refrigerators use in a year.”
- “Even with substantial gains in efficiency overall global energy use will rise by an amount equivalent to adding to United States worth demand by 2030.”
Lotfi Belkhir, Ahmed Elmeligi, Assessing ICT global emissions footprint: Trends to 2040 & recommendations, Journal of Cleaner Production,
Volume 177, 2018, Pages 448-463, ISSN 0959-6526,
“The Power of Wireless Cloud”, The Center for Energy Efficient Telecommunications, 2013
- This study found that wireless networking infrastructure worldwide accounts for significantly more power consumption than data centers.
- “Our energy calculations show that by 2015, wireless cloud will consume up to 43 TWh, compared to only 9.2 TWh in 2012, an increase of 460%. This is an increase in carbon footprint from 6 megatonnes of CO2 in 2012 to up to 30 megatonnes of CO2 in 2015, the equivalent of adding 4.9 million cars to the roads. Up to 90% of this consumption is attributable to wireless access network technologies, data centres account for only 9%.”
- The wireless cloud consumes far more energy to keep streaming or downloading and uploading files wirelessly than it does to carry the same files around and access them from the local device.
“United States Data Center Energy Usage Report” Berkeley Laboratory, 2016
- Based on current trend estimates, U.S. data centers are projected to consume approximately 73 billion kWh in 2020.
- While electronic devices do not consume a huge amount of electricity individually, taken together, electricity used by electronics has increased by nearly 150%—from 7% to 17%—since the early 1990s.
- The proportion of electricity use attributed to small appliances and electronics has steadily increased year-after-year as more electronics and small appliances are added to the home
“Data Center Efficiency Assessment” National Resources Defense Council, 2014
- In 2013, U.S. data centers consumed an estimated 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, the equivalent annual output of 34 large (500-megawatt) coal-fired power plants, enough electricity to power all the households in New York City twice over.
- Data center electricity consumption is projected to increase to roughly 140 billion kilowatt-hours annually by 2020, the equivalent annual output of 50 power plants, costing American businesses $13 billion per year in electricity bills and causing the emission of nearly 150 million metric tons of carbon pollution annually.
“The energy and greenhouse-gas implications of internet video streaming in the United States” Arman Shehabi, Ben Walker, and Eric Masanet, Environmental Research Letters 2014
- Data transmission is the most energy-intensive part of streaming movies.
- The authors state that results from this study indicate that designers and policy makers should focus on the efficiency of end-user devices and network transmission energy to curb future increases in energy use from the proliferation of video streaming.
Published Research that Indicates Energy Efficiency Needs to Be Addressed
Energy Efficiency Challenges of 5G Small Cell Networks. byGe, Xiaohu & Yang, Jing & Gharavi, Hamid & Sun, Yang. (2017) in IEEE Communications
- “The deployment of a large number of small cells poses new challenges to energy efficiency, which has often been ignored in fifth generation (5G) cellular networks. While massive multiple-input multiple outputs (MIMO) will reduce the transmission power at the expense of higher computational cost, the question remains as to which computation or transmission power is more important in the energy efficiency of 5G small cell networks. Thus, the main objective in this paper is to investigate the computation power based on the Landauer principle. Simulation results reveal that more than 50% of the energy is consumed by the computation power at 5G small cell BS’s. Moreover, the computation power of 5G small cell BS can approach 800 watt when the massive MIMO (e.g., 128 antennas) is deployed to transmit high volume traffic. This clearly indicates that computation power optimization can play a major role in the energy efficiency of small cell networks.”
Energy Efficiency Analysis of Small Cell Networks by Chang Li, Jun Zhang, and K. B. Letaief, Fellow, IEEE Dept. of ECE, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
- “Compared with a macro BS, the power consumption for a micro, pico- or femto-BS is much lower. However, due to the high BS density in small cell networks, it is not clear whether it will be more energy efficient than the conventional network structure.”
- This paper analyzes network energy efficiency in a small cell network and concludes that “in most cases we will need to make a tradeoff between the network throughput and energy efficiency” and proposes solutions for network design.
Industry Reports or Companies Courting the Industry
- “The advanced capabilities of today’s 5G-ready small cells mean added power requirements. Increased data traffic requires more computational power. Although massive MIMO can help improve spectral efficiency, power efficiency is generally lower and a typical three-sector small cell can require 200–1,000 watts of power.”
IEEE, The 5G Dilemma: More Base Stations, More Antennas—Less Energy?, October 3 2018