Mobile operators and equipment manufacturers defend the idea of more energy-efficient technology, at a time when it is much criticized.
We could almost already say that the question of the energy consumption of 5G is an eternal debate. The theoretical advantages of fifth-generation mobile technology have been discussed for many months and in any case (and logically) ardently defended by telecommunications operators on the one hand, and equipment manufacturers like Nokia on the other. Is it because they are fighting the same fight? Or because 5G really consumes less energy than 4G?
5G architecture would optimize energy savings
To deliver its answers, Nokia conducted a study in collaboration with the Spanish telecoms giant, Telefónica, which reveals that 5G networks are up to 90% more energy-efficient than 4G networks. The study made it possible to study the electricity consumption of the radio access network of the Spanish company, which owns the operator Movistar.
In addition to the duration of the experiment, Nokia and Telefónica examined eleven different traffic load scenarios, which made it possible to derive valid data during lulls or peak periods. And according to their result, the architecture of 5G, which uses wireless access networks (RANs) that no longer suffer from the constraint of being near a station, saves energy.
If data traffic increases, and it will continue to increase in the years to come. Nokia recalls that 5G allows a greater transfer of data bits per kilowatt of energy than any other known wireless generation. But in order to avoid that the curves end up crossing over time, the equipment manufacturer recommends using energy-saving features, particularly at the level of the radio base station and the network, such as the deployment of small cells, the new architecture and the latest 5G protocols, which combined can “dramatically improve the energy efficiency of wireless networks, ” says Nokia.
In the 5G chain, the “processing” part of data goes against the claims of the sector
As the professor emeritus in electronics of the University of Lille, Alain Cappy underlines, “the analysis of energy consumption should not, therefore, be restricted to that of 5G itself, which only concerns the information transmission part: it must take into account the processing of the data that is transmitted.”
Data transmission does indeed refer to the relationship between the sending device and the receiving device, but this only concerns part of the chain. When taking a photo or making a video with your smartphone, you send the file to a receiver. In the meantime, the images are encoded. And when the images are received, the receiver will process them, then store them, insert them on a web page or send them to other users. “The increase in the possible speeds allowed by new communication channels will therefore inevitably be accompanied by an increase in the number of data that will have to be processed”, analyzes Professor Cappy.
We are therefore talking about the energy consumption of equipment, but we must not forget that that of mobile phones and different terminals (servers, computers, etc.) represent more than 50% of energy consumption. Alain Cappy takes the example of an autonomous vehicle, supposed to be one of the flagships of 5G. The need for calculations necessary for its operation will require the support of dozens of processors, with an electrical power of several kilowatts (3 to 5 according to experts) for a single vehicle. “To make a car move 100 km, it takes about 12-15 kWh. If the vehicle travels this distance in two hours, the power required for the calculation will be 6 to 10 kWh,” explains Professor Cappy.
In other words, the uses, called to multiply, can only increase the electricity consumption of the chain which includes the “transmission” and “treatment” jerseys. The beginning of a response, perhaps, to the real consumption of 5G.