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Ericsson’s Breaking the Energy Curve Report Lays Out the Company’s Approach to Decreasing Energy Consumption of Mobile Networks
by Ron Westfall and Shelly Kramer | April 14, 2022

In this vignette from The 5G Factor, a production of the Futurum Tech Webcast, and our series focused on all things 5G, my colleague Ron Westfall and I talked about Ericsson’s Breaking the Energy Curve report, published a few weeks ago.

Ericsson’s Breaking the Energy Curve report is focused on helping communications service providers (CSPs) embarking up on their 5G journeys enable the massive growth of data traffic that we expect to experience as 5G becomes more mainstream, without increasing energy consumption. This is important, as Ericsson estimates put the global annual energy cost for running mobile networks in about the $25 billion dollar range. This is not a situation where we can do things like we’ve done them in the past — changes need to be made in how networks are deployed and how traffic demands can be handled in an energy efficient manner, in order to both manage costs and also meet sustainability goals as it relates to carbon footprints.

With this report, Ericsson plants a flag here, and it’s great to see the company taking a leadership role on the sustainability front as it relates to 5G. And with the Breaking the Energy Curve report, the team at Ericsson brings good news: the company believes it is possible to quadruple data traffic without increasing energy consumption and, more importantly, that it’s an industry responsibility to do so.

The Ericsson Breaking the Energy Curve report lays out the company’s approach to breaking the energy curve — which is the increasing energy consumption of mobile networks. According to the report, Ericsson has tested some 5G deployments and applied their “holistic approach” hypothesis to see what kind of results they would find.

Ericsson’s approach is comprised of four elements, which include:

Ericsson energy report
Image source: Ericsson

 

Preparing the network (modernizing and improving the network, replacing old equipment with future proof hardware etc.) Preparing the network is a foundational move, and should of course, be done first. Moving away from keeping old equipment is, Ericsson believes, not the best path forward. Ericsson claims that modernizing in low-traffic areas can yield a payback of less than three years in energy savings alone.

Of interest, Ericsson claims that its Ericsson Radio System will lower energy consumption immediately by about 30% in like-for-like modernization.

Building 5G with Precision — Right equipment, right place, right time. Optimizing network performance while keeping capex and opex within set limits is all about approaching each project with precision and using the right equipment in the right place at the right time. Done correctly, Ericsson claims that CSPs can limit energy consumption growth when introducing 5G solutions.

Use Energy Saving Software. Making software purchase decisions based on energy efficiency is smart business these days. Of course, Ericsson touts its 5G software which has energy-savings built into its RAN network. They also suggest adding machine learning and low energy scheduling solutions and micro sleep offering, which they claim can reduce radio equipment energy consumption by up to 15% while still delivering on the customer experience/user experience front.

Intelligent site infrastructure ops. AI is of course a big part of any intelligent operations, and Ericsson’s approach/formula recommends integrating AI into site infrastructure operations claiming that customers/service providers have reduced site energy consumption by up to 15% through intelligent site control solutions. These include things like tools to control passive equipment, AI-enabled predictive maintenance, and a no-touch problem solving capabilities that allows for fewer site visits, reduced costs, and reduced site energy usage.

Wrapping up, Ericsson’s Breaking the Energy Curve report does a good job of breaking down the challenges that operators face and highlighting solutions and customer use cases demonstrating the impact of what they’ve managed to accomplish in terms of energy savings. It’s encouraging to see Ericsson stepping up and answering that billion dollar question: How are we going to quadruple network traffic without increasing energy consumption?

Watch the vignette of our discussion of Ericsson’s Breaking the Energy Curve report here:

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Transcript:

Shelly Kramer: We’re going to take a turn and we’re going to talk a little bit about sustainability. And Ericsson just published a report called Breaking the Energy Curve. And what I like about this report is this is a… We’re seeing more and more of this and Ericsson is planting a flag in the sustainability space. And they’re saying that they believe that it’s possible to quadruple data traffic without increasing energy consumption. And more importantly, that they believe that it’s an industry responsibility to do just that.

And I thought it was really interesting, and I had a chance to dive into the report. I know you did as well. They lay out, in the report, the company’s approach to breaking the energy curve, which is increasing energy consumption in mobile networks. They’ve tested some 5G deployments. They’ve applied what they call their holistic approach hypothesis to see what kind of results they could find. And this approach of theirs is comprised of four elements. And these include preparing the network and that’s all about modernizing and improving the network, replacing old equipment with future-proof hardware. Of course, this is a foundational move, and, in my opinion, and I believe Ericsson’s opinion as well, this should be done first.

Moving away from keeping old equipment is not the best path forward. It’s like modernizing in low traffic areas can yield a payback of less than three years in energy savings alone. So, my point here, when I say is keeping old equipment is not the path forward as it relates to sustainability. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to rip and replace from the get-go, but having a conversation, diving in and looking at what your system, what your operations are today, what your equipment looks like today, what your plan is for modernizing that equipment I think is really important. And it is a foundational part of business strategy.

Another part of their foundation, four elements here is building 5G with precision and that’s makes perfect sense. It’s the right equipment in the right place at the right time. Optimizing your network performance, keeping CAPEX and OPEX within set limits and done correctly, Ericsson claims that CSPs can limit energy consumption growth when they’re introducing 5G solutions. So, that’s really important as well.

Another part of one of the four foundational elements here is using energy-saving software and making… This is common sense, making software purchase decisions based on energy efficiency, it’s smart business these days. Of course, Ericsson touts its 5G software, which has energy savings built into its RAN network. Ericsson also suggests adding machine learning and low energy scheduling solutions and things like micro-sleep offering, which they claim can reduce radio equipment energy consumption up to 15%.

And the key there is that you can reduce energy consumption, but still deliver on customer experience and user experience front. So, I think that’s super important. Then, the last of the four is intelligent site infrastructure operations. And AI of course is a big part today of any intelligent operations. Ericsson approach and formula recommends integrating AI into site infrastructure operations. And they claim that customers and service providers have been able to reduce site energy consumption by up to 15% using intelligence site control solutions.

So, the report does a good job of breaking down challenges that operators face and highlighting solutions and customer use cases demonstrating the impact that Ericsson has been able to accomplish in terms of energy savings. I’ll link the report in our show notes. Ron, I know you likewise took a dive into the report. What were your key takeaways there?

Ron Westfall: Oh, I think you really hit the major points, Shelly. And one thing that I think made a strong impression is the emphasis on the holistic approach. And it seems intuitive that, oh yeah, naturally an operator should take a holistic approach to really improve their clean energy credentials, boost their sustainability ratings and so forth. However, it’s a little easier said than done. There is still the silo aspect. I think most folks can understand that. But I think the point is, is that with 5G networks, we are definitely looking at opportunities to really break through that energy curve, as Ericsson eloquently described it. That is avoiding the treadmill. It’s like, oh great, we gain energy conservation in one domain of the network, but the other domains haven’t followed suit. So, even though we’re scaling more traffic, we’re not really getting any energy efficiency breakthroughs that accompany with it. And that’s a challenge that’s been going on, for example, in the data center realm.

What I think it’s different here is that, yes, 5G has, I think, well understood standards that are driving its implementation in many key areas. That’s not to say there’s plenty of work to be done there that we’re really striving for, for example, an open 5G network environment, an ecosystem. For example, Open-RAN is a great place where that could happen.

However, each operator has their own specific requirements. So, regardless of how they evolve their network, they have to keep in mind, “Okay, we’re getting energy conservation in the RAN domain, but we also have to do in the core domain and the transport domain and the edge computing domain and so forth.” And making sure that everything is firing in all cylinders or firing on the common EV battery, however you want to make the apt analogy as to how this can really be done.

And I think it’s important. And I think what’s very encouraging is that the report pointed to examples where this is happening. For example, Ericsson’s working with Deutsche Telekom and using solar panels and solar farms at the network site itself to achieve some of these energy breakthroughs. And I think that’s a good starting point.

Today, we know that solar energy is not going to be ready across the board. But wherever it can be used to diversify energy sources, improve what ways can be done to make it even better. That I think was a good for the entire 5G ecosystem, let alone across the global economy. And also, to your point, Ericsson’s been working with Vodafone UK and they had that demo in London that showed that their RAN implementations, specifically the AIR technology can deliver that fourfold or at least a 43%. Let me rephrase that, 43% energy savings across the entire radio implementation.

Shelly Kramer: That’s a lot.

Ron Westfall: That’s even better during peak time.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: Yeah. So, we’re seeing that these are tangible possibilities. And once they are implemented that there will be these positive gains in terms of energy efficiency. And again, breaking the energy barrier. So the operators can scale confidently and also have actual tangible energy savings in the process as well. And not just being on that treadmill. So, yeah, this is, I think, an important report and it’s definitely driving our research on 5G sustainability and why that’s going to become even more critical at understanding 5G network builds and 5G decision making across the board.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. And I think that there are key benefits. I mean, of course, there are key benefits for Ericsson to produce research like this. Of course, they want customers to be attracted to that and to them. The very real benefits here for service providers though are all about managing traffic growth, reducing costs and being a technology leader and reducing their environmental footprints. Those are things that all resonate with customers today, too. So, I think that being able to talk that talk and walk that walk from a CSP standpoint is very important as well.

So, again, as I said, I’ll link the full report into the show notes here. So, if you want to take a look at it, again, it’s Ericsson’s Breaking the Energy Curve report and it’s definitely worth your time to check out.

Ron Westfall: It’s good business.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, good business.

About the Authors

Ron is an experienced research expert and analyst, with over 20 years of experience in the digital and IT transformation markets. He is a recognized authority at tracking the evolution of and identifying the key disruptive trends within the service enablement ecosystem, including software and services, infrastructure, 5G/IoT, AI/analytics, security, cloud computing, revenue management, and regulatory issues. Read Full Bio.

Shelly Kramer is a Principal Analyst and Founding Partner at Futurum Research. A serial entrepreneur with a technology centric focus, she has worked alongside some of the world’s largest brands to embrace disruption and spur innovation, understand and address the realities of the connected customer, and help navigate the process of digital transformation. She brings 20 years' experience as a brand strategist to her work at Futurum, and has deep experience helping global companies with marketing challenges, GTM strategies, messaging development, and driving strategy and digital transformation for B2B brands across multiple verticals. Shelly's coverage areas include Collaboration/CX/SaaS, platforms, ESG, and Cybersecurity, as well as topics and trends related to the Future of Work, the transformation of the workplace and how people and technology are driving that transformation. A transplanted New Yorker, she has learned to love life in the Midwest, and has firsthand experience that some of the most innovative minds and most successful companies in the world also happen to live in “flyover country.”