Energy intensive 5G and wireless systems

From Environmental Health Trust

Flyer: “Climate Change, 5G & the Internet of Things


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 Spectrum5G’s Waveform Is a Battery Vampire

A 2022 review by the University of Sussex Business School entitled “The energy use implications of 5G: Reviewing whole network operational energy, embodied energy, and indirect effects” published in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews finds that the notion that 5G is green technology is not currently backed up by a strong, publicly available, fully transparent evidence base. The researchers did a literature review to examine whole network level assessments of the operational energy use implications of 5G, the embodied energy use associated with 5G, and indirect energy use effects associated with 5G-driven changes in user behaviour and patterns of consumption and production in other sectors of the economy. The authors warn that ,”the widespread adoption of unlimited data subscriptions for 5G users and the facilitation of advanced and data-intensive mobile services such as VR and more sophisticated mobile gaming could “encourage energy-intensive user practices, contribute to ever-growing levels of data traffic, and counteract the energy-saving potential of 5G efficiency improvements.”

“The introduction of massive-MIMO antennas alone will require an additional 1,000 watts of power per sector,” Kompany said. Alongside this, he said, additional power is also required for other new equipment such as the radio units, baseband and servers.”- Don Bishop in  Existing Power Reqirements at Most Mobile Network Operators’s Sites will be Unable to Meet the Requirements of 5G Networks 

“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 cellsmassive 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 demands.

“As 5G usurps LTE, energy consumption is expected to increase 61x between 2020 to 2030 due to the energy demands of powerful network elements like massive MIMO and edge servers, the proliferation of 5G cell sites, and the flexibility of the 5G networks in both consumer and enterprise use cases” and “power consumption of the 5G network is expected to soar due to active network elements like energy-hungry baseband units, remote radio heads, small cells, and core networks,” according to the 2020 study, Environmentally Sustainable 5G Deployment which quantifies the energy footprint for 5G deployment and identifies best practices to encourage energy sustainability. 

“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

“The whole aim of the new 5G network is to allow for more devices to be used by the consumer at faster rates than ever before, because of this goal there will certainly be an increase in energy usage globally.” “While the idea of more space for devices to be used is great for consumers, this will lead to a spike in energy usage for two reasons – the technology itself is energy demanding and will increase demand for more electronic devices. The ability for more devices to be used on the same network creates more incentive for consumers to buy electronics and use them more often. This will have a harmful impact on the environment through increased energy use” –“What Will 5G Mean for the Environment?”  by CLAIRE CURRAN

On this page, EHT lists reports on the ever increasing use of energy for the ever increasing wireless rollout.

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