The Impact of Energy Efficiency in Telecom Power Supply Solutions

Energy consumption is a major cost driver for most operators. It is also an area where achieving savings requires massive organizational and mindset shifts.

Whether sourcing green energy or deploying micro-scale power systems to minimize the amount of electricity used by equipment, telcos can significantly reduce their energy usage.

Increased Efficiency

Energy is one of the highest operating costs for telecom operators. With network expansion, legacy infrastructure maintenance, and investing in 5G technologies, it accounts for up to 3 percent of total operating expenditures. In countries with poor grid coverage, it can be even higher.

Energy efficiency is critical to both lowering operating costs and improving sustainability. Energy-efficiency improvements have the potential to slash power consumption at individual sites by up to 15 percent in a year, which can help MNOs offset rising energy prices and maintain margins.

With the growing proliferation of IoT devices, energy demand will increase exponentially in the coming years. Still, sustained gains in energy efficiency can keep overall energy usage growth at bay for data centers and networks. It’s estimated that a 2021 global deployment of 5G wireless networks would consume only 5% more energy than existing 4G networks.

MNOs can take several steps to improve energy efficiency at their sites, including ensuring that equipment meets the manufacturer’s specifications and using more efficient cable technologies. But they must also make the business case for investment in more efficient, high-performance power conversion solutions. These can include 400- to 48-volt DC power systems that house up to 105 kW of converter capacity and batteries in a single cabinet, freeing up space for more network equipment.

Increased Reliability

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, telecommunication networks are vital to maintaining uninterrupted connectivity. Since network downtime can cost companies and individuals substantial revenue and reputation damage, telecommunication providers prioritize ensuring the resilience of their infrastructure through redundant telecom power supplies.

Incorporating redundant power supply solutions in telecommunications networks offers numerous benefits, including enhanced reliability, fault tolerance, scalability, quick recovery, and reduced maintenance downtime. While redundant power supplies may require an initial investment, the long-term costs of avoiding network downtime outweigh the upfront cost.

As 5G continues to expand, telecommunication networks must scale their capacity and deliver fast, reliable connectivity to the growing number of data users around the globe. However, if these networks are built with the least efficient power system topologies, telecommunication companies could see their investments in 5G be quickly eroded by increasing energy consumption and associated costs. By incorporating the latest DC power conversion technology into their telecommunications infrastructure, providers can maximize uptime and meet consumer demand for data services while minimizing energy costs, limiting carbon emissions, and reducing maintenance downtime.

Decreased Power Consumption

Energy costs are a major concern for telecom operators planning their 5G network expansion. Even though the 5G New Radio (NR) standard is more efficient per gigabyte of data traffic than 4G, it will require many more mobile sites to handle exponentially more data. This will drive up energy consumption and require additional power systems.

Additionally, the current network of cellular towers, base stations, and other infrastructure consumed about 185 TWh of electricity globally in 2015 — and that figure is expected to double by 2021. These high energy costs hurt providers’ operating expenses and add to their carbon footprint, tarnishing their standing among socially responsible investors.

Telecom operators must find ways to minimize their energy costs and reduce their carbon footprint to reap the rewards of 5G. However, achieving this will require a mindset shift beyond aggregating the enterprise’s power costs. It will require a dedicated team focusing on energy efficiency as an important part of the telecom design process.

This will require a new power system topologies, including DC power conversion technology, to deliver more energy efficiency than traditional AC-based systems. For example, by switching to 400-volt DC power systems, telcos can cut cable costs and free up valuable floor space for more equipment deployment.

Reduced Carbon Footprint

The telecommunication industry has a very significant impact on global energy consumption and carbon emissions. Current network energy costs are estimated to account for 40% to 50% of provider operational expenditures (OPEX). Increasing IP traffic continues to push network energy needs, with the most significant growth in wireless radio access networks and data centers.

Telecom operators’ carbon footprint is split between scope one emissions (raw material acquisition, production, and end-of-life treatment) and scope 3 emissions from operations and downstream use of telecom equipment, such as mobile phones and broadband routers.

To tackle this challenge, telecom operators must build strong partnerships with suppliers and consumers of powering technologies, such as integrating sustainability performance metrics into supply chain purchasing decisions. Then, they can use renewable energy opportunities to mitigate the impact of rising electricity costs on their business.

In addition, expanding rural broadband access and 5G network expansion requires new tower construction in regions that may need more grid access. Using on-site, renewable energy to replace diesel generators is a cost-effective and low-carbon solution for these off-grid sites.

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