5G: The Next Generation of Mobile And Its High Energy Costs

5G is the next generation of mobile communication technology. Set to be launched in 2020, due to the amazing development of mobile happening today, the next generation of mobile communication will necessarily need to offer far greater capacity and be faster, more energy-efficient and more cost-effective than the previous one. It will need as well to be adapted to the Internet of Things/Everything, and to the fascinating world of visual search.

With 5G a whole set of new problems will need to be fixed. In particular, its energy costs. High energy performance that targets reduced network energy consumption is a fundamental factor in 5G. To focus on this will have the benefit of cutting back on the costs of ownership, increasing network connectivity to areas that were previously too remote, and providing access more efficiently and sustainably in terms of resources. In 2015 Ericsson published a white paper examining 5G energy performance.The goal of the paper was to look at the main technologies that would be needed to be able to deliver 5G as well as to offer design principles on which 5G systems with high energy performance should be built.

It is believed that network energy performance will be critical for the development of mobile communication to the next steps. In particular it will be essential in creating the networked society, and it will assist with making sure that unlimited access to information and sharing of data becomes a reality. High energy performance is a driver of mobile development. It has an influence on battery life, but also on network infrastructure. Regardless of the fact that traffic is increasing there is a goal to reduce energy consumption, with good reasons. One is cutting back on operational cost, and another is to be able to offer 5G sustainably and in remote places. All of this means that cracking the challenges of network energy performance is important.

5G has a long list of requirements that it has to meet that are even more diverse than those of its predecessors. As Ericsson puts it:

“It will not only require ubiquitous connectivity for human users, but also end to end communication between various kinds of machines and devices.”

This means more energy will be needed than ever before. At the same time there is a need for a cut back on total network energy consumption. In particular the requirement to reach remote areas needs optimal energy performance. 5G also has to be deployed “on the current grid of macro sites” and so finding ways to reduce the need for parallel infrastructure through network sharing, for example, will be helpful. The challenge is that even if infrastructure provides high energy performance, the addition of new sites will increase energy consumption. This means that the whole system has to be scalable and more modular than in the past. 5G networks will end up adopting sooner or later new technologies such as mesh networking. Mesh networking is a system to access internet whereby devices communicate with each other directly rather than relying on network operators’ base stations. An example of a project developing mesh networking is Open Garden, which is a wireless mesh networking application. Open Garden developed FireChat an app that uses wireless mesh networking to enable smartphones to connect via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or Apple’s Multipeer Connectivity Framework without an internet connection by connecting peer-to-peer.

These mesh networking application are some of the possible solutions of one of the challenges in achieving 5G energy performance, which is dealing with the problem of low average traffic that is combined with large dynamic traffic variations. Situations where peak traffic can occur can be very difficult to plan for, partly because they are rare. In most cases little traffic is needed for much of the time. To plan for the problem there are three rules that can be followed, according to Ericsson’s white paper. One is that the 5 per cent most loaded cells in the network must carry 20 per cent of total traffic. Another is that 50 per cent of the least loaded cells all together only carry 15 per cent of the traffic. Additionally there can be very considerable spatial variations even in a relatively specific area. It has been discovered that traffic increases the most in areas of high traffic loads. This helps with planning capacity for future growth. Another challenge with provision of energy for the network is that in excess of 90 per cent of the total energy consumption required is needed just for the network to be seen and accessed.

It is argued that it is essential to better energy performance when transmitting data. For this to be achievable it is believed that an increasingly user-centric system is needed, so that transmissions can be sent and tailored for the receiver in a manner that is flexible. Another step that should be taken is dynamically adapting resources per user to make sure that network resources are not “overprovisioned” and to make more efficient use of active resources. One of the principles that it is argued should be operationalised is the idea of only transmitting when required. This minimises unnecessary transmissions and is called “ultra lean”. This also has the benefit of allowing deeper sleep mode levels for larger energy savings. There are many more specifications recommended, and it is argued that the steps taken will enable higher energy performance during low load while also offering the chance to scale up or down rapidly in the case of peak usage.