Green 5G for a Greener World

Of all the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the one with the highest profile and most in line with the current zeitgeist is probably number 13: Climate Action. The decade between 2010 – 2019 was the warmest in recorded history, and climate change is affecting every nation across the world, both from a societal and economic perspective, while exacerbating the frequency of natural disasters such as wildfires, droughts, hurricanes and floods.

Most countries around the world, and many industries including telecoms, have made commitments to, as the official wording of SDG 13 states, “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”, focusing on increasing usage of renewable fuels, reducing carbon emissions and improving energy efficiency, all in an effort to meet the ITU’s goal of a 45% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.

China is key to the global fight against climate change

China, for example, has pledged to peak its carbon emissions by 2030 and then become carbon neutral by 2060. In support of this initiative, China Mobile and Huawei have partnered up to launch the Green 5G Project, which aims to improve network efficiency and reduce carbon emissions, while accelerating digitalisation. This is a win-win for the telecoms industry and China, and a significant step towards the global fight against climate change given China’s position as the world’s largest developing country.

China manufacturing and other industries are undergoing extensive development and growth, adding to the challenge of reducing carbon emissions. Meanwhile, China is one of the global leaders in the transition from 4G to 5G. While 5G is more efficient per Mbps than 4G, overall energy usage is much higher due to higher traffic, denser networks, more powerful base stations and edge data centres. For example, China Mobile, which owns 36% of the world’s 5G base stations, expects power demand for its 5G network to double by 2026. It is becoming more and more vital, therefore, for operators to target greater energy efficiency in their networks.

Helping both telecoms and other industries achieve their green goals

The Green 5G project’s overarching goals are to reduce both energy consumption and total carbon emissions of Huawei’s 5G networks. More specifically, the short-term aim is to reduce 5G network energy consumption by 45 billion kWh, increase renewable energy usage by 3.2 billion kWh, and reduce CO2 emissions by 1.6 billion tons (the equivalent of three times the total annual emissions of Germany), all by 2025.

There are multiple components within the Green 5G Project, some of which help operators cut carbon emissions and make their networks more energy efficient, some which enable other industries to reduce emissions and accelerate their carbon neutrality plans, and others that promote the circular economy.

Driving energy efficiencies, network performance and coverage:

Various solutions within the Green 5G Project are playing a significant role in helping operators drive energy efficiencies, network performance and coverage. MetaAAU, for example, incorporates double the number of antenna elements than traditional units, driving a 30% reduction in energy consumption for the same coverage. Similarly, high efficiency antennas contain far fewer cables and components than a traditional antenna, resulting in a 20% reduction in energy consumption for the same coverage or a 15% increase in coverage when using the same amount of power, while Ultra-wideband RRU modules combine multiple frequency bands into one box, leading to the same or even reduced power consumption for more bands and a better user experience. Meanwhile, PowerStar2.0 uses Dual-AI to intelligently monitor service traffic and site hardware at a much greater accuracy than in previous solutions, reducing energy consumption by a further 25%. Together, these solutions are currently reducing 5G network energy consuption by 50%, all without impacting the user experience.

Supporting other industries in their carbon reduction goals:

The Green 5G Project is helping reduce carbon emissions in other areas; for example, by accelerating digital transformation of key industries (DICT solution) or by helping to reduce unnecessary travel by assisting in remote education (Harmony Education) and providing online travel experiences (Cloud Life). Through cooperation with industry, the Green 5G Project is helping reduce carbon emissions by around 400 million tons.

Promoting the circular economy:

Huawei is making strides to make its solutions more eco-friendly. Products are designed to be lightweight, more durable and less reliant on non-renewable raw materials, making use of bioplastics where possible (in 2020 this was equivalent to a reduction of approximately 6,238 tons of carbon emissions). Packaging is simplified and made of renewable materials that can be reused and recycled which, for example in 2020 saved 18 tons of packaging materials for network products used at data centres (equivalent to a reduction of about 20 tons in carbon emissions). And finally, a global end-to-end recycling program reduces as much electronic waste as possible (4,500 tons of e-waste was processed in 2020).

The scale is impressive…and it’s growing

One of the reasons why the Green 5G Project is so important is its scale. China Mobile is the world’s largest mobile operator, and Huawei is the world’s largest telecoms infrastructure company. Together, they are making a huge impact in China, the world’s most populous country.

But it doesn’t stop there. Huawei has deployed its low-carbon solutions in more than 100 countries and is working with multiple operators on their carbon reduction strategies. Additionally, China Mobile and Huawei have founded the Green 5G Joint Innovation Laboratory Foundation with industry partners to focus on the development of new energy-saving technologies, aiming to reduce 5G energy consumption by 20% each year.

Huawei has committed to working with players across the 5G value chain as well as other industries and verticals to improve efficiency, reduce carbon emissions, protect the environment, and achieve digital and intelligent transformation, while working with scientific research institutions to accelerate breakthroughs in critical technologies. These initiatives are part of a global push to lay a solid technological foundation for green 5G, which promises a brighter, and cleaner, future for us all.

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