Mobile Network Operators (MNO) around the world consume billions of kilowatt hours of electricity annually, Energizing their Radio Access Networks (RAN). What’s more, the OPEX cost is colossal, according to the GSMA the RAN accounts for over 60% of all Energy used by mobile operators. The most operationally expensive element of the RAN are the 10s of millions of Power Amplifiers (PA) which have been deployed globally.
The primary function of a PA is to create coverage, which must be done before any traffic can be carried by the network. To accomplish this, PAs are powered 24×7 in anticipation of devices attaching to the network and the cost to create coverage is vast. A network of just 5,000 sites broadcasting a single 2.6GHz band will typically have 15K PAs and annually consume 26M kWh of energy annually just to create coverage at an OPEX cost of over $8M. Globally, there are estimated to be more then 3M 2.6GHz PAs deployed consuming over 5.2B kWh of Energy annually and that’s before Massive MIMO (M-MIMO) is added to achieve coverage parity with lower frequency coverage bands.
While M-MIMO technology can effectively extend the coverage of high-band spectrum to match low-band, it comes at the cost of Herculean Energy Consumption. Regardless of if its 64×64 or 16×16 M-MIMO, the PAs which drive this coverage extending technology are always on, independent of devices attaching to and using the network. Adding 64×64 M-MIMO to a 2.6GHz band to achieve coverage parity with a low band coverage layer increases Energy Consumption by 400%. If 64×64 M-MIMO were deployed on all 3M 2.6GHz radios deployed globally, the energy required to crate only coverage would exceed 26B kWh, costing operators 10s of billions of OPEX dollars annually.
In the face of this staggering Energy Consumption and high OPEX cost reality, operators must increase efficiency of their always on spectrum bands to reduce both the Energy Consumption and Mammoth OPEX Cost associated with RF coverage creation.