Cutting network energy costs without compromising user experience
Energy costs are a massive burden for mobile operators, and one that continues to grow with the exponential increase in user traffic.
July 19, 2016
Energy costs are a massive burden for mobile operators, and one that continues to grow with the exponential increase in user traffic. Powering down base stations at times of lower demand may seem a simple option to minimize energy OPEX, but if this can only be achieved at the expense of degrading user experience (and the associated risk of customer churn) then it can prove to be a false economy.
Spiraling energy consumption by the telecoms industry is a huge concern for climate change as well as for network operators’ finances. Even back in 2011 a study in California1 estimated that the mobile networks’ consumption of electricity globally was more than 60 billion kWh – costing more than $10 billion per year – and corresponding to tens of billions of tonnes of CO2. More recent academic work sees these consumption figures as doubling every five years, and estimates environmental impact to already be on a par with that of the aviation industry.
What if there were a way to control cell power-down to ensure that customer experience would not be put at risk? Big data analytics can hold the key. Starting with a simple timetable for shutting down and powering up RF power amplifiers during pre-scheduled nightly slots, it is now possible to establish cell analytics and develop more sophisticated algorithms to track subscriber usage patterns day and night. Drilling down through the data to the subscriber and device level yields an accurate set of user profiles that can be used as the basis for informed energy saving decisions. Multiple parameters can be included in the calculations, including network technology, frequency bands, carriers, and peak/off-peak time slots.
A smart system that continuously learns patterns and refines its predictions over time will provide checks and balances to recover capacity if demand should be higher than predicted. Major highways and traffic routes can be particularly unpredictable: in the case of a train breakdown, serious road accident or unexpected traffic jam, certain sectors may need to be rapidly powered back up. Large sporting or entertainment events will also be exceptions to normal operating profiles.
Over time it may become obvious that certain key cells will always have a negative impact on user experience if powered down, and these can be excluded from shutdown schedules.
Energy savings can be categorized as either risk-free saving and CX-risking savings. With a multilayer radio shutdown scheme, off-peak savings can be risk-free while also being considerably higher than those achieved with a single-layer timetabled approach. At peak times the difference is even more marked: the smart approach delivers much bigger savings at a greatly-reduced risk to customer experience.
Smart, multilayer radio power down techniques can help MNOs to significantly reduce their operational costs and to become more ‘green’– conserving energy and saving millions of dollars each year on electricity bills.