Power modelling of mobile basestations sees problems after 2020

June 18, 2015 // By Graham Prophet
As a part of the conclusion of the GreenTouch consortium’s five years of work, Belgian research centre imec has unveiled an advanced power model that provides a realistic prediction of the power consumption of today’s and future cellular base stations, which are vital to the mobile networks used by millions of people worldwide each day.

The model is drawn against a background of rapidly rising data traffic and; the summary speaks to normalised power consumption of a variety of basestation types, that is, power drawn per unit of throughput, which is declining as more advanced technologies are applied to the air interface. Actual power consumed by mobile infrastructure is on a steeply rising trend. It leads to the conclusion that while power growth is to some extent being held in check by the application of new technologies, known techniques will be reaching their limits in around 5 years’ time.

Imec’s model supports a broad range of operating conditions and cellular base station types, covering both conventional and disruptive base station architectures, and incorporates hardware technology forecasts. The model is available as a free, online web tool for network providers and the research community.

The chart shows a snapshot of the power model web-tool, comparing three different base station types (macro cell, pico cell and a massive MIMO ) in terms of relative power breakdown over their components, as well as their relative power scaling over different hardware technology generations.

Today’s mobile networks consume a tremendous amount of power. To support the explosive growth of communications networks in a sustainable and economically viable way, GreenTouch was founded in 2010, with the goal of fundamentally transforming communications and data networks, including the Internet, and significantly reducing the carbon footprint of ICT devices, platforms and networks. Imec, a member of the consortium from the start , has been focusing its R&D on the power consumption of the cellular base station. Base stations currently consume more than 80% [of the power used in] the total mobile network. And this number will only rise with increases in data traffic and support of new services for 5G and the Internet of Things. Addressing the power consumption of these base stations is critical to minimise future energy consumption.

To characterise the energy efficiency of base stations, imec developed a power model to quantitatively forecast the power consumption of today’s and future cellular base stations. The algorithmic tool supports the development of more energy-flexible base stations and the realisation of more energy-efficient networks. It enables network providers and researchers to make the best choice in terms of network architecture and deployment, and to define the hardware technology and base station types that improve energy efficiency.