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NGMN unveils roadmap for more energy-efficient networks

Forum founded by leading mobile network operators for all partners in the mobile industry releases guidance and recommendations supported on energy-saving techniques to help enhance energy-saving methods

Building on previous guidelines that addressed the short-term services mobile network operators (MNOs) could deploy, recommendations on use cases such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), and sharing wireless and radio access network (RAN) infrastructure to estimate and limit energy consumption, the Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance (NGMN) has published guidance and recommendations on reducing energy consumption in mobile networks.

The stated mission of the NGMN is to provide impactful industry guidance to achieve innovative, sustainable and affordable mobile telecommunication services for the end user, with a particular focus on mastering the route to disaggregation and operating disaggregated networks, green future networks and 6G, and continuing to support 5G’s full implementation.

The roadmap presented in Green future networks: A roadmap to energy-efficient networks aims to enhance energy-saving methods for MNOs and the wider industry. It outlines 16 different energy-saving techniques and intelligent offerings that are currently used or under development in the industry. Supported by real-world data, the publication highlights the energy-saving potential of each offering, and classifies each by type and the time needed to develop and deploy them.

According to the guidelines, energy consumption can be reduced through process optimisations, engineering and operational improvements, and the deployment of recent technologies. This represents the latest phase of NGMN’s Green Future Networks programme, building on the previous publications that addressed the short-term offerings MNOs could deploy.

The NGMN believes the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to better plan and manage networks, and match planned and operational capacity to predicted traffic, is a key addition to a number of the identified solutions. The publication outlines that AI can help estimate energy consumption and AI algorithms can help make improved energy-saving decisions.

As part of the framework, MNOs are being encouraged to share wireless and RAN infrastructure and utilise the network resources to limit energy consumption and carbon emissions. Standards development organisations are also recommended to enhance interworking between mobile networks and energy suppliers as a method to reduce carbon footprints and costs, while maintaining service availability.

“Reducing energy consumption while maintaining service performance is a key ongoing challenge for the industry,” said Arash Ashouriha, chairman of the NGMN Alliance Board and senior vice-president of group technology at Deutsche Telekom. “NGMN’s Green Future Networks programme continues to provide the industry with valuable actionable guidance by pooling the very best of industry knowledge and shaping clear recommendations.”

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Laurent Leboucher, member of the NGMN Alliance board and group chief technology officer at Orange, said: “Finding ways to reduce energy consumption and meet our climate goals is of utmost importance to the industry. The solutions span multiple domains: better network planning and engineering, improved network management, the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning, and the development and use of new technologies. Only by working together and collaborating within industry alliances such as NGMN can we achieve these goals.”

Luke Ibbetson, member of the NGMN Alliance board and head of group R&D at Vodafone, said: “Energy reduction, the use of renewables and the continued delivery of high-quality mobile services are non-negotiable cornerstones of how the mobile industry must operate now and in the future. Vodafone is proud to have acted as co-lead for this initiative within NGMN, and will continue to actively lead and support this important work going forward.”

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