Japanese vendor NEC reckons its new software-as-a-service (SaaS) will help telcos tackle the tricky task of cutting power consumption.

Called Aspire NetZero, it’s an application that autonomously analyses and predicts traffic patterns, and then automatically configures – and continually adjusts – network performance parameters to strike the ideal balance between energy consumption and customer experience. The solution is vendor-agnostic, and compatible with 3G, 4G, and 5G networks. It also works with hybrid-power sites, maximising battery life when the grid is offline.

NEC claims that compared to current energy reduction features, Aspire NetZero offers at least a three-fold improvement in power consumption, and potentially up to a 10-fold improvement, depending on traffic behaviour and network topology. NEC says this is because power-saving features integrated into RAN equipment tend to be static, and not optimised for fluctuating traffic profiles.

Citing stats from GSMA Intelligence, NEC said the RAN accounts for 73% of an operator’s total energy consumption. It is also the third-largest cost for telcos after site rental and staff. Furthermore, rising energy prices means these costs have gone up considerably over the past year.

5G is compounding the problem, due to its use of higher frequencies and the resulting requirement for a greater number of sites to ensure consistent coverage.

“5G is putting a lot of pressure on energy consumption for operators, especially while they keep 2G, 3G, and 4G networks running,” said Declan Friel, CTO of NEC’s Aspire Technology unit, in a statement on Thursday.

Indeed, GSMA Intelligence predicts that even in a best-case scenario, mobile networks are on course to almost double their power consumption between 2020 and 2025, driven by 5G growth.

“Our AI-powered, multi-vendor application learns traffic behaviour and continuously takes action in a fully automated closed loop, without any manual intervention,” Friel said. “The solution is live and delivering opex savings to operators globally, and we are now extending that footprint together with NEC.”

The telecoms industry has taken action in recent years to get on top of energy consumption, and the generally-agreed upon ambition among operators is to achieve net zero carbon emissions from their own operations plus their supply chain by around 2040.

Recent highlights include one of these operators, Vodafone UK, installing 720 solar panels at its mobile telephone exchange (MTX) in Gloucester. It marks the beginning of a two-year plan to make greater use of rooftop solar energy across its footprint.

In March, UAE-based e& tapped up IBM for its sustainability software, which will help it to operate its data centres, applications and facilities more efficiently. Towards the back end of last year, e& also signed an MoU with Ericsson that aims to reduce energy consumption and develop sustainable network solutions. It’s all part of e&’s plan to achieve net zero carbon emissions from its operations by 2030.

Solutions like NEC’s Aspire NetZero therefore have a potentially significant role to play in this area of the industry.

“Mobile operators are making good progress in their sustainability initiatives, but they still need to focus on network performance and reliability for their customers,” said Hideyuki Ogata, general manager of NEC’s 5G solution department. “AI-powered solutions, such as Aspire NetZero, present a compelling option for operators to gain critical insights into how much energy their networks consume and where they can improve. Operators now have the opportunity to optimise their networks and drive significant energy savings with one standalone application.”

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