Open RAN Policy Coalition Releases Brief on Energy Efficiency and Open RAN

A major part of energy consumption in mobile networks stems from the RAN. Open RAN is designed to deliver better energy efficiency than legacy RAN systems through open interfaces, virtualization, and a cloud-native software-centric approach. Just how this energy is reduced and by how much are the topics of the Open RAN Policy Coalition’s recently released policy brief on Open RAN and Energy Efficiency.

The coalition was formed by companies (Altiostar is a founding board member) that want to promote policies that will advance the adoption of open and interoperable solutions in the radio access network (RAN) to create innovation, spur competition and expand the supply chain for advanced wireless technologies including 5G. As part of that goal, the coalition shares resources like this policy brief to educate the industry and policy makers on key issues.

Leveraging Data Center Efficiencies

The brief explains how Open RAN’s virtualized and software-centric approach can accelerate the shift of basestation compute resources to large data centers. Open RAN networks can take advantage of the economies of scale inherent in these data centers.

The brief shows that computations performed in data centers have increased by 550% since 2010, while total power consumption has increased by only 6% over the same period. Data center servers use commercial off the shelf (COTS) CPUs from Intel and others, whereas legacy RAN systems use special purpose ASICs. The sales volume of COTS CPUs allow for greater investment in fab capabilities which drives better power efficiency. According to Intel numbers cited in the brief, every new generation of transistors has led to a 1.6x improvement in compute performance per watt.

Cloud Multiplexing Gains

The virtualized nature of Open RAN solutions means servers can pool resources in non-peak times allowing for some servers to be shut down or dedicated to other applications until they are needed. Legacy RAN servers are dedicated to, and are sized for, peak traffic which means they use more power than needed in non-peak times. The whitepaper cites figures from the Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance (NGMN) which surveyed  European networks and found that 80% of cell sites carry only 20% of total traffic, while the busiest 10% of sites handle a full 50% of traffic. Pooling the RAN resources across sites could significantly reduce capacity requirements with significant compute and power savings.

Radio Head Competition

Competition gives radio manufacturers an incentive to design new products with reduced power consumption in order to meet demands from operators. The whitepaper points out that the diversity of the Open RAN ecosystem could enable rapid future rollout of new RF device that innovate on power.

To learn more about the energy efficiency benefits of Open RAN download the policy brief here: https://www.openranpolicy.org/resources/

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Jason King Director of Marketing