On Sept. 27, Ericsson’s USA 5G Smart Factory in Lewisville, Texas, received its second award from the World Economic Forum (WEF) for global leadership in next-generation Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) manufacturing. WEF’s Global Lighthouse Network’s (GLN) designated the Lewisville facility a Sustainability Lighthouse in recognition of successful on-site sustainability measures.
The WEF award honors such Ericsson features as a 2.2 times improved output per employee when compared with a similar site without the automation and 4IR improvements. In addition to this recognition, the WEF has designated the smart factory as what it calls a sustainability lighthouse.
Last week, Ericsson unveiled its ultra-lightweight (26 pounds) antenna- integrated radio, which is designed for easier and efficient 5G mid-band deployments in dense urban and suburban areas. Ericsson said the radio is the smallest and lightest massive MIMO radio in the industry and is 10 percent more energy-efficient than the earlier generation, lowering the total added power consumption when introducing 5G on mid-band.
Ericsson continues to up the ante of 5G energy efficiency. The company has engrained energy performance targets into its products and is streamlining processes in its supply chain, according to Bhushan Joshi, head of sustainability and corporate responsibility for Ericsson North America.
Joshi said that Ericsson is well on its way to achieving a goal it set in 2017 to develop a 5G baseline that is 10 times more energy efficient (per transferred data) in 2022 than its 4G portfolio was in 2017. As of 2020, the latest quantifiable results, Ericsson reported that its 5G product portfolio is already 6.6 times more energy-efficient than 4G per transferred data.
Another of Ericsson’s goals was to drive 35 percent energy-saving in Ericsson Radio System (ERS) versus legacy portfolio by 2022, compared with the 2016 baseline. By 2020, Ericsson reported that it had achieved a 34 percent energy-saving in its radio systems.
“Ericsson has introduced an innovative Breaking the Energy Curve (BTEC) approach to reduce network energy use,” Joshi said. “It includes solutions that enable operator networks to use as little energy as possible while managing expected growth in data traffic and meeting the needs of both current and future 5G networks.”
According to Joshi, Ericsson’s BTEC approach modernizes the network with the latest technology, represented by the 5G-ready Ericsson radio system, Ericsson spectrum-sharing and a 5G core. It modernizes the network with the energy-saving functionality available in the radio access network, including Ericsson network management, energy-efficiency solutions and automated MIMO energy management with AI.
The BETC approach, Joshi said, further builds 5G with precision. He said it is important to have the right equipment in the right place, including building 5G Networks, building 5G with precision and using a SON optimization manager. It is important, he said, to operate site infrastructure intelligently by using AI to operate site infrastructure efficiently, using intelligent site management and bringing down network energy with AI
In 2019, Ericsson set a carbon-neutral target for its operations by 2030.
“We are committed to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, from our Ericsson´s fleet vehicles right through to our facilities,” Joshi said. “Ericsson is reducing emissions and not simply offsetting them and working towards utilizing 100 percent renewable energy in our operations. Today, 62 percent of all our energy utilization is from renewable energy – 68 percent if we count only electricity usage. We aspire to an electric fleet where possible, and any residual emissions we can’t reduce we will need to remove in like for like emissions, following the ITU standards for net-zero value chains.”
Joshi also pointed out that the Ericsson 5G Smart Factory in Lewisville, Texas, which integrates sustainability in all aspects of its building design, construction and operations, is certified LEED Gold. Ericsson’s greenfield 5G factory is powered 100 percent by renewable electricity from onsite solar and Green-e certified renewable electricity from the utility grid. The smart factory integrates sustainable technologies such as thermal ice storage tanks with the IoT stack to proactively monitor energy use and is designed to use 24 percent less energy and 75 percent less indoor water usage, avoiding 97 percent operational carbon emission than comparable buildings, according to Ericssson.
“As part of our commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, we joined the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) aiming to reduce our emissions by 35 percent by 2022, a 1.5°C target,” Joshi said. “This has changed how we operate fleet vehicles, our facility energy usage, product transportation and business travel. In 2020, we had reduced our emissions by 57 percent compared to 2016, and by 71 percent in comparison to 2012. We’ve shown that halving your emissions in less than 10 years is completely possible.”
“When asked if it is possible to deploy 5G without drastically increasing energy consumption, Joshi answered, ”Yes.”
“It is possible to break the energy curve, that is, lowering total mobile network energy consumption and meeting the massive traffic growth challenge,” Joshi said. “This is not just a possibility; Ericsson believes it is our responsibility as a leading information communication technology solutions company to provide innovative solutions to make this a reality.
“To break the energy curve,” Joshi said, “it is necessary to address all parts of the network holistically. Ericsson has tested, deployed, and refined different solutions into this holistic approach. There are four key elements of this approach, which can be deployed in any order to secure network energy performance.”
According to Ericsson, one of the elements is to prepare the network by modernizing it with the latest technology that enables new business opportunities and, at the same time, creates energy-savings. The new Ericsson radio system would immediately lower energy consumption by about 30 percent in like-for-like modernization, the company said.
Another element is to activate energy-saving software, including sleep mode functionality, such as Ericsson’s Micro Sleep Tx and the low-energy scheduler already available in the radio access network, which can reduce radio equipment energy consumption by up to 15 percent while maintaining the same user experience.
A third element involves building 5G wireless communications networks with precision. Ericsson said it is important to have the right equipment in the right place. By building 5G with precision, the company said, mobile network operators can optimize their network performance.
The fourth element would have users operate site infrastructure intelligently. AI and advanced data analytics are already well integrated in many of today’s network management solutions, Ericsson said. “Yet, today, we see that they can increasingly offer more value in terms of reducing network energy consumption,” a statement from the company reads.
Mike Harrington is a contributing editor.