[Yojana October Summary] Green Telecom – Explained, pointwise

For 7PM Editorial Archives click HERE
Introduction

With the advent of 5G Technology it is expected that there will be significant rise in towers, small cells and BT Stations (Base Transceiver). It is feared that it will result in accelerating Green House Gas (GHG) and Carbon emissions, contributing to global warming. To reduce the adverse effect on the overall ecosystem by the telecom sector, steps must be taken towards ‘Green Telecom’, to lessen energy consumption and migrate towards renewable sources of energy to mitigate the impact of global warming.

Contribution to Climate Change

Climate Change is the biggest challenge the world is facing today. This necessitates collective action by all countries to come together and discuss measures to curtail the GHG emissions in the atmosphere. All sectors like Agriculture, Industry, Services sector, etc., have to take corrective steps to mitigate the effects of climate change for a balanced ecological system.

Telecom services have become an integral part of our lives, being central to communication, information and entertainment. Telecom towers play a pivotal role in this process. The operations of these towers require electricity on a continuous basis for interruption-free telecom services. The electricity comes mainly from the power grid. A majority of electricity comes from emission intensive thermal power plants. Moreover when there are power cuts, the operations of these towers is supported by Diesel Generator (DG) Sets and battery back-up. Both the grid energy and DG sets contribute to the emission of Green House Gases, thus increasing the carbon footprints. A TRAI Report (2011) had estimated that Telecom Infrastructure contributed about 1% of India’s carbon emission (annual). The proportion may have risen given rapid expansion in telecom infrastructure in the last decade. In addition, the energy consumption through these towers entails a significant amount of operational expenditure to the telecom service providers. This necessitates move towards Green Telecom.

Expanding Telecom Infrastructure

India’s telecom market is the second largest in the world in terms of subscriptions. The market is characterised by one of the lowest broadband rates in the world. As per the latest TRAl report, India had 1.15 billion mobile subscriptions and about 800 million broadband connections as of May 2022. There are more than 7 lakh telecom towers spread over the length and breadth of the country. These towers house mobile transmitters and receivers (called Base Trans-Receiver Systems or BTS) at their base and antennas are mounted over these towers to transmit and receive mobile signals for connectivity with mobile devices.

Due to the pandemic, there has been a rapid growth in mobile broadband as people are using broadband for connecting through video-conferencing and using payment through applications like Unified Payment Interface (UPI). The proliferation of mobile and broadband has led to an increase in the number of towers, small cells, and BTSs.

Expansion of Telecom Infrastructure Green Telecom UPSC

Source: Yojana October 2022

A significant number of towers are in rural and hilly areas where the grid power supply is not very stable. There are frequent power cuts in many rural areas. As a result, these towers have to depend upon DG sets. It is expected that the advent of 5G technology will lead to a significant rise in the number of towers, small cells, and BTS (or equivalent electronics) resulting in an acceleration in GHG and carbon emissions, and the resultant contribution to the overall global warming.

Green Telecom

To ensure a Green Telecom sector and to reduce the adverse effect on the overall ecosystem, there is a need to take steps on the two main fronts.

First, Reducing the energy consumption of the electronics, designing eco-friendly buildings, consumables, and effective network planning with the overall aim to reduce power requirement.

Second, Migrating towards renewable sources of energy to mitigate the effects of global

Reducing the Energy Consumption

There are ways to reduce the energy consumption of the electronics used in providing telecom services including those based on 5G technology.

Use of 5G Technologies: In the 5G technology, the energy issues are handled from the design stage itself. Unlike earlier technological evolutions (2G, 3G, 4G), 5G technology takes care of network energy efficiency. The energy efficiency of future network like 5G is expected to be improved by a factor of twenty as compared to LTE/4G technology. 5G technology will also help in the most efficient and flexible allocation of resources for providing telecom and broadband services. It will help in power management at the equipment level itself, thus reducing not only power requirement but also the need for air conditioning. Further, 5G technology will allow flexible use of spectrum which is an essential element for wireless communication. This will have a direct impact on energy consumption.

Efficient Use of Network Operations: Traditional (4G and earlier) mobile networks spend only about 15% to 20% of overall power consumption on actual data transfer. The rest is wasted because of heat loss in power amplifiers (equipment kept running when no data is being transmitted), inefficient cooling systems and battery units. New approaches are needed to eliminate the energy wastage or harness that wasted power for other purposes by: (a) Cell switch-off techniques, i.e., by turning Radio-Frequency (RF) chains off when not in use and keeping only backhaul links alive; the base station is only changed to active mode when a signal is sensed. This can reduce base-station energy consumption by up to 40%; (b) Introducing smart shutdown techniques using Artificial Intelligence (Al) across multiple sites and radio networks to reduce power consumption; (c) Use of single Radio Access Network (RAN) platforms, in which a single base station supports 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G technologies, thus replacing multiple pieces of equipment and reducing total power consumption; (d) Shutting down old 2G, 3G Technology-based systems; (e) Use of Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS), which allows new mobile technologies to make use of older networks’ spectrum, sharing it on a dynamic basis; (f) Installing Internet of Things (loT) sensors on infrastructure to monitor energy usage and quality of service, in real-time; (g) Use of Al & Machine Learning (ML) techniques to support network automation, and allocation of resources in an intelligent, proactive, and most power-efficient manner; (h) Use of Self-Organising Networks (SON) with Al capabilities to help make near real-time decisions to self-optimise the network with the aim to save power.

Use of end-to-end intelligent power systems: The combination of cloud infrastructure and Al in mobile networks can enable telecom service providers to move towards fully intelligent power-systems. A cloud-based system can coordinate base stations, power supplies and other equipment so that power supplies become intelligent and efficiencies are made throughout the network. In future, full AI-based intelligence energy systems will emerge in which different levels of power can be automatically made available depending on the time of day or application.

Migrate towards Renewable Sources of Energy

Telecom towers consume 65-70% of energy from the operations of telecom networks. To reduce the impact on environment, there is an urgent need to move to renewable sources of energy for telecom towers, i.e., Green Telecom towers for energy saving.

India was ranked fourth in wind power, fifth in solar power, and fourth in renewable power installed capacity, as of 2020. As per the Central Electricity Authority report, the total installed capacity increased by CAGR 15.92% between the Financial Years 2016-22.

Renewable Energy Capacity Green Telecom UPSC

Source: Yojana October 2022

Solar Power: India is favourably located in the solar belt (40oS to 40oN), and hence, one of the best recipients of solar energy. Solar energy generation has increased by more than 18 times from 2.63 GW in March 2014 to 49.3 GW at the end of 2021. Compared to diesel, solar electricity offers a sustainable, cost-effective, and environment-friendly electricity supply for the growing telecommunication industry. There are new hybrid models where power is drawn from both the grid and solar cells, thus reducing the dependence solely on grid and DG sets.

Wind Power: Wind power generation along with solar power generation (hybrid renewable power) is becoming quite popular. Conversion of wind energy has been expensive so far, along with the impact of a variable resource on the grid and siting. However, technology has advanced rapidly in recent years to accommodate these factors.

Geothermal Power: It is a renewable form of energy utilising underground hot water or steam created by the natural heat beneath the earth’s surface. Low-temperature geothermal sources can be utilised to heat and cool by installing heat pump systems. Hot water or steam from high temperature geothermal sources can be used to power turbines to produce, clean and renewable electrical energy.

Fuel cell: A fuel cell combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, heat and water. Fuel cells operate best on pure hydrogen. Fuels like natural gas, methanol or gasoline can be reformed to produce the hydrogen required for fuel cells.

Other innovative solutions: Wave power, tidal power, and ocean currents can also be used to drive turbines to generate electricity. Technologies to harness these forms of power are presently being developed to the stage of commercialisation.

Barriers to Renewable Energy Implementation

There are significant barriers to the implementation of renewable energy for Green Telecom that need to be addressed.

First, Many renewable energy technologies remain expensive on account of higher capital costs, compared to conventional energy supplies for bulk energy supply to urban areas or major industries.

Second, Implementation of renewable energy technologies needs significant initial investment and may need support for relatively long periods before reaching profitability.

Third, There is still a lot to be done for consumer awareness of the benefits and opportunities of renewable energy.

Fourth, Financial, legal, regulatory, and organisational barriers need to be overcome in order to implement renewable energy technologies and develop markets in India.

Conclusion

With the proliferation of broadband and mobile devices, there has been significant growth in the number of telecom towers and associated electronics at the Base-Stations (electronics below the telecom towers). It is expected that the 5G technologies-based mobile network will be rolled out and expanded quickly in India. This will increase the number of towers and small cells significantly. To reduce the impact on environment, it is necessary to ensure a Green Telecom Sector. The Government should push adoption of the latest technologies to reduce power requirement. Moreover, the Government should accelerate the pace of the transition towards sources of green energy. This will in-turn reduce the GHGs and carbon emissions, thus helping in maintaining the ecological balance.

Syllabus: GS III, Conservation, Environment Pollution and Degradation.

Source: Yojana October 2022

Print Friendly and PDF