Materials, tech, and deployment considerations to make mMIMO more sustainable

31st January 2023
Sheryl Miles

The downside to 5G Massive Multiple Input Multiple Output (mMIMO) is the increased power requirements of the technology compared to previous generations of Radio Access Technology (RAT).

Due to this increase in power consumption and the need for more cell site deployments, equipment manufacturers must make the most sustainable products possible to improve efficiency and reduce energy-related OPEX and related emissions.

A new report from global technology intelligence firm ABI Research spotlights how to make mMIMO more sustainable across the whole product lifecycle, from eco-design to product material choices to circular practices to sustainable manufacturing to responsible resource management.

“With the demand for network connectivity showing no signs of slowing down, new generations of radio technology must be energy efficient without compromising network coverage and quality for the end users,” says Megan Young, Sustainable Technologies Industry Analyst at ABI Research.

5G is opening the door to connectivity. New bandwidths, low latency, and data transfer speeds up to 10x that of LTE allow for more applications to be supported, and the demand for fast 5G connectivity increases.

“mMIMO adds a much higher number of antennas to 5G cell sites, which focuses energy for significant improvements in data throughput, coverage, and efficiency. Innovative designs and advanced technologies that improve energy efficiency must be implemented to ensure the mMIMO antennas can uphold the network quality and capacity while reducing energy consumption at cell sites. Sustainable practices in design, development, manufacture, and deployment should also be put into operation to enable a more sustainable 5G network,” Young explains.

Many vendors are joining the market with innovative mMIMO product portfolios, and competition drives innovation in sustainability for telco infrastructure. Vendors such as Ericsson and Nokia are leading the way in terms of sustainable development of mMIMO technology, with innovative energy-saving technologies, in-house silicon chipset creation hosting virtualised Radio Access Network (RAN) features, and Industry 4.0 technology-enabled manufacturing plants, some of which have been awarded lighthouse status by the World Economic Forum.

Nokia has implemented liquid cooling in some of its units, reporting that this system can transfer up to 4,000 times more heat than air, reducing cooling system power consumption by up to 90% and base station CO2 emissions by up to 80%.

Huawei has released a wide range of mMIMO units to suit many different deployment scenarios, with an innovative material used in the products’ radomes, and ZTE has launched the world’s lightest mMIMO radio unit, at just 9kg.

mMIMO is a power-hungry technology that requires more units to be deployed in a network to provide consistent coverage. Though it is more efficient in data transfer compared to previous generations of RAN technology, equipment manufacturers must do all they can to reduce power consumption and improve the energy efficiency of the mMIMO units.

“Responsibly managing resources, employing circular practices in design and manufacture, and implementing innovative technologies that reduce power consumption will all contribute to a more energy efficient product in a more sustainable network,” Young concludes.

These findings are from ABI Research’s Telco Infrastructure Sustainability mMIMO Technology Review report. This report is part of the company’s Sustainable Technologies research service, which provides actionable research and data designed to help companies go from sustainability pledges to sustainability execution by identifying technologies, vendors, and programmes that accelerate sustainability efforts, such as reducing carbon emissions and waste.


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