A China Unicom branch has announced that it would put some of its ZTE 5G base stations to sleep between 9pm and 9am to reduce electricity costs in the city of Luoyang, China.
Experts also alleged that “When people talk about 5G, they’re often talking about the enormous boost in speed one’ll get from using the new mobile network technology. What many people don’t realise, though, is that it’s also expending a lot more energy for Chinese telecom companies.”
A recent white paper from telecom equipment maker Huawei illustrates the problem: 5G base stations use up to three-and-a-half times more energy than 4G infrastructure. Part of the problem is that this new generation of mobile connectivity requires more densely placed base stations.
So as China has been rapidly rolling out new 5G base stations, reaching 410,000 nationwide in June, some cities are putting the ones they have to sleep to save energy because there aren’t enough users yet.
But Unicom, one of the country’s three state-owned telecom companies, is trying to assure users that they aren’t likely to see any change in service. “There’s no need to make a fuss,” said China Unicom CEO Wang Xiaochu.
“Shutting down base stations is not a manual shutdown, but an automatic adjustment made at a certain time, which has no impact on consumers and is good for investors,” Wang said, according to local media reports.
Users in China have started subscribing to 5G services, but many are concerned about patchy availability.
Wang’s comments came after news of the base station hibernation had some people questioning whether it was worth it to pay for 5G subscriptions if the stations won’t be accessible at certain hours. Unicom maintains that it isn’t a problem because hibernation schedules change according to need.
Li Fuchang, deputy director of the wireless networks research department at China Unicom’s Network Technology Research Institute, said that the hibernation function of the active array units (AAU) turns off the power supply when a base station is idle. This happens when there are no 5G users connected.
By adjusting the hibernation according to real-time data, operators can significantly reduce electricity and maintenance costs, Li recently.
“When the base station is normally enabled, compared with the peak period, the energy consumption of the base station in the latter half of the night is not much reduced,” he said “However, most of the energy consumption is ‘ineffective energy consumption’.”
China first launched what it called the world’s largest 5G network at the end of last year with subsidised plans. The technology is meant to herald the arrival of ultra-fast wireless broadband internet, but availability remains limited.