ZTE’s PowerPilot Pro Innovation for Greener 5G

Release Time:2023-02-24



Could you offer a brief overview of ZTE’s PowerPilot Pro initiative since I saw it on the GLOMO shortlist for “best mobile technology for climate action”?


We are honored to be included on GLOMO Shortlist, together with China Telecom. Climate change continues to be a hot topic, so we are dedicated to the innovative solutions for climate improvement.


Mobile data will be more than tripled in most regions over the next six years driving the total energy consumption by the mobile industry to triple from 2020 to 2030 according to some forecast. Yet, mobile network, especially 5G is also facing the challenges of carbon reduction activities. Thus, China Telecom and ZTE have been working together to roll out a comprehensive network energy saving solution, not only to reduce 5G’s carbon footprint, but also, more importantly, to help the verticals with their own carbon reduction efforts.


In Sichuan Province where China Telecom and ZTE rolled out over 7,200 sites, by using our energy saving solution PowerPilot Pro, the overall electricity saving will be 52,000,000 kWh yearly, realizing 42,000 ton carbon emission reduction per year. Meanwhile, PowerPilot Pro enabled 5G offers better and more environmentally friendly technical supports for biodiversity protection and rural revitalization, such as wild giant panda protection. Several other provinces such as Hunan, Hubei, Zhejiang, and etc. have deployed PowerPilot Pro as well.


Were there any maturity models to gauge energy efficiency and sustainability in mobile networks? What would be your assessment about where the industry is right now?


Selecting appropriate indicators to describe the optimization of network energy usage is the key to evaluating network energy efficiency. International standard organizations like ETSI, ITU, and 3GPP conduct research on the energy efficiency of wireless networks with a focus on various scenarios and service types. Energy efficiency indicators are now regularly evaluating the energy used per GB, per connection, per cell site, or revenue, per 1 million USD. However, these efficiency indicators are more likely to be static than dynamic.


New services and scenarios are continually developing as the network develops. The network requirements vary greatly among different service types. Network energy consumption and efficiency cannot be represented by a single traffic energy efficiency indicator. Instead, traffic, coverage, time delay, energy consumption, user experience, and energy savings must be all taken into consideration. Building a multi-dimensional energy efficiency model and selecting the optimal network layer are the first factors that guide the subsequent energy saving strategy selection.


In terms of where the industry is right now, in my opinion, we are still in the early stages. The drive for energy saving is strong and clear, and while the technologies are actively being tested or commercially deployed, the trend toward energy efficiency will continue well into the 6G era. Intent-driven energy saving technologies, even digital twins based energy saving, are anticipated to appear soon.


What are key ways in which the industry — both equipment manufacturers and telecoms deploying the kit — can generate further efficiency to improve sustainability?


As a major vendor of equipment for mobile network, we continuously improves the energy efficiency with innovative technologies. The current focusing points of ZTE include equipment efficiency in terms of hardware and software, shutdown mechanisms and AI for both network-level and base-station-native.


The 5G NR standard allows more components to switch off or go to sleep when the base station is in idle mode and requires far fewer transmissions of always-on signaling transmissions. ZTE provides abundant shutdown mechanisms and achieves multiple levels of shutdown. Among them, AAU hibernation is a unique shutdown mechanism in the industry. Nowadays in the mobile industry the deepest power-saving mode for AAU still consumes around 100W, because some modules cannot shut down entirely. ZTE’s AAU hibernation technology is a “zero-load zero-carbon” energy-saving technology that integrates software and hardware in a collaborative manner. Hibernation mode, shutting down everything except a control chip for power module, further reduced the power consumption from 100W to 5W.


Although network-level AI is not new, our industry has never deployed AI straight to the base station. When compared to a manual approach, the strategy by network-level AI is more efficient and successful. However, the deployment of AI models and algorithms in the network level means that the system is far from being a real-time system. It is unable to detect traffic fluctuations, so that it is unable to react to changes in the flow of traffic. These restrictions were perfectly compensated by the base-station-native AI.


Additional sensing capabilities, such as user requirements, real-time location, network traffic/load, and network energy consumption, are made possible by the computational capability of base station. Based on measurement reports by terminals, the base station can determine network coverage on different frequency layer. Native AI enables the base station to analyze user locations and requirements according to grids, build a knowledge base, thus, minimum wake-up is adopted.


I noticed that you mentioned deepest shutdown and minimum wake-up. When we talk about shutdown, is it at the premise of no impact on user experience?


The constant quest of greater energy efficiency and better user experience through technological advancements is the nature of ZTE’s energy-saving technologies.


Empowered by AI, traffic loads and user behaviors will be sensed, actively steering user to the most efficient network or band while balancing user experience. To ensure that network performance won’t be impacted, we also keep an eye on basic KPIs like access success rate, call drop rate, handover success rate, etc.


The deepest shutdown and minimum wake-up we mentioned resulted in a cumulative improvement of energy efficiency of the networks, without sacrificing any user experience. In the commercial networks, up to 35% energy is saved without affecting traffic, user experience or KPIs in any way.


What role can the telecoms sector play — or example can it set — in supporting the broader, global journey of sustainability and decarbonisation?


The biggest contribution of the mobile sector can make to climate action is to help other sectors of the economy reduce their carbon emissions through digitization, as projected by GSMA in its report that mobile communications technologies can help achieve 10 times greater emission reduction for other sectors.


The technological capabilities of 5G allow for deep integration into all spheres of society and commerce, promoting the digital transformation of the entire society. The entire production and operation processes will be digitalized through close industry collaboration in order to achieve process optimization, accurate control, and effective operation. The energy efficiency of conventional industries can be improved in this way.


Meanwhile, the social impact of 5G is also clearly proved by best practices in biodiversity preservation, rural revitalization, and pollution prevention and management.


ZTE has been actively working with telecoms and verticals directly, trying our best to catalyze the digitalization of other vertical industries.


Source: Mobile World Live