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New Study Shows 5G Beats Legacy Networks with 90% Energy Efficiency

David Paul


5G networks

The research, carried out over a three-month period, indicated a substantial difference between 5G and 4G efficiency.

Nokia and Telefónica have found that 5G networks are up to 90% more energy efficient than their 4G counterparts.

The research focused on the power consumption of the Radio Access Network (RAN) used by Telefónica.

Extensive testing examined eleven different pre-defined traffic load scenarios that measured the energy consumed per Mbps based on the traffic load distribution.

Results showed that 5G RAN technology is significantly more efficient than legacy technologies when it comes to energy consumption, with hardware and software features that help to save energy.

The rollout of 5G networks is set to increase traffic dramatically making it critical that the energy consumed does not rise at the same rate.

5G technology is natively greener, with more data bits per kilowatt of energy than any previous wireless technology generation. However, 5G networks require further action to enhance energy efficiency and minimise CO2 emissions that will come with exponentially increased data traffic.

There have been concerns in the past of the safety of the technology, with some critics voicing concerns over radiation produced by 5G towers. However, a report by experts at the International Commission on Non‐Ionizing Radiation Protection deemed that 5G “poses no threat to public health”.

There are, in fact, several energy-saving features at the radio base station and network levels, such as 5G power-saving features, small cell deployments and new 5G architecture and protocols, which can be combined to significantly improve the energy efficiency of wireless networks.

Commenting on the importance of the research results to the potential for 5G small cell networks, Iqbal Singh Bedi, Director at Intelligens Consulting, said:  “Future 5G networks in urban areas are likely to require between 40 to 150 small cells per square km, depending upon population density and usage demand factors. The greater the population density and demand then the greater the density of small cells that will be required.

“Although small cells are less power-hungry than rooftop base stations being energy efficient is advantageous from several points of view. Firstly, it plays well to the environment. Secondly, it reduces the running costs for cellular operators and network providers improving the investment case for densified 5G networks.”


Scotland is one of the countries looking to adopt 5G in the future. There are already plans to boost connectivity in rural areas, where network access is traditional more difficult. The UK Government is looking to have low frequency 700 MHz radio bands installed, which can cover large distances.

In August, the Scotland 5G Centre and Scottish Futures Trust, Connected Places Catapult, global legal business DWF, and IT and telecoms consultancy FarrPoint teamed up to accelerate the installation of 4G and 5G networks across Scotland.

The aim of the project partners is to increase the use of 5G technology across Scotland and add £17 billion to the country’s economy over the next 15 years.

David Paul

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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