Research aims to improve 5G sustainability using AI

Using the power of AI, the research programme aims to help communication service providers shrink their carbon footprint and reduce operational costs

Ericsson Canada has announced a strategic research programme to explore how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help the telecommunications sector minimise the energy consumption of 5G networks. 

According to a release by the company, the project, led by École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS), in partnership with Concordia University, Polytechnique Montréal and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), aims to help communication service providers shrink their carbon footprint and reduce operational costs by saving on energy, which will, in turn, help lower costs for consumers and decrease harmful emissions.

Data scientists from Ericsson’s Global Artificial Intelligence Accelerator (GAIA) in Montreal will support the three-year research project in collaboration with professors and researchers from ÉTS, Concordia and Polytechnique and expertise from Environment and Climate Change Canada. Ericsson will bring its global expertise in this area from Ericsson Research to steer the group in standardising their research findings and drive towards industrialised solutions that can be integrated into its 5G products and services. This partnership is supported by contributions from the Quebec government (through InnovÉÉ - Innovation en Énergie Électrique) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

Making 5G technologies smarter, more efficient and more cost-effective through AI

The information and communication technologies (ICT) industry is an energy intensive and growing sector. 5G is more energy efficient than previous generations of mobile communications, however, the energy consumption of entire mobile networks is expected to increase due to the need to expand network capacity to meet the exponential growth in data traffic. By embedding AI into those networks, researchers will devise ways for them to self-configure and reconfigure to push energy consumption to a minimum while maintaining the required quality of service.

Erik Ekudden, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Ericsson, says: “5G networks are the technological backbone of our society and they represent an opportunity to digitise industries and significantly reduce global CO2 emissions. Under the focused guidance of our partners and with the help of Ericsson experts in Montreal, a leading AI hub, our researchers will test and refine solutions to make 5G & Beyond technologies smarter, more energy-efficient for service providers and cost-efficient for end users.”

Christian Casanova, Vice President of Research and Partnerships at École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS), says: “There is consensus concerning the climate emergency, and climate change is now inevitable. We must act now to reduce our ecological footprint, starting by designing technologies that are less harmful to the environment. The use of AI in designing communication networks will enable us to reduce energy demands while maintaining a strong economy.”

The announcement follows a collaboration between Ericsson and Vodafone, who in 2021 demonstrated a 43% reduction in 5G energy consumption, and as much as 55% at off-peak times, during a trial in Central London. 

The new technology used in the trial saw the Ericsson antenna-integrated radio solution (AIR 3227) deployed on the roof of Vodafone’s Speechmark office in Southwark, with Vodafone deploying 1,500 new, low-power consumption 5G units by April 2022. 

The pair have also been collaborating to reduce the environmental impact of site upgrades and speed up network deployment through the use of drones and Ericsson’s Intelligent Site Engineering service.

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