Nokia touts 30% base station energy savings with 5G cooling tech

In what Nokia’s touted as a world-first, mobile operator Elisa deployed the vendor’s 5G liquid cooling base station technology in Finland to help significantly reduce power consumption and cut CO2 emissions.

Specifically, Nokia said Elisa can reduce potential base station site energy expenses by 30% and lower CO2 emissions by 80% using the Finnish vendor’s liquid cooling 5G AirScale Base Station product. Nokia already introduced liquid cooling with Elisa for 2G, 3G, and 4G base stations.

Energy efficiency is important to operators to both reduce operating expenses and to align with environmental initiatives and climate targets that many carriers, as well as vendors, have committed to.

This is particularly true for 5G, as typical 5G base stations consume up to twice or more power than a 4G base station, according to a March report from MTN Consulting. MTN said telcos typically spend about 5-6% of operating expenses on energy costs. Once networks scale, the firm said 5G is expected to double or triple energy consumption for mobile operators, with a related rise in energy costs.

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Usually, around 90% of the energy used by base stations is converted into waste heat, according to Nokia. With liquid cooling technology, however, there’s an option to convert and re-use waste heat, enabling significantly reduced carbon emissions (or about 80% in Elisa’s case at its site in Helsinki). This also fits into Elisa’s stated target to be carbon neutral by the end of 2020.

“Elisa has set a clear target to be carbon neutral at the end of 2020. We also want to maintain our 5G leadership and continue to be amongst the top operators in the world to offer the wide benefits of this new technology to our customers,” said Elisa EVP of Production Sami Komulainen in a statement. “Innovations such as Nokia’s liquid cooling 5G base station demonstrate how 5G can help drive sustainability.”

Compared to traditional site air condition units, liquid-cooled sites can be half the size and 30% lighter, Nokia said. They’re also silent and don’t require any maintenance.  

According to Nokia, customer base station sites it upgraded in 2019 used on average 46% less energy compared to sites that weren’t upgraded.

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Wednesday’s announcement lends itself to the vendor’s own sustainability commitments, including Nokia’s pledge to cut emissions from its operations by 41% over the next decade. Last September at the United Nations climate summit, Nokia was among more than 85 companies who committed to reset its emission reduction targets to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“We have demonstrated the world’s first liquid-cooled AirScale 5G base station in commercial operations, making liquid cooling a reality for all network generations,” said Tommi Uitto, president of Mobile Networks at Nokia, in a statement. “This innovative solution supports operators in their quest to be more environmentally responsible while allowing them to achieve significant cost savings.”

Last fall, all of the largest U.S. mobile carriers, including AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, agreed to disclose their respective climate impacts as part of a global initiative led by the GSMA to develop a climate action roadmap for the mobile industry. Operators have made a variety of environmental commitments, including T-Mobile who pledged to use renewable sources to meet 100% of its energy needs by 2021. By September 2019, the operator had reached 95% of that goal.