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Mobile carriers have spent billions of dollars on new radio spectrum for their 5G deployments and billions more on new radio and core network infrastructure. So naturally, much of the discussion around 5G revolves around what business cases and 5G-enabled services will generate a robust ROI from this massive investment.

But communications service providers (CSPs) also focus on using 5G (and the Gs to come) to solve social and environmental concerns—a big topic of conversation at the recent Big 5G event in Denver, Colorado.

At Big 5G, carriers talked about initiatives to not only provide expanded coverage to rural areas via terrestrial networks and low earth orbiting (LEO) satellites but also to offer less expensive services. - Read more at @NETSCOUT

Closing the Broadband Divide

Today, almost 43 million Americans lack access to internet broadband services. To address this challenge, CSPs and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) want to make 5G networks and services more available to underserved populations. At Big 5G, carriers talked about initiatives to not only provide expanded coverage to rural areas via terrestrial networks and low earth orbiting (LEO) satellites but also to offer less expensive services. OEMs and other organizations, namely the Next G Alliance, also raised the need to repurpose existing equipment—from smartphones to network equipment. Not only does this expand the connected population, but it also helps companies conserve the environmentally sensitive materials used in the construction of these products.

The Push for Sustainable Networks

The movement to the cloud with 5G provides carriers with cost-effective compute resources, flexibility, and agility to increase service velocity. But running large server farms—not to mention cooling them—requires very large quantities of power. Carriers and cloud providers can help by looking at power consumption reductions and adopting new, sustainable power sources such as hydrogen fuel cells to power data centers and offices.

With automation driven by real-time closed-feedback loops to the orchestration layer, 5G can help manage the cloudified network to make sure cloud resources in the radio access network (RAN) and the core are used efficiently and cost-effectively. Such automation enables the network to “breathe” by spinning up and down network resources in response to changing traffic.

Most recently, Ericsson and Vodafone completed the first deployment of new energy-efficient 5G radio gear as part of a collaboration to improve network energy performance. The latest trial cut 5G network energy consumption in half. OEMs can further this work by continuing to develop cloud-optimized software that uses a smaller footprint with less compute and storage resources.

Supporting Digitization and Work Location Transition

As the world moves forward, dealing with the lingering impacts of COVID-19, 5G is further enabling remote work with higher bandwidth and lower latency for video conferencing and augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) technologies for remote service technicians, medical applications, and many other work applications. An even bigger transformation may be the role 5G is playing with digitization changing the future of consumer and industrial communications. Moving data, intelligence and applications closer to users with mobile edge computing supports self-service as well as all aspects and logistics of the supply chain—including robotics for smart (and gig) factories.

Protecting the Environment

Aside from the increased reuse and recycling of smartphones and network equipment, there are many ways that CSPs can leverage 5G to benefit the environment:

  • Leveraging 5G sensors in farming (for vegetables and fruit) and vineyards (to reduce water consumption, detect leaks and contaminants, and meter chemical use), thereby helping growers use natural resources more efficiently while increasing yield and profits.
  • Supporting smart city initiatives to reduce traffic and improve traffic flow (and thereby reducing greenhouse gases).
  • Using 5G IoT devices to cut energy use in homes, offices, and schools. These devices can learn and anticipate human behaviors to put lighting and heating into sleep modes and manage peak demand periods.
  • Deploying more sensors to help the efficiency of the electrical grid and smart manufacturing plants.

All these examples and many more are enabled by the device density 5G supports.

Meeting all these social and environmental goals and initiatives along with maintaining the ongoing operation of the 5G network to deliver high-quality, revenue-producing services will be challenging for carriers. But with holistic visibility that facilitates proactive network management and predictive outcomes with automation, carriers have the potential not only to remain solvent but also to create a vibrant business that serves their customers and homes more completely.

Learn how to get 5G ready.

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