5G Base Station Deployments; Open-RAN Competition & HUGE 5G BS Power Problem

According to Taiwan based market research firm TrendForce, the big three China and European telecom equipment manufacturers captured more than 85% market share in the global mobile base station industry in 2019, with Sweden-based Ericsson, China-based Huawei, and Finland-based Nokia as the three largest suppliers. However, owing to the U.S.-China trade war and the export controls issued by the U.S. government, Huawei subsequently was unable to procure key components from U.S.-based RF-front end manufacturers, in turn affecting the sales performance of its base stations in the overseas markets. As a result, Huawei is expected to focus its base station construction this year primarily in domestic China.

Total 5G base stations in China are projected to exceed 600,000 in 2020, while Japanese and Korean equipment manufacturers aggressively expand in the overseas markets.

By the end of 1st Half of 2020, the three major Chinese mobile network operators, including China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom, had built more than 250,000 5G base stations in China. This number is projected to reach 600,000 by the end of this year, with network coverage in prefecture-level cities in China. In addition, emerging infrastructures such as 5G networks and all-optical networks will generate commercial opportunities for Huawei. According to the GSM Association’s forecasts, by 2025, more than a quarter of cellular devices in China will operate on 5G networks, occupying one-third of all global 5G connections.

On the other hand, thanks to successful 5G commercialization efforts in Korea, Samsung has seen a surge in its base station equipment. The company has provided base stations for the three major mobile network operators in Korea, including SKT, KT, and LG Uplus, in addition to collaborating with U.S. operators, such as AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon.

Broadcasting, transmission and distribution of internet signal from 5G antenna, communications tower, transmitter and satellite. Vector illustration

Open RAN Competitors:

The UK government is now targeting Japan-based NEC and Fujitsu as Huawei replacement suppliers of 5G network equipment.  As European and the U.S. governments  have implemented sanctions against Huawei, Japanese equipment suppliers now have the perfect opportunity to raise their market shares in Europe and possibly in the U.S. (with upstart 5G network providers that adopt “OpenRAN.”  Throw in O-RAN Alliance members Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, Robin, Altiostar and Radisys into the mix and there may be serious competition for the big three base station vendors, especially OUTSIDE OF CHINA (where Huawei and ZTE will surely dominate).


Sidebar:  5G Base Station Power Consumption Issue -China article 

by 海外风云 (courtesy of Yigang Cai)

A recent news report from China (used Google Translate to convert to English) highlighted the critical issue of network operators shutting down 5G base stations to save electricity bills.  Selected 5G base stations in China are being powered off every day from 21:00 to next day 9:00 to reduce energy consumption and lower electricity bills.  5G base stations are truly large consumers of energy such that electricity bills have become one of the biggest costs for 5G network operators.

  • Using this method of turning off the 5G base station at night to save power can save 15 Chinese yuan a day in electricity costs. The current 200,000 base stations can save 1.2 billion annually.
  • By the end of this year, 1 million 5G base stations will be built, saving 6 billion in a year.
  • If there are more than 2 million base stations, 12 billion electricity can be saved a year, which is equivalent to China Unicom’s total profit in one year.
  • If there are more than 2 million base stations and they are not turned off for 24 hours, then all the money earned by Unicom will be paid for electricity.
  • The more base stations, the greater the loss of revenues.

Huawei chart

How many 5G base stations will the future society need? If the transmission speed and coverage rate required by 5G are reached, the total number of base stations may exceed everyone’s imagination.

According to news reports, the North Bund of Shanghai’s Hongqiao District is the world’s first gigabit 5G high-speed demonstration zone, with 26 base stations per square kilometer. According to the plan, the total number of 5G base stations in Shanghai’s Hongqiao District will exceed 1,000 in two years. The total area of ​​Hongqiao District is 23.5 square kilometers.

According to the plan, about 50 base stations are required per square kilometer. If 5G base stations are covered nationwide, 9.6 million x 50=480 million base stations are required.

The electricity bill is equivalent to several hundred times the annual profit of China Unicom. Even if it only covers 1% of the country’s area, electricity bills can bankrupt the three major operators.

This is only the electricity bill and does not include any other costs. How much power does a 5G base station consume? Look at this test data, this is already the world’s top-level base station, produced by the world’s top suppliers, using the most advanced chips from Japan and the United States. 5G base stations consume several times more power than 4G base stations.

Editor’s Note:

A typical 5G base station consumes up to twice or more the power of a 4G base station, writes MTN Consulting Chief Analyst Matt Walker in a new report entitled “Operators facing power cost crunch.”  And energy costs can grow even more at higher frequencies, due to a need for more antennas and a denser layer of small cells. Edge compute facilities needed to support local processing and new internet of things (IoT) services will also add to overall network power usage.  Exact estimates differ by source, but MTN says the industry consensus is that 5G will double to triple energy consumption for mobile operators, once networks scale.


The total number of 5G base stations must be dozens of times more than that of 4G to achieve high-speed coverage. 02 Why does 5G need so many base stations? Why do we need so much transmit power?

A basic principle of communication: the higher the transmission speed, the greater the signal-to-noise ratio can ensure accurate transmission. In other words, the more you need high-speed propagation, the more power and shorter distances you need.

In order to achieve faster speeds, we must use higher frequencies, above 10 GHz, or even 300 GHz (mmWave). The higher the frequency, the lower the wall penetration ability (implying line of sight required for correct signal reception).

2.4G Hz WiFi is already impenetrable through two walls, and higher frequency penetration is even worse. In order to ensure the signal strength, the power must be increased. In order not to be blocked by walls, many base stations must be densely placed in the cell to avoid being blocked by too many walls.

If you want to enjoy the high speed of the 5G era, you have to increase the number of base stations more than ten times or even hundreds of times. There is no choice.

In the 5G era, everyone will not worry about the harm of electromagnetic radiation to the body, and everyone will no longer oppose the establishment of base stations in communities. Because no matter where you live in any community, there are densely packed base stations. There are 50 base stations in one square kilometer, and you can’t avoid them.

At that time, the street lamps, power poles and billboards you saw were probably 5G base stations in disguise. There is no way to avoid it. A few years later, if you find that not many people are sick due to electromagnetic radiation, you will believe that electromagnetic radiation is actually not harmful.

5G coronavirus conspiracy theory and arson attacks on cellphone ...


Early 5G Use Cases and Applications:

According to TrendForce’s latest investigations, 5G use cases have been in telemedicine and industrial IoT during the spread of COVID-19 in 2020.  Primary applications of 5G during this period include contactless disinfection robots, remote work, and distance learning.

Currently, China has been most aggressive in developing 5G networks, with more than 400 5G-related innovative applications in transportation, logistics, manufacturing, and health care in 1st Half of 2020. At the same time, the emergence of 5G services has created a corresponding surge in base station demand.

TrendForce research vice president Kelly Hsieh indicates that, from a technical perspective, the growth in mobile data consumption, low-latency applications (such as self-driving cars, remote surgeries, and smart manufacturing), and large-scale M2M (smart cities) requires an increase in 5G base stations for support. Constructing these base stations will likely bring various benefits, such as investment stability, value chain development, and interdisciplinary partnerships between the telecommunication industry and other industries.




4 thoughts on “5G Base Station Deployments; Open-RAN Competition & HUGE 5G BS Power Problem

  1. Email from David Witkowski:

    The issue of 5G BS power consumption in millimeter wave bands is caused by two primary vectors:
    (1) the density (as your article notes) of BSs/WCFs needed to overcome free-space path loss at mmWave frequencies, and
    (2) the effective power efficiency of semiconductors – primarily the power amplifier but also to a lesser extent the receiver circuitry, at mmWave frequencies.

    If you replace a 4G BS with a 5G BS at the same frequency, then – all else being held constant – the coverage and efficiency of the 5G BS will be approximately that of the original 4G BS. I

    The power inefficiency issue really shows up when you start deploying in the mmWave bands where the effective Power-Aided Efficiency (PAE)* is less than 10% and likely closer to 1-2% – refer to Earl McCune’s writings on this topic, the work that Brian Zahnstecher and his team are doing in the IEEE Future Networks, and the work that Eridan Communications is doing to overcome this mmWave power consumption issue.
    * PAE is a measure of the efficiency by which a device converts DC or RF input power to a higher RF output. Generally, the PAE of a device varies between 10% and 80%, and this is while the device is in operation at frequencies between a few GHz and several tens of GHz.



  2. Base Stations are too hot for 5G, but can anyone really tell me why we need it?

    1. If you are asking why we really need 5G, my answer is we don’t until URLLC is implemented. If you are asking why we need Base Stations, that is to communicate with cellular endpoints and aggregate traffic to be backhauled.

  3. The problem of the BTS (base transceiver station) increasing power demand is caused by a lack of innovation among BTS manufacturers who always rely on the same, outdated data converter (ADC in Rx, DAC in Tx) architectures from ADI, TI. These semiconductor giants achieve the required bandwidth of every new BTS platform simply through CMOS down-scaling instead of real innovation. Thanks to Xilinx, who are now swirling around the market with their new RF SoC, because ADI and TI would only have offered interleaved pipeline SAR ADC for the next few years, instead of e.g. to access Continuous Time Sigma Delta (CTSD) ADCs that consume 1/10 of the power in the receiver! We need more innovation in the data converter semiconductor area!

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