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September 5, 2023

Delivering on SustainabilityDelivering on Sustainability

Delivering on Sustainability:
NEC’s Power Saving Solutions in the User Plane Function of 5G Networks

Delivering on SustainabilityDelivering on Sustainability

Delivering on Sustainability:
NEC’s Power Saving Solutions in the User Plane Function of 5G Networks

As the global community grapples with the challenges posed by climate change, all industries must increasingly shift their focus toward creating more sustainable and energy-efficient solutions. For mobile operators, energy costs, which are traditionally the third-largest expense for operators following site rentals and labor, new windowhave surged 8x within the past 18 months due to the rise in global energy supply costs and the expansion of 5G technology in operator networks. This is a pressing concern for the telecom sector because, according to new windowGSMA Intelligence, the mobile Radio Access Network (RAN) accounts for an astonishing 73% of a mobile operator's total energy consumption.

The 5G energy challenge

As the global rollout of 5G networks continues, the expected surge in data traffic means the telecom industry must address the energy reduction challenge. Fortunately, NEC is well-placed to assist Communication Service Providers (CSPs) in delivering on their sustainability commitments and has long been at the forefront of technology innovation while ensuring efficiency and sustainability remain core principles of its mission.

Collaboration forms the core of NEC's approach to innovation and we are engaging with industry leaders like Red Hat and Intel to refine our power-saving solutions. Energy reduction during the processing of User Plane Function (UPF) workloads are integral parts of both 4G and 5G networks and offer one such solution. UPF workloads present a unique challenge in terms of power consumption due to their constant engagement with the Network Interface Card (NIC), irrespective of traffic volume.

To solve this problem, we achieved dynamic control of hardware resources, in real-time, for optimal power consumption within a near-commercial performance test environment of a containerized standalone converged core network. This was done using the telemetry, the Intel Infrastructure Power Manager, and Intel® Ethernet 800 Series Network Adapters. Even in an environment where traffic rates fluctuate and momentary increases in packet volume occur, there was no packet loss while CPU power consumption for the UPF was reduced by over 30 percent..

The secret to this achievement is our unique approach to load determination logic. We customized this logic to accommodate real-world commercial traffic and incorporated it into the Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK) used in our UPF. Simultaneously, we established a mechanism for the dynamic control of the hardware resources of the Intel CPU.

Collaboration creates innovation

We are planning to expand UPF innovation by applying this technology to the user plane processing within the RAN and the control plane on the Core / RAN, thereby contributing to the power saving of the entire 5G network. Going forward, NEC, Intel, and Red Hat will continue to develop and co-create technologies aimed at reducing power consumption and helping CSPs in achieving carbon neutrality within their organizations.

But NEC's commitment to sustainability extends beyond power-saving solutions. Rated as a platinum-grade member by EcoVadis, we are intensely conscious of the need for sustainable supply chains. Central to the appeal of our Packet Core solution is its low carbon footprint, which allows for a 50% reduction in energy consumption.

As businesses face tight environmental regulation and the need to meet ambitious internal sustainability targets, we are demonstrating how CSPs can improve their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance. Furthermore, these power-saving solutions have proven their reliability in live data scenarios in collaboration with partners and customers.

Responsible network partner

With these initiatives, we are not just responding to the current societal needs but are also shaping the future of telecommunications. We are leading the way in offering power-saving solutions that significantly impact the sustainability and efficiency of 4G and 5G networks. The collaboration with partners like Red Hat and Intel underscores our commitment to collective innovation and our vision for a greener, brighter world.

In the era of rapid technological advancement and growing awareness of the need for sustainability, we are making strides to help create a world where digital transformation aligns seamlessly with our environmental commitments. Our work on power-saving solutions for UPF in 4G/5G networks is just one example of the NEC's innovative spirit and unwavering dedication to creating a more sustainable future.