On April 27, NYU revived the wireless symposium, now called Brooklyn 6G. This 2-hour virtual symposium focuses on sustainability as the most important topic in next-generation networks.

Research on 6G is underway, but there may already be a shift in focus. In 2020 and 2021, conferences on what 6G might look like focus on what wireless technology can do for the consumer. While engineers and researchers have discussed how 5G is designed for industrial and business use, 6G will bring consumers things like holographic images.

Things have changed. Today, the focus is on networks, how they contribute to climate change and how to make them sustainable. In fact, sustainability goes beyond environmental issues.

Kimberly Parsons Tromler, head of Thinknet 6G and Group Technology Manager, defines the UN aspects of sustainability. Parsons Tromler discussed all 17 goalsSome of which technology can handle, including energy consumption, resource use and connectivity for all. “The wireless connection contributes to each of the goals,” she said. For example, wireless allows people to communicate with healthcare providers.

Figure 1. Global data traffic is growing exponentially. Networks must transport this data in a sustainable way. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

In discussing transparency, Parsons Tromler stressed that network operators and equipment manufacturers must ensure transparency of the environmental impact of their processes and operations. “We need to tackle exponential growth while reducing emissions to net zero.” Figure 1 shows an estimate of the growth of network traffic until 2030, with and without machine-to-machine traffic.

Parsons Tromler cites industry advocates such as the GSMA, saying that saving energy from devices connected to networks will save ten times more energy that networks use. This does not mean that the wireless industry cannot and should not reduce its own energy consumption. “We need to look at consumer devices to reduce the carbon footprint. We hear a lot about energy use in data centers, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to RAN energy use. ” She praised how companies have committed themselves to reducing energy consumption to zero net carbon emissions by 2050. As of April 2022, this is still only 33%.

Network resilience also includes uptime. Network operators cannot allow the increased flow of traffic to spoil their networks. Networks need stability, which also means they need to grow with use. This in turn means more energy consumption. “The wireless industry needs to have serious talks on how to cope with growth,” concluded Parsons Tromler.

Figure 2. Energy production for the ICT sector emits about 2% of the world’s greenhouse gases. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Nokia-based standardization architect Balash Bertini looked at carbon emissions and energy use in telecommunications networks. Although he said that the ICT sector produces about 2% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, about 80% of the energy that produces these emissions is lost, mostly in transmission and heat losses. Over time, 5G and 6G will introduce new connected devices outside of smartphones. This will increase the percentage of energy consumed by consumer devices. He is currently at 47%, according to Bertini. Figure 2 shows the complete breakdown. “About 93% of the carbon footprint of the mobile network comes from actual use, as opposed to manufacturing,” said Bertini, “which is dominated by base stations. There is a lot of room for improvement. ”

What does sustainability in 6G mean? Symmetric services based on AR / VR and the metaverse will be large in 6G, according to Bertini. We will have to capture some of the energy, such as heat, and reuse it.

From an environmental point of view, the discussions covered more than carbon emissions. The discussion looked at how all wireless and network supply chains treat sustainability. Sustainability extends from mining operations that extract raw materials to the disposal and recycling of obsolete electronics, which is more than just mobile phones.

“There’s too much e-waste,” said Ralph Bendlin, chief technical officer at AT&T Labs. “This is more than a technical problem. This is a social problem. We produced 54 million metric tons of e-waste in 2019. Data centers use 3 million to 5 million gallons of water per day. Ore mining for 1.4 billion smartphones alone uses 100 billion liters of water. We need to take a holistic approach to 6G sustainability. ”

Bandlin also cites economic impacts that could lead to innovation to address some of these issues. “Communication can make other industries more resilient,” he said. “We need to know how much energy we use and where to find ways to reduce consumption. Just knowing how long you take a bath will take shorter showers. To get there, we will need to measure, report and evaluate how we use energy.

Figure 3. AT&T and the University of Notre Dame have developed a 1-bit converter that receives 39 GHz signals directly to a digital baseband. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Bandlin discussed new MIMO technology that converts RF directly into baseband bits. Currently, MIMO systems use a hybrid beamforming system, as using an individual data converter for each antenna uses too much energy and costs too much. “We really want to have a fully digital system,” Bendlin said, “but we can’t with today’s technology. For a receiver, this is a 39 GHz input, the baseband bit out. Figure 3 shows the concept and prototype. It uses on-off manipulation (OOK) and is fully digital via a comparator, producing a 1-bit output to the FPGA. Integrating this converter results in very low cost and power, according to Bendlin.

“CO2 is the enemy, “said Marie-Paul Odini, an HPE technologist. “We are on track to raise the temperature by 3 ° C to 4 ° C.” She noted that 2025 is a turning point at which, if we can reduce carbon emissions and reach net zero by 2050, we can keep global temperatures rising below 2 ° C. “We can’t wait for 6G. We must act now. “

The ICT sector produces 1.4% of the global carbon footprint. Odini claims that 5G can help slow down carbon emissions and energy use by monitoring the way we use energy, a point that is consistent with other speakers. Automation can help. Odini reiterated what Bertini noted that RAN has made a significant contribution to wireless energy consumption. “We need research to further reduce RAN energy consumption.”

New York University professor Ted Rapaport has announced a new study that he says we can use to calculate energy consumption from the level of the device to the board and to the grid. In his speech “Energy consumption and efficiency in mmWave and sub-THz wireless systems and networks”, Rappaport defined a new parameter called Power Factor (H). It is based on the noise figure, a calculation that engineers have used for many years to calculate the total noise of the system.

Rapaport cited a report saying communication technologies would account for 20% of global electricity production by 2030, half of which would be wireless. He then explained his theory that you can break a communication device, system or cascade into three components:
Psignal is the power used to transmit information to the user. Psignalless is the power used by the cascade devices. Psignalless is the power used by components that do not carry user information, such as displays and oscillators.

Figure 4. Researchers at NYU have developed a theory for calculating energy consumption from components to networks. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Rapaport then described the power in each cascade device in terms of gain and efficiency (Figure 4). The theory can be applied to everything in a cascade, from a passive component – a resistor, a capacitor – to a board, subsystem or piece of equipment.

Is CO2 the enemy, as Odini said? Not according to analyst Joe Madden, the moderator of the day. Madden says it is still about costs, and if sustainability is not profitable, it will not happen. However, you can say that without sustainability there will be nothing to gain. As several speakers have pointed out, we need to look at the whole communication ecosystem, from material extraction to repair and recycling, if we want to achieve real sustainability. A concerted effort in every aspect of the communication ecosystem will be needed to achieve the sustainability goals and make them accessible.

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Brooklyn 6G: Sustainability is the goal

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