The energy-saving impacts of 5G-enabled vertical industries

New research from InterDigital and ABI Research details energy efficiency of enterprise 5G and industry verticals amidst global sustainability commitments

Sustainability has never been higher on the societal agenda. Global leaders at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this week are facing hard truths – on the current trajectory, the world will hit the crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature increase by 2030 and demand a dramatic 45% reduction in global carbon dioxide emissions from 2010 levels. With the ICT sector expected to account for as much as 20% of global consumption levels by 2030, any effort to reduce carbon emissions must consider the impact of 5G.

A new report released today by ABI Research and sponsored by InterDigital establishes a forecasting model comparing 4G and 5G networks to understand how new generations of wireless can significantly improve carbon efficiency. To quantify the impact of enterprise 5G, the paper analyses the direct energy efficiency of network infrastructure and end-devices, and its indirect effect on carbon dioxide emissions.

The research identifies key 5G-enabled enterprise verticals that could drive meaningful energy and carbon mitigation. For example, in smart manufacturing, 5G-enabled automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are 45% more productive than non-5G counterparts, translating to a potential 3,800-Terawatt energy savings and 1.2 Gigaton reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. In smart transportation, 5G drives operation efficiency and can decrease the annual time spent by each car in motor traffic by 24 hours and airplanes’ average ground time by 3 minutes per flight, which both indirectly drive significant energy savings.

“We’re entering a critical time for both 5G evolution and the climate health of our globe. This report helps us to identify emerging solutions and new pathways to reap the immense benefits of 5G-enabled networks and ecosystems while mitigating and eliminating their added energy impact on our world,” said InterDigital CTO Henry Tirri. “With new 5G capabilities, we can even improve our commitments to efficiently and effectively tackle climate change.”

The paper details several critical findings around 5G impact on energy efficiency:


  • 5G is inherently more energy-consuming than 4G due to the stringent power requirements of Massive MIMO deployments; however, when estimating the energy required for a single Mbps of capacity, 5G is a much more efficient technology.

  • By digitising enterprise workflows and other parts of daily life, 5G enables more efficient operations that reduce energy consumption and carbon footprint. Current deployments of 5G have the potential to reduce global energy consumption by 290,000 Terawatts by 2030, and that number balloons to over 900,000 Terawatts of energy reduction under ubiquitous 5G coverage.


  • Network operators are exploring next-gen solutions to aggressively combat 5G’s energy footprint. For example, operators have implemented sustainability or carbon neutrality requirements for suppliers, considered new modes of self-energy generation like micro-grids and smart-metering, and explored the use of AI algorithms to predict and adjust energy consumption.

  • The external influences driving the ICT sector’s 20% capture of global electricity consumption by 2030 include the demand for ubiquitous connectivity and immersive experiences, corporate trends towards remote work and video-enabled training, and urban transitions towards connected smart cities.


“Latest ABI Research reveals that 5G rollout will be critical in helping communication service providers (CSPs), enterprises, and consumers across the globe reach their self-prescribed sustainability goals,” said Leo Gergs, Senior Analyst at ABI Research. “By 2030, 5G adoption for key enterprise verticals can reduce global CO2 emissions by up to 37 Gigatons, and therefore be an important building block for industry carbon neutrality by 2050. To drive this, the entire industry must embrace this consolidated ecosystem effort and encourage close collaboration with implementing enterprises to understand their pain points and key requirements.”        



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