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Henkel Adhesive Technologies

Henkel Adhesive Technologies

Delivering a sustainable 5G future

This article considers key areas where sustainability can be built into the 5G value chain, how major providers are responding, and how the industry can deliver a 5G service with sustainability at its heart.

Wayne Eng
Global Head of Market Strategy - Datacom & Telecom

5 min.
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5G technology is a key enabler for sustainable, digital-led industry. Industry 4.01 and Smart Manufacturing2 depend on 5G’s ability to deliver high-capacity, high-speed connectivity anywhere. As a 2022 Information Age article3 points out, 5G…. will enable new operating models… 5G will offer manufacturers the chance to build smart factories that can take advantage of the emerging tech that’s changing the industry.

With rapid growth in 5G services, delivering sustainability throughout the 5G value chain itself will become as important as its wider benefits.

5G’s faster, higher capacity network infrastructure places greater demands on resources, so there needs to be a focus on sustainability right from 5G infrastructure design, through manufacturing and operation, to decommissioning, reuse and recycling.

This article considers key areas where sustainability can be built into the 5G value chain, how major providers are responding, and how the industry can deliver a 5G service with sustainability at its heart.

This is aerial view of cell phone communication antenna  tower with rural countryside landscape

Building sustainability throughout the 5G value chain

Creating a sustainable 5G service is about minimizing environmental impacts and maximizing efficiencies through every part of the value chain.

Saving energy and reducing emissions in 5G product manufacturing

Volatility in global energy markets has added new economic impetus to the drive to save power reduce across all manufacturing industries, including 5G equipment production. 

Direct savings in energy consumption and emissions are being delivered through more power-efficient factories and machinery, process efficiencies, and a constant focus on eliminating wastes. 

Many indirect factors impact the energy required in production, and innovations in materials and technology can play a vital role in improving manufacturing sustainability. Manufacturing requires chemical solutions for processes such as bonding, cleaning, sealing and preparation. 

Technology advances deliver solutions that require lower temperatures, shorter proving times and fewer process steps, while automation enables chemicals to be applied with greater accuracy and less waste.

Beyond automated application of adhesives and other solutions, technology is driving sustainability in manufacturing in a range of areas, from smart production lines powered by artificial intelligence, to printing electronic circuits4, to additive manufacturing.

These technologies have the potential to transform manufacturing efficiency, simplify supply chains and thus reduce the energy and emissions in 5G and other production line processes.

Saving energy and reducing emissions in 5G product manufacturing

A 2022 ABI Research article5 highlights that operating the 5G radio access network accounts for over 70% of network power consumption. Delivering the 5G network requires network densification and deployment of massive Multi-Input Multi-Output (MIMO) radio units and base stations. While 5G is much more power-efficient than 4G per delivered unit of data, a 5G base station requires three times as much power to provide the same coverage. 

5G infrastructure designers and providers are deploying a range of solutions to meet this challenge, drive efficient electrical power use, and minimize the environmental impact of delivering the service. 

Innovations in multi band radio design and intelligent software deliver 5G data in the most energy-efficient way possible. 

Effective passive cooling for outdoor system solutions improves overall reliability and system efficiencies. Innovative thermal solutions enable higher power density and smaller form factor solutions, delivering power efficiently and minimizing resources needed.

Maximizing 5G product life and minimizing disposal impacts

Innovation in materials and production processes can extend the life of 5G products, reduce maintenance overheads, and enable reuse and recycling.

Automated production processes assure consistency, AI capabilities enable automated continual product improvement, and innovative materials solutions improve robustness. 

All these can minimize use of materials, extend product life, and cut the amount and environmental impacts of maintenance visits.

A circular economy that maximizes product reuse is both a priority and a challenge for 5G providers. A 2022 Telecom Review article6 reports that, while the circular economy is part of the business strategy of 89% of telecoms providers, fewer than half will currently resell or reuse equipment because of concerns over reliability and complex supply chains, or simply a lack of knowledge of how the circular economy works.

The advances in materials and technology solutions discussed here have the potential to deliver the improved product robustness, simplified supply chains and intelligent control needed to build confidence in the circular economy in the telecoms sector.

How are 5G providers tackling sustainability?

Major 5G producers are already focusing on the goal of net zero by 2040. Ericsson7 has declared a target of a 50% cut in emissions across its value chain by 2030 as part of its ambition to meet the 2040 goal, while Nokia8 has pledged a 50% cut in total greenhouse gas emissions across its supply chain and a 95% circularity rate by 2030.

What next?

Delivering a sustainable 5G future requires a process of continual innovation and collaboration across the value chain, and we are excited to be a part of that process here at Henkel.

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