Innovator Profile: CommScope

5G is a Power Play

The industry is buzzing about the potential of 5G – how it will reduce latency, enable the internet of things (IoT) and move vast amounts of data at much faster speeds. However, to achieve this, sites will need to employ many more radios using multiple input, multiple-output (MIMO) techniques. However, this will potentially consume five times more energy as previous systems. So, for the foreseeable future, the millions of cell sites at the heart of a 5G network will require more power than their Long Term Evolution (LTE) predecessors. In theory, 5G will be able to simultaneously support more than a million devices per sq km (0.4 sq miles), a big jump over the 60,000-odd devices that 4G technology helps.

Given 60 per cent of all power at cell sites are consumed by radio equipment amplifiers, network operators are seeking the most efficient way to get power to the radios while being limited in voltage by safety standards. To help operators re-utilise existing power cable infrastructure while enabling these new massive MIMO radios, experts from G.E. Power, (acquired by ABB), joined CommScope’s system engineers to created PowerShift®, the industry’s first intelligent D.C. power supply.
CommScope PowerShift® conserves electricity by intelligently and dynamically regulating the power supply, ensuring that radio units receive the most efficient electric current. It transmits D.C. power to radio units in a telecommunications network for wireless applications including macro and distributed antenna systems (DAS) architectures.

CommScope designed PowerShift® for modern cell site architecture, where radio units are separate from the baseband units. PowerShift® automatically delivers the most efficient voltage to the radios, helping operators re-utilise existing power cable infrastructure, eliminating the need for higher gauge conductors when installing new cabling and increasing the useable length for cables by over four times. For DAS, PowerShift® enables all power to be centralised, so it is easier and lower cost to provide battery back-up to the system.

By eliminating the need to rip-and-replace existing power cables with more cumbersome, larger cables, it decreases costs for network operators, reducing leasing costs and making it easier to run power cables inside buildings for DAS. The primary use of PowerShift® is to power remote radio heads on cell towers and DAS installations; however, it is also applicable to metro cells and Centralised Radio Access Networks (C-RAN). PowerShift® can potentially save mobile operators millions of dollars per year.

One of the more unique advantages of PowerShift® relates to how it can extend the uptime of R.F. battery back-up systems. When a cell site switches to battery back-up power, there is a steep downward curve over time for the voltage level that the battery provides. Towards the end of that curve, the output voltage level starts to fall beneath a threshold on which RRUs can run. At that point, the RRUs shut down, and the cell site is no longer operable.

However, PowerShift® can push out how quickly a cell site gets to that point by being able to deliver the necessary voltage to the RRUs automatically. This feature overcomes the voltage drop threshold, enabling longer uptime until the battery is 100% drained. We estimate that PowerShift® can lengthen R.F. battery uptime by up to 35 per cent. That extra time is crucial for keeping a cell site up while conducting emergency maintenance.

The resulting technology is a dynamic power supply solution for cellular networks that optimise the energy delivered to radio units automatically, accounting for the length of cable and voltage drop. It eliminates the need for higher gauge conductors when installing new cabling and increases useable length for cables by over four times while extending the radio frequency battery uptime by up to 25 per cent. When upgrading remote radio heads in cell tower applications, the use of PowerShift® can reduce radio deployment time by up to 90 per cent by not having to install new cabling systems.

With thousands of deployments, tier-one U.S. and international operators are creating a blueprint for 5G networks that will save on capital and operating expenses. With PowerShift®, mobile operators could potentially save millions per year.

As an example, PowerShift® made it possible to install a rooftop cell site that met the property owner’s aesthetic requirements. PowerShift® enabled the use of smaller diameter power cables and avoided having to break through walls to install larger cables – something the property owner wanted to avoid. Without PowerShift®, the property owner would have had to find a new wireless solution.
As another example, in Europe, one network operator reused an existing power plant without investing in new, remote rectifiers and batteries. By using PowerShift®, network operators save costs by not having to replace cables, or using smaller cables, or by reducing leasing costs and installation costs.

Deploying higher-powered radios – whether to add new frequency bands or to introduce massive MIMO or use 5G services – network operators must re-evaluate their power delivery systems. If the industry is to maintain the current pace of radio innovation required for 5G deployment, power innovation must be ready.

PowerShift® will evolve to address more variations in radio powering applications, further developing its application for use with even higher power radio units, and as a centralised power source for distributed configurations like DAS and metro cell deployments.

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