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David Williams
Global Director of Sales, Research
David Williams
Global Director of Sales, Research
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Mobile Networks Go Green: The Lean Base Station
The number of people using mobile phones, around 3 billion today, is projected to exceed 5 billion by 2015. More than 90 percent of these new subscribers are expected to come from emerging markets, with between 60 percent and 80 percent of them located in rural areas. The vast majority of these areas, however, have no access to electric grids.

As mobile operators seek to extend their networks beyond the reach of power grids, they need to find alternatives to diesel, widely used today to power generators in remote areas. Diesel-powered generators require regular and costly refueling and a high level of maintenance, and are susceptible to theft. Solving the power issue is therefore crucial to maintaining the growth of the mobile phone industry.

The use of alternative energies to power radio sites, however, is not limited exclusively to developing markets. Increasingly, operators in developed markets such as North America and Europe are seeking ways to lower their energy bills, testing new sources such as fuel cells and, in some cases, deploying proven technologies such as solar.

The market is huge: Extending service to the next 2 billion subscribers will require between 1.5 million and 2 million new base stations, more than half of them located in areas without access to electric grids. A range of alternative energies is being harnessed to power radio sites, including solar, wind, biofuel, fuel cells, and hydro.

Of course, there are challenges cost arguably being the most significant. Although the prices of alternative energy technologies are coming down, they're still relatively high. Some technologies, such as fuel cells, are still advancing and not yet mature enough for volume production.

Theft is another issue: There is a market for stolen solar panels. Network rollouts in many poor, isolated areas could be greatly hindered by theft if solutions to protect expensive equipment aren't found.

Lean base stations are essential for the adoption of alternative energies. Vendors have gone to great lengths to lower the overall power consumption of their radio sites and increase their energy efficiency by as much as 70 percent in some cases. All major makers of base-station equipment have introduced new system designs and components across the array of wireless technologies, including GSM, UMTS, CDMA, and WCDMA. Remote radio heads mounted next to antennas dramatically reduce power loss through feeder cables. The same holds true for standby-mode systems that shut down units during off-peak periods.

This report evaluates opportunities in this market for mobile phone operators, base station vendors, and manufacturers of alternative energy systems in both developing and developed markets, as well as the challenges they face. The report details the advantages and disadvantages of the various alternative energy sources and gives special attention to efforts by manufacturers of base stations to reduce their systems' energy requirements. Finally, it profiles ten leading vendors and explores their strategies for adopting alternative energy solutions.

Sample research data from the report is shown in the excerpts below:
Table of Contents (uni0508_toc.pdf)
All the major base station vendors, including Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia Siemens Networks, and Motorola, already offer at least one alternative energy-powered solution. Some offer more.
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As Excerpt 2 shows, the RF and PA components remain the greatest energy consumers in energy-optimized base stations; however, the overall energy consumption of the site is 50 percent to 70 percent lower than that of a traditional base station, depending on cell-site configuration. One important difference is that energy-optimized sites are cooled through natural convection, thus eliminating the need for cooling systems.
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Companies profiled in this report include: Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU); BP Solar International Inc., a subsidiary of BP plc (NYSE: BP) Eltek Valere Inc.; Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC);Flexenclosure AB; Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.; Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC); Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT); Nokia Siemens Networks B.V., a joint venture of Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE); and SunWize Technologies Inc., a subsidiary of Mitsui & Co. (Nasdaq: MITSY).
Total pages: 19
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