NXP and Nokia on the key to 5G power efficiency: Integration and reduced radio size, weight

When it comes to reducing power consumption of the radio, NXP and Nokia agree that radio size and weight are paramount

Back in 2018, NXP Semiconductors and Nokia — along with other partners — received the CATRENE innovation award for developing highly integrated and energy-efficient cost-effective technologies to support the rollout of 5G. This week, the two companies came together at NXP Connects 2021 to further discuss the need for power efficient 5G solutions.

At the event, NXP’s EVP & GM of Radio Power Paul Hart spoke with Nokia’s SVP of Network Management Ossi Timonen about how to make 5G radios, in particular, more sustainable. The pair largely agreed that when it comes to reducing power consumption of the radio, size and weight of the equipment are paramount.

“What really matters,” Timonen said, “is that you get the size and the weight down in the radio portfolio […] Size is driven by power consumption. Power consumption means pollution, meaning CO2 emissions.”

Hart agreed, adding that because operators are only going to be adding “more and more” network equipment, NXP has been looking to “drive integration” of its radio products. This, he said, will dramatically reduce the size of circuit boards. “In some of our latest products, we were able to reduce circuit board size by up to 50%, which of course helps shrink the size of the radio unit altogether, particularly in systems where you have to apply many different channels […] in a single radio box.”

He also spoke of the importance of driving integration, such as combining transmitting and receiving functionalities or even combining multiple transmit and receive channels in a single package form factor.

Timonen shared that, for its part, Nokia is looking to cut CO2 emissions by half by 2030 to “to make sure [the company] is in the right place for the future.”

Hart spoke of the Gallium Nitride (GaN) fab that NXP opened in Chandler, AZ last year to demonstrate how the company is answering the call for innovation in this space by investing in bringing more power efficient products to market at scale. In a previous conversation with RCR Wireless News, Hart explained that GaN enables more power at higher frequency than possible in the past with the same amount of power consumption.

“What that means is these more complicated 5G systems can be built with extended power and bandwidth to deliver these high-data-rate, low-latency signals,” he said last year.

At this week’s panel, Hart revealed that the products NXP will be creating in 2022 will address PA efficiency, as well as reduce the digital workload on the radio by up to 50% versus its 2021 products.

“As we look towards to tomorrow,” he said, “not only does PA [power amplifiers] efficiency need to improve […] but we also need to make sure we’re addressing power consumption in the digital box.”

Timonen’s assessment that PAs represent roughly 50% of the total power consumption of the base station, with 30% of that coming from the digital parts, supported Hart’s position.

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