In what is described as the world’s first deployment of the technology on a commercial basis for a 5G network, and as part of its stated ambition to go carbon neutral by the end of the year, Finnish mobile operator Elisa has made substantial emissions and energy reductions through the use of Nokia’s liquid cooling 5G AirScale base station system.
Approximately 90% of energy consumed by base stations is converted to waste heat, but with a heat re-use option, waste heat can be converted and repurposed. Liquid cooling permits the removal of air-conditioning and fans, promising further operator savings, potentially longer base station component life and silent sites. Moreover, liquid-cooled sites are silent, require zero maintenance, and can be 50% smaller and 30% lighter than standard active air-conditioning units. They offer operators and owners of base station sites significant savings and potentially longer base station component life.
The liquid-cooled technology was first tried and tested in December 2018, for a 3G and 4G base station, by Nokia, Elisa and power tech firm Efore. The three companies deployed a liquid-cooled base station system in an apartment building in Helsinki where heat emitted from the base station was redirected to heat the building, lowering energy costs.
The Nokia Bell Labs-developed liquid-cooled base station was made at Nokia’s Oulu facility in Finland, the liquid-cooled power system was developed by Efore, with Elisa deploying the base station in Helsinki. The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland evaluated the environmental impact of the liquid-cooled base station and energy usage compared with those generated by air cooling in the field.
In previously conducted customer trials with the solution, Nokia research facility Bell Labs measured a reduction of up to 80% in CO2 emissions and up to 30% in energy operating expenses, offering significant savings for operators and other owners of base station sites. Now, Elisa is said to have made such gains in a commercial deployment of a 5G base station.
“Elisa has set a clear target to be carbon neutral at the end of 2020. We also want to maintain our 5G leadership and continue to be among the top operators in the world to offer the wide benefits of this new technology to our customers,” said Sami Komulainen, executive vice-president of production at Elisa. “Innovations such as Nokia’s liquid cooling 5G base station demonstrate how 5G can help drive sustainability.”
As part of its commitment to sustainability, Nokia delivered zero-emission products to more than 150 customers worldwide in 2019, and is itself committed to decreasing emissions from its operations by 41% by 2030. It added that, on average, 46% less energy was used in the customer base station sites Nokia modernised in 2019, compared with those where its customers did not modernise.
“Our greatest contribution to overcoming the world’s sustainability challenges is through the solutions and technology we develop and provide,” said president of Nokia Mobile Networks, Tommi Uitto. “Nokia was first to introduce a liquid cooled base station with the 2G, 3G and 4G base stations with Elisa in Finland. Now we have demonstrated the world’s first liquid cooled AirScale 5G base station in commercial operations, making liquid cooling a reality for all network generations. This innovative solution supports operators in their quest to be more environmentally responsible while allowing them to achieve significant cost savings.”