Paving the Way for Sustainable Networks

As technology rapidly advances, so does the very infrastructure that it is built on. In light of 5G’s recent rollout, ENABLE 6G has started research on the next generation of networks, with green energy usage being at the forefront of the project’s objectives. With the continuous addition of new devices to the network, which increases the requirements and energy consumed, ENABLE 6G promises improved capabilities, faster speeds and lower latencies compared while paving the path for a more sustainable network infrastructure. 

An important consideration in implementing new capabilities is the increased energy consumption of the network within the features developed by both research lines within ENABLE 6G: RISC-6G and MAP-6G. Although it may seem that sensing capabilities at base stations would require significant energy, ENABLE 6G is working to optimise the efficiency of this process. For example, instead of sending dedicated sensing signals, we aim to use existing data for sensing. This minimises the need for additional energy for data collection and processing.

It’s essential to understand how much data is required for machine learning to figure out what kind of storage and processing requirements will be necessary without adding unnecessary features. The data collected also helps to reduce energy consumption in other areas, such as improving the efficiency of the mobile network itself.

To enhance the reliability of the connection while minimising energy consumption, the ENABLE 6G research focuses on passive devices. These devices do not rely on power-intensive RF chains (1) found in base stations, but rather direct the signal towards the intended directions, improving the quality without requiring additional transmission power or energy-demanding components in the network. This approach not only ensures the desired quality of service but also saves a significant amount of energy in future network deployments.

Joerg Widmer, Principal Investigator in RISC-6G and Research Director at IMDEA Networks highlights the significance of energy-neutral or energy-reducing practices. He explains that although the machine learning algorithms are quite energy-demanding models, his team are exploring ways to decentralise the process, without focusing on a specific data centre.  

“We would like to understand if there is an opportunity to train these models in different places in the world that have more green energy. You can use green energy to train the models [where you] orchestrate the network using AI” to use sustainable sources with high energy supply. 

Optimising data processing and adopting techniques like Federated Learning and Edge Computing can significantly reduce energy consumption. By minimising processing and storage requirements, this optimisation not only saves costs but also promotes a more sustainable and eco-friendly approach to service delivery.

As the demand for connectivity has increased with the rise in new technology, there has also been a need for more energy-efficient solutions to be implemented. By adopting sustainable energy sources and optimising energy usage, ENABLE 6G aims to reduce the environmental footprint of wireless networks and pave the way for a more sustainable network infrastructure.

(1)RF stands for radio frequency network, consisting of wireless electromagnetic signals surpassing an area used by carriers as a mode of communication. RF internet networks use these signals to increase the reliability and access for all the users. What is RF Internet Connection and How Does it Work?