How Turkcell is reducing its network energy usage

What are some realistic ways that operators can increase the sustainability of their mobile networks, while reducing operational expenditures related to energy usage?

At the recent Telco Sustainability Forum virtual event (available on-demand here), Turkcell’s Director of Access Network Mustafa Karakoc provided an in-depth view of how the carrier is implementing changes in its network that are reducing its energy use and emissions.

Turkcell has more than 30,000 base stations across Turkey, and those base stations collectively consume around 900 gigawatt-hours (GWh) annually, Karakoc said—roughly the same amount of power consumption as a mid-sized city. It is also clear, he added, that across 3G, 4G and even 5G, “the power consumption of these technologies are increasing, and complexities are also increasing.”

The company has a stated goal of using 100% renewable energy sources by 2030 and to be carbon-neutral by 2050. Turkcell is focusing on a number of areas in order to combat support its goals of decreasing its carbon dioxide emissions and decreasing operational expenditures related to energy use. Those include:

A massive research and development effort. Karakoc said that Turkcell is placing a priority on R&D related to improving its operations across a variety of domains. The company has more than 850 R&D projects and more than a thousand researchers focused on sharpening its capabilities, including energy efficiency.

One such project, which took place last year, was Turkcell’s A++ project that focused on six different aspects of its network technologies, with numerous sub-studies that delved into details of operations across site equipment, the transport network, core network and various air-conditioning capabilities across the network. The changes that were implemented as a result of that project are saving the company about 63.2 million kilowatt-hours, or the equivalent of about 2,000 sites’ energy consumption per year, Karakoc said—which translates to about $12-15 million dollars in annual savings.

Focusing on green sites by deploying solar panels as complementary power for base stations, as part of a yearly deployment plan. Karakoc said that Turkcell is using this strategy to reduce its overall grid power consumption and has a “long roadmap” to increase such sites by about 5,000 sites per year.

Using solar plant-based energy. Turkcell has a three-year plan that will culminate in 2025 to have activated 300 megawatts of peak installed capacity, with 54 megawatts of capacity already active. Turkcell plans to eventually have more than half of its power sourced from solar plants. “This is really [a] very important step for us, to go on this journey for the zero-carbon and the renewable energy sources,” said Karakoc. “All these capabilities, that’s very critical for us.”

Implementing AI-driven energy saving technology. Turkcell has also been exploring the use of artificial intelligence-enabled energy saving software capabilities within its network, Karakoc said, and has deployed that capability to sites. At night, when traffic is “almost zero”, then the system will deactivate sites, but can also automatically reactive them as daytime usage resumes, he explained. He said that this is in use in Istanbul, where Turkcell has many base stations and turning some of them down during the night does not result in a loss of coverage. This is helping Turkcell to gain around 10% increased power efficiency, he said.

Turkcell also put together a project called AI-assisted Robust and Resilient Energy Saving, because of the critical need for resiliency in Turkcell’s network amid natural disasters. Working with Ericsson, Karakoc said that Turkcell focused on its power supply units and base station utilization, so that during the night, some power supply units are dynamically deactivated based on the number of subscribers being served; it resulted in energy savings of around 2% without changing any hardware, Karakoc said—an important factor when operators seek to reduce power consumption not only across new networks, but legacy infrastructure.

“Step by step, we are going to work for [a] more smarter and greener network, and this is our very important motivation for the features,” said Karakoc.

Check out the full session from Turkcell as part of the full Telco Sustainability Forum agenda on-demand, via this site.

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