Is WCDMA/UMTS environmentally unfriendly?

, posted: 20-Jan-2007 17:14

When people think about negative aspects around mobile phones, it's usually radiation fears that pop up in their minds. So far, there's no conclusive evidence that radiation from mobile devices causes for instance tumours or damages tissue otherwise. However, could mobile technology cause grief indirectly? A recent report by ABI Research suggests 3G mobile technologies used today are wasteful with electricity, using many times more energy than competing methods require to achieve the same throughput.

According to the study, the worst in terms of energy efficiency happens to be the most popular one too, namely WCDMA or UMTS:

From a pure coverage perspective WiMAX is twice as energy-cost-effective and metro Wi-Fi is 50 times more energy-cost-effective than WCDMA. When data traffic is factored into the equation, WiMAX can accommodate 11 times today's average data consumption and still be more energy-cost-efficient compared to WCDMA or HSDPA.
Putting that into perspective, ABI Research reckons that mobile broadband sucked up almost 43 billion kilowatt hours in 2005. That amount is estimated to treble in 2011, with the Asia-Pacific accounting for most of the energy consumption increase.

Intel must feel chuffed that WiMAX and WiFi are that much more energy-efficient than UMTS. The ABI Research report looks at CDMA2000/EV-DO as well, but it costs US$4,200 unfortunately to read in full so I can't tell how that competing 3G technology fares in comparison.

The report doesn't actually consider the environmental angle, focusing instead on lowered energy consumption as a way to reduce carriers' operating expenditure. All that power usage means it's now one of the top three expenditure items for operators.

Other related posts:
TDD vs FDD for LTE
Huawei TDD LTE demo aboard the Shanghai MagLev train
Apropos that new Telecom logo

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