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The Phasing Out of 3G Brings Promise for Energy Efficiency

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Todd Carney's picture
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Todd Carney is a graduate of Harvard Law School. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Public Communications. He writes on many different aspects of energy, in particular how it...

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  • Jan 11, 2022
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There have been many pieces on how 5G networks are expanding and the impact that 5G could have on the energy industry. One element that has not been discussed as much is how the expansion of 5G has led to the phasing out of 3G networks and what that could mean for energy.

Despite the contention around 5G networks, the world has moved towards expanding 5G. Beyond the better connectivity and faster speed, a major catalyst for this expansion is that 5G is more energy efficient than 3G. 5G’s comparative efficiency comes from the fact that its infrastructure is made to be more energy efficient and fix the issues in energy consumption with 3G and 4G.

In September of last year, Northeast China faced energy shortages. 3G networks were among the industries impacted by the shortage. Instances like China’s have fueled calls for the mobile industry to be more efficient. Speeding up the transition away from 3G seems like a great way to improve energy usage in mobile networks.

In the US, the major mobile carriers all have plans to shutdown 3G networks in 2022. The mobile carriers’ decision to shut down their 3G networks should serve as a boon to energy efficiency in mobile networks, but there are a few limitations. First, some nations, like Russia and Great Britain, are not shutting down their 3G networks until 2025 or later. Moreover, although 5G is preferable to 3G for energy usage, the more 5G gets integrated into everyday life, the more wireless users there will be longterm. So the world will continue to see more wireless users than ever before. This increase poses risks for energy efficiency and environmental protection.

The phasing out of 3G networks is a turning point for energy efficiency. But there are more hurdles to overcome that hopefully innovation in 5G can overcome.

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