According to a new study by ABI Research, mobile operators will soon have to come to grips with a tough reality when the conflicting needs of electric power reduction and mobile broadband network deployments collide. Electricity is one of the top three network operating expenses for carriers and should be at the core of their technology choices for mobile broadband. Carriers are committing substantial investments into rolling out their 3G networks, and will continue to do so as these networks evolve toward 4G over the coming years.


However, ABI findings indicate that cellular technologies used in isolation might not be the best way for maximize profit margins. Given the power thirsty tendencies of some technologies, WiMAX or Metropolitan Wi-Fi could be the solution that many carriers are looking for.

Principal analyst Stuart Carlaw explains: "As soon as data consumption reaches between two and three times today's levels, a tipping point is reached, at which cell shrinkage and capacity degradation for WCDMA and CDMA2000 networks mean that carriers will need to install extra network elements that support the subscriber base, at considerable expense." He adds that "More importantly, the power consumption required to support these upgrades will destroy any potential benefit carriers see from data revenues."

The study found that from a conceptual perspective — such mixed networks are still in their infancy — the best way to support mobile broadband will be to integrate current cellular offerings with targeted WiMAX and Metro Wi-Fi deployments in dense high traffic areas.

Such mixed networks could deliver significant savings. ABI Research forecasts that in terms of power consumption OPEX, by 2011 the cost of delivering wireless services to WCDMA customers will be near $14 per annum, while Metro Wi-Fi will be as low as just over $1.

Some wireless operators are already laying the groundwork for these developments. Sprint has nominated WiMAX as its 4G technology of choice, while T-Mobile is moving toward integration of its Wi-Fi hotspot and cellular networks. Others, such as Vodafone, with businesses based solely on cellular, may find themselves at a real disadvantage unless they act fast to consider other technologies.

The new ABI Research study, "Energy Efficiency Analysis for Mobile Broadband Networks," provides a theoretical and real-world analysis of the relative costs of deploying WCDMA, HSDPA, CDMA2000 1XRTT, EVDO, WiMAX and Municipal Wi-Fi. It offers strategic recommendations to the industry as to the best ways of combating rising power consumption costs, and forms part of three ABI Research Services: Mobile Broadband, Mobile Devices and Wireless Infrastructure.

Founded in 1990 and headquartered in New York, ABI Research maintains global operations supporting annual research programs, intelligence services, and market reports in broadband and multimedia, RFID and M2M, wireless connectivity, mobile wireless, transportation, and emerging technologies. For information, visit, or call +1.516.624.2500.