AMD has released a new report which found that sustainability goals are now materially affecting network architecture decisions. At a time when regional conflicts, economic uncertainty and supply chain challenges are front and center, telecom operators are reviewing their priorities at the intersection of 5G, open networks, and edge computing, underpinned by an increasing need to have a more environmentally friendly business model.

Already, operators are prioritising sustainability features when choosing infrastructure. 43% of the telecom network stakeholders surveyed said that power efficiency is the most important feature consideration when specifying edge servers, even ahead of security and trust credentials (37%), which came in second. The latest mobile networks are increasingly cloud-native, disaggregated, decentralized and open systems. As they begin to operate like modern cloud infrastructures, opportunities present themselves as networks can start to incorporate new advanced features and integrate edge computing capabilities which can materially impact sustainability outcomes and contain energy bills while setting the stage for 5G’s next chapter.

The first functional layer 5G operators can target for increased efficiency start with upgrading the central processing unit (CPUs). For user plane functions at the network edge, x86 servers are a natural choice, but deltas around energy efficiency performance have created an opportunity for disruption of the status quo. 66% of operators surveyed indicated that they would be willing to consider an alternative x86 platform versus an incumbent provider to support network core or edge workloads, and the top reasons they would consider a change are better performance and energy efficiency gains.

Aside from swapping out server architectures, several other areas of innovation are also expected to contribute to power efficiency goals. These include using alternative energy sources, datacenter innovations such as liquid cooling, specialized accelerators to improve performance per watt and radio access network features such as sleep mode.