Austria allows telcos to turn off 5G frequencies at night  


The move is aimed at increasing the telcos’ energy efficiency 

The Austrian Regulatory Authority for Broadcasting and Telecommunications (RTR) has announced the completion of its latest 5G spectrum auction, raising a total of €137.7 million. 

The auction saw seven blocks of frequencies awarded in the 26 GHz band and another seven in the 3.6 GHz band.  

The 26 GHz frequency proceeds totalled €16.2 million, with A1 Telekom, T-Mobile, and Hutchison (Drei) acquired 2 blocks for €4.6 million, 2 blocks for €4.6 million, and 3 blocks for €6.9 million, respectively.  

The operators can use the frequencies until the end of December 2046. 

“The 26 GHz band is characterized by very high bandwidths, but has a very limited range for mobile phone use,” said RTR in a press release. “Frequencies in this spectrum are therefore particularly suitable for (temporary) coverage of areas with high user density and therefore very high-capacity requirements (hot spots), but not for wide spread use. Another area of application is industrial use and campus networks.” 

The 3.6 GHz spectrum up for grabs, meanwhile, was left over from an initial band allocation back in 2019 and related to regions of the country in which the spectrum previously went unsold. In this band, seven regional licences were sold to A1 Telekom and T-Mobile, with the former acquiring four licences for roughly €2.6 million and the latter acquiring three licences for around €5.9 million. 

These licences are viable until the end of 2039. 

Perhaps most interesting within this announcement, however, is the regulator allowing the operators to turn off these frequencies at night. 

For the first time, in connection with coverage requirements, the regulatory authority is allowing these frequencies to be switched off between 00:00 a.m. and 05:00 a.m., provided there is no reduction in performance compared to daytime operations.”  

Although no other information was provided, this move is a clearly aimed at saving energy, with the radio access network (RAN) accounting for a large portion of the operators’ energy consumption.  

With reduced demand for mobile services at night, it makes sense that operators should be allowed to turn off the more energy-intensive parts of their network that are going unused – though identifying suitable areas for service reduction in real time remains a challenge. Operators have been trying to control their RAN’s energy consumption dynamically for years, with recent developments in Advanced Sleep Mode tech gradually making this far more attainable.  

Until this technology matures and is widely deployed throughout operator networks, the simpler approach of turning off energy-hungry spectrum during periods of lowest usage seems like a reasonable way to reduce the operators carbon footprint as well as their energy bill.  

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