How much power does a cell tower consume?

Published on Aug 5, 2023

Today we have 4G across India and even 5G in some places. We can easily do video calls, stream live matches and a high chance that you might even be reading this article through such a network.

But what is it that makes this network work?

And how much power does this network consume (the kind of data we at Zodhya are usually fascinated by)?

Let’s talk about 4G because it is easy to understand (for us too with the public documentation available) and 5G has been rolled out to only selective regions in India.

Loosely speaking, you have towers that communicate the internet or data between two devices. The purpose of this blog is to know how much power such cell towers consume.

You usually have an Antenna which is rated at 20W. To provide output on the Antenna, you have a MacroeNodeB at the base station which communicates to your mobile via the Antenna. This is rated at 150W.

It would need another 50W to power the electronics that prepare the signal for transmission. Sometimes, the tower might require cooling/ heating (in cold countries) and there are inefficiencies in the power distribution grid (anywhere between 5–20%), which takes the overall power demand of each Transceiver (TRX) to 250–500W.

A typical 4G tower site would have 3 sectors, 2X2 MIMO (Multiple-Input Multiple-Output is a wireless technology that uses multiple transmitters and receivers to transfer more data at the same time) and 2 carriers. This takes the total transceivers to 3*2*2 = 12 TRXs.

So, the total power demand at the site is 12 TRXs*(250W-500W) = 3kW to 6kW. Let’s assume the average power demand for a site is 5kW

If the site works for 24 hrs in a day, it will end up consuming 120 kWh (5kW*24h).

There are about 740,000 towers in India as per the latest press release on 9th Dec 2022.

So the total power demand of the towers averaged would be 740,000*5kW = 3700 MW or 3.7 GW.

If all these towers run 24*7 a whole year, the power consumed by the cell towers would be(3.7 GW*24hrs/day*365 days) 32412 GWh or 32.41 TWh.

If it were a country, it would stand at 61st place just below Denmark in terms of energy consumption!

And it is about 2% of India’s annual energy consumption.

In India, for a typical telecom tower infrastructure, the energy costs contribute to 40–50% of the total operating costs.

It is also important to understand the kind of energy resources that is being used. As per an estimate by the National Institute of Urban Affairs, the sector annually consumes around 3 billion litres of diesel to power its network towers.

The government of India realizing this issue, has decided to green 200,000 towers.

Written by Zodhya

About Zodhya

We are Zodhya, a start-up that provides AI-based tech to reduce energy bills and lower emissions for commercial buildings and industries.