AT&T will roll out network technology to help 5G battery life | Light reading

5G devices have long suffered from relatively poor battery life compared to 4G and 3G gadgets.

The situation was important enough for iPhone maker Apple to install a setting within its iOS operating system that allows users to funnel their traffic from 5G to preserve phone battery life.

iPhone screen

iPhone screen

More recently, network monitoring firm Ookla released new data showing the effects of 5G on phone batteries. “Using 5G drains smartphone battery faster than 4G-LTE,” the company wrote. “Data from Ookla Speedtest Intelligence shows that smartphone users accessing 5G networks experience higher battery drain than those using 4G-LTE, between 6 and 11 percent, depending on the System on Chip (SoC ) in their device.”

The company reported that Qualcomm’s latest flagship SoC, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, managed to consume the least amount of power among the tested SoCs. Ookla reportedly tested phones with chips from Qualcomm, MediaTek, Samsung and Google.

Click here for a larger version of this image.  (Source: Ookla)

Click here for a larger version of this image.
(Source: Ookla)

Networks to the rescue

Naturally, phone manufacturers primarily monitor the performance of the batteries in their gadgets. But Sebastian Barros, a senior executive at wireless equipment maker Ericsson, said there are technologies within wireless networks themselves that can help improve 5G battery life.

“Your battery drains faster with 5G, but the industry is working to fix this,” he wrote in a recent LinkedIn post. He specifically listed several new network technologies including RRC_INACTIVE State, DRX+WUS, and Maximum MIMO Layers Reduction as being able to reduce the strain 5G can place on a phone’s battery.

Light Reading reached out to officials at AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, the major 5G network operators in the US, to see if they were working on the issue.

“From long-term industry standardization advances to ongoing network optimizations, AT&T is working with our ecosystem partners to provide the best user experience for our customers,” wrote Jason Sikes, a senior AT&T network executive, in response to Light Reading questions.

Sikes said that “in the coming months” AT&T will introduce two technologies designed to improve the battery life of its customers’ phones. Sikes said Bandwidth Part Switching is a new 3GPP feature that may allow AT&T’s network to modulate its connections to deliver speed when needed and reduce and preserve battery life when possible. Another technology User Equipment Assistance Information (UAI) promises to allow “the device to inform the network of its preferred connection parameters (for example, MIMO levels, number of component carriers, RRC status, etc.) depending on the activities what’s running, thermal and current consumption of the device,” according to Sikes.

He said other technologies under consideration at AT&T include RRC_Inactive mode, Wake Up Signal (WUS), thermal management and 5G reduced capacity (RedCap), which he said could help with customers’ battery life.

T-Mobile and Verizon officials did not respond to Light Reading’s questions on the matter or offer any insight into their plans.

Heat and power

Finally, a new report from Signals Research Group analysts offers a look at the relationship between network speed, battery life, and device overheating.

“Yes, using 5G can drain your battery, but that usually happens after consuming a lot of data. When you equate data speeds, data usage, and battery life, the real result is that higher data speeds translate almost always in better current efficiency, or the data rate achieved compared to the associated battery consumption required to achieve that rate,” the company wrote in a new report.

Specifically, the analysts tested the speed, battery life and thermal performance of several unnamed 5G phones connected to millimeter wave (mmWave) networks. Such networks are typically only available in downtown areas or within airports and sports stadiums, but can support blazingly fast speeds. mmWave connections have long been proven to overheat phones.

“Although 5G mmWave phones tend to get hotter faster… the resulting higher data rate more than offset the rate of temperature rise,” the company wrote of its tests. He added that some phones got hotter than others, which he potentially attributed to the position of the 5G modem relative to the temperature sensors near the battery.

SRG summarized: “The point… is that the faster temperature increase also corresponded to much higher data rates, meaning that when you downloaded a fixed amount of data, the absolute temperature increase was almost always lower when the smartphone was downloading at a faster rate. This statement is true even though the smartphones also experienced a faster temperature rise when downloading at faster speeds.”

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Mike Dano, editorial director, 5G and mobile strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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