If wireless networks transfer 1,000 times more data, does that mean they will use 1,000 times more energy? It probably would with the old 4G LTE wireless technologies\u2014 LTE doesn\u2019t have much of a sleep-standby. But with 5G, we might have a more energy-efficient option.\nMore customers want Earth-friendly options, and engineers are now working on how to achieve it \u2014\u00a0meaning 5G might introduce the first zero-carbon networks. It\u2019s not all certain, though.\n\n\u201cWhen the 4G technology for wireless communication was developed, not many people thought about how much energy is consumed in transmitting bits of information,\u201d says Emil Bj\u00f6rnson, associate professor of communication systems at Linkoping University, in an article on the school\u2019s website.\nStandby was never built into 4G, Bj\u00f6rnson explains. Reasons include overbuilding \u2014 the architects wanted to ensure connections didn\u2019t fail, so they just kept the power up. The downside to that redundancy was that almost the same amount of energy is used whether the system is transmitting data or not.\n\u201cWe now know that this is not necessary,\u201d Bj\u00f6rnson says. 5G networks don\u2019t use much power during periods of low traffic, and that reduces power consumption.\nBj\u00f6rnson says he knows how to make future-networks \u2014 those 5G networks that one day may become the enterprise broadband replacement \u2014 super efficient even when there is heavy use. Massive-MIMO (multiple-in, multiple-out) antennas are the answer, he says. That\u2019s hundreds of connected antennas taking advantage of multipath.\nI\u2019ve written before about some of Bj\u00f6rnson's Massive-MIMO ideas. He thinks Massive-MIMO will remove all capacity ceilings from wireless networks. However, he now adds calculations to his research that he claims prove that the Massive-MIMO antenna technology will also reduce power use. He and his group are actively promoting their academic theories in a paper (pdf).\n \nNokia's plan to reduce wireless networks' CO2 emissions\nBj\u00f6rnson's isn\u2019t the only 5G-aimed eco-concept out there. Nokia points out that it isn't just radios transmitting that use electricity. Cooling is actually the main electricity hog, says the telcommunications company, which is one of the world\u2019s principal manufacturers of mobile network equipment.\nNokia says the global energy cost of Radio Access Networks (RANs) in 2016 (the last year numbers were available), which includes base transceiver stations (BTSs) needed by mobile networks, was around $80 billion. That figure increases with more users coming on stream, something that\u2019s probable. Of the BTS\u2019s electricity use, about 90% \u201cconverts to waste heat,\u201d Harry Kuosa, a marketing executive, writes on Nokia\u2019s blog. And base station sites account for about 80% of a mobile network\u2019s entire energy use, Nokia expands on its website.\n\u201cA thousand-times more traffic that creates a thousand-times higher energy costs is unsustainable,\u201d Nokia says in its ebook on the subject, \u201cTurning the zero carbon vision into business opportunity,\u201d and it\u2019s why Nokia plans liquid-cooled 5G base stations among other things, including chip improvements. It says the liquid-cooling can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 80%.\nWill those ideas work?\nNot all agree power consumption can be reduced when implementing 5G, though. Gabriel Brown of Heavy Reading, quotes\u00a0in a tweet\u00a0a China Mobile executive as saying that 5G BTSs will use three times as much power as 4G LTE ones because the higher frequencies used in 5G mean one needs more BTS units to provide the same geographic coverage: For physics reasons, higher frequencies equals shorter range.\nIf, as is projected, 5G develops into the new enterprise broadband for the internet of things (IoT), along with associated private networks covering everything else, then these eco- and cost-important questions are going to be salient \u2014 and they need answers quickly.\u00a05G will soon be here, and Gartner estimates that 60% of organizations will adopt it.