When I was recently asked what the power consumption of a typical cell site is I had general idea but decided to find out some more details and to set things into perspective. According to sources here and here, a typical 3 sector base station site with several LTE carriers on air draws anywhere between 2.5 to 10 kW of power. The main difference stems from whether the site is actively or passively cooled and how many carriers are used at the base station site. The higher number would also include sites with new 5G radios and activate antennas. So is this a lot or not?
Let’s look at this from two sides and extrapolate some numbers based on a power consumption of a cell site of 5 kW. 5 kW power consumption means that the base station site uses 120 kWh of energy per day. Sounds like a lot. So how much is that for the whole network?: 5 kW x 20.000 base station sites, a typical number for German network operators, comes out with a total RAN power requirement of around 100 MW. Sounds much but in practice, that is around 10% of the power output of a single large power station, so perhaps its not that much after all!?
Now lets go in the other direction. A single base station site serves around 800-1200 subscribers. 120 kWh of daily power consumption divided by 1200 subscribers means that the energy consumed by a base station per subscriber is 0,1 kWh per day. Compare that to the 60 kWh battery capacity of a single Tesla car. At 20 cents per kWh, the cost per day per subscriber is 2 cents or about €0,60 per month. This can be nicely compared to the power cost of the DSL, cable or fiber router at home that consume around 7 Watts of power which accumulates to 0,17 kWh per day, i.e. about twice as much as that base station spends per user. But, of course that router is shared by all people in the household. Nevertheless, it compares very nicely.
So to sum things up, 5 kW of power consumption of a base station sounds like a lot at first, but not such much on the other hand in terms of the number of required power plants needed or the amount of power spent per user.