Ericsson and PowerLight Technologies conducted a proof-of-concept demonstration in which Powerlight used its free-space power-beaming technology to power an Ericsson 5G communications base station without a wired power connection, according to a statement from Ericsson. Powerlight, a U.S. manufacturer of laser products that deliver power by laser through free space and over optical fiber, and Ericsson, a Swedish manufacturer of radio access network (RAN) and other communications equipment, said that together, they achieved what they called the first safe, fully wireless-powered 5G base station. The companies conducted the demonstration in Seattle, but did not disclose when it took place, only saying it occurred recently.
The laser-based technology converts electricity into high-intensity light, which is then captured and transformed to electricity at the radio base station, Ericsson said. It said that no wires were connected to the site from the street power grid network and no on-site power generation was involved.
The base station site was without power until the beaming technology wirelessly powered it over the air through a laser beam, Ericsson said. “Wireless power was safely distributed to an Ericsson Streetmacro 6701 — a 5G millimeter-wave (mmWave) radio base station,” the statement reads. “It was achieved using PowerLight’s laser technology to transmit hundreds of watts over hundreds of meters through the air.”
Ericsson and PowerLight Technologies said that they view the milestone as a major step toward a goal, which is for subsequent generations of the solution to transmit kilowatts of energy over longer distances. They said that the achievement is part of a partnership between the two companies to explore and develop innovative 5G solutions aimed at enhancing the speed and flexibility of network deployment in diverse environments. They formed the partnership to address Ericsson’s pursuit of new technology to improve the deployment of RAN sites, according to the Ericsson statement.
Kevin Zvokel, head of networks for Ericsson North America, said that both PowerLight and Ericsson focus on innovation. He said that free-space power-beaming opens new possibilities for Ericsson and its customers.
“The ability to safely transfer power across distances without having to be connected to the power grid eliminates one of the big obstacles we have when building new cell sites,” Zvokel said. “The time-savings and flexibility gains will make this an attractive solution for our customers.”
Claes Olsson, executive chairman of PowerLight Technologies, said that most people are aware that wireless charging technology is available for small electronic devices, such as cell phones and watches. The free-space power-beaming demonstration, he said, used what he called the best innovative technology from PowerLight and Ericsson.
“It underscores the major leaps we have made recently toward the commercialization of safe, wireless power transmission for larger-scale systems.,” Olsson said. “PowerLight is developing systems today to transfer kilowatts of safe power over distances of kilometers that will be commercially available in the next few years.”
The demonstration also underlined the safety of the technology, in which the laser beam has a virtual shield or safety ring that automatically and temporarily shuts down power transmission before any living or inanimate object crosses its path, Ericsson said. When the safety ring is activated, the site’s back-up battery takes over until the beam is cleared, the company said. “Vital base stations use batteries for local energy provisioning to ensure highly reliable mobile services,” the statement reads.
Ericsson said that apart from rapid street radio roll-outs, wireless power could support uses such as provisional deployments during emergencies or time-specific densification demands such as music festivals and sport events.
“It could also support power-cable-free machines such as automated guided vehicles and drones, as well as devices like IoT-sensors and lamps,” Ericsson’s statement reads. “Communications service providers will also have the flexibility to position a base station without compromising communication needs in relation to where a power wire is located.”
The two companies are exploring the possibility of delivering safe wireless power-beaming capabilities to enable cleaner and more sustainable operations for mobile networks, Ericsson said. Ericsson said that it provides RAN site solutions worldwide that cater to various environments and uses.