Telco 2.0? GreenTouch targets 98% energy cut for future networks

Telco 2.0? GreenTouch targets 98% energy cut for future networks

GreenTouch consortium
The GreenTouch consortium says the technologies introduced this week could improve the energy efficiency of mobile-access networks by 10,000 times compared to 2010 levels.

Consider it mission accomplished, and then some.

Five years ago a consortium of telecommunications companies, led by Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Labs division, hatched a plan to dramatically reduce the power consumed by network technologies, particularly wireless equipment.

This week, the GreenTouch consortium unfurled a set of new technologies that could improve the energy efficiency of mobile-access networks by 10,000 times compared with 2010 levels.

Specific deliverables made available this week by GreenTouch include GWATT, basically an interactive guide explaining all the technologies that will matter, and a power modeling tool for assessing the impact of various wireless base station technologies.  

That’s far more than the group originally hoped, but what does it mean?

Here’s another metric to consider: By 2020, the net energy consumption of communications networks enabled with GreenTouch innovations could be reduced by 98 percent compared with 2010 levels.

That’s the equivalent of taking 5.8 million cars off the road, said Thierry Van Landegem, chairman of the GreenTouch executive board.

“Industry and academia can use [the tools] now to design and deploy more energy-efficient communications networks today and in the future,” Van Landegem said. “Our work will not only enable a more productive and sustainable future, but will also help many more people to connect with each other.”

Connecting the present to the future

GreenTouch’s research covers many things, including antenna design and architectures for minimizing the power consumption of data centers used for delivering video, photos, music and other large files.

One of its more significant breakthroughs is something called Cascaded Bit-Interleaved Passive Optical Network (Bi-PON). This advance is important because it makes existing fiber-to-the-home networks more efficient, which reduces overall consumption.   

The GreenTouch update comes at a timely juncture, as communications companies consider the next-generation of wireless — dubbed 5G — and more businesses embrace cloud computing services.

Right now, the power consumed by information and communications technologies accounts for about 1.97 percent of all global carbon emissions. Considering how quickly these technologies are proliferating globally — including as the foundation for smart cities — getting a handle on energy consumption is an urgent priority.

“We think a lot of these technologies will be of value in forthcoming 5G networks on the wireless side,” said Thierry Klein, chairman of the GreenTouch technical committee. “Some may be adopted earlier, dependent on the need for industry standardization.”

Klein added: “The GreenTouch portfolio will benefit the global service provider and telecom operators and by extension their customers, whether consumers or enterprise. They will be able to provide new applications and services, increased traffic volumes at much lower energy consumption, energy cost and carbon emissions.”