Top Tips for Greening Your Network

Top Tips for Greening Your Network

If you're a telecom, or you operate a big network, the network itself may heavily contribute to your energy bill and global warming. Yet most companies overlook network energy use when they look to green their IT operations.

Where's the best place to get advice on how to green a network? From the companies that run the largest networks, major telecoms. The Economist has an excellent article, How green is your network?, that details how the telecoms have been saving energy on their networks. Following are top tips from the article.

First, some eye-opening statistics. The article says that approximately half of a telecom's operating expenses goes toward electricity, according to Ericsson, a telecom-equipment manufacturer. And the European mobile phone Vodaphone says that 80% of its carbon footprint is attributable to its network.

One quick tip on how to save on energy use: turn down air conditioning, to reduce the energy consumption of base stations. Here's what the article has to say about that:
Many mobile operators now run base-stations at a standard temperature of 35ºC, rather than the previous norm of 25-30ºC. Studies show that the higher temperature does not reduce the equipment’s reliability or life expectancy. "The biggest restriction is actually our technicians, who do not like going into the hut to work at 35 degrees," says Andy MacLeod, Vodafone’s global networks director.
Here's an even simpler tip: Telecoms have painted the exterior of their base stations white in hot countries, which deflect the sun, and lessens the need for air conditioning. And some telecoms have turned off base stations completely when they are not busy. For example, urban areas typically have more base stations than is normally required --- the base stations are only needed during peak hours. So they can be turned off at night.

Telecoms are also pushing their providers to manufacture less power-hungry equipment. Verizon has already requested that. The article notes:
A poll carried out by Verizon found that most of its suppliers thought they would be able to reduce power consumption in new equipment by 10-15% without loss of performance. It has set a goal of 20% for equipment being installed from 2009, says Chuck Graff, Verizon’s director of network technology.
Telecoms are also switching to renewable power sources, which won't reduce their energy bills, but will reduce their carbon footprint. The article notes that the British telecom BT has set itself a goal of reducing its emissions by 80% by 2020 by moving to more efficient equipment, and purchasing electricity from low-carbon sources such as wind power.
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