Networks' energy use can be cut 20%

Net energy consumption in global communication networks can be reduced up to 90% by 2020, even as network traffic continues to rise, according to a new study by GreenTouch.

The report, released on Monday, details how drastic efficiency improvements can be delivered across the industry through the redesigning of communication networks.

The study aims to use modeling to better understand potential network operations in 2020, taking into account the dramatic increases anticipated in communications traffic over the next decade.

The research evaluated energy efficiencies in different types of networks, comparing those in 2010 with those incorporating technologies and architectures the consortium believes could be in use by 2020.

The report shows that mobile networks stand to benefit the most from energy efficiency efforts, given they are currently the most inefficient and yet the fastest-growing networks in terms of data volumes. It predicts that mobile networks could realize potential energy-efficiency improvements of up to 1,043 times.

There are benefits to be had in energy efficiencies in fixed-line and core networks too, but these would be less dramatic given they are already relatively energy efficient. Yet the report predicts that the adoption of best in class technologies and protocols could lead to a 449-fold improvement in efficiency in fixed-access networks and 95-fold improvement in the core networks.

The report has identified some of the new technologies, architectures and protocols - small cells-deployment in dense urban environments, infrastructure-sharing across operators, discontinuous transmissions during periods without traffic, dynamic allocation of resources and the GreenTouch-developed Bit Interleaved Passive Optical Network  (Bi-PON) protocol - which can help slash energy consumption.

“We are extremely proud of the progress we’ve made in our first three years, yet there is still much more we can do to improve efficiencies and effectively reinvent technologies in the name of environmental stewardship,” said Thierry Van Landegem, chairman of GreenTouch. “Reducing energy by 90% is conservative as we have many projects underway whose effects were not taken into account in that number.”

GreenTouch is a consortium consisting of 53 telecoms operators, vendors, and research bodies around the world, including China Mobile, Bell Labs, AT&T, France Telecom Orange, KT, Swisscom, Vodafone, Huawei and Samsung.

The study was conducted as part of GreenTouch’s Green Meter analysis to assess progress towards its goal. For the purpose of the report, energy efficiency is defined as the ratio of the useful traffic carried by a network and the total energy required to support that traffic over a year. Findings of the report will be made available to service providers for identifying technologies, architectures and protocols to improve network energy efficiency, the GreenTouch said.

The consortium added it will continue its work on network architectures and technologies to further the consortium’s progress. Reports will be issued through 2015, with the next update expected later this year.

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