Wednesday, 28 March 2012

GreenTouch makes fibre-to-the-home 30 times more energy efficient

image GreenTouch, the communications and IT industry consortium that has the aim of dramatically reducing the energy used in communications networks, has developed a new technology that will significantly reduce energy consumption in fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) networks.

Called Bit-Interleaved Passive Optical Network (Bi-PON), GreenTouch demonstrated the technology yesterday. The demonstration showed live video traffic flowing through two separate networks — a standard optical network and a Bi-PON-enabled one — both attached to a power meter that measured the energy consumption. The meters showed that using Bi-PON enables a power reduction of 30 times over traditional XGPON technology, even when XGPON is operating in sleep mode. Bi-PON also improves performance and reduces cost.

As GreenTouch points out, the access network is a significant contributor to the total power consumption of communications infrastructure, so it has been a priority for the organisation. FTTH is expected to nearly double over the next five years, reaching 142 million subscribers worldwide by 2016. Using Bi-PON instead of the current optical technology would have the carbon footprint impact of taking half a million cars off the roads

GreenTouch was set up a couple of years ago with the target of reducing communications energy consumption per user by a factor of 1000 from 2010 levels by 2015. It has already made some significant breakthroughs. Last year the organisation demonstrated an antenna system that offers the potential for significant wireless transmission energy savings. The Large-Scale Antenna System demonstration showed that a mobile mast antenna array comprising 100 elements would transmit only one percent of the energy transmitted by a single antenna for the same quality of service.


Well it’s great news for FTTH networks. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be much benefit to the UK, where Fibre-To-The-Cabinet (FTTC) is the best most can expect in BT’s current round of broadband upgrades (not even that if you’re anywhere off the beaten track – and 40 minutes from London seems to be too remote). The last I heard FTTH will reach no more than 25% of the population (if that).

Griping aside, GreenTouch does seem to be achieving dramatic power savings – although the target to reduce network energy consumption by a factor of 1000 is still someway off. But the organisation is apparently actively working on 25 projects and aims to have new demonstrations in the coming months that will help the consortium reach its goal.

By the way, if you want the technical detail of Bi-PON there’s more on Alcatel-Lucent’s web site.

© The Green IT Review

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