GreenTouch, the global consortium dedicated to improving the energy efficiency of data and communications networks, has announced the findings of new research that shows the net energy consumption in overall networks could be reduced up to 90% by 2020.
GreenTouch was launched in early 2010 with the aim of delivering, by 2015, the architecture, specifications and roadmap — and demonstrate key components — needed to reduce communications energy consumption per user by a factor of 1000 from current levels. The consortium now comprises a group of 53 telecommunications vendors, service providers, universities and research organisations.
This latest research applied advanced modelling to better understand potential network operations in 2020, given 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 the technologies and architectures the consortium has identified that could be in use by 2020.
Key findings include:
Mobile networks are the most inefficient but also the fastest growing, in terms of data volume, so would gain the most from energy efficiency efforts.
Mobile networks could potentially realise energy efficiency improvements of up to 1043 times.
Fixed line networks are relatively energy-efficient, so improvements will be less significant and much harder to achieve. Nonetheless, energy efficiencies could create potential improvements in fixed access networks of 449 times and improvements in the core network of 95 times.
Some of the new technologies, architectures and protocols included in the 2020 modelling are 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
The study was conducted as part of GreenTouch’s Green Meter analysis, undertaken by the consortium to assess progress towards its goal. The findings will be made available to service providers for identifying technologies, architectures and protocols to improve network energy efficiency. There’s a web cast of the findings presentation here.
GreenTouch sees itself as a unique model for industry and academic collaboration. “It would be difficult—if not downright impossible—for this type of industry research and technology development to have been conducted by any single vendor or research entity,” said Thierry Van Landegem, chairman of GreenTouch. “We are proving that industry collaboration among all the stakeholders of the ICT value chain can and should drive understanding and innovation.”
Review: Well it’s very interesting and further establishes that GreenTouch’s targets can be met, but this is all about research, not about putting it into practice. It’s down to the consortium members to implement (or not) the research findings.
To be fair, GreenTouch has clearly demonstrated technologies that work. I’ve reported on a couple – see GreenTouch makes fibre-to-the-home 30 times more energy efficient and the demonstration that the radiated power consumption of a mobile mast could be significantly reduced as the number of antenna elements is increased.
But the real challenge is getting the results of all its research into use, not helped by the fact that not all of the industry is involved in GreenTouch. Noticeable by their absence from the consortium are Ericsson, Cisco Systems and Nokia Siemens Networks.
There is also my oft-quoted objection to several organisations developing standards and/or conducting research into similar aspects of ICT energy efficiency/reduction, in this case the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is working in similar areas. For example, the Broadband Commission for Digital Development was set up in 2010 by the ITU and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organisation (UNESCO) to look at ICT’s emissions, but is also putting its weight behind the view that ICT, supported by broadband communications, is an essential part of moving to a low-carbon economy. That might be a more practical approach until GreenTouch’s research finds it’s way to implementation.