GreenTouch says it can cut mobile net energy by 10,000x

| June 22, 2015

GreenTouch, the green telecom organisation founded by Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Labs, announced that its members and partners have developed ways to cut mobile infrastructure energy consumption by as much as 10,000 times, compared to today’s networks.

Five years after its foundation, GreenTouch unveiled a set of new tools, technologies, and architectures to improve the energy efficiency of communications networks. The consortium also announced research that will enable significant improvements in other areas of communications networks, including core networks and fixed (wired) residential and enterprise networks.  With these energy-efficiency improvements, the net energy consumption of communication networks could be reduced by 98% from 2010 to 2020 while accounting for significant traffic growth.  This savings is equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of 5.8 million cars.

“Five years ago Bell Labs had a vision. We realized that if communications networks continued to consume energy at the same rate, and the amount of data continued to grow the way we thought it would, energy consumption would make networks economically unsustainable.  So we made a decision to create an organization with a bold – and some argued unattainable – goal of reducing energy consumption by more than 1,000-fold that we called GreenTouch,” wrote Alcatel-Lucent CTO and president of Bell Labs Marcus Weldon in a corporate blog.

“To be blunt, it wasn’t about conserving rainforests or preventing the melting of the polar ice caps by reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions required to power networks, it was about simple techno-economics.  Somewhere between 10-40% of the operator operational expenses are due to energy costs and about 75% of those costs are network-related.  Since operational expenses often exceed capital expenses, this is a big deal already.  And it becomes prohibitive if 10X or 100X more capacity is required, as no matter how fast we innovate on the capacity side of the cost equation, if the energy side didn’t decrease by at least as much, the economics simply would not work.”So something this big required industrial-scale innovation and cooperation between all the key players – network operators, equipment and component vendors, and academic researchers.  It needed new thinking and a willingness to tackle complex challenges from different perspectives.  It also needed a long-term commitment to research that might not instantly become a product or provide an advantage to one party at the expense of another, but would instead lead to collective progress for the good of mankind.  So, in 2010 we formed GreenTouch as a cooperative consortium to solve an incredible challenge – to improve network energy efficiency by a factor of 1000 by the year 2020 and demonstrate the technologies required in 5 years.”

As part of the announcement, GreenTouch announced it is making two tools publicly available to any organizations and stakeholders interested in creating more efficient networks:

  • GWATT (http://gwatt.greentouch.org/): A web-based, interactive application that provides a complete view into the entire GreenTouch portfolio of technologies and the energy impact from an end to end viewpoint.
  • Flexible Power Model (www.imec.be/powermodel): An advanced power model and software tool that provides realistic power consumption values for a variety of current and future cellular base station types, configurations and scenarios. This tool provides a technology roadmap to industry stakeholders

In addition, members demonstrated key technologies contributing to the results, which include a number of previously unannounced GreenTouch innovations. Some of the major contributors to the findings include:

  • Beyond Cellular Green Generation (BCG2)—This architecture uses densely deployed small cells with intelligent sleep modes and completely separates the signaling and data functions in a cellular network to dramatically improve energy efficiency over current LTE networks.
  • Large-Scale Antenna System (LSAS)— This system replaces today’s cellular macro base stations with a large number of physically smaller, low-power and individually-controlled antennas delivering many user-selective data beams intended to maximize the energy efficiency of the system, taking into account the RF transmit power and the power consumption required for internal electronics and signal processing.
  • Distributed Energy-Efficient Clouds –This architecture introduces a new analytic optimization framework to minimize the power consumption of content distribution networks (the delivery of video, photo, music and other larger files – which constitutes over 90% of the traffic on core networks) resulting in a new architecture of distributed “mini clouds” closer to the end users instead of large data centers.
  • Green Transmission Technologies (GTT) – This set of technologies focuses on the optimal tradeoff between spectral efficiency and energy efficiency in wireless networks, optimizing different technologies, such as single user and multi-user MIMO, coordinated multi-point transmissions and interference alignment, for energy efficiency.
  • Cascaded Bit Interleaving Passive Optical Networks (CBI-PON) – This advancement extends the previously announced Bit Interleaving Passive Optical Network (BiPON) technology to a Cascaded Bi-PON architecture that allows any network node in the access, edge and metro networks to efficiently process only the portion of the traffic that is relevant to that node, thereby significantly reducing the total power consumption across the entire network.
“Today, together with nearly 50 partner companies we celebrated this remarkable accomplishment in New York City. The collective team presented projects and demonstrated technologies that together were capable of delivering energy efficiency improvements of up to 10,000x in mobile networks. The consortium also highlighted results that will enable significant improvements (>250x) in other areas of communications networks, including core networks and fixed (wired) residential and enterprise networks,” Weldon said.”As this research makes its way into real networks and real products there is the potential for a 98 percent reduction in the energy consumption of networks, even with a 89x increase in traffic.  Now that is enough to make a networks operations chief or CFO, ‘green’ with envy!”

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