Operators could achieve huge net energy consumption reduction by 2020

Mobile and fixed line operators could reduce network energy consumption by 90% and still support predicted traffic and bandwidth growth if they were to implement a clutch of technologies being researched by industry consortium GreenTouch.

The GreenTouch consortium of over 50 companies from across the mobile network ecosystem was formed three years with the ambitious goal of achieving a one thousand times increase in communications networks energy efficiency.

In an update release today, the group has claimed that its research has shown that net energy consumption can be reduced by 90% by 2020, while still taking into account traffic growth.

Members of the group have been investigating mobile technologies such as small cell deployment, infrastructure sharing, discontinuous transmission (during periods without traffic). In the core network the focus has been on dynamic allocation of resources according to traffic fluctuations, and there has also been work on power models for hardware and network equipment. In wireline networks Bit interleaved passive optical networking (Bi-PON) was highlighted.

Overall, GreenTouch said mobile access networks could benefit from a 1043x improvement in energy efficiency (the total traffic delivered to a user divided by total energy per user), wireline access by 449x improvement and core networks from a 95x improvement.

Future releases from GreenTouch will move onto assessing the energy efficiency potential of mass small cell deployments, smart algorithms for turning small cells on and off, separation of control and data planes and large scale antenna systems. In the core, further gains could be made through optimised content placement and caching.

Demonstrations of these key technologies have already taken place, or are expected to take place in 2014 and 2015, Thierry E. Klein, Chairman, Technical Committee of GreenTouch, said.

We also wanted to understand the relative impact of different ideas: which ideas have the biggest impact, which ones are more important and which ones less important.

Klein said that the consortium had run a research study for the past 6-9 months, looking at the 16 active projects within GreenTouch.

“We looked at all 16 active programmes, at all the architectures and components to understand the combined affect on the overall end to end architecture and what the bottom line on energy efficiency and consumption would be.

“We also wanted to understand the relative impact of different ideas: which ideas have the biggest impact, which ones are more important and which ones less important.”

For the mobile network, Klein highlighted the potential of large scale small cell deployments, where small cells are embededd in a macro cell with the macro providing the signalling and control plane and the small cell carrying user traffic only when required. That could save energy by not requiring energy for signalling support, but also by reducing the distance from the cell to the device.

“That’s a concept we expect to have a big impact on energy efficieny in future updates,” Klein said.

Klein is also an R&D leader for Alcatel-Lucent. interview with Klein here, You can read an where he expands on some of the energy efficiency technologies Alcatel-Lucent is exploring.