GreenTouch identifies technology for greener, cleaner, more efficient networks

Research consortium says it has identified tech that could radically alter network energy consumption and efficiency. It launches two new tools to enable industry to identify potential investment priorities.

An industry consortium says it has identified technologies and architectures that could radically alter the energy consumption and efficiency of wireless and fixed networks. It has released two modelling tools that it hopes could help the industry prioritise investment into equipment and technology. The aim is to enable the next generation of wireless equipment to be designed and deployed with power consumption and efficiency at the forefront.

Two years ago The Mobile Network wrote about the work being done by the 50 strong industry research consortium – with strategic leadership from Bell Labs – called GreenTouch. As we reported then, GreenTouch was looking at technologies that might, if developed, deliver not just net energy consumption reductions of 90% in mobile networks, but also a 1043x improvement in energy efficiency (the total traffic delivered to a user divided by total energy per user).

GreenTouch is claiming that it has identified technologies and architectures that could, in combination, reduce energy consumption by 98% compared to 2010 levels – whilst still meeting predicted 2020 traffic demands

Today, in New York, five years after its foundation, the consortium presents what are, for now, its final findings. They seem quite remarkable. GreenTouch is claiming that it has identified technologies and architectures that could, in combination, reduce energy consumption by 98% compared to 2010 levels – whilst still meeting predicted 2020 traffic demands.

Even more remarkable, it says it has identified a 10,000x efficiency gain in energy consumption in the same period, given the optimal application of certain potential technologies and architectures. To illustrate some of its thinking, the body has launched a website tool called GWATT for Greentouch, to provide a visualisation of technologies and architectures targeted by GreenTouch. There is also a power model for wireless base stations, available at

GreenTouch GWATT

The GWATT energy consumption tool

In GWATT, by clicking on a network domain, users can see what the current technology trend is, and then apply GreenTouch’s settings, to see the different in energy consumption hotspots.

So for instance if you click on “Access & Metro” a sub menu offers you Dense Urban, Urban, Suburban and Rural scenario. By clicking on a scenario you can then apply a particular technology – say “Large Scale Antenna System” to the Dense Urban Scenario. The Calculator then shifts the efficiency and power consumption metrics, giving you a saving.

It’s a cool tool – the question is, do those involved really think we will see networks that operate at 10000 times current efficiency, or with a net energy consumption of 2% or current networks?

Well – here are the technologies identified by GreenTouch so far that it thinks can achieve real world results:

Beyond Cellular Green Generation (BCG2)—This architecture uses densely deployed small cells with intelligent sleep modes and separates the signaling and data functions in a cellular network

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

Distributed Energy-Efficient Clouds –This architecture introduces a new analytic optimization framework to minimize the power consumption of content distribution 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

power model greentouch imec

The Power Model

TMN spoke to Thierry van Landegam and Thierry Klein, who are Chairs of the Executive Board and of the Technical Committee respectively. We asked how “real” these technologies are, and how the two Thierry’s expected to see progress on the GreenTouch vision go forward.

Van Lanegem: “It’s a mix. For some we have demonstrations. There are nine booth [at the New York launch] with real demonstrations where we can see a prototype, and six other booths with posters of models of the technologies.”

Klein said that some technologies identified for better user experience and throughput also came with better energy consumption profiles or possibilities.

Klein added: “If you extrapolate the data and control plane, so that you have data plane only from the small cells within a HetNet, with control from the macro layer, then you can turn off the small cells completely when you don’t need them.

“If you look at large scale antennas, massive MIMO is seen as a key technology for 5G but mostly from a throughout perspective. But we also believe it has a great energy efficiency potential, as you can focus energy to where the user is an avoid interference. This efficient use of air interface resources means you can control how much power antennas should be using, and when and where they are transmitting to users.”

“GWATT gives us a model to investigate technologies independently using traffic and power validation methodology to understand the energy efficiency of different technologies and deployment models.”

Van Landegem: “We are a pre-competitive research forum. We have shown the potential and now it is up to the individual members and NEPS to see how the new technologies they use will be built and rolled out based on these technologies. In general, on the wireless side, a lot of these could go into 5G. It’s exactly the right timing, and energy is a KPI for 5G. GWATT can help guide that by giving information on the relevant potential of different technologies in combination, driving investment into where the greatest potential is.”

As for the future of GreenTouch, van Landegem said that is likely to be lead by guidance on projects from Bell Labs once more, with a decision or announcement later in the year.