Bell Labs launched an aggressive green campaign today, forming a consortium that aims to decrease the communication industry's energy use by a factor of 1,000. The initiative will entail demonstrating enablling technologies that ultimately require entirely new networks that focus on power efficiency from the ground up, according to Gee Rittenhouse, vice president of research at Bell Labs and consortium lead.
The Green Touch initiative includes members from academia, industrial labs, nonprofit and governments, as well as operators. Its goal is to demonstrate the enabling technologies that are needed to build such a network within five years. The consortium will produce basic research, but not build products.
“The ICT industry has enabled tremendous amount of economic growth,” noted Rittenhouse. But along with that growth comes increased carbon emissions as the networks grow and more people connect to them, consuming more data. “We know if we apply all of the things we are working on today, at best we can hold CO2 emissions flat for the next decade. That's not acceptable.”
Bell Labs research found that theoretically energy consumption could be decreased by a factor of 10,000. Building such networks will be incredibly complex, but the research facility believes that setting the goal to be a 1,000-fold reduction is still aiming extremely high but is an attainable goal. For comparison, a 1,000-fold reduction is roughly equivalent to being able to power the world's communications networks, including the Internet, for three years using the same amount of energy that it takes to run them for a single day. Another example is reducing the energy consumption by a factor of 1,000 is the equivalent of taking 40 million automobiles off the road. “This is not about tweaking base stations and routers. … This effort really pushes the boundaries.”
While Rittenouse said it was premature to start estimating a return on investment for building more energy-efficient networks, he said power consumption will continue to increase as an expense cost as energy costs increase and as networks consume more energy because more people are connected to the network. Further, most of an operator's energy use is in operating the network, not manufacturing network products.
The group's first meeting is set for February to set short-term goals for one-year deliverables as well as longer term goals. Funding for the consortium is expected to come from a variety of areas.
Founding members include:
Service Providers: AT&T, China Mobile, Portugal Telecom, Swisscom, Telefonica
Academic Research Labs: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Research Laboratory for Electronics (RLE), Stanford University's Wireless Systems Lab (WSL) and the University of Melbourne's Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society (IBES); Government and nonprofit research institutions: The CEA-LETI Applied Research Institute for Microelectronics (Grenoble, France), imec (Headquarters: Leuven, Belgium), and The French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA);
Industrial labs: Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs, Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) and Freescale Semiconductor.
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