New Green Touch Consortium Wants to Make Mobile Networks 1000x More Efficient

green touch image

Image via Green Touch

Mobile networks coming together to be green and 1000 times more energy efficient? Well, that's the goal of Green Touch, anyway. Green Touch is launching today as a global consortium organized by Bell Labs. It is bringing together leaders in the industry, academia and governments, including AT&T;, CEA-LETI, China Mobile, Freescale Semiconductor, Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology and many others, with a goal of creating the technologies needed to improve the energy efficiency of communications networks by 1000 times.Essentially a think-tank of sorts for coming up with ways of reducing energy use, it will hopefully be a productive organization and not a PR move on the part of the industry, because the importance of acting on this issue is huge.

Reducing the power consumption of the communications networks worldwide by 1000 times, the consortium states, "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 currently takes to run them for a single day."

How did they come up with a 1000-fold improvement in efficiency? Bell Labs did an analysis of the fundamental properties of ICT networks and technologies, including optical, wireless, electronics, processing, routing, and architecture, and studyed their physical limits by applying established formulas. The conclusion is that today's information and communication technology (ICT) networks have the potential to be 10,000 times more efficient then they are today.

Similar to the requirement for bringing down the energy use and carbon footprint of data centers, making the communications industry more efficient has far-reaching impacts. Here are some quotes from members, which bring up excellent points about the meaning behind the project.

"Industry has to play a major role in the drive to increasing global energy efficiency. This is both a matter of environmental responsibility and competitiveness... This is a particularly crucial area of focus because of increasing usage of ICT and the Internet. The world-wide Green Touch consortium will open the way to generating major technological breakthroughs." said Christian Estrosi, Minister for Industry, France.

"Over the next decade billions more people will upload and share video, images and information over public and private networks as we communicate with each other in new, rich ways. We also expect ICT usage to dramatically increase as other industries use networks to reduce their own carbon footprints. This naturally leads to an exponential growth in ICT energy consumption which we, as an industry, have to jointly address. This consortium is unique in looking way beyond making incremental efficiency improvements and tapping into innovation and expertise from around the globe to achieve fundamental breakthroughs in ICT carbon emissions reduction," Gee Rittenhouse, vice president of research at Bell Labs and consortium lead.

The founding members of Green Touch include AT&T;, CEA-LETI, China Mobile, Freescale Semiconductor, imec, The French National Institution of Technology, Portugal Telecom, Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, The Research Laboratory for Electronics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Swisscom, The Wireless Systems Lab, Telefonica and The Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society at The University of Melbourne.

The first meeting will happen this February, but it will be awhile - over the next 5 years - before we see a reference network architecture or demonstrations of the major technologies needed to realize this ambitious goal.

The IT industry typically gets the attention when it comes to energy consumption, but the communications industry is a big part of the IT industry as well as having its own substantial footprint. It's great to see this sector focusing attention on reducing energy consumption. We're hoping the focus turns into action.

More on Energy Consumption of Internet Technology
Australian IT Industry Can Save 27M Carbon Tonnes
What is the Environmental Impact of the Internet?
Greenpeace Putting Pressure on IT Industry to Walk the Climate Saving Talk

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