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Bell Labs-backed CO2 reduction plan to cost 'tens of millions'

12 января 2010

A new industry body launched on Monday aims to bring about a 1,000-fold reduction in the carbon emissions created by telecoms networks worldwide.

Green Touch, a consortium led by Alcatel-Lucent's Bell Labs and comprising 15 founder members from the operator community and research organisations, aims to be able to demonstrate new technology to bring about this aim within five years.

The initiative came about as a result of a series of meetings between Bell Labs researchers and scientists held last summer. Their brief was to work out what the minimum energy requirement is in order for today's communications networks to function.

"The minimum energy required to power the network is a factor of 10,000 times smaller than today's network [uses]," said Gee Rittenhouse, head of research at Bell Labs, at a London press conference.

In real terms, that means one day's worth of the energy required to power global networks at present could theoretically power networks for three years, with the right enabling technologies.

However, attempting to reduce emissions by a factor of 10,000 would not have been practical, so the company has selected a more realistic target.

But Bell Labs admits it "cannot do this alone," Rittenhouse said, hence the decision to bring in global partners and form Green Touch.

From the operator community the group includes AT&T, China Mobile, Portugal Telecom, Swisscom and Telefonica, plus a number of research, government and non-profit organisations.

The initiative will be particularly pertinent to mobile operators.

Much of the energy wastage in the industry "really comes from wireless," Rittenhouse noted, since broadcasting to a wide area means "99% of the energy is not utilised".

However, he declined to expand on what new technology could mean for the mobile space.

As yet there are no other network equipment makers involved, although Bell Labs insists that membership is open to anyone and it expects to welcome newcomers.

As it stands, details of the project are still vague.

"[With today's technologies] we can't improve [the situation]... but we know it's possible... We just don't know how yet," Rittenhouse said.

He explained that its short-term goals are to create a five-year roadmap and put together a reference architecture.

However, he side-stepped questions on funding, noting that government involvement from an early stage is key.

However, Alcatel-Lucent CEO Ben Verwaayen was more forthcoming.

"This is not about huge sums of money," he said, suggesting "tens of millions of whatever currency you want to think of," as a ballpark figure.

"[Alcatel-Lucent will be] proud to spend our fair share of that," he added.

Verwaayen also attempted to allay concerns that optimising equipment for energy consumption will come at the expense of performance and/or price.

"We are not going to live in an 'or/or' world. This will be 'and/and'... [and] we think it's do-able," he said.

"We will have products that are affordable," Verwaayen added.

There will naturally be a cost to operators in deploying new equipment, but it will all be backward compatible so it can be "folded in", he explained.

Источник: Total Telecom

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