With much anticipation and fanfare, the GreenTouch Consortium demonstrated a
Large Scale Antenna System prototype at a major media event this week in
London. This new technology for use in wireless networks shows that GreenTouch
has taken a big step forward in achieving its goal of a 1000-fold improvement
in the energy efficiency of communication networks.
“The opportunities in green communication networks are infinite,” explained
Gee Rittenhouse, chair of GreenTouch. “Governments, corporations and consumers
around the world demand more environmentally sustainable technologies, it just
makes good business sense for the communications industry to head in that
direction, as well.”
The consortium chose wireless as its first area of focus because of the
“high potential for improvement it offers. A significant amount of energy is
wasted transmitting information over wireless networks,” said Rittenhouse.
In fact, of all the communication networks – access, core, wireline - the
biggest energy user is wireless. Wireless antennas, which are often
placed on tops of cell towers or buildings, inefficiently blast out signals to
smart phones, iPads, etc., in their respective cell segments. In
addition, wireless service providers are offering more services and that,
combined with a sharp increase in wireless subscribers, is putting a strain on
network capacity and leading to increased energy consumption.
The GreenTouch researchers pinpointed wireless transmission as the greatest
opportunity for improvement, and focused their first efforts on antennas.
GreenTouch - First-Year Accomplishments
With its sights set on taking communication networks to
the next level in sustainable communication technology leadership, the
consortium already has made a number of significant achievements in the first
year of its five-year journey:
> Large Scale Antenna Systems prototype,
demonstrated at the consortium’s February 1, 2011 press meeting in London,
manages and focuses the wireless signal to each end user in a cell site while
delivering the same quality of service while operating at a high level of
energy efficiency. This unique antenna technology for wireless networks is an
important step forward in delivering on the GreenTouch mission of improving
energy efficiency in communication networks by a factor of 1,000.
> Working teams, each focused on key technology
areas, are actively moving forward. The teams have built a pipeline of 8 active
research projects and another 17 under development, promising innovations in
areas such as access, optics, and routing.
> Doubled membership, attracting leading experts in
optical networking, wireless, network protocols, etc., from service providers,
industrial labs, and equipment vendors across four continents. More
than 100 members attended the GreenTouch meeting in Amsterdam in November,
providing a clear vote of confidence in the consortium and what it is trying to
Visit the GreenTouch Home Page.
Current antennas are inherently inefficient – they send out signals over a
wide area in order to provide service to customers in cell sites.
Researchers determined that by developing new unique antenna technologies – and
bringing energy efficiency into the equation - they could realize tremendous
energy savings. The goal was find a way to send information to - and receive
information from - an individual user using the minimum amount of energy – just
enough power to do that – and not to blast it across the entire cell sector.
The GreenTouch team recognized that accomplishing this would involve directing
the signal more intensively towards an individual user. This is a different
approach and wholly in line with the GreenTouch mission. However, to do
this is not a trivial thing.
Researchers had to conduct a range of experiments with the antenna arrays to
determine the individual antenna elements could be arranged and
“The GreenTouch approach is to specifically direct an antenna’s signals to
each communications device using unique antenna technologies, arranged and
tuned in new ways,” explained Greg Wright is part of the GreenTouch mobile
communications workgroup (comprising Bell Labs, Samsung, Freescale and Huawei)
that developed the system.
“Managing” the antennas in a unique way, by precisely focusing the signal,
is the “secret sauce” in the new GreenTouch technology.
In the antenna demonstration, current antenna technology was used for
comparison purposes alongside the prototype Large Scale Antenna System. The
GreenTouch team demonstrated that by increasing the number of antenna modules
and phasing the signals together, the energy required to transmit the signal
with the prototype Large Scale Antenna System is 16 times more efficient than
the current antenna technology. This new technology would focus signals to all
end users in a typical cell site resulting in the same 16 fold increase in
“This new prototype antenna system consumes a minimum amount of energy while
maintaining the same signal and quality of service,” said Wright. An added
benefit is that achieving this energy improvement in the antennas simplifies
the signal processing, and this leads to additional energy efficiencies.
What this means is that if this type of Large Scale Antenna System was
commercialized and deployed at one wireless base station, the estimated
potential energy savings would be 8,700 kilowatt hours per year. This alone is
a huge increase in efficiency. Considering that there are approximately 5
million wireless base stations around the world*, Large Scale Antenna Systems
could potentially save an estimated 43,500 gigawatt hours per year. With 6
million wireless base stations globally projected by 2015, the opportunity to
become more efficient and save energy is tremendous.
Watch the video: GreenTouch
Prototype Large Scale Antenna System demonstration.
Several GreenTouch members were present at the press event, including Claude
Monney Swisscom, the Swiss service provider, who shared an update of the
GreenTouch strategy and the technology areas of focus. Swisscom has
made the environment a key element of its commercial strategy and Monney is one
its foremost proponents. Swisscom is a founding member of GreenTouch.
Rod Tucker, director of the University of Melbourne’s Institute for a
Broadband-Enabled Society and founding member of GreenTouch, provided an
overview of the GreenTouch pipeline, including three projects under way.
“With each new member there is growing momentum and excitement,” said
Tucker. “Organizations from around the world are drawn to working
together in a coordinated and interdisciplinary way to solve real-world
sustainability problems that couldn’t be achieved otherwise.”
With a view to the future, the consortium has identified four areas of focus
where they believe they can achieve the greatest energy efficiencies: Wireless,
Routing and Switching, Wireline Access, and Core Network.
To address those areas, the consortium will continue to convene a series of
broad members’ meetings to facilitate the exchange of information and align the
efforts of members on both a research and operational level. Other activities
include adding an Open Forum during a members’ meeting that will provide the
general public with an opportunity to get insights into the cutting edge of
green technology through a series of presentations and seminars led by
GreenTouch members and industry experts.
Among the goals for 2011 will be the establishment of a common reference
architecture and development of a detailed research roadmap and key metrics to
2020. The consortium also plans to organize an international forum for
cooperation and exchange of ideas on energy research topics. And as always,
they will continue to add members. Demonstrate other technologies that
have been as research projects.
“As we continue to do research in green ICT, our aim is to do it with
excellence,” said Rittenhouse. “And translate that excellence into customer
value for the industry.”
*5 Million wireless base stations globally in 2010. 6 Million wireless
base stations globally projected by 2015 – ABI Infrastructure Report,