MUNICH, Germany Industry organization VDE has demanded that telecommunication networks, in particular mobile networks, should be redesigned in order to achieve better energy efficiency. The multi-level approach targets network operators as well as system vendors and component vendors.
Information and communication technology is already accounting for a significant share of the world's energy consumption. Data centers, telecommunication networks and home multimedia devices use some 160 Gigawatt or 8 percent of the global electric energy. The energy demand from these consumers will grow twice as fast as the general demand and reach some 15 percent of the global electric energy production by 2020.
A study from German electric industry association VDE claims that the energy consumed by wireline and wireless communication networks however will climb much faster, driven by the rising infrastructure bandwidth: By 2020, the data networks will dissipate some 35 TWh, five times as much as today.
In particular wireless networks are driving energy consumption. 3G networks, for instance, consume five times more energy than 2G networks, explained Ingo Wolff, chairman of the VDE's Information Technology Group (ITG).
Within the networks, the base stations are the worst energy hogs, explained Wolff. Here, a big share of the energy is wasted in the power amplifier, the antenna and the antenna feed cables. For this reason, future base station generations should be equipped with more efficient circuitry; examples are Doherty amplifiers or Class S amplifiers which currently are developed in academic and industrial laboratories around the world.
But better amplifiers are not enough, says Hans-Joachim Grallert, managing director of the Heinrich Hertz Institute in Berlin. The institute, a part of the Fraunhofer network, focuses on RF and telecommunications engineering.
According to Grallert, future network system designers should pursuit a holistic approach which refers to all levels from component to system to network architecture. At the hardware level, photonic technologies could (and should) replace copper-based systems since they consume less power. And since they allow larger hauls, fiber-based wide area networks would redundantize power-consuming intermediate switches and repeaters. In addition, optical switches could further contribute to improving the power efficiency of the networks.
With respect to wireless network topology, hierarchically structured cellular networks which support the formation of ad-hoc and multi-hop subnets could help to reduce power consumption. Likewise, all software protocols used in wireless networks should be reworked for power optimization, Wolff suggested. In addition, the networks should be equipped with an intelligent resource management system that matches energy consumption to the workload. "Today, base stations work around the clock at an invariant power level", he said. "When at night the workload sinks, the power consumption is not dimmed. This should change." In order to achieve this goal, novel components are needed as well as intelligent algorithms.
In order to provide the impetus for a change, the VDE demands an interdisciplinary research program at the national level. At the EU level, there is already a research program in place aiming at similar goals. However, this program should be updated and modified to reflect the more recent research, Wolff said.
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