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Cellular networks: "The goal is 10,000 times less power consumption"

Bell Labs and Alcatel Lucent want to reduce energy consumption in data and telecommunications by increasing efficiency by a factor of 10,000. As part of the Green Touch project, the company is initially aiming for a factor of 1000.

The ICT industry is already responsible for 2 percent of the CO2 emitted worldwide, which corresponds to the amount of CO2 released by 50 million cars. Traffic doubles every one to two years. So it would take a lot of effort not to let the energy consumption increase exponentially, but linearly. But how can you significantly reduce energy consumption in communication despite exponentially growing data traffic?

In order to answer this question, the engineers go to the lower limit of the theoretical power consumption, which is necessary for the transmission of 1 bit.

"So we didn't try to set ourselves goals as before, that is, about minus 20 percent, minus 50 percent by certain points in time, but we're going to the Shannon limit and trying to get closer to it," says Dr. Rainer Fechner, member of the board of directors of Alcatel-Lucent Germany and President of Bell Labs in Germany.

The result: Measured against today, the energy consumption in telecommunication and data communication can be reduced by a factor of 10 million to 10,000, depending on whether it is wired or wireless communication and where you start. "So there is still a lot of potential for saving energy in mobile communications and optical networks," says Dr. Rainer Fechner.

But Bell Labs do not want to reduce the energy consumption of cellular networks overnight by a factor of 10,000. According to Jeong Kim, President of Alcatel Lucent's Bell Labs, the scientists have set themselves the goal: to set their sights on a factor of 1000 over the next five years. "Until then, we at least want to know how this goal can be technically implemented."

According to Jeong Kim, Alcatel Lucent sees it as so urgent to reduce the energy consumption of communication systems and, in particular, of the mobile infrastructure that Alcatel Lucent has also brought competitors on board as part of the Green Touch initiative ( "We are making very good progress. Reaching a factor of 1000 in five years is realistic," said Jeong Kim at the 2010 Ball Labs Open Day.
At the Bell Labs Open Day 2010, the researchers also showed what can currently be done: Energy consumption can be halved within the limits set by the standards of the fourth generation of mobile communications.

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