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42 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 ENERGY EFFICIENCY New Technologies Promise Greener Networking Dramatic improvements in the efciency of communications networks are possible – and researchers have been collaborating to test new approaches. By Masha Zager / Broadband Communities M ost people think of the Internet as an energy saver because it moves bits and bytes instead of atoms and molecules. As music downloads replace trips to the record store and webinars replace face-to- face meetings, important aspects of home and work life are "dematerialized." However, even moving bits and bytes takes energy – and as network trafc grows, so does energy usage. Researchers from iMinds – Ghent University, a Belgian digital research and incubation center, estimated in 2014 that worldwide electricity usage by communications networks was increasing by 10 percent per year. Because today's technologies, even with improvements, can't reduce the growth rate to zero, the industry is on track to account for nearly 2 percent of worldwide carbon emissions in 2030, according to the Global e-Sustainability Initiative. So the energy efciency of networking equipment and operations is a cause for serious concern. Te biggest challenge, says Dr. Bart Lannoo of iMinds – Ghent University, is that today's telecom networks are built to accommodate peak demand, not actual average bandwidth consumption. Unlike electricity generating plants, which power up and down to match demand fuctuations, telecom equipment tends to stay on all the time. THE GREENTOUCH PROJECT In 2010, a group of industry, academic, government and nonproft researchers formed a consortium called GreenTouch, whose mission was to signifcantly reduce the carbon footprint of ICT devices, platforms and networks. Te driving force behind GreenTouch was Bell Labs, the research arm of Alcatel-Lucent (recently merged with Nokia), but more than 40 other organizations joined the consortium, including iMinds – Ghent University. GreenTouch set a specifc, very ambitious goal: to deliver, by 2015, the architecture, specifcations and technologies – and demonstrate key components – needed to increase network energy efciency by a factor of 1,000 compared with 2010 levels. It didn't aim to commercialize any technology; rather, it hoped to identify promising new avenues for the industry to pursue, to fundamentally rethink network technologies and to demonstrate a path to a sustainable Internet. Because of the limitations caused by building to peak demand, GreenTouch focused on fnding ways to run equipment at Telecom networks are built to accommodate peak, not average, demand; saving energy requires powering down unused equipment.