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High Energy Demand Calls For High Energy Efficient Network Technologies

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downloadDeveloping a next-generation energy efficient core networks is the only solution to meeting the growing energy demand created as a result of current advances in technological developments.

This is the conclusion of a round-table event organized by the Institute for Energy Efficiency at University of California, Santa Barbara, where leading members from the academia, government and telecommunications industry discussed ways to maximize growth in the industry.

The report entitled “ICT Core Networks: Towards a Scalable Energy-Efficient Future” is a summary of the discussions held during the two-day event at the Institute. The main focus was put on finding ways to meet energy efficiency goals, without setting back developments in the field of IT and Telecommunications.

As pointed out by the experts, energy consumption has increased exponentially with the raising number of consumers taking advantage of telecommunication networks and the infrastructure associated with them. Adel Saleh, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the host University, stated that although currently only about 2% of the total energy consumption belongs to telecommunications, it is very likely that as technologies are becoming more user-friendly and accessible, the demand for energy might explode over night.

Existing networks are being loaded with technologies, which were not even in their development stage when these networks were constructed. This puts an enormous pressure on them, increasing the temperature, and therefore the need of cooling systems. It is true that latest technology is energy-saving oriented, however as the speed of transmission increases, the consumption ultimately raises too.

Commenting on the report, John Bowers, director of the Institute, pointed out an important field, which could be explored further. This is the one of optics, or more precisely, the photonics integration. As he explains, a single laser can now handle the communication at the current data rates of 10 Gbps, however he foresees that soon technology will demand transmission at much higher rates, calling for hundred of lasers to be integrated in a cost-effective and very reliable  photonic integrated circuit (PIC).

The report outlines other recommendations, which should be explored further. These include change in the entire core network, advance monitoring and advanced cooling systems. Interestingly, the conclusion is that innovations in the field will work much better, not only in terms of operational characteristics, but also economically speaking.  The first step, however, as pointed out by Rod Alferness, Dean of the UCSB College of Engineering and former Chief Scientist at Bell Labs, will be to improve existing core networks by including innovative engineering aspects.

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