Take a look at your mobile device. Other than worrying about battery life and data plan overages, have you ever thought about the energy efficiency [or lack thereof] of the network itself?
In our ever-increasingly connected world, many have come to rely on mobile data delivered by mobile-phone networks delivered to tablets, laptops, and smartphones. In 2012, mobile data power consumption exceeded 9.2TWh [terawatt-hours]. According to a paper submitted by researchers at University of Melbourne, “The Power of Wireless Cloud,” in just the next three years, that power consumption will increase to some 43TWh. In terms of carbon dioxide emissions, this is the equivalent of adding nearly 5 million vehicles to the road.
Data centers, where the data is stored and distributed, actually only comprise about 9% of that 9.2TWh from 2012. The other 8.4TWh is solely wireless data transfer. The problem is that wireless data transfer requires an impressive amount of power. GreenTouch, a consortium of 53 global telecommunications and research organizations, probably takes honors for perfect timing in its latest series of recommendations to improve the energy efficiency of global wireless transmission networks.
According to their calculations, even with increased wireless data, they can reduce consumption by about 1,000x. If current protocols would increase carbon emissions equivalent to putting five million vehicles on the road, GreenTouch’s recommendation could be the equivalent of taking [if my math is correct] something like 263 million vehicles off the road.