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New report outlines how network technology must increase efficiency to meet rising energy demands

Posted August 20, 2013
UCSB report outlines how network technology must increase efficiency to meet rising energy demands

UCSB report outlines how network technology must increase efficiency to meet rising energy demands
Cisco estimates that an additional 19 billion devices will be connected to global networks, average broadband speeds will increase 4x, and Internet users will total 3.4 billion. This growth results in a 29 percent annual increase in network traffic with an increasing shift toward mobile users. Credit: Cisco

The collective power consumption of core networks is outpacing technological advancements in energy efficiency, putting a strain on growth in the IT and telecommunications industry—and potentially on global energy resources.

To address this problem, the Institute for Energy Efficiency at University of California, Santa Barbara, convened industry leaders at a technology roundtable earlier this year to identify the needed technological and architectural advancements in transmission, switching, and routing to develop next-generation energy efficient core networks.

The results of this two-day roundtable—which was attended by leaders from academia, government, and the telecommunications industry—were recently published in a report titled “ICT Core Networks: Towards a Scalable, Energy-Efficient Future.” The report is available to download at

“New solutions—from industry, research, and academia—are urgently needed to prevent energy consumption by core networks from becoming a runaway problem as we see exponential growth in energy demands,” said John Bowers, director of the Institute. The report recommends component-level and whole-network advancements to meet energy efficiency goals.

Roundtable discussions focused on the core, or backbone telecommunications networks and their related infrastructure, through which all data is relayed at high speeds from one end of the global network to the other. The group came up with a list of recommendations that are driven by various disciplines and industries with the common goal of staying ahead of a crisis in energy demand.

Telecommunications is currently estimated to consume about two percent of the world’s energy, from core networks to wireless access networks at the edge. It’s a fairly small percentage now, said Adel Saleh, professor of electrical and computer engineering at UC Santa Barbara, but the explosion in the demand for bandwidth as computer processing power continues to increase. As smartphones get smarter and the technology becomes accessible to more people, this will lead to a concurrent explosion in the demand for energy—one that may become unsustainable in the near future.

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