Digital Agenda: EU research breakthrough will cut 4G / LTE mobile network energy use in half
In coming years, internet access will be dominated by wireless devices such as mobile phones and tablets. Today there are 1.2 billion mobile broadband users, and the figure is growing by hundreds of millions each year. Mobile video and other data services consume much more energy than calls and SMS. This creates additional costs for mobile operators – ultimately passed onto consumers – and means the carbon footprint of mobile communications could almost triple from 2007 to 2020, an increase equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of Luxembourg.
The EU-funded project EARTH has received the 2012 "Future Internet Award" prize for developing unprecedented energy efficiency solutions for wireless communication networks. Researchers from companies such as Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Telecom Italia, DOCOMO, and from universities in Belgium, France, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and UK, have optimised the energy use of 4G/LTE (Long-Term Evolution) base stations, which account for the highest energy consumption in the mobile network.
European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes said: "The ICT sector is growing but its carbon footprint should not follow. I congratulate the partners of the EARTH project who have found ways to deliver the services we need while reducing CO2 emissions and cutting down on energy bills."
Optimising the energy use of the network will gradually bring down electricity bills for operators and help keep mobile costs affordable, while reducing pollution and carbon emissions. By reducing the power required to operate each mobile base station, it is also expected that these stations could in future be operated reliably by renewable energy, further reducing emissions.
The EARTH project runs until June 2012. Products are expected to be available on the market in 2014. Industrial and SME partners have already started to transfer their results into real products for the multi-billion euro global market for 4G products.
The project received €10 million of its nearly €15 million from the EU. The Digital Agenda for Europe (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200) uses funding from the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Development (FP7) to support innovative ICT solutions.
The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector has been estimated to represent about 2% of global CO2 emissions. Digital Agenda actions are incorporated in the Europe 2020 energy and climate change targets involving a 20% cut in greenhouse gases and primary energy consumption respectively, plus another 20% increase in the use of renewable energy. Industry is showing efforts to cut down on emissions and increase the ICT sector's energy efficiency by setting up strategic priorities and standards.
Project members are:
- Alcatel-Lucent (Project Coordinator), Stuttgart, Germany
- Ericsson (Technical Manager), Stockholm, Sweden
- NXP Semiconductors, Caen, France
- DOCOMO Euro Labs GmbH, Munich, Germany
- Telecom Italia S.p.A., Torino, Italy
- CEA, University of Surrey, UK
- Technische Universität Dresden, Germany
- IMEC, Leuven, Belgium
- IST- Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal
- University of Oulu, Finland
- Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Hungary
- TTI Norte, Santander, Spain
- ETSI, Sophia Antipolis Technology Park, near Nice, France.
LTE technology (Long-Term Evolution), otherwise known as 4G technology, is the mobile broadband networks standard; already being deployed across Europe, it offers mobile connection speeds of up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps) at peak rate. What is more, statistics have shown wireless mobile traffic will exceed traffic from fixed networks by 2015, while growing ten-fold over the next five years.
There are more than five million base station sites worldwide, a number expected to grow to more than 11 million base stations sites worldwide by 2020.