There is very little that we can do as a society to stop of the flood of mobile devices vying for wireless connections around the world. But what technology innovators CAN do is look for ways to minimize the environmental impact of the network infrastructure being deployed to support all those mobile phones, personal digital assistant and (now) tablets vying seeking to connect.
Enter Alcatel-Lucent, which has teamed up with Freescale and Hewlett-Packard to create a new, less power-hungry base station infrastructure technology called lightRadio. The architecture -- which will be available in trials starting in the second half of 2011 (notably in China) -- combines the multiple antennaes that currently support 2G, 3G and LTE systems, compressing them into a single multi-frequency, multi-standard Wideband Array Antennae.
There are a number of very green-techy reasons that lightRadio is pretty interesting:
- It uses about half the energy that current radio access network equipment uses. In the press release about the new technology, Alcatel-Lucent cites data estimating that base stations currently emit about 18 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
- The technology can be installed pretty much anywhere -- poles, buildings, anyplace there is power and a broadband connection
- Building on point No. 2, there are future innovations planned in terms of microwave backhaul and compression techniques that would make this infrastructure relevant in emerging markets where renewable energies (solar, wind, etc.) could be used as the source of power
This development dovetails with other Alcatel-Lucent and telecommunications initiatives seeking to make mobile networks much more energy-efficient. Here are some related articles:
- Tech pioneers test energy storage with solar-powered telco base station
- Verizon Wireless shores up green credentials
- Sprint CEO: Prioritizing greener wireless services, mobile gadgets
Realistically, it will be a long time before anyone picks their wireless network because it is greener than someone else's. But as the demands on these networks increase exponentially, so will the electricity consumption -- unless technologies like this one are embraced. If for no other reason, the wireless carriers will be scrambling to contain their exposure to electricity costs.