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Huawei: ICT Energy Efficiency Top Priority

Increasing ICT energy efficiency is vital. Without it, digital transformation strategies will flounder. Not only will power consumption soar as carriers’ networks handle exponential growth in data volumes — driving energy bills ever higher — but international targets to reduce carbon emissions will be missed.

According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), ICT industry must reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 45% between 2020 and 2030 if it is to comply with the Paris Agreement, which has a goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°c above pre-industrial levels.

Given the urgency for industry action, Ryan Ding, President of Huawei’s Carrier Business Group, used his keynote presentation at Huawei Innovation Week — started July 18 under the umbrella theme of “Win-Win” — to shine the spotlight on green ICT and, in particular, how carriers can boost network energy efficiencies and reduce opex.

“We are currently at a critical juncture,” Ding said. “We need to increase energy efficiency so that we can transmit more information without driving a huge increase in energy consumption.”

Time for green ICT action

The scale of the challenge is enormous. Defining “energy efficiency” in an ICT context — measured by the amount of information transmitted over a single unit of energy — Ding emphasized that inaction on how to improve energy efficiency was not an option.

Citing third-party research, Ding noted that annual global data traffic volumes – fuelled by take-up of digital services – will reach 612 zettabytes by 2030 (a vaulting leap from 47 zettabytes in 2020).

“If energy efficiency improvements are not made,” Ding said, “the ICT industry’s energy consumption and carbon emissions will see between a twofold and threefold increase.” A sharp contrast, Ding pointedly added, to the ITU-set target of reducing ICT GHG emissions by 45% within that timeframe.

“As more and more industries go digital, the demand for data will rise sharply and energy consumption will skyrocket,” Ding said. “At the same time, the whole world is working to fight climate change. This means that ICT industry must achieve a carbon peak and, eventually, carbon neutrality.”

While innovation in green-energy alternatives to fossil fuels was encouraging, observed Ding, progress here is not generally expected to be fast enough to keep up with demand. This puts the onus firmly on ICT industry, he argued, in making existing infrastructure more energy efficient.

“Energy efficiency is currently our best tool for addressing this conflict between increasing energy consumption and green development,” stressed Ding. “It represents more than 40% of emissions abatement needed in the next decade.”

More Bits, Less Watts

To help realize much-needed ICT energy efficiencies, Ding highlighted Huawei’s Green Development Solution, which is specifically targeted at carriers. Designed to improve network energy efficiency, the Green Development Solution is split into three layers: green sites, green networks, and green operations.

Green sites are the bottom layer. “We have developed solutions to improve site energy efficiency by adopting a highly integrated design, using new materials, and moving main equipment and power supply units outdoors,” explained Ding.

Part of that “integrated design” allows OLT (optical line terminal) and OTN (optical transport network) cards, along with IP devices, to occupy the same chassis to support fiber access networks. The more compact arrangement takes up less space and reduces power consumption.

Streamlining and simplification of cell site deployments is another way to improve energy efficiencies. Using high-density modules, for example, Huawei has shown it can reduce the number of outdoor cabinets from three to one and still support four bands.

Occupying the middle layer of the Green Development Solution are green networks. “Our simplified network architecture makes forwarding faster and supports the construction of all-optical, simplified, and intelligent networks,” asserted Ding. Again, using the principle of more compact and simplified designs to increase energy efficiencies, Huawei has developed a combined OTN/OXC (optical cross-connect) device as part of its all-optical network.

The top layer, green operations, offers traffic control and analysis that generates (and implements) policies to optimize power consumption. Moreover, through the use of high-definition digital maps, energy efficiency is visualized and made more manageable.

With a view to provide a standardized industry measurement on network energy efficiency, Huawei proposed its NCI (Network Carbon Index) energy efficiency indicator system, which has been approved by ITU-T SG5 and is now in the process of public consultation.

Carbon “handprint” enables various industries by utilizing ICT tech

Ding drew attention to various business benefits already enjoyed by some European carriers from using Huawei’s green solutions – his presentation was after all entitled “Green ICT for New Value” – while at the same time fulfilling social responsibilities.

He referenced one carrier in Germany improving energy efficiency through self-optimization, while another in Spain has apparently managed to increase energy efficiency by 81% through adoption of Huawei’s OXC solution on its backbone network. Huawei’s green site solutions adopted by a carrier in Turkey is expected to save 19,000 kWh of electricity per site per year by replacing equipment rooms with cabinets, so eliminating the need for power-hungry air conditioners.

Although carriers benefit from energy efficiency improvements within their own infrastructure, green network innovation helps other industry verticals.

“Huawei and its operator partners are already working together to empower other industries to reduce their carbon footprints using industry-specific solutions,” Ding said. “Many success stories have already been seen in key industries like ports, coal mining, and steel.”

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