Migration to full fibre essential for truly sustainable networks

Five key areas in the telecom sector, including migration from legacy copper networks, need addressing if optimal energy efficiency in fixed networks is to be achieved, according to a new report from the World Broadband Association (WBBA).

The report, which was launched for the first time at BDC Shanghai, notes that fiber optic networks are the most energy-efficient of existing broadband technologies and says that by decommissioning legacy copper and coaxial infrastructure, operators can achieve significant energy consumption improvements.

“Improving energy efficiency is a core element of most modern environmental sustainability policies,” said co-author Alzbeta Fellenbaum, Principal Analyst, 5G and Broadband, Pricing and Strategy at Omdia. “It’s a strategy capable of minimizing the environmental impact associated with fixed broadband connectivity. It’s also a key component of a broader goal of achieving carbon neutrality and addressing environmental concerns.”

Alongside copper switch off, the industry must ensure network migration through simplified network architecture and new Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions, as well as creating energy-efficient facilities such as buildings and central offices. A focus on the energy efficiency of Customer Premises Equipment (CPE), and the adoption of unified efficiency measurement indicators and methodologies will also prove vital.

Network migration can also considerably reduce the need for server spaces and enable the decommissioning of entire buildings. Because less servers are required, cooling demands also drop significantly, with only a number of racks requiring air conditioning. As site facilities consume as much energy as the main equipment on a site, this will help service providers improve the efficiency of their cooling and power supply systems.

“The migration to full fiber is essential, but further network innovation is also required,” continued Fellenbaum. “Though connectivity demands have grown exponentially in the last twenty years, the telecom industry has kept these in check through technological advancements. For today’s networks, we need simplified network architecture because it has the least pass-through traffic and can reduce energy consumption. AI-powered solutions should also be introduced to optimize this further, as they can monitor and manage traffic changes, route paths, volumes and allocation policies.”

“CPE is currently responsible for over three quarters of the power consumption of fixed access networks, and this needs to be addressed,” said co-author James Zhou, Head of Huawei Europe Optical Standard. “By lowering targets for energy consumption per device and increasing the lifespan of products through future-proof technologies, overall energy consumption can be successfully brought down.”

A lack of standardized measurement indicators has also been identified as hampering the potential for unified action to reduce the industry’s environmental impact.

“With the publication of our toolkit, we hope the industry takes note of the available technologies and solutions that can help improve the energy efficiency of fixed broadband networks,” continued Zhou. “By identifying the key areas for improvement, stakeholders are now empowered to decide which direction to focus their attention and resources on their sustainability journey.”

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