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Telcos Go Green: Can Energy Standards Really Save the Earth?

By: Becky Bracken

For the purpose of this discussion, let's agree that humans—and their industries—have a harmful effect on the environment. Al Gore’s cherry picker and your reusable grocery bags aside, networks and CSPs are arguably in the best position to lessen mankind’s negative impact on the environment by the sheer size and energy requirements of their operations and the ubiquitous nature of the services they provide. 

“From a service-offering perspective, sustainable telecoms providers can reduce customers’ business travel and energy consumption through solutions such as video conferencing, cloud computing and smart metering,” says Emily Hobbs of Verdantix, an analyst firm focused on issues surrounding the environment, energy and sustainability. “Internally, telecoms firms have the opportunity to reduce waste, reduce energy consumption, improve the sustainability of their equipment, and improve the carbon intensity of their networks. Both AT&T and Verizon have network carbon-intensity reduction targets.” 

Workers who telecommute and make use of video conferencing have undoubtedly benefited the environment, not to mention transformed how people live and work. But it's the reduction of energy consumption and the carbon footprint that offer an interesting opportunity—and payoff. 

At the end of July the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers formally adopted standards regarding energy management. The first, SCTE 184, establishes recommended practices for energy management, while the second, SCTE 186, defines common environmental and sustainability requirements for equipment within such facilities. 


Other standards have previously been available in the telecommunications and IT industries, but the new SCTE standards are the first for cable concerning headends, hubs and other cable-specific facilities. Dan Cooper, vice president of critical infrastructure for Time Warner Cable and chairman of the SCTE’s Sustainability Management Subcommittee, says cable operators have an interest in both containing energy costs and managing energy consumption.

“Optimizing existing energy resources is essential to ensuring the availability and cost-effectiveness of cable service offerings,” Cooper says. “By establishing standards that can reduce consumption in critical facilities, we’re laying the foundation for real, immediate returns for the industry as well as more comprehensive energy approaches in the near future.”

In Europe EARTH, or Energy Aware Radio and Network Technologies, a research project funded by the EU, evaluated and provided a framework to reduce mobile networks’ energy consumption by 70 percent. 

The EARTH consortium, made up of the heaviest of hitters in the market, includes 15 leading service providers, component and infrastructure vendors and academic institutions, whose goal is to achieve a 50 percent reduction in the energy consumption of 4th Generation (4G) mobile wireless communications networks while allowing for the current explosion in mobile data traffic, which is projected to double every year. 



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