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The User, the Present and the Future of Green Policies in the Wireless Industry (disponible en español)


Big Momentum for Environmental Policies in the Industry

Device manufacturers, Telecom equipment providers, International industry groups and Service providers are summing efforts towards consistent sustainability environment for the industry, “green” is becoming a recurrent color in the industry agenda. If we take into account that within the ICT sector wireless is a major consumer of energy, considered around 80% of the total consume, becomes obvious the need to implement more efficient energy consuming models and environmental friendly policies. Going deep in the wireless ecosystem the RAN can be “blamed” for almost 80% of the energy consumption; another aspect industry is accounted for, is the production of e-waste, directly linked to the progressive and continuous shrinking of usage cycles of wireless devices. At the core of the network we must consider the constant energy consume of communication links even when demand is low or inexistent, if we add energy consume of retail stores, datacenters and building infrastructure the opportunities for environmental policies improvement grows. Industry and academia are producing strategic and technical solutions to address several of these issues, like device package reduction, HetNets, CoopNets, Dynamic network management based on traffic demand and of course phone recycling programs. So, industry is doing their homework, now the question is, are you doing yours? Wireless is already a pervasive aspect of our lives, we depend on wireless devices for information, entertainment, work activities, and many other things and the tendency is growing, body sensor networks will introduce a new paradigm of human-wireless interaction, so undoubtedly the user has a place in environmental policies, I’ll try to outline that place in this post.

Ongoing Efforts from the Industry and Academia

These efforts can be divided in technical solutions and commercial strategic solutions:

Technical solutions:

And within technical solutions we have RAN and CORE solutions:


  • A compressive framework for green RAN solutions: 4 dimensions are proposed to frame the green approaches in the access network; DE-EE (Deployment Efficiency – Energy Efficiency) here the objective for the network operator is to balance the radiated power among the Base stations deployed to cover a region achieving good performance without wasting energy. SE-EE (Spectrum Efficiency – Energy Efficiency) here, the introduction of several layers in the access network, HetNets, can produce a reduction in the radiated power for a geographical zone,  BW-PW (Bandwidth –Power) by using advanced carrier aggregation techniques the performance of the network increase while reducing the power consumed and DL-PW (Delay-Power) where the academia is called to find conclusive evidence of relationship between the quality metric and the energy consumption.
  • Green Base Stations: Through the use of alternative energy sources and the elimination for fossil fuels.
  • Energy efficient Devices: Through the employment of more efficient radio processing in order to reduce battery depletion.
  • Cognitive Radio: Optimizing the opportunistic spectrum sharing without causing electromagnetic pollution that increases energy waste.
  • Temperature control: Optimizing the air conditioning systems at base station sites responsible for almost 48% of total consume.
  • Self-Organizing Networks: To improve network performance and resource usage while saving energy consumption.
  • Cooperative Networks: Several access technologies working on overlapped coverage of geographical regions cooperating to improve performance and saving energy.
  • Traffic load dynamic energy usage optimization: Intelligent switching off RAN resources during low demand.


  • ALR: Adaptive Link Rate for Ethernet interfaces reducing the energy consume during low activity.
  • Proxy capabilities: for CORE equipment allowing them to shut off most of their functions during low demand maintaining network presence through the Proxy capability.

Commercial solutions:

  • Recycling: Programs to promote the responsible disposal of Telco equipment and user devices.
  • Green Certification programs: These normally are awarded by international industry association and are becoming an important achievement and a recognition mark.
  • Social network presence: Service providers and manufacturers promote their green polices spreading environmental tips and making presence in social networks for some time now.
  • App development prizes: International associations are offering money prizes for developers willing to provide applications that promote environmental responsibility.
  • Package reduction: Industry associations, Service providers and manufacturers are committing to reduce the size of device packages, to offer electronic manual devices, eliminate the use of harmful material in the packaging and increase the usage of electronic user invoices.

Where Do We As Users Fit In?


Image courtesy of Paola Buelvas (

Next I propose three aspects that outline the place of the user in the green trend of the wireless industry:

1. Active interest to gain knowledge about responsible usage of wireless technology: The information as usual is there! In every social network you can find profiles of manufactures, service providers or associations displaying sustainability efforts, environmental tips and social environmental responsibility news; but all this info will do nothing if you, as user do not consume it, is a matter of responsibility, there are several options you can look for information in the websites of your service provider or favorite manufacturer, you can subscribe to green profiles that abound the network these days, to read and gain knowledge about green usage of your favorite devices.

        2. Become aware of your wireless usage habits:

  • Changing your smartphone is exciting, of course! But do you really need to change it that often? Do you really need to have every type of wireless device there is the market? Do you give some conscious though before buying your wireless devices, regarding redundancy of functions, energy consumption and the disposal of old devices that will be replaced?

  • Is almost impossible these days not to end up with a redundancy of social network feeds, emails and information in general, but do we really  need this redundancy? Can we consciously disable the radio of my Tablet while I’m working at my laptop? Can I disable the data service on my smartphone while using my Tablet? Or even further can I disconnect my home wireless router while I’m on a long trip? This may seem as very little but I think it can make a difference in energy consume if every day more and more people put it to use.

  • What is your disposal strategy of e-waste? Do you know where to take the devices, batteries and other leftovers of your day to day usage of wireless technology? How do you dispose the package of wireless devices? As a consumer you are the last link of the chain, the responsibility lies in you to not worsen the increasing production of waste.

  • Finally, what are your habits when charging your wireless devices? Do you pay attention to the message of you device asking you to unplug the power cords after charging? Do you let your device plugged to the outlet for longer periods of time even when not required?

3. Demand green products and environmental policies from your manufacturers and service providers: this requires a totally different approach from you as a consumer, because implies to add an item to the list when you consider the acquisition of a device or a service and above all prioritize it, but this is where we must aim at, we can influence the better practices in the industry by preferring environmental friendly products. This can be really hard in some regions, as a habitant of a Latin American country I must say that green awareness is rather scarce, hence the need to become exigent to our Service providers and to ourselves.

What’s Coming for the Industry

Because of the current efforts, there are some interesting options that might give the industry the edge to surpass sustainability targets.

  • For devices: the increase usage of sensor capabilities in portable wireless devices reduce the battery life, but industry is working to produce sensors capable of buffering longer amounts of raw data increasing the frequency of sensing duty cycles ergo enhancing the battery life of devices. Regarding the charger there are interesting options; like the wireless charger which can eliminate the power cord at the same time reducing the e-waste and the need of batteries that can harm the environment; in line with this trend, standardization bodies are working towards the proposal of a universal charger for electronic devices.
  • At the network: the most interesting aspects relay on the usage of Context Aware networks and social metrics integrated to physical layers of the access networks plus the addition of Smart Grids. Under this scenario a context aware network can identify the location, intention and environment of the user to dynamically disable the communication links to redundant devices, and at the same time social metrics like group membership, friendship bond level among others, can be intelligently analyzed by the network to select relaying links between devices or alternative access networks saving energy to both the network and the device at the same time improving the quality of experience for the user; finally adding this to a Smart Grids the total saving budget of the wireless network will improve significantly.

For more, follow me on Twitter: @jomaguo

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