Alcatel Says Mobile Phone Energy Could Be Cut 97%

Alcatel-Lucent SA, the world’s biggest supplier of fixed-line phone networks, said it’s developed technology that can improve the energy efficiency of antennas in mobile phone wireless networks by a factor of 30.

Paris-based Alcatel’s Bell Labs unit has developed aerials and mathematic algorithms that focus the beam of a wireless signal on users rather than spreading it across an entire room, Gee Rittenhouse, head of research at the laboratory, said in telephone interview. That means users can receive the same signal as they do using 3 percent of the energy they do now.

The technology, demonstrated today in London, is being developed as part of GreenTouch, a consortium of 35 companies, universities and research groups worldwide that aim to create new components that improve the efficiency of communications equipment. It has the potential to cut energy use by the global telecoms industry by a gigawatt, or the equivalent of 1 million U.K. homes, Alcatel said in an e-mailed statement.

“While a factor of 30 is good, it’s not enough to reach our factor of 1,000 gain,” Rittenhouse said. “We’ve got a way to go. We also have to make progress in the other areas like wire line systems, and switching and routing.”

Consortium members include Dallas-based wireless carrier AT&T Inc. and Shenzen, China-based Huawei Technologies Co.

Cutting Power Use

The information and communications technology industry currently accounts for about 2 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, a proportion that may double over the next decade without efficiency advances, according to the GreenTouch website.

The group aims to demonstrate the 1,000-fold efficiency improvement is possible by 2015, rather than have actually achieved it by then, Rittenhouse said Jan. 28 in an embargoed interview.

Rittenhouse said the technology isn’t ready to be rolled out yet, and members may try to improve it further before proceeding to a consumer trial. When it is eventually put into use, individual mobile phones won’t need to be altered, though the aerials and algorithms used in transmission stations will need to be changed, he said. He didn’t have any cost estimates for the changes.

“You’d have to change the aerial itself because today’s aerials are not configured to use this,” Rittenhouse said. “The tower, the cable, everything else would remain the same.”

Rittenhouse also said there were no added health risks associated with focusing the energy beam on the cellphone user.

“Because we’ve lowered the energy and focused the beam, the user sees no change -- no change in quality, no change in performance,” Rittenhouse said. “From the user’s perspective it’s exactly the same signal, but from the transmitter’s perspective we’re able to do this at a much, much lower amount of power.”

GreenTouch’s members also include Beijing-based China Mobile Ltd. Swisscom AG in Bern, Switzerland, Seongnam, South Korea-based KT Corp., as well as the University of Cambridge in England and Columbia University in New York.