Cradle to Cradle: The Greening of Telecom

This guest blog post was written by a colleague of mine, Debbie Greenstreet, marketing manager for TI's wireless infrastructure business.  I thought this was a timely post on a topic I've heard a lot about lately -- the greening of telecom.

Are we on the cusp of a green revolution? Going green is not a new concept, although it is not a practice that has been fully embraced either. There is palpable fervor in the venture capital sector with all of the stimulus funding dedicated to creating green technology. In fact, the green movement is mature enough now that we're beginning to debate where we invest our resources. Is it in future technologies or is what we can do in the here and now? Several years back, we were focusing on the next 20 years as opposed to what we can do in the present. There was a really interesting debate about this in earth2tech last week. Renewable energy is certainly a hot topic, but so is green telecom: Nokia Siemens Networks just announced the launch of green wireless base stations and related services, and Verizon is opening its first commercial store to seek LEED certification.
There is an interesting emerging angle to the green movement known as the cradle to cradle concept. The concept is that all products exist in a never ending cycle -- "birth to rebirth" not "birth to death" -- and waste is minimized or eliminated at every step. I recently learned how Texas Instruments is participating in this cycle. On the "birth", or front end, of the product creation process, TI is doing things like recycling hundreds of thousands of gallons of water used each day as part of the silicon wafer manufacturing process, treating and recycling toxic solvents, and offering lead free parts. And, probably even more interesting, on the back end or "rebirth" side, TI is providing scrap silicon wafers to alternative energy manufacturers who actually use them to make solar cells!
In the wireless networking space, there are some interesting green telecom initiatives and base station design strategies that can be implemented today to save costs. For example, there is a fascinating chain reaction of initial power reduction that occurs in the base station architecture. It goes like this:
  • A change in the existing electronics design can initiate a reduction in power consumption of the overall basestation, but also in turn,
  • Reduces the power dissipation and hence the temperature in the unit, which in turn,
  • Reduces the cooling power (more electricity reduction) and can also,
  • Reduce or eliminate the need for fans, which in turn,
  • Increases reliability and reduces the weight of the overall unit and can in turn,
  • Means that a portion of the unit can now be mounted on the tower (closer to the antenna) as a remote radio head, which in turn reduces some of the cost of cabling and power required!
Of course, I could go on since my last point was primarily about power reduction! How about cost? Clearly, operational costs are reduced with the reduction in electrical consumption, but additional savings can be reaped with increased reliability, too, (i.e., eliminating the fans), which results in less truck rolls to repair. Reducing the power supplies, cooling elements, and simplifying the metal also reduce the cost of the unit, hence lowering capex even further. 
I would love to hear from those of you who have or are currently designing green elements into your product designs or processes. And I hope to see you at the Green Basestations Summit next week in San Diego. Dr. Arnon Friedmann of TI's wireless infrastructure business will be speaking onWednesday, November 18th, from 12:25-12:50 pm on this very topic: "From Cradle to Cradle: Eco-efficient Green Base Station Design."  You can check out our latest white paper on the topic as well:
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