The new Green Touch Consortium, spearheaded by Alcatel-Lucent, is an example of teamwork at its finest. Launched this week, the consortium of chip makers, telecom operators and universities (AT&T, CEA-LETI, China Mobile, Freescale Semiconductor, Samsung, The French National Institution of Technology, Portugal Telecom, Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, among others), has the admirable goal of cutting power consumption in the telecommunications industry by a factor of 1,000.
Over the next five years, the Green Touch Consortium plans to essentially reinvent the telecommunications infrastructure so that both wired and wireless network gear is more efficient. If all goes as planned, the new network gear will be able to run for three years on the power that systems now use in a single day. Eventually, power consumption could be cute even further—networks can theoretically cut power use by a factor of 10,000.
Of course, the companies involved aren't participating solely for the sake of the planet. By cutting down on energy consumption of cell phone base stations, telecoms can expect to save significant amounts of cash. And it will still be a long time before any new power systems are deployed—typically, it can take 5 to 10 years after a lab demonstrates a technology. But as smartphones and computers gobble up video, images, and music at increasingly fast speeds, a more efficient communications system will become necessary for the survival of our data-happy way of life.