The GreenTouch Consortium has introduced a new prototype antenna technology, which significantly reduces the amount of power needed to transmit signals.

In a demonstration held at a press conference in London today, GreenTouch plans to demonstrate a large-scale antenna array capable of focusing its beam on selected users instead of spreading the signal over an entire landscape, reducing the amount of power needed to transmit signals.

The researchers behind the new technology say the system's energy efficiency increases as the number of antenna elements is increased. For example, an antenna array comprised of 100 elements using the software developed by GreenTouch would transmit only one percent of the energy transmitted by a single antenna, while maintaining signal strength and quality of service.

Dan Kilper"As you're adding antennas, the entire transmitting power for the base station goes down for the same quality of service," says Dan Kilper, chairman of the GreenTouch technical committee. "All of those antennas are transmitting at much lower power, so as we add more antennas, we direct energy in a more focused beam to the user and the energy consumption goes down."

The energy efficiencies rise as the size of the antenna arrays increases, and Kilper says the consortium has not determined what the practical limit will be in scaling the technology.

The prototype antenna technology was developed for next-generation LTE networks and is part of the consortium's larger initiative to improve the energy efficiency of future telecom networks by a factor of 1,000. The research initiative was founded by Alcatel-Lucent's Bell Labs in January 2010 together with several key players in the global telecommunications market, including AT&T, China Mobile, Telefonica and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Kilper compares the GreenTouch effort to recent moves by the semiconductor industry to make chips more energy efficient in response to the increased computing needs of high-end mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. "We need to redesign to be able to continue to scale networks," Kilper says. "It's very important from a sustainability perspective."

The group opened for business in May of last year and is also working on making network chips and routers more efficient; using separate data and signaling networks for "on-demand" instead of "always on" device functionality; and creating dynamic wavelength capabilities tailored to the energy needs of a specific service.