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Nokia Siemens greens up its radio gear

Nokia Siemens Networks has jumped on the green bandwagon, introducing today a base station kit it claims will reduce energy consumption at the cell site by up to 70%. The new Energy Efficiency product line will get its first trial in Beijing just in time for the 2008 Olympic Games where energy-hungry China is trying to display its green stripes to the world.

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NSN’s new kit isn’t a new product line unto itself but rather a retooling of its existing Flexi base station line with a re-emphasis on power conservation. Much of the design work is in the network planning aspects of the Flexi network, reducing the number of base station sites in any given cellular footprint. But NSN has added hardware tweaks also, including engineering electronics that operate optimally at higher temperatures, thus reducing the need for air-conditioning.

It also has revamped its software to rebalance energy consumption according to load—as fewer users access the cell site, the base station powers down to meet those more minimal capacity and coverage demands. Those same software enhancements also have added a boost to the overall range of the cell, NSN officials said, allowing operators to take better advantage of the aforementioned network planning techniques.

The new radio access kit is only part of what NSN said would be a larger green push by the vendor. The next step for NSN will be to address its basic materials used in product engineering. The goal is to make smaller, more durable products that can be re-used and the components of which can be recycled once they reach the end of their life, said Simon Beresford-Wylie, CEO of NSN. Smaller boxes mean lower transport costs and easier installation, lowering the energy resources needed in building a network. More durable products create longer life cycles for the physical network components, which in turn can be upgraded with software, not truck rolls. And once a base station reaches the end of its usefulness to an operator, it or its individual components can be used in other operators’ deployments. Even when dealing with a completely defunct kit, the basic materials could then be recycled by NSN for use in newer-generation equipment, Beresford-Wylie said.

“We see a world where 5 billion people are connected by 2015 – and that is about 2 billion more than today," Beresford-Wylie said in a statement from NSN’s product unveiling in Beijing. “As the next 2 billion people gain access to the benefits of connectivity, the positive impact will be enormous. At the same time, we know that with this huge growth, Nokia Siemens Networks must provide wireless and wireline connectivity that uses less and less energy, that has recyclable components and limited use of environmentally sensitive materials. From how we design our products to our work with suppliers, the management of our own operations and the services we offer for end-of-life recycling, Nokia Siemens Networks is committed to leading the telecommunications industry in environmental sustainability.”

NSN certainly isn’t the first telecom industry player to announce a green initiative, but its plans are by far one of the broadest. Regulators, carriers and vendors have all been pushing for more green projects in wireless as every industry starts to gain closer scrutiny from the environmental movement. Though the wireless industry doesn’t have the obvious polluting smokestacks and water affluent of heavy industry, it has huge power demands that are only growing exponentially as more people get mobile phones and consume more minutes and packets.

NSN has consistently claimed to have the most energy-efficient base station in the industry with consumption levels of 800 Watts for its GSM kit and 500 Watts for W-CDMA. Nokia Siemens estimates that makes it 25% more efficient than any of its competitors. But other vendors have been more vocal about their green efforts, particularly Ericsson, which has been working with the GSM Association on sustainable energy cellular deployments in developing markets like Nigeria. That’s one green aspect noticeably missing from NSN’s Energy Efficiency initiative. It hasn’t articulated a strategy for green fuels, an approach that competitor Ericsson has focused on for the last two years. Its deployments of bio-fuel base stations are not only intended to support networks in areas with no ready access to the power grid; they also are geared toward local economic development, using local farmers’ crops to create the bio-mass powering its networks.

In light of Ericsson’s hogging the limelight, Nokia Siemens has been ramping up its efforts to draw attention to its own green initiatives, Ovum principal analyst Jeremy Green said in a research note. NSN is not only producing greener products, it’s also taking efforts to make itself a green company, he said.

“NSN is also attempting to reduce its own carbon footprint, even though it estimates that 80% of its products' impact comes from their lifelong use rather than their production,” Green said. “It is working with independent auditors to measure its CO2 emissions and expects to publish targets next year. In the meantime, it claims that video conferencing has already allowed it to hold 20,000 virtual meetings last year - though sadly, it is unable to furnish any information as to how much this has allowed it to reduce executive travel.”

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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