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BT’s Cool Broadband Snoozes for 30 Percent Less Energy Use

British communications provider BT is testing out Cool Broadband, an energy-saving mode for its broadband connections in the village of Martlesham, Suffolk in the U.K., said ISPreview. The development is a so-called sleep mode for connections that could reduce energy use by 30 percent from existing levels.

Cool Broadband works by capping the top speed of BT’s 24Mbps ADSL2+ broadband lines at 200Kbps (0.2Mbps) during periods of idle activity, yet the connection returns to full speed when end-users require more performance, said ISPreview.

According to BT, the Martlesham pilot project, an 18-month effort from lab test to network trial, has confirmed the potential to make significant power savings on the equipment used to deliver broadband services, and the research could help  trigger a breakthrough in reduction efforts focused on the company’s carbon footprint.

BT said that its network infrastructure accounts for more than 60 percent of its carbon footprint.

The new tools are BT’s latest generation of ADSL line cards, which allow up to 20Mbit/s broadband speeds on the last mile of the network, and operate in an always-available mode versus an always-on mode. The cards allow ADSL lines to drop into a low-power mode on a line-by-line basis when user or network traffic is down. When traffic levels resume full speed returns immediately, BT said.

BT’s chief sustainability officer Niall Dunne told Business Green that the 200Kbps broadband speeds are sufficient to support a phone call while the connection is in sleep mode. Dunne also said that the company is planning a larger trial of the system.

BT first announced the new approach to power management in its 2011 Sustainability Review, highlighting the potential of the plan, while admitting to a number of technical challenges still to overcome.

BT’s broadband lines currently account for 0.7 percent of the UK’s total electricity usage, and the new solution has the potential to reduce energy bills by about $21 million, and cut its carbon footprint to 5 percent. The technical challenges are on the scale of years, rather than months, before Cool Broadband can be rolled out, according to ISPreview.

Sleep mode is not a new concept to high-speed connection networks, but there are challenges. In 2009, Alcatel-Lucent’s wireline networks business worked to correct issues with power fluctuations, and network noise when a modem came out of sleep mode.

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