4G long term evolution (LTE) networks could consume up to 59.3 per cent of wireless cloud energy by 2015, according to research by the Centre for Energy Efficient Telecommunications (CEET).
CEET is a partnership between the University of Melbourne, Alcatel-Lucent and Bell Labs.
Speaking at the CommsDay Summit in Sydney, CEET deputy director Doctor Kerry Hinton told delegates that CEET modelled energy consumption of cloud services from 2012 to 2015.
It found that wireless cloud energy consumption will rise from 9 terawatt hours (TWH) to 43 TWH in 2015.
Wireless access network technologies will account for 90 per cent of total wireless cloud energy consumption while data centres are forecast to consume 9 per cent of cloud energy.
Breaking the wireless access network technologies down into sections, CEET forecast that LTE would consume 59.3 per cent of wireless cloud energy.
"Because LTE and 3G are macro cell wireless connections they spew out energy over a very large area to cover where you might be walking with your mobile phone," Hinton said.
"In contrast, Wi-Fi hotspots produce the least amount of energy. That's because the connection is a small cell and shared by many people in cafés and hotels."
He warned that if action is not undertaken to reduce cloud energy consumption, the Internet could use between 10 and 12 per cent of the world's electricity supply by 2020.
An organisation called GreenTouch is working on the improvement of wireless access networks. Examples of innovation include smaller cell systems, re-locating the power amplifier in the base station to the top of the tower and co-ordination between mobile base stations.
"We could also look at sharing infrastructure. In Australia we know that we can have one mobile tower with lots of antennas from different companies all covering the same area," Hinton said.
He also suggested people use Wi-Fi hotspots to download content rather than clog up mobile networks.
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