The Inquirer-Home

ARM chief calls for low-drain wireless

WiFi is just two per cent efficient
Tue Jun 29 2010, 15:30

THE POWER DRAWN by wireless links is far too high and the industry has a "duty" to cut it, ARM president Tudor Brown has warned.

Speaking in a keynote at The Future of Wireless conference in Cambridge today, he quoted figures from wireless chip designer Atheros indicating that WiFi on a laptop is only between one to two per cent efficient, which means that it draws between two and eight watts for transmit powers between 20 and 200 milliwatts.

He quoted a 2007 consultation paper as saying, "Arguably what is needed are wireless access systems that can support multimedia service data rates at two to three orders of magnitude lower transmission power than is currently used."

Brown said that the issue is not simply about extending battery life by reducing consumption. He pointed out that the world's billion mobile phones and 100 million laptops translate into an equivalent number of batteries.

The volume of handsets' batteries alone amount to 20 cubic metres, the size of a fair-sized hall, and laptops account for 30 cubic metres. "Imagine how much [toxic] Lithium is in all that lot," he said.

The inefficiency also accounts for a lot of wasted electrical power, with radio base stations accounting for around twice the consumption of other network equipment.

"Between us we have a duty to drive down the power we are using... we need to do a lot better," Brown said.

He said nothing about how wireless consumption can be reduced, but other speakers at the conference spoke about femtocells, small footprint base stations that can reduce transmit power requirements.

Brown, in response to a question, said the need to cut power consumption extends to other areas of computing.

He warned that if Intel keeps pushing out Xeon servers that are generally used at only a fraction of their capacity, the energy consumption of server farms will exceed that of aircraft travel by 2020.

Currently servers themselves account for around 2.5 percent of the US energy bill, and cooling them accounts for as much again. µ



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