Fiber is the digital infrastructure with the lowest power consumption
Bonn/Gießen, 05/05/2022 Digitalisation will only contribute to achieving climate protection targets, if based on an energy-efficient digital infrastructure. Due to their low power consumption compared to other infrastructures, real fiber networks offer energy-efficient data transmission. This is confirmed by a recent scientific report.
The potential to optimise resource consumption with the help of digital applications is enormous. But digital services, be it private video streaming, cloud computing, or applications of artificial intelligence, also consume energy. An energy-efficient digital infrastructure is therefore of particular importance for achieving climate protection targets. Prof. Dr.-Ing. Kristof Obermann of the Technische Hochschule Mittelhessen University of Applied Sciences (THM) has investigated the sustainability of various internet access technologies on behalf of the German Broadband Association (BREKO).
The result: real fiber to the home (FTTH) networks have the lowest power consumption of all digital infrastructures. Lead author Prof. Dr.-Ing. Kristof Obermann comments the results: "Even though we made some rather optimistic assumptions regarding FTTC and DOCSIS, and very conservative ones regarding FTTH, FTTH technologies turn out as the most sustainable ones among all the internet access technologies in every scenario – Germany-wide, urban, suburban and rural areas. They show significantly lower electricity consumption and a significantly lower total weight of the technical equipment installed at the subscriber’s home."
The Technical University of Applied Sciences’ report provides information on the power consumption for different internet access technologies: according to the report, fiber to the home (FTTH) networks require up to 2.6 times less power during operation than fiber to the building (FTTB) networks, up to 3 times less power than copper-based vectoring/super-vectoring networks (FTTC - fiber to the curb) and up to 6 times less power than TV cable networks (based on DOCSIS 3.1).
When comparing the power consumption of all gigabit-capable technologies for a gigabit connection (1 Gbit/s), the advantage of fiber becomes even more obvious. In this case FTTH networks consume up to 3.6 times less electricity than FTTB networks and up to 8 times less electricity than TV cable networks.
Fiber dominates in a nationwide coverage scenario
If expanded to nationwide coverage within Germany, pure fiber networks (FTTH) would have a total electricity consumption of 154 megawatts. By comparison, copper-based networks (FTTC) require 350 megawatts in the same scenario, and TV cable networks would consume 650 megawatts. Compared to TV cable, fiber networks could thus save 496 megawatts. This corresponds to more than 50 percent of the output of the Schkopau lignite-fired power plant in Saxony-Anhalt. Further power savings are possible by optimising hardware components such as routers.
"Only based on an energy-efficient digital infrastructure does digitalisation contribute to achieving the climate protection targets. Due to their low energy consumption compared to other infrastructures, real fiber networks that reach all the way into the buildings offer energy-efficient data transmission. Therefore, fiber networks make a true ecological contribution. They are a future-proof cornerstone of digitisation. The fact that the new German government has finally set a real fiber expansion target is an important milestone not only for this reason. Now it is crucial to organise the important implementation phase of the fiber roll-out in a resource-efficient way," explains BREKO Managing Director Dr Stephan Albers.
Fiber is more energy-efficient than 5G
Fiber also performs significantly better in comparison with the mobile communications standard 5G. A recent study by Eoptimo from Denmark compared the energy consumption of a 1 Gbit/s fiber connection with a 5G connection of the same speed. The result: a fiber connection consumes 85 watts, the corresponding 5G connection requires 1,157.7 watts. Thus, the power consumption of a fiber connection (FTTH) is 13 times lower than that of a 5G connection.
Open Access reduces resource-consumption
There are even more advantages to fiber networks that allow them to get higher sustainability scores compared to other internet access technologies. They enable almost unlimited gigabit speeds and are the only technology capable of providing equally high bandwidths for both download and upload. A building that is connected to a fiber network today is thus perfectly equipped for the coming decades – no further upgrades needed. This conserves resources and is also a contribution to greater sustainability. Fiber networks also offer a high level of protection against failures. They are much less susceptible to interference than copper cables and can also be laid next to power and high-voltage lines without causing electromagnetic interference.
To ensure a sustainable and resource-efficient fiber roll-out, it is crucial to avoid overbuilding of existing fiber networks. Instead of building parallel networks, fiber networks’ capacity utilisation should be optimised by means of open access. This saves costs and resources and contributes to fair competition.
As the leading fibre association with more than 400 member companies, Bundesverband Breitbandkommunikation e.V. (German Broadband Association, BREKO) successfully promotes competition in the broadband market. Its members are committed to future-proof fibre and currently implement 80 percent of alternative network operators’ fibre connections to buildings and homes. The more than 225 telecommunications network operators organised in the association supply both urban and rural areas with future-proof fibre connections. In 2020 they invested a total of € 2.9 billion, generating a turnover of € 5 billion. More information at brekoverband.de/en.