Researchers at the University of Melbourne have been tasked with developing the energy efficiency of cloud processing and control components of Alcatel-Lucent's lightRadio architecture for future mobile networks.
The Centre for Energy-Efficient Telecommunications (CEET), which consists of the university, Alcatel's research arm Bell Labs and the Victorian Government, is "just getting started" on the lightRadio augmentation, director Rod Tucker told iTnews.
The lightRadio architecture breaks the traditional base station into "its component elements and distributes [them] through the network".
It is best known for its tiny cube-shaped antennas, which can be stacked together to create base stations, and serviced by a single piece of backhaul fibre.
Part of distributing elements that would traditionally be housed at a base station involves leveraging private and public cloud systems.
Alcatel-Lucent has always talked about the role of the cloud in its lightRadio architecture; however, Australian research involvement in developing this aspect of the architecture is new.
Tucker said the cloud could take on processing functions that would normally occur at a cell site. He also saw a role for the cloud in facilitating control over a lightRadio-based network.
"You can conceive of a centralised controller somewhere that simultaneously provides control for a large number of the cells simultaneously," he said.
Drawing an energy efficiency benefit out of having a lightRadio network of small cells required "quite a lot of control".
"For example, if you have ... some cells sitting in a city centre, at night they're not going to have much use, whereas those in suburban areas might be used more at night," Tucker said.
"The idea is that with control of the entire system centralised or at least partly distributed in the cloud, you can power down some of the smaller cells when theres not much activity in that particular area.
"If [centralised control] manages the network more effectively we can save energy, not only by moving the energy consuming controllers away from all the cell sites but also to do it in a more effective way."
CEET is involved in other projects aimed at making sure cloud services use energy efficiently, particularly in the way they deliver content across access networks to end-user devices.
Other CEET projects tie into wireless, core and access network technologies.
"We have quite a number of research projects in close collaboration with Bell Labs in this area," Tucker said.
"In fact, quite a few of our projects are tightly linked to similar projects that are going on in Bell Labs."
Part of the University of Melbourne team - including Tucker - spent time at Bell Labs in the United States last week.
The researchers also participated in a GreenTouch consortium event, which shares similar aims to CEET, and also counts CEET and Alcatel-Lucent among its participants.