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May 12, 2015

Don’t despair! 5 ways the UK can (still) avoid internet rationing

Britain warned that web use could consume 100% of nation's power supply by 2035.


The United Kingdom could have to ration internet usage in 20 years, an expert has warned.

According to The Independent, experts said the nation’s network optical fibres is close to "filling up" its capacity due to demand from video-streaming websites like YouTube and Netflix.

But not all are agreed like Tanuja Randery, President of UK & Ireland at Schneider Electric who said: "Internet rationing is not only unnecessary, but it would be counterproductive to the economy, innovation and growth. The Internet underpins our smart cities, smart devices and connected society."

Mr Randery added that it is the increasing need for real time content that has driven up the demand on the UK’s Internet infrastructure.

IDC estimates the volume of digital content last year grew to 2.7ZB, up 48% from 2011.

Randery said: "Handling that kind of growth is only going to increase the demand for data centres and their associated energy costs. But, we are far from a capacity crunch. Smarter and more innovative technologies are being rolled out to increase the efficiency of our networks.

"The threat of overloading the UK’s communications and power networks can be fought on both frontiers. This battle will be won by utilising new innovative technology to get more out of our existing infrastructure."

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He continued: "This growing demand for energy generated by increased internet demand is something that must be addressed, but in a smart and efficient way that does not stifle our economy."

Mr Randery has lined up some ways to respond to the increased demand for the Internet and Power, and CBR put them together.

1. Automation & VFD

Each connected device or email relies on power fuelling of data centres. For example, each Google query emits 0.2 grams of CO2. The power usage effectiveness (PUE) of data centres plays a big part in the Internet’s CO2 footprint.

Mr Randery said: "Today, cooling innovations are driving down energy consumption in the data centre. The transition to greener buildings is growing – with data centres able to use free cooling to lower the PUE levels to 1.2. For example, we arere working with data centre providers to maintain a stable environment with indirect adiabatic cooling, dramatically reducing their infrastructure, operating and maintenance costs by eliminating power hungry mechanical cooling."

He added that automation brings added efficiency by giving managers the ability to integrate, control and monitor various aspects of the facility including HVAC, security, lighting, fire and other systems in one centralised application.

Mr Randery said: "Together, automation controls and variable frequency drives (VFD) provide a comprehensive method of controlling and adjusting different data centre functions, making energy efficiency a priority. In some test cases, results have documented as much as a 66% reduction in cooling energy."

2. Global Caches

The likes of Google and Facebook have been shifting away from building their own data centres in response to the increased demand for services like Apple TV and Xbox.

Instead, they are placing servers with ISPs, which mean that the creation of global caches can deliver the same entertainment to each country or community, but using a fraction of the previous capacity – as the content is hosted locally.

3. IP Routers

Bandwidth constraints can be improved by addressing the sophistication of IP routers. The rise in connected devices is driving the number of unique IP addresses up from 2.5 billion in 2009 to an expected 30 billion by 2020.

Mr Randery said: "Ultimately, this means more traffic on the Internet. " He continued: Getting traffic to the right place in the quickest amount of time will ultimately ease the load.

"The development of clever algorithmic approaches to how data travels across the Internet can reduce the total time required to send each packet across the internet and thus improves the available capacity."

4. Smart Energy

The introduction of smarter energy management is helping to save wasted energy. Smart metering is making energy usage tangible allowing consumers to act on their consumption in the moment, controlling smart devices, lighting and heating or even switching off unnecessary appliances remotely.

Mr Randery added: "At Schneider our StruxureWare Energy Operation Portal is pushing data about consumption so everyone understands how energy is being used within the building. At the grid level, the UK is better managing its power by incorporating solar and wind into the smart grid to deliver more stable, sustainable energy across the network. "

5. Optical Innovation

The President adviced networks to look at what they can get out of existing fibre from optical innovation, rather than investing heavily in construction projects to lay new fibre.

He said: "Infinera is reporting that the installation of new photonic integrated circuits (PICs) on fibre networks can save 31% in power and reduce bandwidth inefficiencies by 45% either on single-wavelength or superchannel transmission of 100G, 200G, or 400G in the metro."

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