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Improving broadband efficiency with next-generation power supplies

Broadband has quickly gained popularity since its inception, and now more than 800 million people worldwide use it to connect to the internet. This growth is for good reason: broadband provides the bandwidth necessary for all the audio, video and other applications that require large amounts of data to be delivered quickly and seamlessly. With these technologies only becoming more popular, it should come as no surprise that broadband use in North America is expected to quadruple by 2020 .

Broadband does have one major challenge that could keep it from growing in the future: it uses a lot of energy. In fact, in North America alone, energy costs for broadband usage have crossed the $1 billion mark. As broadband use continues to grow, energy use will grow along with it. If something doesn’t change, in the not-so-distant future, broadband users will be looking at higher service fees while receiving less reliable service.

New SCTE standards incite a broadband sea change

The Energy 2020 program, developed by the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE), aims to establish new standards and practices that will help cable and broadband become more efficient by 2020. One Energy 2020 initiative focuses on energy metrics, data collecting and reporting the developing techniques and standards that will definitively measure energy usage and efficiency. As these parameters become universal, they’ll ensure the industry is working towards the same goals, and measuring the same things.

Today, waiting around for standards to be instituted isn’t the best option for broadband providers. They have to look for ways to improve efficiency now, ahead of any standards, so they don’t face tougher choices later. Broadband power supplies is one area ripe for improved energy efficiency – and the latest generation of these power supplies can save significant energy and money for broadband providers.

The technology landscape

Broadband power supply technology is measured in generations. Generations No. 1 and 2 account for approximately 88 percent of power supplies in action today. Their line efficiencies range from 86 to 89 percent, and their inverter efficiencies from about 75 to 84 percent.

The other 12 percent of power supplies in service are Generation No. 3. This represents the latest technology, with line efficiencies of about 94 percent and inverter efficiencies of approximately 91 percent.

Generation 3 efficiencies

Generation 3 is a clear step up from the older options, and improves efficiency in many ways.

Reach : Each power supply has a greater reach than previous generations. This allows for reduced network cable loss while using fewer power supplies.

Lines : Generation 3 transformers improve line efficiency, which reduces energy use. They do this through intelligent tap switching that happens at the input itself, minimizing secondary saturation energy loss and maximizing performance.

Inverters : Generation 3 moves inverter windings to the output side of the ferroresonant transformer. This separates the inverter from the input winding and minimizing conversion losses in the transformer itself.

The bottom line: savings

While saving a few percentage points here and there may not seem like much, the impact of Generation 3 is significant in a couple major ways. First, the estimated five-percent improvement in energy efficiency that Generation 3 promises isn’t much per power supply – perhaps under $100 per year. But, you have to consider the sheer number of power supplies needed to run a broadband network. Generally, a power supply is needed about every two and a half miles, so the savings add up quickly as networks reach hundreds and thousands of miles.

With the improved line efficiency, each Generation 3 power supply also cover more ground than previous generations. With fewer power supplies needed to run a network, power costs go down significantly.

Improved energy efficiency is a critical issue for broadband suppliers. If something doesn’t change, and change quickly, the industry will be facing severe challenges in delivering reliable, affordable service to customers.

The SCTE’s Energy 2020 initiative shows that the industry recognizes the issue. But, it’s not an option for providers to sit around while the standards to accurately measure energy management efficacy come into focus. To avoid problems down the line, operators can start improving their energy efficiency now by upgrading to Generation 3 broadband power supplies. Not only will it result in better energy efficiency, but in improved reliability and cost savings.

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