Energy Efficiency

Power Savings Drive CenturyLink's CO Move

CenturyLink is consolidating about 50 of its Central Office digital switches, using Nokia professional services to eliminate unused capacity to help save 22,000 megawatt hours of power. (See CenturyLink Consolidates CO Switches to Save Power.)

The switches involved are all 5ESSs, manufactured originally by AT&T Network Systems, which became Lucent, which merged into Alcatel-Lucent and is now owned by Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK). CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) will use Nokia's PSTN Smart Transform migration service, which includes software, professional services and tools, to basically eliminate unused switch capacity and combine COs.

The driving force is energy reduction and resulting savings and environmental benefits, says Pieter Poll, CenturyLink senior vice president of infrastructure planning. With the reduction in demand for wireline voice services, there is no need to maintain capacity, which requires power and space, he notes.

"This reduces our power consumption by 37%, which is enough to power about 2,000 homes for a year," Poll says. "These are big switches that we are going into and they are in large cities that are growing and struggling to provide power without having to build more power plants. We see this as part of a larger effort to be good citizens in the community."

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Of course, CenturyLink also saves money in the process and frees up space that could be used for other purposes. But the company says it's more focused on the approximately 15,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas it says will be saved annually.

The process involves careful identification of which lines are active and which are not and then consolidation of the active lines on to switch module interfaces that are then fully filled -- Poll says that's part of Nokia's "secret sauce." In some cases, those modules are re-homed to a different switch in the consolidation process.

This is not a shift away from TDM voice to IP-based voice services -- the consolidated switches continue to deliver traditional voice services. Poll says the shift to VoIP awaits regulatory changes. The idea of taking these TDM switches totally out of service "is a different business case altogether," he says. "In the interim, this is a very environmentally friendly thing to do."

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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