Operational Sustainability: On Achieving Optimal Leverage of the Power Grid with Wi-Fi CPE (2023)

By James R. Flesch, Commscope; Brian Carroll, Commscope

Sustainability has established itself as a critical aspect of customer premise equipment (CPE) design goals, worthy of equal consideration to elements such as packaging aesthetics, thermal behavior, economic value proposition and overall electronic performance. While for some time this has drawn attention to items such as single-use plastic exposure, recyclable or otherwise non-hazardous material exploit in hardware implementation and some fair amount of device and accessory packaging cleverness, the interest now has expanded to include operational power signature which conforms to device service usage demands. Adapting power grid draw to match measured (or anticipated) application performance on a “just necessary” basis (and so eliminate wasteful standby consumption which – on a scaled basis –irresponsibly overtaxes the energy grid) is now the stuff of practical necessity. This type of considered and throttled behavior on the part of CPE immediately substitutes perceptions of thoughtless energy banditry with environmentally aware, green energy iconography -- which clever SPs can leverage in the marketing realm to amplify their brand’s public association with responsible (and astute) corporate behavior. It also aligns electronic CPE with application-fitting power consumption as exhibited by other in-home electrical appliances – substituting managed operations for the manual ON/OFF cycling associated with their draws on the power grid. There is a power consumption history associated with this class of CPE (Wi-Fi access points (APs) in particular) which must be acknowledged – an undeniable progression of unmanaged power sink which classically has not regulated itself during periods of constant feature aggregation and employment. As Wi-Fi medium access control layers (MACs) and bands have evolved and the number of spatial streams increased, so too has the power requirement to operate these devices. What used to cost approximately 5W for single band APs a dozen years ago has now risen to over 30 watts (W) for a tri-band concurrent (TBC) device with multiple internet of things (IoT) radios. For this paper, reformulation of the power footprint for always ON Wi-Fi APs (be they wide area network (WAN)-attached or other) is examined to investigate approaches into making this class of device a better power dissipation partner in the home. We will examine tactics which lever hardware, firmware and software – the latter both device-native and cloud-hosted – with an eye to fitness for purpose (i.e., meeting the bitrate and latency requirements of services mounted at any particular time) and efficacy of power-saving results. The general form of solution – to appropriately hibernate various resources when service demand does not mandate their exploitation – will be a guiding rubric throughout this dissertation. Note that a collateral goal will be seamless transition from various hibernation states to appropriate service support levels which will eventually manifest as “slow to hibernate, quick to wake” behavior; the goal being such does not express itself in human-observable debits in local area network (LAN) performance, nor requires human intervention to achieve.

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