PARIS Alcatel-Lucent formed a consortium of telecoms operators, chip makers, and university labs aimed at inventing new technologies to reduce the electricity consumption of communication networks by a factor of one thousand.

The Green Touch consortium will bring together hundreds of scientists to come up with ways to improve the architecture, circuits, computer codes, fiberoptic cables, and other elements that make up the world's communications network.

Alcatel-Lucent's research arm Bell Labs will lead the initiative, which will last five years.

The project will have a budget of tens of millions of euros and any intellectual property generated will be shared among the members, said Gee Rittenhouse, the head of Bell Labs in an interview with Reuters.

We have to re-invent all the elements of the communications network, said Rittenhouse. Today's network is optimized for performance, so it requires a lot of power to operate. Tomorrow's network will have to have high performance, yet also much lower energy consumption.

Other companies onboard include: AT&T, China Mobile, Telefonica, Portugal Telecom, Swisscom and Freescale Semiconductor.

The research labs at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford and the University of Melbourne will also participate.

The project shows how reducing energy consumption is becoming a major priority for telecommunications operators and equipment makers, as well as other technology companies. Such technology is a powerful differentiator on the market, said Rittenhouse.

Companies like IBM and Accenture have started pitching services to clients to help them ratchet down the electricity eaten up by data centers and servers.

Alcatel-Lucent and its rivals Ericsson and Nokia-Siemens Networks are all racing to cut the power used by its mobile phone base stations, thus making them cheaper to run and more attractive to telecom operators.

Alcatel-Lucent CEO Ben Verwaayen will speak at a press conference in London on Monday about the project.

(Reporting by Leila Abboud; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)