Glasgow Climate Change Conference is a Receding Memory but What Are Telecoms Doing?

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By Jake Saunders | 4Q 2021 | IN-6392

Telecommunication providers are a key player in helping create a greener technology industry.

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Pivoting to Green Initiatives


The resolutions and declarations from the Glasgow Climate Change Conference event were mixed and more could have been done but at least nation states, industries, and societies are starting to pivot to greater green initiatives. The telecom industry has also been taking green initiatives more seriously. Clearly, the telecommunications sector provides substantial benefits to societies and economies, but it cannot ignore its green economy obligations. Reducing carbon footprint, optimizing the consumption of resources, and being energy efficient will be the main expectations of the telecoms industry. Efficient data transmission enables the reduction in energy consumption, which contributes to lower carbon emissions. With networks being the foundation of digital services, telecommunication operators play a key role in mitigating the adverse impacts that arise from the surge in data consumption. Technological innovation would help to support a greener Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry.

Dematerialize, Demobilize, Decarbonize


A number of mobile operators have been building momentum on the green economy front. Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom have made substantial progress in reducing carbon emissions since 2018. They have employed three types of approaches aimed at reducing energy consumption, which other operators could likewise follow. Firstly, dematerialization which entails converting analog and single purpose telecom appliances to digital, more versatile, virtual equipment functions. Secondly, demobilization consists of enabling teleworking and remote maintenance so that it can reduce traffic and the consequent carbon emissions. Thirdly, decarbonization which relates to the smarter use of energy such as the migration to renewables and development of energy-efficient fuel cells. These measures have the potential to aid the global industries in reducing their carbon footprint.

It is not just European mobile operators that are showing the way:

  • Etisalat Group has invested efforts in transforming its network infrastructure by replacing traditional copper cables with optical fibers and simplifying the cabling architecture to enhance efficiency of data transmission. The company is also actively involved in multiple green projects, such as the deployment of its cooling systems and hybrid solutions across more than 800 sites in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that reduce diesel consumption by fourteen million liters. Also, in Afghanistan, the company has deployed “supercapacitors” that are aimed at replacing traditional battery systems and enable energy-savings of around 35%. Supercapacitors are electrochemical energy storage devices that offer a fast charging/discharging process with a higher power throughput compared to conventional battery systems. In terms of environmental conservation, Etisalat Group has also started on a new reforestation project, Connected Mangroves, in the UAE, that leverages Internet of Things (IoT) and connected machines to monitor parameters including humidity and temperature to facilitate healthy growth of mangroves.
  • In Africa, the MTN Group has established its “Road to Zero” committee to develop strategies to achieve its “Net Zero” goal by 2040. The company has launched “Project Zero”, which is focused on renewable energy and efficiency, and encompasses seven initiatives that seek to leverage the latest technologies in enabling business sustainability through better energy efficiencies and low carbon emissions. MTN has also purchased intelligent batteries and deployed solar energy panels in Africa and the Middle East. The company has collaborated with Huawei on the implementation of its PowerStar solution in South Africa, which is a network-level energy-optimization solution enabled by Artificial Intelligence (AI) that analyzes site traffic demand to enhance overall energy efficiency. The operator’s trial results were positive, returning energy savings of 11.6%, and daily Operating Expense (OPEX) savings of 6.43 kWh per site.

Greater Efforts Needed


Telecommunications could be made more energy-efficient in a myriad of ways. While 5G does require additional investment and equipment, it can support longer term savings in energy consumption on a per bit per Hertz basis, as well as in relation to ongoing operations. In its recent Better World Summit (2021), Huawei reported that 5G is 90% more energy-efficient in data transmission compared to 4G. Furthermore, retiring legacy networks such as 3G would also reduce energy consumption by 15%. Thirdly, by replacing copper cables with optical fibers, transmission-related energy consumption could be reduced by 85%. By investing in energy-efficient datacenters operators could potentially reduce energy consumption by 35%.

Greater efforts will be needed by a number of industry sectors to address the climate crisis. The telecom industry needs to do more, and there are keen expectations they will. Greater collaboration will be needed not just by infrastructure vendors and the telecom operator community, but also with the green energy and decarbonization sectors. Telecoms will need to support and encourage their fellow operators to do more. Individual accountability will be insufficient to keep up with the accelerating rates of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.



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