Telecommunications Industry Going Green

The worldwide telecommunications industry is going green. This is the trend today, even amid the immense growth of mobile connections and data traffic. Statistics show that the total network energy consumption has only increased slightly since 2009. The total energy per unit traffic and energy per connection are declining at around 20% and 5%, respectively. The figures revealed by the GSMA‘s update to its 2009 report Mobile’s Green Manifesto show that the telecommunication industry has been successfully making good progress towards reducing emissions, energy costs, and total green house gases (GHG) globally.

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The target is that by 2020, the total GHG emissions per connection in the planet shall be reduced by 40 percent. The report includes 34 mobile carriers in 16 developed countries and 18 emerging countries, and cites the positive impact of operator initiatives in managing energy and carbon efficiently and effectively.

Shortly after the report was published three years ago, the GSMA set up the Mobile Energy Efficiency (MEE) program to help the industry measure and manage its own emissions.  It was also utilized to form policy recommendations for governments and the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen to build the awareness of telecom companies’ ability to reduce global GHG emissions.

GSMA’s Head of Public Policy Gabriel Solomon says that development of smarter applications has been identified playing important role in consumption and emission decline. “Mobile can enable savings through a range of smart applications and can contribute to a reduction of total emissions that is at least four to five times its own carbon footprint.”

Aside from apps, other key drivers include mobile dematerialisation applications, where travel, products and processes are substituted by virtual alternatives and a strong growth of global mobile connections in smart grids, smart meters and fleet management.

The GSMA has its own methodology called MEE benchmarking service, which calculates greenhouse emissions by utilizing data and analysis from the electricity and diesel consumption of Radio Access Networks, plus the mobile elements of the Core Network, excluding IT systems that are indentified as mobile networks.

No information obtained on how many operators in the GSMA (800 carriers in 220 countries) have joined the service but as more companies come on board, the accuracy of the estimated mobile network energy consumption, energy cost and CO2e emissions will be sharpened and the results will be more meaningful.

Environmentalists would be pleased to hear that if all networks with above average energy consumption improve their energy use at pare with the industry average, this will result the energy cost saving of US$1 billion per annum at 2010 prices. When the improvement hits the top quartile, it could save more than US$2 billion annually.

Another interesting figure revealed is how smartphones, tablets, consumer electronics and machine-to-machine (M2M) devices in the mobile industry have been connecting everything from cars to health care services and even entire cities, which contribute to a significant reductions in GHG emissions and energy costs across a range of sectors of the economy.

This is from a study by Marina Research, which said that around 26 million mobile M2M connections worldwide with GHG emissions will be saving about 3 million metric tons of CO2e per annum.

Western Europe’s contribution ratio ranks first with 1.35 (resulting from 23 percent savings divided by 30 percent connections), followed by the U.S. and North America with 1.32 (50 and 38 percent), then APAC with 1.30 (30 and 23 percent).