Organizations today need to be environmentally conscious and sustainable in their efforts to reduce factors detrimental to our collective ecosystem. In this article, Marisa Viveros, VP at IBM and Christine T. Dee, CTO, T-Mobile Account Team, jointly discuss the interesting role 5G and telecom companies could play in reducing carbon emissions across industries.
According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2022Opens a new window , climate-change-related risks account for three of the top 10 for severity in the next ten years. Unsurprisingly, over the past few years, sustainability has shifted from a â€œCorporate Social Responsibilityâ€ tactic to a business imperative for all industries. Not only do executives see the ROI of more sustainable operation in the long-term, but consumer decisions today are partly driven by companies’ ESG practices.Â
The telecommunications industry is no different. Compared to some, the telco industry contributes a lower percentage of carbon emissions â€“ estimated at 3 to 4 percent of global C02.Opens a new window Despite this, telcos can play an integral role in aiding and accelerating decarbonization across other sectors.Â
See More: The Different Flavors of Enterprise 5G
Sustainability in ActionÂ
Telecom organizations also have an urgency to reduce their emissions and comply with their objectives in climate sustainability, and many are already making strides toward more sustainable business models. Some of the critical areas are:Â
- Telco-sponsored trade-in programs can help reduce e-waste, and enhancements in semiconductor technology aim to reduce the energy needed to charge mobile devices.Â Â
- 5G can help drive efficiencies. Although measurements vary, 5G networks are up to 90 percent more energy efficient per traffic unit than 4G networks, according to a 2020 5G energy efficiency study from Nokia and TelefonicaOpens a new window . However, as pointed out in 2021 by GartnerOpens a new window , in the report, Predicts 2022: Reshaping CSP Technology and Operations Strategies that while 5G is more energy-efficient per bit than 4G, the increased use of streaming, AI, and cloud services enabled by 5G networks drives up overall energy consumption. This means CSPs still need to think about how they power and operate their networks to reduce emissions. For example, Vodafone’s European operations â€“ including its mobile and fixed networks, data centers, offices and stores â€“ are 100% powered by electricity from renewable sources since July 2021, and globally it will reduce its carbon emissions to net-zero by 2030, and across the company’s entire value chain by 2040Opens a new window .
- First responders can use alternate batteries to enable continued operation during extreme weather. Instead of single-purpose batteries, telcos could tap into other batteries â€“ like those in electric cars â€“ during these critical times, simultaneously reducing production volume and enabling disaster recovery.Â
Yet the real value telcos can provide is through the confluence of â€œconnect and computeâ€ â€“ an emerging model enabled by the low-latency and high fidelity possible through 5G communications. In the connect and compute model, connectivity becomes widely accessible and can help telcos achieve additional revenue through connected services. Today, 5G is available in 2,000 cities nationwide, and that number continues to grow rapidly, with DISH recently announcingOpens a new window the availability of their 5G network to 20% of the U.S.Â
A Shift in the Traditional Telecom Model
Realizing this value would require a shift in the telco business model. Traditionally, telcos built and sold access to their networks for mobile devices or via broadband. From there, connected services were sold to consumers and businesses from third parties â€“ think television steaming apps. The quality of these apps and services can be disrupted by bandwidth issues, data limits and more, but through the direct management by these networks, the services and applications could achieve optimal performance.
There are many other potential use cases and trials in progress. One example of another use case in progress is connected buildings in large cities to reduce energy usage and costs by remote monitoring of things like lighting and temperature control.
For example, up to historically 30 percent of urban traffic is caused by people searching for parking, according to research. By helping drivers find and directing them to available spaces, we can help reduce congestion as well as those unnecessary emissions. Vodafone launched smart parking services to help address this. These systems use a network of IoT devices to detect instantaneously when a vehicle enters or leaves a parking space, and a gateway or server connects to a cloud-based service. Since the systems are managed and run by the network directly, they could be designed to enable the real-time data necessary for this kind of experience.Â
Leveraging Telcos for ROI Tracking
Plus, telcos can also be the purveyors of intelligent emissions tracking solutions. While most companies surveyed (86 percent) have a sustainability strategy, only 35 percent have acted upon it, according to a recent IBM IBV studyOpens a new window , â€œSustainability as a Transformation Catalyst.â€ Understandably, many leaders don’t know where to begin with these changes and even further, how to measure the ROI. But through connected technology with their networks, telcos can support enterprises in implementing impactful and measurable changes in reducing emissions.
In isolation, these kinds of connected or mobility services could seem trivial in addressing the greater challenge of emissions. However, when combined with cloud technologies and AI to apply at scale, massive change is possible; but only if telcos transform their networks toward a connect and compute model.
How else can the latest upgrades to network management enable a more sustainable corporate stance? Share with us on LinkedInOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , or FacebookOpens a new window . We’d love to know!