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Up to 90% efficiency gain available, says ABI in Earth Day report

Kim Johnson ABI Research.jpg

Telecoms operators can make improvements of up to 90% in energy use, according to an Earth Day report from ABI Research.

Earth Day is today, 22 April, celebrated since 1970, and the research company has laid out 30 action items telcos can take to improve sustainability.

Kim Johnson (pictured), sustainable technologies principal analyst at ABI Research, said: “This report seeks to help telecommunications companies go from sustainability pledges and targets to next-level execution by identifying the technologies, platforms, and programs that will take them from good intentions to robust actions.”

Potential actions include using renewable energy for purchased electricity – creating a dramatic reduction in CO2 emissions – and replacing copper with fibre: an 85% improved efficiency, said Johnson.

Top of the list migrating to 5G, which is up to 90% more efficient than 4G. Retiring 3G and other legacy systems will cut energy use by 15%, she said.

The report, 30 Action Items for Sustainability: Telco Operators, provides an actionable plan for reaching net-zero carbon emissions with examples and best practices collected from across the industry.

This report follows a 2019 target set by the GSMA to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest. By April 2021, the GSMA reported that mobile operators covering 50% of global connections and 65% of industry revenue had committed to science-based targets.

The new report, which costs US$4,500, lists six categories “as critical to telco operator sustainability”: renewable energy; network upgrades; energy efficiency; waste disposal and circular economy; green buildings and vehicles; and reporting and governance.

It identifies 30 individual action items as specific steps that operators can take to reduce their company’s impact on the environment.

Johnson said: “With each Action Item in this report, we want to explain the technology or application, assess its ability to reduce carbon emissions, water, or waste, and then analyse the costs and benefits expected from investments in the action or programme.”

The report points to Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica, Telia Company and Vodafone, which last year launched an eco-rating system for encouraging a wider rating of mobile phones, while helping to drive demand for more sustainable products.

Eco-rating now evaluates more than 200 models of mobile phones, which is twice the number of devices rated at the launch.

“There is no silver bullet for a telco operator becoming climate neutral or reaching net-zero emissions across its value chain,” said Johnson. “A series of action items, however, can provide a framework for the critical steps, such as switching to renewable energy for purchased electricity, investing in energy efficient network equipment, using AI-enabled solutions for energy savings, and facilitating comprehensive sustainability programming that encourages the responsible management of resources at the company level and across the industry.”

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