O2 "radically overhauling" data centres in sustainability drive

18 May 2021 | Melanie Mingas

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Telefónica's O2 has doubled down on its sustainability commitments, announcing that it is "radically overhauling" its data centres and core network sites as mobile data rates in the UK increase.

The MNO – the only one in the UK to commit to reducing its carbon to zero by 2025 – has said it is aiming to deliver savings equivalent to one million kilograms of CO2 year on year.

To achieve the figure, O2 has enlisted Ekosense, whose management software and smart sensors will be used in combination with cooling equipment that puts the naturally cold air of the UK to use.

This will cool data equipment on demand and eliminate the need for traditional electric-powered air conditioning. O2 further highlighted that fresh air will reduce its reliance on polluting refrigerant gases.

The announcement broke as the UK emerges from lockdown and mobile data rates grow. O2 reported that in the first week of May, its network carried approximately 55% more peak hour data throughput than the first seven days of May 2020. Compared to the pre-pandemic average, total traffic increased 89% over the last 12 months.

Tracey Herald, head of corporate responsibility and sustainability at O2, said: “Our number one priority is keeping customers connected, but that cannot be at the expense of the environment.

"Data centre cooling is a great example: the more data we use, the hotter the centres can become. Historically networks have relied on air con, but the UK has plenty of fresh, cold air that does the same job – so we’re getting rid of old kit and using energy in a smarter way. Investing in upgrading our network will help us hit our efficiency targets as we head towards net zero by 2025 – without compromising on the service we provide.”

EkkoSense's smart sensors monitor exactly how much cooling each site needs at any one time, and report back on how to optimise cooling as demand changes. This not only helps make sure each site operates as efficiently as possible, it helps identify issues and prevents overcooling or overheating.

O2 has already upgraded around 70% of its core network sites with the brand new equipment and EkkoSense data centre optimisation software, delivering an energy saving of between 15% and 20% per site – equivalent to 678,000 kilograms of CO2 in its first pro-rata year of use.

Dean Boyle, CEO at EkkoSense, said: “We’re delighted that O2 chose EkkoSense to help them cool their data centres more efficiently and deliver energy savings at a time when demands on their critical facilities have never been so intense. Our software’s ability to capture and analyse O2’s critical power, space and cooling information in real-time gives their data centre team access to much more powerful optimisation capabilities, as they progress towards net zero.”

The UK's largest network with more than 36million connections, since 2015 O2's emissions have reduced by 29% and it has reported a 35% reduction in supply chain emissions since 2016.