Telcos are Joining the Green Revolution

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Climate change is one of the most significant issues of our times and a real threat to our global security. If we look specifically at the carbon footprint of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector alone, it is currently making up around 1.5% of total global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A paper published in the Journal of Cleaner Production showed that this amount is expected to grow to account for as much as 14% of global emissions by 2040, which is about half the emissions of the global transport sector. 

What drives the GHG emissions?

Dr. Lotfi Belkhir, the paper co-author, explains this increase in GHG emissions:

For every text message, every phone call, every video you upload or download, there’s a data center making this happen. Telecommunications networks and data centers consume a lot of energy to serve you and most data centers continue to be powered by electricity generated by fossil fuels. It’s the energy consumption we don’t see.

It has never been more important for telecom companies to invest in the use of eco-friendly renewable energy sources when implementing their telecom tower sites. We see more telecom operators with energy costs amounting to 25% or more of their cell tower operations are becoming large buyers of so-called “green electricity.”

The new era of 5G services is coming

A new research study published by Vertiv, together with technology analyst firm 451 Research, showed that moving towards 5G will increase energy consumption by 150% – 170% by 2026. In terms of costs for 4G operators today, energy costs represent around 30% of total OPEX. With 5G, the costs of the cell tower operations are expected to double, as more energy is required to power existing and new base station sites. The energy increase would be largely due to the rise in the number of small cells and massive multiple-input/output antennas. 

Many telco providers are taking additional energy efficiency measures, as 94% of survey respondents indicated that they expect overall energy costs to increase along with 5G/MEC deployments.

Saving costs with renewable energy

Powering cell tower operations with renewable energy is an excellent opportunity to improve efficiency and save costs, especially for towers in remote locations. Typically, these towers run on diesel gensets that require high costs for operation and maintenance. The recent price decrease of renewables makes onsite solar and wind energy often less expensive than electricity from the grid. However, the main issue with renewable energy is its complete reliance on weather, and therefore it cannot be deployed as an independent source of continuous power. 

In terms of costs and network resiliency, the telecom tower equipment solution that works the best is a hybrid solution. The solution can store and supply energy from other sources when the sun or wind is not producing power. You’ll find that large-scale batteries are employed to store the energy generated, but they have a limited lifespan. For back-up power, you’ll discover diesel generators deployed at a site.

Telecom operators worldwide are reducing their GHG emissions

Balancing renewable energy solutions with better monitoring of the telecom tower equipment and improved exercising of the generators are becoming the key to increase efficiency and reduce costs for the telecom site monitoring systems. In our White Paper on GHG Emissions, more and more telecom companies worldwide are committing to reducing their carbon footprint and becoming more environmentally-friendly. Here are a few examples:

  • Deutsche Telekom uses energy-efficient technology not just for their networks but also for lighting, monitoring, and cooling their systems. 
  • AT&T is leveraging a network automation platform to make intelligent decisions that safely allow a subset of a cell site’s capacity to temporarily go into a sleep mode and reduce its energy footprint.
  • MTN Group is deploying hybrid solutions at cell sites to reduce its GHG emissions, resulting in close to 30% of savings.

Looking ahead at tackling climate change issues, will continue to be on top of the concerns for the telecom industry. By utilizing innovative and eco-friendly solutions to reduce GHG emissions, you may also increase the efficiency of the telecom site monitoring systems at the same time.

Are you ready to join the green revolution?

As the digital ecosystem keeps growing worldwide, it’s no surprise that technology will play a fundamental role in addressing climate change and reducing GHG emissions. The ICT sector is only at the beginning of its sustainability journey, and telecom companies are starting to join the green revolution by implementing low-carbon and sustainable practices.

Check out our free GHG Emissions White Paper on how telecom site automation can help you reduce your carbon footprint.

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