27 January, 2021

ETNO comments to Questionnaire of the Sub-group on Role of RSP to Help Combat Climate Change

The European Telecommunication Network Operators' Association (ETNO) welcomes the opportunity to provide feedback to the Questionnaire of the Sub-group on Role of RSP to Help Combat Climate Change.

Q1. How can the wireless technologies contribute to the efforts to reduce the climate impact of your sector?

First of all, we believe digitalisation and connectivity are key instruments for dealing with the most pressing environmental challenges affecting society at large: for instance climate change, water shortage, circular economy, pollution, and loss of biodiversity. In fact, digital solutions are a critical pre-requisite for achieving the EU Green Deal’s sustainability goals across different sectors of the economy and society.

The telecommunications industry is a substantial enabler of the transition to the EU Green Deal. High-capacity, stable, energy-efficient networks are key enablers for sustainable digitalisation. In terms of potential contribution to the achievement of the EU Green Deal Goals, the “greening by” aspect has a much broader impact across sectors of the economy and of the society.

Research indicates that the ICT sector stands for about 2% of the global CO2 footprint[1]. However, if properly utilized, the efficiency and saving potential is exponential. According to Exponential roadmap report, digital services have potential, tenfold their footprint, to reduce energy and materials across the economy and could directly enable a third of the emissions reductions needed by 2030[2]. Also, another recent report on the impact of mobile communication technologies on carbon emission reductions has shown that mobile technologies are helping to enable carbon reductions 10 times the emissions of the mobile sector across the wider economy[3].

Services based on the Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud or Big Data require a strong digital infrastructure and enable more efficient use of resources across a variety of sectors. This includes manufacturing, agriculture, mobility, transport/logistics, energy, healthcare, education, public administration and many more. There is clear scientific evidence that those sectors, through uptake of digital infrastructure and digital services, have the opportunity to become more productive, more modern and more service-oriented, while dramatically reducing their carbon footprint[4].

Besides this crucial role for the whole economy, and to take advantage of all the benefits of digitalization, telecom providers have taken decisive and continuous action to cut carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency in their own networks[5].  

According to our State of Digital Communications Report, by 2019, almost 50% of the energy used by our companies came from renewable resources[6]. This reflects positively on the green performance of the sector, which in 2019 reduced its overall emissions by 8.5% with respect to the previous year.

Many ICT companies have set aggressive carbon reduction targets and ICT sector is the largest purchaser of renewable energy.

Further significant reductions can be reached by mobile networks’ increasingly energy efficient operations, a sustainable deployment process, as well as the purchase of sustainable equipment. The latter also includes sustainable manufacturing processes (in mining, refinery, assembly, transportation, maintenance, dismantling and recycling).

Last but not least, the deployment of 5G technology will strongly improve energy efficiency of mobile networks. As traffic volumes continuously increase, 5G provides the required capacities while consuming the least energy in terms of “watt per byte”[7]. 3G networks, which have a low energy performance, will become redundant and will be gradually switched off, further increasing energy efficiency.

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[1] Malmodin, Lundén, The Energy and Carbon Footprint of the Global ICT and E&M Sectors 2010-2015, including forecast to 2020, August 2018, https://doi.org/10.3390/su10093027

[2] Exponential Roadmap, Scaling 36 solutions to halve emissions by 2030, ver. 1.5.1, 2020, www.exponentialroadmap.org

[3] The Enablement Effect, Mobile Technologies Enabling Huge Carbon Reductions in Response to Climate Emergency, GSMA, 2019. Downloadable here

[4] Deloitte for GeSI, Digital with Purpose, 2019

[5] ETNO’s position paper on EU Green Deal. Downloadable here

[6] ETNO’s The State of Digital Communications 2020. Downloadable here  

[7] Evolving from 0,47-0,61 W/bit (for 4G 1800 MHz RBS powered with 4 x 20 W or 4 x 40 W, 20 MHz BW, 256 QAM, 4 x 4 MIMO) to 0,12-0,13 W/bit (for 5G 3700 MHz RBS powered with 100-200W, 80 MHz BW, 64 TX, MU-MIMO16, 8 users).

© ETNO 2021
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