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Energy Use and Carbon Emissions of UK Telecoms Hold Steady

Friday, May 29th, 2020 (11:10 am) - Score 354

A new survey by the GSMA has reported that energy consumption and carbon emissions from telecoms networks have remained “mostly unchanged” in recent weeks, which is despite the COVID-19 crisis causing some significant increases in broadband ISP and mobile data traffic during the lockdown (much of that has since subsided).

The GSMA examined several of its large operator members to ascertain the environmental impact of the surge in services, such as video conferencing and entertainment streaming. In most cases, network electricity usage has remained flat, even as voice and data traffic has spiked by 50% or more.

The total life cycle carbon footprint of the ICT sector is estimated at approximately 700 million tonnes CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e): of this 170 MtCO2e is from the telco sector, 190 Mt CO2e is from the manufacture of user devices, 180 MtCO2e is from the use of user devices and the remainder for data centres and enterprise networks. This is equivalent to around 1.4% of total global greenhouse gas emissions and approximately 4% of global electricity use.

Some Examples

• UK operator BT reports a 100% increase in daytime traffic across its fixed broadband network. Mobile data traffic has fallen slightly since before the virus as more people connect to Wi-Fi. However, BT does see an increase in mobile data usage after the daily Downing Street briefings and the Clap for NHS Heroes on Thursday evenings. These changes did not lead to a noticeable increase in electricity use or carbon emissions, according to BT.

• Telefónica reported a 35% data increase over its networks in Spain (26% fixed network and 48% mobile network) with no increase in electricity usage. There have also been increases in data traffic in the UK (O2) and Germany. However, at a lower level, and without a significant increase in electricity usage.

• The Nordics operator Telia, with operations in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania reported an electricity consumption increase of less than 1% across its mobile network, despite a 20% mobile data increase. They further say electricity use was unchanged across its fixed and core network operations. Similar to BT, an increase in data usage outside regular working hours have been observed, probably due to a rise in consumption of streamed film series, etc.

The survey notes that mobile and fixed networks are designed to be as energy-efficient as possible. “In the case of traffic spikes and peaks, the network uses in-built ‘overcapacity’ to support the extra traffic load without requiring additional power. The current data increases have also tended to be evenly distributed throughout the day, enabling easier network management,” said the GSMA.

Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA, said:

“As an industry we can be proud of network connectivity that is enabling societies and economies in these challenging times without increasing our environmental footprint. Our sector will form the backbone to the future global economy and has a unique role to play in reaching a Net Zero carbon economy.”

According to data collected by ETNO and its members, in the period 2010-2018, data traffic increased by 1100%, yet carbon emissions actually reduced by 40% and electricity consumption increased around 10%. In short, networks are becoming more energy efficient as they get better and faster.

The ICT sector recently set a science-based pathway that will allow mobile, fixed broadband and datacentre operators to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. For example, mobile operators adopting the target are required to reduce emissions by at least 45% by the end of the decade.

Leave a Comment
6 Responses
  1. Avatar Mike

    Good to hear the trees won’t be starved of any more carbon.

    • Avatar luke

      Don’t worry once the beer virus has gone away the fear and paranoia (AKA F.A.P’ers) of society will soon enough be back to killing trees and polluting the planet even more than they did before. So big organisations will not have to.

      Less public transport will be used by them for fear of getting ill, car use (sorry i mean isolation bubbles) will go up, so they can contribute to and increase the 40,000+ deaths that occur due to pollution each year.

      The boredom of daily cycling… sorry i mean exercising, will be gone come end of September when the weather turns to crap and mean hundreds more bikes dumped in canels, streams, lagoons etc. The old bill will not even have to even chuck black dye in them anymore to keep people away.

      The No Help or Solution (N.H.S) will also have plenty of PPE aprons and other plastic crap to incinerate which they demanded, much of which has arrived too late (IE past the Virus peak) and will be also be dumped as it only has a regulatory shelf life. Finally Our “Guidance” leaders can all pat themselves on the back and say they made good job of it all and the F.A.P’ers will all nod and clap in agreement.

      Welcome to the new happy clappy normal of saving the planet and decreasing carbon.

    • Avatar CarlT

      Seek help.

    • Avatar luke

      Which bit do i need help with? Our great leader has told us to use the car over public transport where possible. SO carbon from those is likely to rise.

      Many Bicycles are dumped in streams, rivers etc each year and the uptake in sales of them this March and April (you will be hard pressed to even find one to buy right now at regular retailers with 90% of stock gone). Obviously means more are likely to be dumped. If more have been bought it means more are unlikely to see regular use, which in turn from irresponsible people means more of them dumped.

      Medical waste, especially for something like COVID, has to be burned. All the regular changing of aprons, masks, gloves which for the most part all contain plastic will be incinerated this contributes to carbon emissions. MILLIONS worldwide of these items would had been used, far more than normal in the medical industry yearly.

      Our government until now one of their own have been caught out have never been clear on what was guidance and law from the start, yet they still think they have done a fine job so i do not see what i help with there either.

      You may not care about the planet or the human and animal life that dies from the polluting of the planet I DO though.

      The life of both humans and animals lost each year before Covid via pollution of the planet was far higher than what has been lost from Covid, anything that contributes to death via pollution is a bad thing.

      You may not care about the beauty or safety of our lakes, streams, reservoirs or the water life that lives in them. You may not care about people finding it difficult to breath because the selfish and scared use their cars rather than lower carbon emitting public transport. You may not care about incinerating waste and the blight plants like that not only make of the landscape but the pollution they produce. You may not care about all about poor and contradictory leadership. You may not care about all the pointless crap for “entertainment” that has been bought online and will also likely be dumped once this is all over with. Well sorry but i do care about life, the planet and waste so i find your comment about me needing help rather insulting.

  2. Avatar Gary

    Wow, You can add ‘Your time and effort’ to all those other wastes.

    Fortunately I didn’t waste much of mine as I got bored part way through reading your rambling. I saved so much time not reading most of it I had enough spare to make this post.

    • Avatar luke

      I am not shocked you can not differentiate between polluting the planet with waste and wasting time.

      I am also not shocked you only have the attention span to read anything in part. You self admit that part reading a post wasted part of your time, before reaching a conclusion and then wasting more of your time with the compelling feeling and need to reply about the wasting of time. The logic in that brain fart must have destroyed all the carbon saving in one fell swoop the rest of the planet is trying to do.

      Good job, id give you a pat, but that may result in a burb of more unneeded gas and by god the arctic is melting enough without you opening your gob of hot air more.

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