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Vodafone UK Urges Gov to Deploy 5G and Other Digital Tech to Save Planet

Tuesday, September 14th, 2021 (12:01 am) - Score 1,248

Vodafone UK and WPI Economics have called on the government to help fix the climate by putting the rollout of 5G (mobile broadband), IoT and other digital connectivity at the core of its forthcoming Net Zero strategy – it’s claimed this could reduce the UK’s overall emissions by up to 4% a year (17.4 million tonnes of CO2e).

At this point it should go without saying that Vodafone, being a mobile network operator, has a vested interest in anything that would encourage wider adoption of 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) style communication technologies. But since last year they’ve also aimed to achieve Net Zero status by 2040 (2027 when only looking at the UK), which is the point at which they start removing as many carbon emissions as they produce.

NOTE: The UK Government aims to achieve Net Zero by 2050, which some fear may be too late to reverse the environmental impact that climate change is having.

The new ‘Connecting for Net Zero‘ research forecasts that the adoption of digital technology could cut UK emissions by 78% come 2035, while deployment in three key areas (manufacturing, transport and agriculture) may reduce the UK’s overall emissions by up to 4% a year, which is the equivalent to the annual emissions of the entire Northeast of England.

In addition, it may also help to create 175,000 additional jobs across the UK economy.

Key Report Findings

· In manufacturing, between 2.7 – 3.3 million tonnes of CO2e could be saved annually, the same as the emissions produced in the manufacture of almost 600,000 cars. Digital technology such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and smart building solutions will cut emissions in smart factories through faster and more efficient production lines and increased energy efficiency.

NOTE: Manufacturing is still a relatively high source of emissions in the UK. Around 82 million tonnes of CO2e were being emitted as a result of this activity in 2019, 15% of total UK emissions.

· In transport, between 6.6 – 9.3 million tonnes of CO2e could be saved annually, the equivalent of taking two million cars off the road. For example, telematics enables logistics companies to shorten delivery routes and cut idle time through intelligent route planning, significantly reducing fuel consumption.

NOTE: Transport is now the largest source of emissions in the UK, with emissions from surface transport (non-aviation and shipping related transport) having remained largely unchanged since 1990, with 113 million tonnes of CO2 in 2019, or 22% of overall UK emissions. Around 78% of surface transport emissions come from cars and light vans.

· In agriculture, between 2.4 – 4.8 million tonnes of CO2e could be saved annually, the same as the emissions produced in the production of three billion pints of milk. For example, smart sensors enable improved monitoring of crops, soil, fertiliser, feed and water, substantially improving resource efficiency and reducing waste.

NOTE: Agriculture and land use are rightly major priorities for emissions reduction, with 46.3 million tonnes of CO2e emissions in 2019. This sector contributed around 9% of overall UK emissions in 2019, and has remained fairly static at this level over the last 15 years.

The report claims that every part of the UK would see the benefits from such technology. In towns and cities, most of the carbon savings from digital tech (87%) could come from transport; while in the countryside, 38% of the savings could come from the digitalisation of agriculture.

Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer at Vodafone UK, said:

“Significantly reducing emissions from traditionally carbon-intensive sectors – such as manufacturing, transport and agriculture – is one of the biggest opportunities of the next decade.

Businesses and government must work together to drive the adoption of technology that will maximise efficiencies and help the UK decarbonise more rapidly to meet vital environmental goals.

At Vodafone, we’re committed to ambitious net zero targets and to helping our business customers to reduce their carbon footprints through our technology.”

The report calls on the UK Government to investigate its proposals further and set targets for related deployments, which they say should be supported by incentives and an increase in the weighting of carbon reduction technologies – and business carbon reduction targets – in procurement processes.

On top of that they want the Government to throw £500m toward funding for regional innovation centres specifically to develop future IoT and 5G applications that will help cut carbon emissions in key sectors. But this seems like a level of funding that might be more useful if put toward fostering wider network upgrades and deployments instead.

Finally, Vodafone, which rarely misses an opportunity to encourage the Government to increase their investment in mobile network deployments, called on the Gov to continue to “remove barriers to network rollout, such as planning policy and businesses rates, as quickly as possible.” Some work on that is already taking place, but it’s a slow process.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
13 Responses
  1. SM says:

    I wish they would just force mobile operators to share the networks/masts with users roaming between them. That way each operator wouldn’t have to invest in locations that others have or will eventually get to, overlapping in some places where perfectly good equipment is already in place offering the newer/desired connectivity, and thus could get to other areas rather than a slow patchwork of cherry picked locations that take years upon years to roll out and get replaced with the next big thing before they have even completed their “investments”.

    SRN sounded at one stage like it may be a step towards that, but reading in to more detail it isn’t. It’s time it was more like a network that offered true roaming – they could easily bill/divvy up the costs/money based on number of users per cell or airtime used – they already have that info, and it could continue to bill to your chosen provider exactly as you do already, just like wholesale broadband or landline phone services allow people to.

    1. Tempest3K says:

      My main concern with your proposal is the removal of resiliency – having a minimum of 2 competing networks with own supporting infrastructure provides this.

    2. MattP79 says:

      Users and usage depending, contention could become an issue very quickly.

  2. Mike says:

    I don’t mind believing in Climate Change if it gets me 5G.

    1. Winston Smith says:

      Climate change doesn’t care if you believe in it, it’s happenning anyway.

      Although PR fluff like this tends to dilute the message.

    2. Mike says:

      @Winston Smith

      If you say so.

  3. Optimist says:

    The UK achieving “net zero” will make not make any difference to amospheric CO2 as long as countries such as China continue to increase their emissions.

    In any case the climate always changes, there have been periods as warm or warmer than today despite atmospheric CO2 remaining low during the Holocene until the mid twentieth century.

    Tony Heller of realclimatescience.com and John Robson of climatediscussionnexus.com have documented all this.

    1. Tony Dean says:

      “Climate change is not real – look, these climate change denialists say so!”

    2. Optimist says:

      Tony Dean says:
      “Climate change is not real – look, these climate change denialists say so!”

      One of the worst climate change denialists was Michael Mann, author of the hockey-stick graph, purporting to show that climate had remained largely unchanged until the mid twentieth century when CO2 levels started to rise, denying the existence of the Medieval Warm Period. He lost a legal action against a journalist who accused him of fraud.

      The evidence shows that the climate has always been changing, there is very little correlation with atmospheric CO2.

  4. Mark says:

    @SM Force Mobile operators to deploy! You are aware of the strict planning laws in place, even more so in the countryside, and of course opposition to new masts in a lot of areas, where there is no mast or location due to the above problems,most of the rural areas left are uneconomic or the locals object.

  5. Buggerlugz says:

    If its standalone 5g, yeah sure, the government should get behind it. If its pretend NSA 5g, its a pointless exercise.

  6. Klar says:

    Since when 5G is green tech? 5G will consume a lot more electricity. How much energy will be spent to convert everyone to 5G, i.e. in terms of manufacturing new IoT devices, new network equipments, new smartphones? How much more pollution to extract rare-earth metals to build all these 5G-enabled things? Energy efficiency OK for one 5G antenna, but how much electricity will be needed to consume a swarm of antennae at the country scale? Incredibly a lot more! Huge impact environment. That is the problem. 5G lobbyists should clean in front of their door first! Again, telcos cannot resist the greenwashing temptation. After all, who do they fear the most? Their shareholders or the planet earth? But, maybe they got influced by one of the top three consulting firms with regard to the ESG narrative!!!

    1. Tony Dean says:

      Today’s 5G kit is far more energy-efficient than legacy network infrastructure, so actually yes it does make sense to deploy as a long-term strategy to reducing emissions. I think your point on the handsets is a more pertinent one – manufacturing devices that are designed to be thrown away after 18 months and are all but obsolete within 5 years is a real issue. But that’s really a problem for the OEMs not the networks…

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