Report: How Mobile Networks Can Cut Carbon

1 Summary

In 1997, a group of nations adopted the Kyoto Protocol, a series of binding commitments aimed at reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. To date, 183 countries have committed to these measures, and each is working to implement national programs that will enable them to meet their own country-specific emissions goals. Included among many nations’ emission reduction efforts are Information and Communications Technology (ICT)-related technologies and green practices. While this industry sector is responsible for just 2 percent of overall emissions, it has the potential to produce a 15 percent reduction in total GHG levels by 2020, according to a recent study from the Climate Group.

This report focuses on the direct emissions-reduction impact of green technologies and practices as applied to mobile telecommunications networks, with an emphasis on the opportunity to reduce carbon emissions from network operations.

Within mobile networks, base stations and switching centers consume 70-80 percent of an operator’s network energy usage, so improvements here are critical. As operators concentrate on improvements in radio frequency (RF) amplifiers, new network architectures and topologies, fresh-air cooling solutions, and the use of sustainable energy solutions for off-grid locations, we believe that a significant opportunity exists to dramatically improve the efficiency and environmental impact of mobile networks.

Our analysis indicates that there are sufficient technology and process improvements to reduce 2013 infrastructure emissions by at least 101 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e), a decrease of 42 percent from business-as-usual (BAU) trendlines. Key factors supporting this assessment include government emissions mandates in most parts of the world, along with operators’ increasing shift away from capex-only business case analysis to a total cost of ownership (TCO) approach for purposes of calculating return on investment (ROI) for major infrastructure upgrades.