According to GSMA the growth in the industry is led by the increase in wireless subscription expected to continue and cross 8 billion by 2020 from current subscriber base of 4.6 billion globally.
With increasing demand for telecom services, the energy consumption has also grown significantly and poses an environment challenge in terms of larger carbon emission footprint of the telecommunication industry.
The total global carbon footprint of the ICT industry as a whole is in the order of 800 million ton CO2 which is approximately two percent 2% of the global emissions.
Of this, the contribution from global telecommunication systems- mobile, fixed and communication devices are around 230 million tons CO2 or approximately .7% of global emissions.
This data only pertains to emission from the following:
*Energy consumed by the network operation
*Emission by the embedded network equipment
*Energy consumed by mobile handsets and other devices, when they are manufactured, distributed and used.
Also the discarded mobile phones are amongst the fastest growing waste streams worldwide and the rate of increase is around 650 million units per annum
*In India large part of the country like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Rajasthan, etc (especially rural area) are power starved. As per GSMA, India has only 56% electrification rate. With increasing coverage of mobile services in off grid areas, the cost of network operations through alternative sources of energy will increase.
At present the energy expense is around 25% of the total operational costs, and this does not include transaction costs in terms of transportation required in the remote villages, where physical infrastructure is not present.
*India has around 3,00,000 telecom towers. According to ACME average power consumption during power outrage per tower is 5-6 KW for 8hr of diesel generator, which means an average consumption of 4,000 litres of diesel every year, implying the telecom consumption of 1.8 billion litres of diesel every year.With each liter of diesel 2.48 kg of CO2 is emitted and for every KWH of electricity consumed 0.84 Kg of CO2 is emitted.
oTotal CO2 emission is around 5 million tones of CO2 due to diesel consumption and around 8 Million tons due to power grid per annum.
*The initial investment for a solar solution is around 40-45 lakh, Given that ARPU in most of the remote areas is less than Rs. 90., Operators do not have business case for investing in the renewable sources of energy.
*Given that the international supply and demand gap is resulting increase in the price of diesel, the opex associated with managing networks will increase, which will again hit profitability of operators, who are due to increased competition are already profit starved.
With increase in price of diesel and environmental factors some of the initiative taken by telecom operators globally and within India include:
*China Mobile has one of the world’s largest deployments of green technologies to power its base stations. China Mobile has 2,135 base station powered by alternative energy in 2008. Of these 1,615 were powered by alternative solar energy, 515 by solar and wind energy and 5 by other alternative sources.
*Active infrastructure sharing can have large impact on the networks carbon footprint though it has been limited to mature markets. Active sharing agreements include T-mobile and 3 Group in UK, Telstra and 3 Group, as well as Vodafone and Optus, in Australia, Tele 2 and Telia in Sweden.
*Swisscom has successfully implemented its “Mistral Mobile” cooling system at 30 of its BTS, leading to a reduction of up to 80% in the energy needed for cooling mobile network equipment.
*Nokia has launched a recycling initiative in India and many countries by placing kiosks at public places. The Kiosks are used to collect old phones to be recycled and used. Nokia plants a tree for every phone dropped and provides the customer with a unique URL and instructions with which to view their tree through Google Earth.
In December 2009, the ministry of state for environment and forests announced the Indian Government’s commitment to reduce 20-25% of carbon intensity from 2005 levels by 2020. Various incentives to reduce telecom carbon footprints in India include:
*Government offered Universal obligation service fund support to encourage operator to opt for green energy and Bio-fuel as an alternative for powering base stations.
*Mobile Operators and Players across the value chain are working on a number of initiatives to develop energy efficient networks and energy efficient handsets. Some example include:
oLaunch of green shelter concept to save energy consumption by Airtel
oIdea Cellular and Bharti infratel have deployed solar and bio fuels on trial basis for their base stations.
Based on the international experience, there can be considerable reduction in the telecom carbon footprints in the following activities in the telecom value chain:
*Designing low energy base station sites.
*Deploying base stations powered by renewable energy.
*Implementing passive and active infrastructure sharing.
*Reducing mobile device life cycle emissions through recycling
*Other initiatives- community power and low power handsets.
Telecom operators are also making serious efforts to reduce their carbon footprints in India. The government of India needs to be motivate and initiate some proactive steps to encourage telecom ecosystem to go green, some of these initiatives may include:
*Define what is called Green or in other words metrics used for certifying telecom products, equipments, services as green. The telecom regulatory body can even learn few lessons from automobile industry in this regard.
*Create a test and certification lab for validation of telecom equipments as green.
*Compulsory use of alternative source of energy for towers and base stations build as part of USOF.
*Public Funding and Support (like tax benefit) for various projects in the green space.
*Spectrum allocation charges to be linked with carbon credits earned by various operators.
About The Author – Varun is the CEO and Co-founder of InCights Mobile Solution Pvt. Ltd. The previous association includes IIM Ahmedabad, TATA Consultancy Services, Rise India and few others.
He has also represented InCights at various national and International Conferences and as a result InCights has been acknowledged as one of the best Start-ups at IIM Ahmedabad Power of Ideas and IIM Calcutta I2i and e-summit.
InCights has recently sponsored workshop on “Mobile Broadband: Igniting the service revolution” by IIM Ahmedabad Telecom Centre of Excellence and provides next generation of Enterprise Communication services.