Interview: Saji Mathew, Vice President and Head Network Implementation and Infrastructure Management, Tata Teleservices (TTSL) shares his view about Project Optimus

The DoT go-green directives may have hit a tough spot with service providers facing innumerable challenges in their way towards green telecom, but Tata Teleservices is one of the companies, pursuing its green targets aggressively. Saji Mathew, Vice President and Head Network Implementation and Infrastructure Management, Tata Teleservices (TTSL), tells us about Project Optimus, which has enabled the company to reduce grid power consumption of 53,066 MWh and diesel consumption reduction by 12725 KL, leading to an overall carbon footprint reduction of over 78874 TCO2.

Excerpts from an interview with TelecomTalk:

Question: What actually led to the formation of Project Optimus?

Answer: Project Optimus was born out of the desire to have a positive and growing impact on environment as a result of doing our business.

The intention was to reduce the Op-Expenses and carbon foot print of the company in a manner that the core business remains unaffected while the burden on the environment is reduced. We realized that a majority of what we intended to achieve could be achieved with control of diesel consumption.       

Questions: Please tell us more about Project Optimus and how it helped in reduction of carbon footprint…

Answer: Project Optimus was started in 2010 to achieve optimization of network operation cost and reduction in carbon footprint of Tata Teleservices Limited.

A cross functional team called ‘the Applied Research Team’ was formed to work on various areas to reduce the operational expenses of the network. This department was responsible for developing customized solutions, working closely with vendors, carrying out proof of concept implementations (prototype and pilot projects) and developing models for rollouts and monitoring implementation.

Saji Mathew

Saji Mathew

As part of this initiative, the team devised solutions that helped Tata Teleservices achieve an annualized OPEX savings to the tune of Rs.98+Crs. and annualized carbon savings to the tune of 80K TCO2e.  

In addition to this, we are constantly evaluating new ideas and incorporating various changes in existing initiatives.

The challenge was how to improvise existing product considering the changing telecom technical-commercial requirements. The periodic reviews have helped us to work out best possible solutions for improving on the carbon footprint for TTSL and analyzing cost-benefit equations for the new solutions generated.

Question: Currently, what percentage of area in the country is being covered by this service?

Answer: Project Optimus is being implemented in a phased manner and so far we have managed to implement it on 20 % of our sites. Tata Teleservices covers the entire country though mobile sites/towers of different tower operators. The network energy cost of these towers is one of the major components amounting to about 30% of the total network cost.

Energy cost consists of two components-electricity charges of grid power and diesel consumption for running Diesel Generator (DG) set when there is no grid power.

The cost of running a Diesel Generator (DG) is much higher than the cost of electricity provided by electricity board. The energy costs depends on many parameters including but not limited to the type and power consumption of the electronics, the number of tenants at the site with their consumptions, the efficiencies of the passive Infra elements, type of the telecom equipment like indoor (ID) or outdoor type (OD), the quality and availability of grid power, the available battery backup hours, the ambient temperature, per KWH grid unit rate and the Diesel per liter rate.

There are limited options that any operator can turn to at distributed IP controlled tower sites, but as a company known for its innovation and environment-consciousness, Tata Teleservices formed an “Applied Research” team. This team had a mandate to obtain good quality continuous power independent of grid reliability and thus becoming the lowest cost telecom operator.

The name of the project was christened as “Project Optimus” and developed customized solutions working closely with vendors, carrying out proof of concept implementations (prototype and pilot projects) and developing models for rollouts and monitoring implementation. The few of the institutionalized initiatives under the Project Optimus implemented are:

  • Elimination of Air-conditioning and power consumption reduction
  • Outdoor Conversion of BTS
  • Free cooling Units (FCU)
  • Solar Hybrid System for BTS-Solar – Battery- DG Hybrid system
  • Wheeling of Renewable energy-Wind power/Solar Power Wheeling for Data Centres

Questions: What types of benefits were churned out of this project?

Answer: Through its Project Optimus initiative, across its multiple sites, Tata Teleservices was able to reduce Grid power consumption of 53,066 MWh and diesel consumption reduction by 12725 KL leading to an overall carbon footprint reduction of over 78874 TCO2.

The company deployed a mix of innovative solutions which included housing indoor equipment in outdoor cabinets and using outside climate to effect the cooling process; thus completely eliminating the requirement – the cost and environmental impact – for air conditioning.

Question: What were some of the challenges you faced while executing this project?

Answer: The challenges of project execution were:

30% of OPEX is Energy (Diesel  – 52%)

  • Network performance deterioration due to high diesel usage
  • Environmental impact due to high power & Diesel usage
  • Economical impact of FOREX  on FUEL imports
  • Space availability for Indoor to outdoor conversion
  • Limited options available for operators at distributed IP controlled tower sites
  • Criticality of equipment inside the shelter
  • Disputes & Governance issues
  • Landlord and infrastructure (IP) operator permissions

With implementing Outdoor conversion of existing Indoor Base station gets converted to Outdoor Base station eliminating the air conditioning requirement which helped us achieve an annualized OPEX savings to the tune of Rs.98+Crs. and annualized carbon savings to the tune of 80K TCO2e.

Question: How does this reflect in terms of meeting regulations and reducing costs?

Answer: Tata Teleservices, is committed to ensure that our businesses play an enabling role in sustaining environment and leveraging best green practices while working for providing services to our customer

We have deployed a mix of innovative solutions which included housing indoor equipment in outdoor cabinets and using outside climate to affect the cooling process; thus completely eliminating the requirement – the cost and environmental impact – for air conditioning.

The efforts have led to reduction in levels of CO2e emissions by reduced energy consumption at the base station due to reduced power and diesel consumption, and in process saving on energy costs which can be as high as 30% of Network OPEX for a telecom company.

Question: What’s your vision, moving forward?

Answer: TTL recognizes that the journey to a cleaner and greener environment has just started. The company is working relentlessly on increasing its energy reduction initiatives both in spread and intensity as well as expanding its green energy portfolio by embracing various innovations and developing solutions. Hence, TTSL continues to adopt a multi-focused approach in the following areas:

  • Improving efficiencies in its existing sites
  • Working with its IPs and Telecom OEMs to increase the number and geographic spread of Indoor BTS to Outdoor BTS conversions.
  • Replacing the conventional energy sources with renewable (green) energy sources for its MSCs.
  • Generation of renewable power at its BTS sites by working with renewable energy service companies (RESCOs).
  • Introducing revolutionary battery technologies like Lithium-Ion and higher efficiency DGs like diesel turbine generator sets.

Tata Teleservices believes in sustainable green economy and plays a transformative role in optimizing the use of energy and is on the journey to a cleaner and greener environment and strives continuously to improve efficiencies in existing sites and greener power generation. Tata Teleservices in addition to “Project Optimus” has been exploring new green initiatives in optimizing consumption of energy from grid and DG sets and in optimization of the network elements increasing efficiency of operations and had started up the TICET project.

TTSL started a project with TICET team (Tata Teleservices IIT Bombay Centre for Excellence in Telecommunication) to bring in a fresh perspective to the problem. The objective was to design a scalable solution which could help achieve our green ambitions across our 40,000 BTS sites while meeting our financial goals.

We at TTSL will continue to endeavor to help itself and the community at large for developing a less carbon intensive and more sustainable future.

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