A new GSMA report has revealed that 49 mobile telecom operators representing 62 percent of the industry by revenue have now committed to rapidly cutting emissions over the next decade. The report noted that this is despite double-digit growth in data traffic and 5g expansions.
This represents an increase of 18 operators since 2020, despite the challenges of Covid-19. In addition, 50% of mobile network operators by revenue have now committed to net-zero targets by 2050 or earlier.
According to the report, operators successfully limited the increase in carbon emissions to 2% on average in 2021. Investment in more energy-efficient network equipment and lower-carbon energy sources helped industry players limit their carbon impact, even as networks grew significantly to meet consumer demand.
Commenting on the report, GSMA’s Director General Mats Granryd said, “We are proud that the mobile industry continues to align around the 1.5C decarbonization pathway, even in the face of double-digit growth in demand for mobile services. We have far more to do to achieve our net-zero ambitions, but mobile will undeniably play an essential role in helping industries and individuals across the globe reduce their carbon impact.
The GSMA Director believes that connected solutions such as remote working, IoT and automation are key enablers in reducing travel, cutting emissions in other industries and transitioning to a lower-carbon future.
Whilst further work is needed to reduce emissions to hit its net-zero ambition for 2050, the mobile industry continues to make meaningful progress in successfully decoupling data traffic with electricity use and carbon emissions. Data traffic was up 31% last year, with electricity up 5%, but associated carbon emissions only grew by 2%.
To boost energy efficiency, the industry is increasingly turning to artificial intelligence, machine learning and virtualization to optimise power use in equipment, centralise network resources and avoid unnecessary heating or air-conditioning.
As well as harnessing operational efficiencies, operators are transitioning to more renewable electricity, with 18% of total electricity consumption sourced from renewable sources during 2021, up from 14% in 2020. Given the electricity demand to power mobile networks, the GSMA continues to call on governments to create suitable energy market frameworks for businesses to access renewable electricity at a competitive price.