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A mobile revolution

Telstra News

Posted on November 24, 2009

4 min read

Whenever I hear of the word manifesto, I think of revolutions, revolts, uprisings and serious radical (even violent) change.

In my last blog I said I’d provide an update on what the global mobile sector is doing to reduce its own and assist other industries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Well, the GSMA has just released its report, Mobile’s Green Manifesto, that brings together what the global mobile telecommunications industry is doing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Some might think the term manifesto is a little over the top. But I like it. A revolution in mobile technology, and the benefits it can bring, is what we are about to see. In fact the newly released GSMA report suggests that from carbon reduction perspective, it is already upon us.

The first point I have noted is that the global mobile communications industry is making commitments to reduce its own (direct) carbon footprint.

The number of mobile connections is set to rise by 70% to 8 billion by 2020 as the industry builds out a new generation of mobile broadband networks bringing billions of people into the information economy. Despite this growth, the mobile industry forecasts that its total emissions will remain constant at 245 mega-tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2e) – equivalent to 0.5% of total global emissions in 2020.

The mobile industry forecasts that it will reduce its total global greenhouse gas emissions per connection  by 40% by 2020 compared to 2009. This forecast covers all emissions from energy sources under the control of the mobile operators, including energy consumption from the radio network, buildings, energy consumption and emissions from transport.

Some of the major power savings initiatives are:

  • Designing low energy base station sites
  • Deploying base stations powered by renewable energy
  • Implementing infrastructure optimisation and sharing
  • Reducing mobile device life cycle emissions through design and recycling

The second observation from the report is in the enabling role that the mobile sector has.

An extrapolation by the GSMA of results from the Carbon Connections and SMART2020 reports shows that the mobile industry can enable GHG savings of at least 1,150 Mt CO2e in 2020, or 2.2% of the global 2020 GHG emissions, in the “business-as-usual” scenario, provided the initiatives are rolled out worldwide.

Examples of the initiatives required to reduce GHG emissions include:

  • Smart logistics solutions, including fleet tracking systems and load optimisation, synchronised traffic and notification systems, onboard telematics to encourage eco-driving, congestion management, routing and journey management optimisation, and road pricing
  • Smart grids and smart meters solutions, including electricity network monitoring, and electricity and gas metering
  • Smart buildings, which use mobile and other ICT technologies to deliver highly energy-efficient, low-emissions buildings both for new and existing building stock
  • Dematerialisation, that is, the substitution of high carbon products and activities with low carbon alternatives, for example, substituting face-to-face meetings with video-conferencing, or home-working

Another way in which the mobile industry has a role to play is in monitoring and broadcasting weather and other environmental impacts. This will become a crucial element for successful adaptation to the changing climate.

The GSMA report is not just theory or the results of modelling. It describes 30 practical case studies all of which show how this enabling role is actually delivering these emission saving.

Related Blogs, Posts & Endnotes:

Note: Some of the comments that readers made on my last blog were that I focused on the positive environmental benefits of mobiles, yet there are significant environmental impacts that I didn’t address. I acknowledge this and will pick these up in a future blog.