PARTNER CONTENT: Experts speaking at the GTI Summit 2022 highlighted the critical importance of the mobile and digital industries in helping organisations across the world achieve sustainability, with 5G a key driver of improved efficiency across almost all industry verticals.

More than a dozen speakers gathered for the online event last week, which was themed 5G and Decarbonisation.

GTI chairman Craig Ehrlich pointed to the vital role digitalisation plays in decarbonisation and achieving sustainability across economies. “It is now recognised that development must be environmentally and socially sustainable.”

Ehrlich said the wider mobile ecosystem can help improve energy efficiency, which in turn reduces carbon emissions across many sectors of business and industry.

GSMA director general Mats Granryd (pictured) cited research it conducted with the Carbon Trust which found smart technology can contribute 40 per cent of the required carbon emissions savings the world needs by 2030 across the energy, transport, manufacturing and building sectors.

“But we must make sure we also play our part,” Granryd stated, noting in 2019 the GSMA board set an ambition for the mobile sector to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

He presented data showing 80 per cent of mobile operators by revenue are disclosing their climate impact, with 66 per cent committed to rapidly cutting emissions of their whole value chain by 2030.

5G update
Granryd said 176 mobile operators have launched 5G services in 70 markets, with global connections expected to reach 1 billion this year and account for a quarter of the world’s total by 2025.

“There is absolutely no doubt 5G is the future.”

He gave the example of how a Foxconn factory in China uses 4G, 5G and IoT connections to increase production efficiency by 30 per cent and reduce labour costs, with annual saving of $1.6 million.

Liu Yulin, vice director general of the Department of Information and Communication Development, MIIT of China (pictured, right), underlined how ICT advances such as 5G play a crucial role in boosting greener lifestyles, promoting energy conservation and efficiency in enterprises, and advancing the green and sustainable development of cities.

“The ubiquitous real-time connections powered by 5G are gradually changing our lifestyles,” he stated, noting online conferences, telemedicine, smart education and digital entertainment have reduced travel emissions in an efficient way.

A use case presented at the Blooming Cup 5G application competition showed how an iron and steel product facility could gather data from monitoring devices in real time by connecting sensors at various production points using 5G technology, improving work efficiency and reducing solid waste emissions by 5 per cent.

Adair Turner, chair of Energy Transitions Commission, counted digital integration among the three most crucial technologies along with the shift to electricity and hydrogen to drive the move to a zero-carbon economy.

He explained new technologies enable people to manage the timing of demand more intelligently using complex, sophisticated software-based control systems. “Varying demand in response to available supply will be crucially important and it will be crucial we integrate into our storage systems.”

He added such systems can be used in everything from industrial processes for commercial or residential heating, to the use of computing power in decentralised offices and large cloud-based server farms.

Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance CEO Anita Dowler (pictured, left) highlighted a recent move to develop a green network industry benchmark to establish globally-applicable KPIs and methodologies.

“A project that measures mobile networks only based on service quality and network quality is not sufficient,” Dowler explained, noting while those metrics remain important for users, it was also important to include green achievements in the mix.

The NGMN Alliance aims to define data sources for the assessment and how such data are obtained, focusing on high-level sustainability indicators which will be followed by more detailed assessments at subsequent stages.

Major gains
China Mobile EVP Gao Tongqing (pictured, right) highlighted the operator had pursued green and low-carbon development for 14 years.

Between 2016 and 2020 China Mobile employed a series of energy-saving measures which cut electricity consumption by 10 billion kWh, CO2 emissions by about 6.3 million tonnes and the aggregate energy consumption per unit of its telecoms business by 86.5 per cent.

Integrating IT with various industries helped reduce emissions by more than 800 million tonnes, the executive explained.

Gao stated achieving low-carbon targets is a “wide-ranging ongoing transformation” which involves all aspects of the economy and society.

He noted 5G and other new-generation information technologies currently support green development by providing networking, digital and intelligent technologies, which are a major engine in pushing energy conservation and emission reduction.

In 2021 China Mobile upgraded its Green Action Plan to focus on: energy savings; clean energy; and empowerment.

KT’s Infrastructure DX R&D Centre head Lee Jongsik noted strong government policy plays an important role, with the South Korean government pledging to make the country carbon neutral by 2050 and pushing for bold initiatives to shift energy sources.

He said substantial power can be saved in network operations by applying techniques to control the on-off status of specific antenna elements to reduce unnecessary base station energy consumption when load levels are low.

Such technologies delivered reductions in power consumption of between 13 per cent and 23 per cent, and $5.7 million in opex.

Beyond the monetary savings, the impact is equivalent to removing 26,000 tonnes of CO2 or about 4 million pine trees planted to offset carbon emissions. “Technology’s impact surpasses expectations and considering the growing number of 5G base stations, the power saving impact is expected to further increase.”

The evolution of cloud-native infrastructure is happening globally and industry is committed to reducing the carbon footprint in data centres, Lee stated.

He cited a building management service KT developed which combines AI and machine learning which reduced energy opex by 10 per cent at each of the 380 facilities where it was deployed.

KT is offering the service for free in small buildings.

R&D push
Takatoshi Okagawa, GM of R&D Strategy Department at NTT Docomo, revealed plans to develop an energy management system making use of solar panels, fuel cells, next-generation batteries and other energy resources to enable the company to optimise power usage across its operations.

The operator aims to significantly reduce power consumption using advanced network technologies with a focus on improved efficiency and introducing more renewable energy sources.

While mobile phones and digital services contribute to reducing the environmental impact by enabling remote work and also other eco-friendly options, he explained the industry consumes a large amount of electricity and emits a large amount of CO2.

The company estimates annual CO2 emissions from 180 million mobile devices in Japan is almost the same as that created by 10 million cars.

Wang Jiye, deputy CIO of State Grid Corp of China (SGCC), emphasised the importance of 5G in supporting the construction of a new power system and moving toward carbon peaking and neutrality.

He noted together with cloud, AI and other new-generation information technologies, 5G has become the foundation of a digital and intelligent society, and the company is developing practical applications which effectively improve the management of its power grid.

The company uses China Mobile’s 5G network to improve efficiency and safety, for example deploying drones to inspect power lines.

SGCC is exploring hosting 5G base stations at facilities including power towers and substations to share physical resources, which can avoid overlapping capacity, reduce investment and lower energy usages.

Built for purpose
Qualcomm chief economist Kirti Gupta cited data from a report it commissioned estimating that by 2025, when 5G is integrated across industries, the technology holds the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 370 million metric tonnes. “That’s equivalent to taking 81 million vehicles off the road in any given year in the US. That’s big.”

To optimise network designs, she gave the example of enhancing energy efficiency by enabling separate handling of data and signalling traffic. “We can leverage simplification of signalling for many functions the mobile network does,” such as handovers and location management to reduce overall traffic and improve efficiency.

Depending on the network deployment case, s

She said Qualcomm can deploy a different type of energy improvement mechanism suited for specific environments to “give you huge advantages” in deployments spanning urban, rural, indoor and outdoor, or hotspots.

Yang Chaobin, president of Wireless Solution at Huawei, expressed optimism additional gains can be made in energy efficiency as the industry introduces multi-band wireless equipment, which can cover several spectrum bands and supports dynamic power sharing across different frequencies.

The vendor is partnering with operators to bring 5G into vertical industries to accelerate digitalisation and decarbonisation.

Huawei also is working to simplify site design using a centralised RAN unit, which eliminates the need for air conditioners.

Deploying a centralised 5G RAN can lead to more than a 30 per cent reduction in energy consumption, Yang stated.

Its intelligence RAN platform can dynamically adjust output power to match changes in traffic, greatly improving energy efficiency of the mobile network, Yang explained.

Vertical sectors
Huang Yuhong, deputy general manager of China Mobile Research Institute, explained it introduced a new plan for achieving peak carbon emissions and achieving carbon neutrality in 2021, with a focus on saving energy, using clean energy and empowering industries.

“We believe that 5G and other digital technologies will play a vital role in empowering the low-carbon and sustainable development for many sectors of business and industry.”

The operator has targeted a range of vertical industries to increase energy savings and reduce carbon emissions.

For example, it developed a 5G-powered smart grid for China Southern Power Grid, supported by its standalone architecture with end-to-end network slicing and mobile edge computing.

The initiative increased the level of intelligence used across the organisation, covering power transmission, distribution and consumption. “The project accelerated the integration of clean energy into its power grid,” she said.

Paul Dickinson, founder chair of the Carbon Disclosure Project, expressed excitement about the potential for digital technologies to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

While acknowledging Covid-19 (coronavirus) had been a terrible problem, he noted it had taught millions of people video communication can be very effective, with 5G bringing increased capability to hundreds of nations and remote regions without the need for copper or fibre-optic cable.

“I think with 5G we can really start to see the release of human creativity. And if that’s combined with our requirement for us to decarbonise our societies and introduce dramatic new technologies across energy and many other sectors, IoT; smart grid; a new infrastructure, it’s going to be enabled by 5G.”

He believes the capabilities of these technologies will help deliver the necessary transformations.