Technology has followed its course from the steam engine and industrialization through computing and telecommunications and now the world of wireless and visual technology. It has built new connections between people worldwide, connected us to content and meaning, supported increasingly immersive experiences, and facilitated other trends that erase boundaries and enrich our lives. It has also deepened our dependence on energy and its impact.
As a driver of this technological revolution through our research, InterDigital believes in this transformation. We also believe that our industry, and each of us, needs to make informed, balanced choices. InterDigital is committed to understanding – and solving – how energy underpins our industry and ensuring a sustainable technological future for us all.
Sustainability and the impact of energy consumption on the climate are becoming urgent issues for the wireless industry. To assess how energy considerations will affect mobile networks and whether emerging technologies can help to minimise the industry’s energy footprint, Mobile World Live conducted an international online survey of mobile industry professionals.
The results show that most companies in the mobile industry are serious about setting energy reduction targets, but the continued growth in data traffic and subscribers is likely to mean that energy consumption will become a limiting factor in network deployments in the near future. The survey also indicates that the industry is generally positive about the potential for network virtualization and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to help reduce energy consumption, but much less certain about the energy impact of edge deployments.
The world has witnessed significant change since the dawn of the industrial revolution. Life expectancy has more than doubled; travel across the planet can happen in less than a day; loved ones can be reached via a video screen and vast quantities of information can be accessed at the touch of a button. But as our quality of life, and the science and technology that has facilitated this, has improved, so too has our impact on the earth’s biosphere become more pronounced. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the earth’s atmosphere – seven of which contribute to climate change, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4,), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), hexafluoride (SF6), and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) – have grown exponentially since the 1970s leading to a range of pernicious ecological, physical and health impacts. For decades, scientists and activists have warned of the dire consequences awaiting the world if action to reduce GHG emissions is not taken. Catalysed by a growing number of extreme weather events alongside a strong wave of environmental activism, the majority of consumers, industries, and governments have come to the consensus that action towards becoming environmentally sustainable must be taken. Annual total CO2 emissions, globally, from 1751 to 2018.
The mobile telecommunications industry is one of the richest business sectors in recent times. With 5.3 billion users and US$1.38 trillion service revenues, ABI Research estimates that the sector contributed 5.2% to the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2019. Indeed, each mobile network generation, including 2G, 3G, and 4G, has contributed massively to boosting demand for mobile services and creating business opportunities for new use cases. Today, the industry is tasting the benefits of 5G, what new business opportunities it will introduce, and how its deployment will improve global economic growth. 5G is expected to further improve the average GDP as a result of the extended growth of mobile data traffic and network efficiency. However, the biggest value of 5G will not come from connecting humans only, but from its ability to provide seamless connectivity to various infrastructure, machines, and devices.