Energy fuels technology’s ability to transform our lives and erase boundaries. If we ignore it, it can also stop us in our tracks.
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.
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the earth’s atmosphere have grown exponentially since the 1950s leading to damaging ecological, physical and health impacts worldwide. Seven of these GHGs contribute directly towards climate change: they include carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) – which arguably are the most well-known – alongside hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), nitrous oxide (N2O), hexafluoride (SF6), and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3). Significant emissions of CO2 started during the industrial revolution, when industry demand increased for substantial quantities of non-renewable energy sources, primarily fossil fuels including coal, and later oil and natural gas. The increase in the burning of hydrocarbons for powering industry and, today, generating electricity to support our global energy requirements, has contributed towards increasing CO2 emissions. Since 1750, it is estimated that human activities have emitted over 1,680 gigatonnes of CO2 globally. More alarmingly, due to the recent rapid expansion in population and energy use per capita, more CO2 has been generated during the last 30 years than in the entire 240 years prior to that. Scientists and activists have told of the consequences if action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is not forthcoming. And today, the global energy crisis is forcing governments, industries, and consumers to reconsider our behavior towards energy generation and use, galvanising actions towards becoming more environmentally sustainable.
The topic of sustainability has never been higher on the societal agenda than it is today. On one hand, the United Nation’s (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all of its 195 member states in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for long-term peace and prosperity around the world. On the other hand, extreme flooding, droughts, and hurricanes continue to showcase the devastating effects of global warming and the subsequent climate change.
In total, new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things will save approaching 1.8 PWh of electricity in 2030, and an additional 3.5 PWh of (hydrocarbon) fuel use, resulting in total savings of 5.3 PWh of energy. Offset against this benefit is 653TWh of electricity consumption required to power solutions deployed using new technologies.
For comparison, the total electricity consumption of the global ICT industry is forecast to increase to around 8 PWh by 2030 , meaning that together new technologies will generate energy savings equal to around 58% of the total power consumption of the ICT industry.
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.
Telecoms represents one of the wealthiest industries today, boasting more than 5.3 billion users and earning $1.38 trillion in service revenues. The pursuit of new generations of wireless has for decades driven demand for new technologies and services, set the stage for our current race to 5G, and placed increasing pressure on global energy reserves.
A recent report by InterDigital and ABI Research reveals the energy consumption of the wireless industry is poised to grow a staggering 160% by 2030. Unlike previous wireless generations, the expected ubiquity and flexibility, and subsequent energy demands, of 5G make it a blessing and a curse for an industry bracing for a burgeoning environmental impact. Tackling one of our industry’s greatest environmental challenges to enable 5G’s looming potential will require contributions and solutions from across the supply chain and network infrastructure to make our wireless future as sustainable as possible.
This webinar will feature diverse expert perspectives from around the wireless ecosystem to identify the emerging challenges, and some unexpected new solutions, on the path to enjoy a more sustainable 5G and wireless future.
Moderator: Dimitris Mavrakis, ABI
- Saad Ahmad, InterDigital
- Ana Maria Galindo, Orange
- Nishant Gautam, Nokia
A report by InterDigital and Mobile World Live surveyed members of the global mobile industry to help quantify the impact of our increasingly expanded and interconnected mobile networks and growing energy demands.
This webinar gathers international experts from around the mobile value chain in a discussion aimed to better understand the main culprits behind our burgeoning energy consumption, the key motivators driving the move towards more sustainable networks, the solutions that bring us closer to that goal, as well as the surprising global disparities on the path to sustainability. Throughout the discussion, panelists will explore the vital question – must countries take an orthodox, unified approach to achieve sustainability in global mobile networks?
Moderator: Michelle Donegan, Telecom Journalist, MWL
- Patrick Van de Wille, EVP, CCO, InterDigital
- Adrian Buckley, Standards Expert, Vivo
- Xiaodong Xu, Principal Researcher, China Mobile
- Cristian Busoi, European Parliament and Chair of the Industry