MWC 2022: ICT is not a contributor to carbon footprint, but an enabler of carbon handprints, says Huawei

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The popular belief that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is a major contributor to global carbon footprint has been proven wrong, says Philip Song, CMO, Carrier BG, Huawei, in a keynote address delivered at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2022.

Citing a GeSI report, Song said ICT industry is estimated to produce only 1.97 percent of global carbon emissions by 2030. On the contrary, the widespread use of ICT technologies will enable other industries to significantly reduce their carbon emissions.

Going by the research findings, Song pointed out that by 2030, ICT technologies have the potential to reduce global CO2 emissions by 20 percent, ten times the carbon emissions of the ICT industry itself, and effectively decouple economic growth from emissions growth.

Huawei calls this phenomenon as “ICT enablement carbon handprints.”

To cite an example, Song describes how a typical cloud company contributes to carbon footprint using traditional ways versus modern ICT technologies. Using the conventional means of transporting the disk array, an estimated 100 PB of data backup produces 300 kg of carbon emissions. However, by using modern all-optical transmission technology, this can be reduced to only 20 kg of carbon emissions.

Now, going with the estimates of 2030, when nearly 1 YB (1 YottaByte) of data is expected to be stored in the cloud, Song explains that all-optical transmission technology can enable savings of 150 million tons of carbon emissions then.

The second misconception of ICT-related carbon emission arises due to over-focusing on supply chain emissions, precisely, the emissions from the production of network equipment. This, according to Song, has been proven wrong because only 2 percent of carbon emissions is from the network equipment production side, and 80-95 percent is from the phase of in-use.

Another common myth associated with green enablement is that reliance on renewable energy sources can bring carbon emission to negligible level. This, according to Song, is misleading as renewable energy penetration is significantly low and is unlikely to change in the near future.

As per the industry data, on the supply side, solar and wind power will account for 45% of the global power structure by 2030. Thus the focus should be to reinvent the conventional sites and make them more energy efficient.

Huawei proposes three-layer architecture for green development to help carriers reduce carbon emissions end to end. The first layer consists of green sites and green data centers; the second layer focuses on simplified and green network architecture; and the third layer is about network operation and user operation.

Network technologies have evolved over the past decade from 2G to 3G, 4G/LTE and now 5G, improving energy-efficiency in network operations at each phase. Huawei data reveals that if 10% 3G users migrate to 4G/5G networks, 2% energy savings will be achieved.

However, there is a misconception associated with network efficiency that the sum of the energy efficiency of each telecom equipment will contribute to the overall network energy efficiency. Affected by this misconception, operators are simply concerned about how to improve the single-point efficiency, ignoring the whole picture. According to Song, this will not yield the desired result as the energy efficiency assessment of the equipment “box” at a single point cannot support the overall planning decisions.

“If you only consider the energy efficiency of the wireless master equipment, you cannot effectively complete the planning of the green site,” Song explains.

With this understanding, Huawei has proposed a unified, standardized indicator system (NCI) to drive energy flow with information flow and then achieve the goal of energy saving in the entire network.

Lastly, Song also argues that energy saving should not impact any network KPI.

Energy saving must impact some network KPIs. Valueless KPIs can be tradeoff, but user experience should not be impacted at all.

By adopting these measures, Huawei believes the future of ICT industry will be shaped with “More Bits, Less Watts”!

Rajani Baburajan

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