Sustainability is “not just a marketing term anymore,” according to one of the top analysts in the telecommunications industry. If you’re a telecom operator, “It’s an opportunity for you to increase your revenues, cut costs incrementally, and, of course, add newer customers from the enterprise sector,” says Emanuel Kolta, Senior Analyst at GSMA Intelligence (GSMAi), the research arm of GSMA, a trade group representing mobile network operators.
Kolta, the lead analyst for a three-part GSMAi study on the business implications of sustainability in the telecom industry, made his remarks in the latest Transform Talks, a series of occasional video interviews with industry thought leaders produced by Huawei.
Kolta says mobile operators around the world are responding to pressure to make their operations more sustainable. They can do this in various ways, including by allowing consumers to return their devices to be harvested for valuable materials and re-purposed in a way that reduces e-waste, or simply by using the latest, most energy-efficient equipment available in their networks.
Data from the GSMAi study, conducted in partnership with Huawei, suggests that 60% of survey respondents across 16 countries consider climate or sustainability criteria when they buy telecom products. Perhaps not surprisingly, the study appears to show that green purchasing preferences are strongest in countries in high-growth emerging economies with direct exposure to warming and extreme weather events, including the Philippines, Brazil, Turkey, Pakistan and Indonesia.
In a separate Transform Talks interview with another one of the telecom industry’s leading lights, Martin Creaner, Director General of the World Broadband Association, points out that optical fiber is “probably the most sustainable form of connectivity… maybe 80% more efficient than copper” and more efficient than 5G.
“Fiber goes into the ground, and it stays there longer,” Creaner says. “It requires less truck rolls, it requires less energy to operate, and it breaks down less often.”
More broadly, he points out that each successive generation of mobile tech “uses less power per user per megabit.”
But with networks carrying more data traffic, the absolute quantity of data moving over the networks is increasing.
“It’s a difficult battle,” Creaner concedes. But that battle can be won, he believes, by using the right combination of carrot and stick. “The carrot is, you can reduce your cost, you can grow revenue,” he says.
The stick, he says, is telcos’ fear that if they don’t start moving their operations toward carbon neutrality, “then enterprises will start de-selecting you as their supplier [and] consumers will start buying from companies that have a higher sustainability set of credentials.”
These and other interviews can be found on the Transform Talks page of the Huawei media center web site.