COP26 is highlighting the role of 5G technology in hitting net-zero carbon targets. But it will take more than 5G – regional coordination is also required.
Mobile network operators can contribute to mitigating climate change, especially in Southeast Asia, one of the world’s most at-risk regions. 5G connectivity, in particular, can transform and power digital technologies to reduce carbon emissions by up to 15%.
In the lead-up to COP26, a Mobile UK report highlights that 5G must be leveraged for sustainability use cases, like monitoring wind turbines in real-time to increase productivity, streamlining waste flows for more efficient recycling, or collecting real-time data to help people who live in zero-carbon buildings reduce their energy use.
“Connected digital technology – with 5G being a key feature underpinning this connectivity – will be at the heart of managing the future energy system efficiently and effectively. This connectivity will allow the collection and analysis of vast amounts of data on energy demand, network capability and storage capacity,” the report said.
However, the challenge in Southeast Asia is that countries are not on the same path to 5G adoption, and are also not aligned on how to achieve carbon neutrality. According to Reporting ASEAN, while carbon neutrality is a shared global goal, Southeast Asian countries are not collaborating enough even as emissions continue to rise.
Amalina Anuar, research analyst at Nanyang Technological University, further points out that Southeast Asia’s decision-makers must acknowledge that 5G is just the beginning. What’s important is the data analytics and applications that will make or break plans to achieve goals.
In addition, it’s vital for ASEAN to look at a regulatory architecture that employs 5G as a long-term solution for sustainability. In a recent interview with CNBC, Nokia CEO Pekka Lundmark stated that a concerted approach is critical in the European Union, with Nokia’s research showing that 70% of firms worldwide will invest in 5G over the next five years. This concerted approach may also be the missing link for ASEAN.
Lundmark further stated that without the forecasted investment into 5G, it might be difficult to increase industrial productivity and decrease emissions and waste.
Along with the adoption of 5G networks, countries must also ramp up renewable energy use to offset the potential increase in energy demand brought about by greater connectivity. Singtel believes that careful and sustainable deployment of 5G can be achieved by either lowering energy consumption or reducing carbon footprint.
For example, Reporting ASEAN said that Southeast Asia can learn from technologically advanced nations that are discussing more technology-based solutions to reusing and storing carbon in tanks or underground.