Networks consume more than 75% of all the electricity a typical service provider uses in one year. There are five game-changing strategies that can be implemented today to help build green networks.
Carbon emissions: At the heart of the corporate strategy for SPs
At the core of all service provider businesses is their network. Customers expect from these networks a service that is fast, reliable, customisable and cost-effective. For service providers to continue to meet these expectations, they are investing in new technologies that help to improve their performance. This investment includes but is not limited to 5G (SA) core, cloudification, AI and automation capabilities, edge computing, vRAN and O-RAN, fibre to the home and more.
However, at the same time as making these network advancements, service providers are also focused on reducing their carbon emissions. Never before has this been such an important part of the corporate strategy of many large companies, not the least the service providers. Becoming greener has become a top priority politically, economically and socially and is increasingly encompassing all parts of the business, from reducing the use of electricity to trying to increase the amount of recycled and refurbished equipment in use.
In many instances efforts to become more sustainable have been accelerated because of the wave of commitments from service providers to become net-zero companies in the next 10-30 years.1 Achieving these commitments will require changes in operating practices across service providers’ businesses, but particularly, changes in the way that they roll out, operate, manage, maintain and upgrade their networks.
The single biggest contributor: Green networks
Figure 1 below indicates why the networks are such an important element in reducing carbon emissions – because they are by far the most energy-hungry part of a service provider’s business. Last year, the Belgian service provider Proximus reported that more than 75% of their electricity consumption came from their networks.
There are technological advancements that are both improving network performance and helping to reduce carbon emissions. One such of these is “Moore’s Law” – the observed phenomenon from the co-founder of Intel that while compute speed and power doubles every two years, the cost of the computers is halved. Making smaller, more powerful equipment helps to reduce the embedded carbon of a network and while we expect generally that this trend will continue, it will not be enough alone for service providers to reach their net-zero goals.
Instead, more radical action must be taken. Service providers must accelerate their efforts to prioritise sustainability just as much as performance when it comes to their networks and data centre infrastructure. In this report, STL Partners discuss five key steps that could be sustainability game-changers in building green networks. The insights from the report have largely been formed through an interview programme with service providers globally to understand their current efforts and future ambitions.
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