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June 7, 2022

More Bits, Less Watts: Energy efficient digitization

More Bits, Less Watts is a strategy which has been articulated by Huawei on how to drive green ICT addressing at some level digitization and carbon neutrality. At its heart this strategy is focused on pushing the margins on energy efficiency within communications networks all while delivering an ever-increasing bandwidth capacity. Aligning the two alongside economic development are among world’s biggest challenges. Some pundits predict this year more than 50% of the world’s GDP will be digitized.

As digitization increases, operators must also move urgently to support the continued demand for digitization while reducing their own carbon footprint. This is own and direct emissions (scope 1); power purchased from third parties (scope 2); and other emissions (scope 3). Reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs) supports the environment and businesses are setting their own science-based targets. Many are also finding that energy efficiency improves the bottom line. 

5G and digitization concerns

With the number of 5G networks approaching 200 in the world, there are concerns on the impact of emissions, through the environmental toll of smart phones and billions of IoT connected devices. Communication service providers (CSPs) have already began sourcing material from renewables and promoting re-use and recycling programs to contribute to circular economies. And while 5G consumes more power, it also connects exponentially more devices within a cell range and more energy efficient overall than older technologies. 

5G, as a new architecture, is critical for driving scaled IoT deployments. This is giving businesses and governments the means to monitor and measure their own carbon emissions, set annual reduction targets to report back to employees, customers, investors, and other stakeholders.  Many key industries are reporting breakthroughs. This includes the ability for farmers to improve crop yields; logistics companies to better manage the supply chain, to manufacturers improving health and safety health in plant operations. These industries are also able to lower emissions from anything from fertilizer, petrol, to power consumption.

ICT efficiency

ICT will use more energy but will run more efficiently than at any previous time. The World Economic Forum (WEF) reports by 2030, ICT technology will help reduce industrial emissions by nearly 10 times the amount they emit. The Global e-Sustainability Initiative shows that ICT emissions are reducing GHGs and will be less than 2 per cent of global CO2 by the year 2030.

Connectivity underpins digitization, economic development, and sustainability. But it is no longer a zero-sum game. As carriers accelerate their digital transformation and widen their scope of services, it will be the equipment vendors that facilitate innovation to drive the next wave of corporate targets. These innovations will impact the telco sector directly, but also allow many other industries serious about reducing their direct and indirect carbon footprints.

GlobalData Thematic Research (June, 2022) shows the tech sector is the most engaged in sustainability over all other industries. This is measured in terms of number of patents, employment analytics, company filings and investments. These trends point to a future of sustainability being perhaps the most important topic of the decade.