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Mobile operators sets net zero targets while decoupling data from emissions

Published June 6, 2022

Mobile operators sets net zero targets while decoupling data from emissions

The mobile phone industry is getting its act together on efforts to address climate change, while decoupling traffic data growth from emissions, a new report has found.

A considerable proportion of operators have committed to net zero targets by 2050 or earlier, accounting for 38% of global revenue, according to an annual assessment of how the mobile industry is progressing against the ambition to be net zero by 2050.

The industry is also managing to decouple data traffic travelling over networks with electricity use and carbon emissions, the study from GSMA Intelligence found. While data traffic was up 31% last year, electricity was up 5% and associated carbon emissions up only 2%.

The number of operators committed to rapidly cutting their emissions over the next decade has reached 50, an increase of 19 operators since last year. The 50 operators represent 63% of the industry by revenue and 44% by connections.

Operators are also using more renewable electricity. During 2021, 18% of total electricity consumption was sourced from renewable sources. This figure is up from 14% in 2020.

Both operators and suppliers are disclosing more about their operations. Of the industry, 66% by connections and 82% by revenue globally disclose their climate impacts.  Mobile operators scoring a D or D- the previous year have improved their ratings to C, sometimes to B.

To boost energy efficiency, the industry is using artificial intelligence, machine learning and virtualisation to optimise power use in equipment, centralise network resources and avoid unnecessary heating or air-conditioning.

Supplier engagement continues to be crucial to achieving the industry’s decarbonisation pathway. This year, operators have engaged suppliers to start a discussion around moving towards greater circularity through reuse and recycling of network equipment.