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Mobile Broadband and a greener planet:
Cutting the environmental cost of staying connected

The UMTS Forum takes its role as a responsible corporate citizen seriously in relation to reducing the world’s carbon footprint.

Delivering voice and data services to over 4 billion people, the mobile communication industry generates CO2 emissions, just like other industries. While the ICT sector as a whole is responsible for just 2% of global CO2 emissions (with the mobile industry accounting for 0.2%), vendors, operators and developers are proactively working to reduce the carbon footprint of their products and services.

What’s more, ICT and mobile communications thus offer exciting new opportunities to impact positively on climate change. This can be through the elimination of physical products or activities, and enabling ‘smart’ applications that improve energy efficiency.

Network infrastructure vendors are making significant efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of the equipment they produce. Continual technological developments by many leading vendor members of the UMTS Forum have typically resulted in a 10% year-on-year reduction in electrical power consumption of 3G base station equipment. It is anticipated that these trends will continue.

Mobile network operators are working proactively to decrease their own carbon emissions. Specific initiatives include cutting energy used in business processes, increased recycling of materials, ‘dematerialisation’ of business processes (e.g. electronic invoicing) and active waste management. Operators are also responding to customers’ demands from mobile end-users for greener products and solutions that cut the environmental cost of staying in touch. They are also aiming at applying corresponding international statutory regulations and processes, such as the ISO 14001 system of environment management and W3E Directive.

Network operators, manufacturers and other players in the value chain are making their supply chains greener. This includes the use of renewable energy at factory sites and offices, expansive recycling efforts which include paper, plastic, construction debris, electronics and water, smarter building management systems and staff training initiatives to cut power consumption in the workplace. In addition, environmental management systems have been implemented to eliminate and improve the use of materials used during production, manufacturing distribution.

In response to consumer demand and government regulation, handset manufacturers are producing greener terminals. Manufacturers are finding opportunities to enhance efficiencies and make them as sustainable and climate-friendly as possible.  We’re seeing less use of toxic metals and volatile compounds in manufacturing and increased efficiency resulting in  less consumption of electrical power, which leads to  less CO2 being generated.

Regulators/governments also have a role to play by imposing tighter guidelines on ‘end-of-life’ collection and recycling of electronic products.

The applications of mobile broadband can also help create a greener planet, since many of the alternatives to mobile services will result in a much higher carbon footprint. For example, holding a video conference in High Definition via ‘green’ HSPA or LTE impacts on the environment less than travelling by plane or car to meet a customer.