Buy more 5G kit or miss your CO2 targets – says 5G kit vendor, in warning to Europe
Industrial 5G and IoT – or at least, the digital pyrotechnics sprung from 5G and IoT networks – can help the planet reduce carbon emissions, reckons the tech and telecoms market. Telecoms vendor Ericsson, chorusing the message from telecoms operator Vodafone a couple of weeks back, has gone further, to suggest stretching 2030 climate targets will be missed unless governments, policymakers, operators, and enterprises accelerate rollout of 5G-based infrastructure to variously connect industrial machines and processes. Buy more 5G kit, said the Swedish 5G kit vendor.
In particular, it has warned that Europe, among developed economies, is lagging behind on national 5G rollouts, even as 5G-based IoT and AI technologies stand to help the region claw back industrial CO2 emissions, notably in the power, transport, manufacturing, and buildings sectors. The message comes on the back of a new report, which says widespread usage of industrial 5G (based tech), commonly deployed in private 5G setups, in these four high-emitting sectors could save Europe the equivalent of 170 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (MTCO2e) per year.
These energy savings, precipitated by 5G usage in the power, transport, manufacturing, and buildings sectors, could be like taking one in seven cars off the road in Europe, it said. But Europe is not deploying 5G quickly enough, either in national infrastructure, or in private industrial arrangements. Ericsson draws comparison with 5G momentum in the US and Asia. “It is difficult to see how these targets will be met unless the rollout of digital infrastructure across Europe accelerates to match that of other leading countries and regions,” said Börje Ekholm, the company’s president and chief.
The subtext, of course, is operators and enterprises should be buying more of it from the likes of Ericsson. The release of the report, Connectivity and Climate Change, was timed with the UN’s latest Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow this week. It draws on “sources and methodologies” from its own research on 5G use cases, plus research with operators on the MTCO2e impact of telecoms, as well as McKinsey’s Net-Zero Europe report.
The report puts the lower-end potential savings of 5G-based tech in four primary Industry 4.0 markets at 55 MTCO2e; the higher-end 170 MTCO2e forecast is equivalent to carbon emissions from around 35 million cars – about a seventh of car traffic in Europe. The study says “at least 40 percent” of the EU’s carbon reduction solutions for the period to 2030, which frame its net-zero decarbonization targets, will rely on fixed and mobile connectivity.
A statement said: “These solutions, such as renewable energy generators, could reduce EU emissions by 550 MTCO2e, nearly half of the emissions created by the entire EU energy supply sector in 2017, and 15 percent of the EU’s total annual emissions in 2017. Savings from applying 5G to the four high-emitting sectors would bring the total to nearly 20 percent of the EU’s total annual emissions – equivalent to the emissions of Spain and Italy combined.”
The report uses 2017 as the benchmark year for the analysis. It says public 5G coverage reached 15 percent of the world’s population at the end of 2020, and will reach 75 percent by 2027 – “just three years before global emissions need to have halved to stay on track to limit global warming to 1.5ºC”. European 5G coverage will reach about 80 percent in the period – higher than the global average, but lower than in North America and North East Asia.
In these regions, considered comparable as developed industrial economies, population coverage is expected to reach closer to 95 percent, said Ericsson. It is a “concerning picture for Europe,” it said. The Swedish vendor also used the PR missive to highlight its own work at its ‘smart factory’ manufacturing complex in Lewisville, in Texas in the US, presented as a way to taste its own private-5G medicine, and show the rest of the world how to do it.
The factory is designed to utilize 24 percent less energy and 75 percent less indoor water usage than comparable buildings. Its operational carbon emissions are reduced almost completely, by 97 percent, compared, it claims. It was “built with end-to-end environmental sustainability best practice as a top priority”, it said. The venue has twice been recognised by the World Economic Forum (WEF), on its developing list of the world’s smartest factories.
Ekholm commented: “The EU and UK have set ambitious targets to reduce carbon emissions that will require transformational shifts across society. This analysis demonstrates that connectivity, and specifically 5G, is vital to achieving these targets. It is difficult to see how they will be met unless the rollout of digital infrastructure across Europe accelerates to match that of other leading countries and regions.
“Europe is strolling towards a more digital, low-carbon future, while other regions are sprinting in the same direction. Policymakers and regulators have a major role to play here by realizing the competitive economic, social and sustainable potential of 5G and working speedily together to clear practical, regulatory and financial obstacles so that people, businesses, industries and societies right across Europe can enjoy the benefits.”
It is the same line from the rest of the supply and provision sides in the telecoms market. UK-based Vodafone has urged the UK government to write targets and incentives for 5G and IoT adoption into its forthcoming net-zero strategy blueprints. The operator said the UK government should create a regulatory and policy framework that “removes barriers to adoption and incentivises the uptake” of digital tech across the economy. Like with Ericsson, as the supplier of said tech, Vodafone’s conclusions are hardly surprising.
Its report on 5G and IoT for a greener economy, puts focus on three industrial sectors – manufacturing, transport and agriculture – and suggests 5G and IoT, plus all the over-the-top pyrotechnics, can save four percent per year in carbon emissions – equivalent to 17.4 million metric tons (MTCO2e). This is a top-end scenario, however; the lower-end of the forecast settles on a 2.7 percent reduction, equivalent to 11.7 MTCO2e. The transport, agriculture, and manufacturing sectors can realise reductions of 6.6-9.3 MTCO2e, 2.4-4.8 MTCO2e, and 2.7-3.3 MTCO2e, respectively.