Need for Sustainable Telco Operations

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We discuss the following topics in this blog:

  1. Growth in the number of connected devices requires a vast network infrastructure.
  2. Data centres already consuming large amounts of power.
  3. Energy-efficient data centers.
  4. Profitable Growth Will Determine the Sustainability Roadmap Going Forward

In addition to these topics, we shall also be answering the following FAQs:

  1. What is WiFi?
  2. What is an Optical Fibre Cable?

Why the ‘Green’ Imperative for Telcos?

GSMA estimates that as of March 2020, there are close to 10 Billion mobile connections (including licensed cellular IoT) and this number is growing at about 5.5% every year. Some estimates put the number of connected devices at approximately 50 Billion by 2030.

This exponential growth in the number of connected devices also requires a vast network infrastructure to support it. But the big question is – how sustainable is this growth?

The UN defines sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. For telecom companies this ability is dependent on the environmental costs as well as the financial viability of their operations.

Data Guzzling Use Cases Require Energy Guzzling Networks

The tremendous impact of the increase in connected devices on global power consumption is already a cause for worry. Analysts expect that ICT (personal digital devices, mobile networks, data centres, etc.)  will account for almost 1/5th of the world’s energy consumption and this will primarily be on account of the increase in number of data centres and the densification of networks as more and more towers will be required to support 5G roll-out. Telecom towers not only use electricity from the power grid but also use Diesel gen sets to ensure maximum uptime. According to a report from TRAI, in India the average fuel consumption is more than 8000 litres of diesel per tower per year for a DG set operating for 8 hours a day. With the tower density expected to increase substantially, the amount of fossil fuels required to support this growth will have a huge detrimental impact on the environment.

Data centres already consume approximately 200 terawatt hours of power each year which is more than the annual power consumption of some small countries. The growth in data traffic will also require a consequent increase in the number of data centres which will further exacerbate the situation.

Has the ‘Green’ Journey Started Already?

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Telecom companies recognise the challenge and are making significant efforts to address the environmental impact of the increasing connectivity. Radio access equipment at the towers is increasingly being powered through renewable energy sources such as solar power. More than 100000 tower sites in India are now diesel free and use energy-efficient Lithium ion batteries or VRLA batteries to power the sites.

Data centres have also become more energy-efficient and the overall power consumption has remained stable over the last few years. Analysts point out that compared to traditional data centres which had a Power Usage Efficiency (PUE) of 2.0, new hyperscale data centres have a PUE of about 1.2 (with 1.0 being the perfect score).

The sustainability initiatives of telecom organisations are not limited to improving power efficiency. Organisations are striving to become carbon neutral with some like BT setting themselves aggressive carbon neutrality targets.

Network infrastructure providers like STL are leading from the front in meeting the challenge of ensuring sustainability in operations and STL is now the world’s first integrated optical fibre and cable manufacturer to be Zero Waste to Landfill Certified.

Profitable Growth Will Determine the Sustainability Roadmap Going Forward

Apart from environmental sustainability, it is extremely important to also consider the financial sustainability of telecom companies. While data consumption is growing exponentially, networks can’t keep pace with this growth. The same GSMA data which projects annual growth in the number of mobile connections also shows an annual decline of about 1% in the global ARPU over the last 3 years. This has put the operational viability of telecom companies at risk with companies in emerging markets facing greater challenges.

Recent events have also brought into the limelight issues related to supply chain diversity. Companies will also need to factor in the potential disruption in global supply chains into their financial sustainability and business continuity plans and will need to work with partners that can support them from multiple locations.

And the lesson that we need to learn is that these decisions can longer be left for another day. The challenges are real, and we need to act now to ensure a sustainable and viable future for both the environment and the organisation. 

FAQs

What is WiFi?

Put simply, WiFi is a technology that uses radio waves to create a wireless network through which devices like mobile phones, computers, printers, etc., connect to the internet. A wireless router is needed to establish a WiFi hotspot that people in its vicinity may use to access internet services. You’re sure to have encountered such a WiFi hotspot in houses, offices, restaurants, etc.

Put simply, WiFi is a technology that uses radio waves to create a wireless network through which devices like mobile phones, computers, printers, etc., connect to the internet. A wireless router is needed to establish a WiFi hotspot that people in its vicinity may use to access internet services. You’re sure to have encountered such a WiFi hotspot in houses, offices, restaurants, etc.

To get a little more technical, WiFi works by enabling a Wireless Local Area Network or WLAN that allows devices connected to it to exchange signals with the internet via a router. The frequencies of these signals are either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz bandwidths. These frequencies are much higher than those transmitted to or by radios, mobile phones, and televisions since WiFi signals need to carry significantly higher amounts of data. The networking standards are variants of 802.11, of which there are several (802.11a, 802.11b, 801.11g, etc.).

What is an Optical Fibre Cable?

An optical fibre cable is a cable type that has a few to hundreds of optical fibres bundled together within a protective plastic coating. They help carry digital data in the form of light pulses across large distances at faster speeds. For this, they need to be installed or deployed either underground or aerially. Standalone fibres cannot be buried or hanged so fibres are bunched together as cables for the transmission of data. This is done to protect the fibre from stress, moisture, temperature changes and other externalities. There are three main components of a optical fibre cable, core (It carries the light and is made of pure silicon dioxide (SiO2) with dopants such as germania, phosphorous pentoxide, or alumina to raise the refractive index; Typical glass cores range from as small as 3.7um up to 200um), Cladding (Cladding surrounds the core and has a lower refractive index than the core, it is also made from the same material as the core; 1% refractive index difference is maintained between the core and cladding; Two commonly used diameters are 125µm and 140µm) and Coating (Protective layer that absorbs shocks, physical damage and moisture; The outside diameter of the coating is typically either 250µm or 500µm; Commonly used material for coatings are acrylate,Silicone, carbon, and polyimide).

An optical fibre cable is made up of the following components: Optical fibres – ranging from one to many. Buffer tubes (with different settings), for protection and cushioning of the fibre. Water protection in the tubes – wet or dry. A central strength member (CSM) is the backbone of all cables. Armoured tapes for stranding to bunch the buffer tubes and strength members together. Sheathing or final covering to provide further protection.

The five main reasons that make this technology innovation disruptive are fast communication speed, infinite bandwidth & capacity, low interference, high tensile strength and secure communication. The major use cases of optical fibre cables include internet connectivity, computer networking, surgery & dentistry, automotive industry, telephony, lighting & decorations, mechanical inspections, cable television, military applications and space.

FAQs

What is WiFi?

Put simply, WiFi is a technology that uses radio waves to create a wireless network through which devices like mobile phones, computers, printers, etc., connect to the internet. A wireless router is needed to establish a WiFi hotspot that people in its vicinity may use to access internet services. You’re sure to have encountered such a WiFi hotspot in houses, offices, restaurants, etc.

To get a little more technical, WiFi works by enabling a Wireless Local Area Network or WLAN that allows devices connected to it to exchange signals with the internet via a router. The frequencies of these signals are either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz bandwidths. These frequencies are much higher than those transmitted to or by radios, mobile phones, and televisions since WiFi signals need to carry significantly higher amounts of data. The networking standards are variants of 802.11, of which there are several (802.11a, 802.11b, 801.11g, etc.).

What is an Optical Fibre Cable?

An optical fibre cable is a cable type that has a few to hundreds of optical fibres bundled together within a protective plastic coating. They help carry digital data in the form of light pulses across large distances at faster speeds. For this, they need to be installed or deployed either underground or aerially. Standalone fibres cannot be buried or hanged so fibres are bunched together as cables for the transmission of data. This is done to protect the fibre from stress, moisture, temperature changes and other externalities. There are three main components of a optical fibre cable, core (It carries the light and is made of pure silicon dioxide (SiO2) with dopants such as germania, phosphorous pentoxide, or alumina to raise the refractive index; Typical glass cores range from as small as 3.7um up to 200um), Cladding (Cladding surrounds the core and has a lower refractive index than the core, it is also made from the same material as the core; 1% refractive index difference is maintained between the core and cladding; Two commonly used diameters are 125µm and 140µm) and Coating (Protective layer that absorbs shocks, physical damage and moisture; The outside diameter of the coating is typically either 250µm or 500µm; Commonly used material for coatings are acrylate,Silicone, carbon, and polyimide).

An optical fibre cable is made up of the following components: Optical fibres – ranging from one to many. Buffer tubes (with different settings), for protection and cushioning of the fibre. Water protection in the tubes – wet or dry. A central strength member (CSM) is the backbone of all cables. Armoured tapes for stranding to bunch the buffer tubes and strength members together. Sheathing or final covering to provide further protection.

The five main reasons that make this technology innovation disruptive are fast communication speed, infinite bandwidth & capacity, low interference, high tensile strength and secure communication. The major usescases of optical fibre cables include intenet connectivity, computer networking, surgery & dentistry, automotive industry, telephony, lighting & decorations, mechanical inspections, cable television, military applications and space.

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