COVID-19 Network Traffic Surge Isn’t Impacting Environment

COVID-19 Network Traffic Surge Isn’t Impacting Environment

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The energy consumption and carbon emissions of telecoms networks have remained mostly unchanged in recent weeks, despite significant increases in network traffic as a result of COVID-19 lockdown measures. The GSMA surveyed several of its large operator members to ascertain the environmental impact of the surge in services such as videoconferencing and entertainment streaming. In most cases, network electricity usage has remained flat, even as voice and data traffic has spiked by 50% or more.

UK operator BT reports a 100% increase in daytime traffic across its fixed broadband network. Mobile data traffic has fallen slightly since before the virus as more people connect to Wi-Fi. However, BT does see an increase in mobile data usage after the daily Downing Street briefings and the Clap for NHS Heroes on Thursday evenings. These changes did not lead to a noticeable increase in electricity use or carbon emissions, according to BT.

Telefónica reported a 35% data increase over its networks in Spain (26% fixed network and 48% mobile network) with no increase in electricity usage. There have also been increases in data traffic in the UK and Germany. However, at a lower level, and without a significant increase in electricity usage.

The Nordics operator Telia, with operations in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania reported an electricity consumption increase of less than 1% across its mobile network, despite a 20% mobile data increase. They further say electricity use was unchanged across its fixed and core network operations. Similar to BT, an increase in data usage outside regular working hours have been observed, probably due to a rise in consumption of streamed film series, etc.

“As an industry we can be proud of network connectivity that is enabling societies and economies in these challenging times without increasing our environmental footprint,” said Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA. “Our sector will form the backbone to the future global economy and has a unique role to play in reaching a Net Zero carbon economy.”

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