By Chris Donkin

5G climate benefits predicted to offset energy increase

Applications enabled by 5G were tipped to make a significant contribution to environmental initiatives, far outweighing any rise in energy usage brought about by adoption of the new access technology.

During a panel session at Thursday’s keynote, representatives from the technology, mobile and energy industries discussed the impact of wireless and other innovations on carbon emissions and environmental issues.

HP Enterprise chief sustainability officer Christopher Wellise (pictured, second from right) said although he anticipated 5G would lead to a net increase in power consumption, the benefits to society would far outweigh the added usage: “It’s unlimited what the opportunities might be.”

He added these perks stretched across a number of sectors and initiatives, including new abilities in data processing.

“By 2025 we expect two thirds of all data will be generated at the edge, it’s no longer [going to be] happening at a centralised location. It’s happening in an agricultural field, it’s in a smart city, it’s on a smart factory floor,” Wellise said. “We need to move compute to where the data is, as opposed to moving the data where the compute is. It takes an order of magnitude more energy to move data than it does to process it.”

Smart solutions

James Gowen (pictured, second from left), chief sustainability officer at Verizon and chairman of ICT sustainability organisation GeSI, agreed that although 5G would “potentially” lead to more energy used the impact of the applications it enables would have a significant effect.

“It [5G] will absolutely have a massive impact on climate,” he said. “When we marry what we are doing in Verizon with companies all around the globe, we are finding ways we can work together because at the end of the day sustainability is something we must do.”

Doug Arent (pictured, far-right), deputy associate lab director at the US national renewable energy laboratory, added: “The elements of smart solutions are really core to a decarbonised future as we see it. It’s smart grid, interactive buildings, it’s smart mobility platforms combines with edge computing, AI, machine learning and predictive algorithms that give you forecasting ability.”

The session comes amid increasing momentum among wireless companies to drastically reduce the industry’s carbon footprint. Last month more than 50 of the world’s mobile operators, including Verizon, signed-up to a GSMA climate action initiative.