Greening Telecom: Promoting Sustainability in the Mobile Industry

4 July, 2024 by Simran Singh
Greening Telecom: Sustainable Practices in the Mobile Industry
Greening Telecom: Sustainable Practices in the Mobile Industry

Greening Telecom explores the critical role of environmental responsibility within the telecom sector. This initiative highlights the importance of integrating sustainable practices, such as reducing carbon footprints, managing e-waste responsibly, and utilizing renewable energy sources. By adopting these eco-friendly measures, the mobile industry can significantly mitigate its environmental impact. This effort is not just about regulatory compliance but also about fostering innovation and ensuring a sustainable future for both the industry and the planet. Through collaborative efforts, the telecom sector can lead the way in promoting a greener, more sustainable world.

  • The telecom industry consumes 2-3% of global power, with significant energy costs, especially in 5G rollouts.
  • Consumer demand for sustainability influences telecom provider choices, with 46% of consumers considering green credentials important.
  • Improving energy efficiency in the Radio Access Network (RAN) can significantly reduce telecom energy consumption.
  • Replacing copper lines with fiber-optic cables enhances energy efficiency by up to 85%.
  • Optimizing 5G technology and data centers, including AI use, can drive long-term energy efficiency and sustainability in telecom. 

Greening Telecom & Its Key Characteristics

Greening telecom refers to the efforts and initiatives within the telecommunications industry aimed at reducing its environmental impact and promoting sustainability. This concept encompasses a range of practices and strategies designed to minimize the ecological footprint of telecom operations, products, and services. Key aspects of greening telecom include:

  • Energy Efficiency: Implementing energy-saving technologies and practices in network operations, data centers, and infrastructure to reduce power consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Renewable Energy: Transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind power, to power telecom infrastructure.
  • Sustainable Materials: Using eco-friendly and recyclable materials in the manufacturing of telecom equipment and devices to reduce waste and resource depletion.
  • E-Waste Management: Establishing systems for the proper disposal, recycling, and repurposing of electronic waste to prevent environmental contamination and recover valuable materials.
  • Green Design: Designing products and services with a focus on environmental sustainability, including longer product lifespans, lower energy consumption, and minimal environmental impact.
  • Supply Chain Sustainability: Ensuring that suppliers and partners adhere to sustainable practices, thus promoting a green approach throughout the entire supply chain.

How Can Telcos Move Towards Greening Telecom?

Energy Consumption and Costs

The telecom industry consumes 2-3% of global power, with energy costs constituting 20-40% of a telecom company's operational expenses, higher in regions with heavy diesel use. The rollout of 5G, which uses up to 70% more power, is expected to increase this trend.  

Consumer Demand for Sustainability

A significant number of consumers (73%) consider environmental factors in their buying decisions. Almost half of consumers in Europe and the U.S. (46%) prioritize the sustainability goals of telecom providers when choosing a service.

Radio Access Network (RAN) Improvements

The RAN accounts for 70% of a telco's energy consumption. Strategies such as zero-touch provisioning, turning off power-amplifier symbols, deploying AI tools, and adopting Open RAN can significantly reduce energy usage.

Fiber over Copper

Replacing copper lines with fiber-optic cables can enhance energy efficiency by up to 85%, given the environmental impact of copper mining and the relative abundance of silicon dioxide for fiber production.

5G and Data Centers

Transitioning to 5G, despite its initial higher energy consumption, can lead to long-term energy efficiency gains (up to 90% more efficient than 4G). Optimizing next-gen hardware and managing increased energy consumption from 5G-enabled applications are crucial. Additionally, AI optimization in data centers can yield significant energy savings (e.g., Google’s 30% reduction). Telcos should also address Scope 3 emissions by ensuring sustainability commitments from partners and suppliers.


The telecom industry's path to sustainability involves strategic improvements across multiple areas. Reducing energy consumption in the Radio Access Network (RAN) and transitioning from copper to fiber-optic lines can significantly enhance efficiency. Embracing 5G technology, despite its initial higher energy use, promises long-term benefits with optimized hardware. Addressing Scope 3 emissions by ensuring supplier and partner sustainability commitments is essential. Additionally, leveraging AI in data centers can lead to substantial energy savings. By focusing on these key areas, the telecom industry can meet growing consumer demand for greener practices and contribute to a more sustainable future.