Go-green target from DoT to migrate 50% of all cell towers in rural areas and 20% in urban areas to hybrid power by 2015 has hit a tough spot as the industry finds it ‘unrealistic’ and ‘non-implementable’. Voice&Data zooms into the reality of green teleco
Long Way to Go...
The advent of 3G and 4G networks has put the Indian telecom industry in a sweet spot, with data consumption growing significantly and boosting the bottomline of the telecom service providers, but at the same time the development has also led to a rise in CO2 emission from the sector.
The CO2 emission level from the Indian mobile telecom sector jumped more than 70% over the past two-three years and in 2014-15, it accounted for 58.3 million tons and total of about 836 gigajoules of primary energy was consumed during the specified period, which is equivalent to 73 billion units, according to researchers at Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP).
Although, it is way behind the power sector, energy-intensive industrial sectors or transport sector but it is a concern be- cause of the rising mobile subscriptions in the country, which are expected to grow exponentially in the near future, and that would require consumption of enormous amount of energy.
Meanwhile, the concept of green telecom has been around for long, but has not taken off fully, at least not yet. Out of the 6,50,000 telecom towers in the country, only 75,000 are diesel free sites today, while close to 4,500 are operating on hybrid models.
In the Smart 2020 Report, the Climate Group and the Global E-Sustainability Initiative have outlined that by 2020, the carbon emissions from the global telecom sector will double from the base line of 2002, in spite of existing and expected technological innovations like smart charges and efficient radio and transmission system.
In India, the situation will be far more serious considering that the telecom sector is anticipated to grow exponentially. With 3G becoming pervasive, the energy demand will increase by two–three folds at least because data transfer would consume more energy and the introduction of 4G, with a speed transfer rate 10 times
The CO2 emission from Indian mobile telecom sector accounted for 58.3 mn tons in 201415, according to researchers at CSTEP.
higher than the 3G, will further substantially increase the energy consumption patterns of the telecom sector, according to NGO Greenpeace.
“India is the second largest GHG (green house gases) emitter in the ICT industry globally, after China, which in turn has propelled huge expansion in telecommunication infrastructure within a narrow model – fixed lines, broadband lines and mobile towers, leading to the huge consumption of electricity,” a Greepeace study states.
However, arguing against this, Rajan S Mathews, Director General of COAI, a GSM lobby group, says: “India’s share in the global ICT footprint is much lesser with 1.43% slice of ICT likely by 2020. The telecom sector in India contributes to negligible amount of GHG emission. The CO2 emissions from the Indian telecom sector are negligible as the sector is already on the green track and diesel consumption by mobile towers is only 1.5% of the country’s total consumption.”
The mobile towers for GSM services typically consume power in the range of 1 to 4 MW annually, while CDMA services are relatively better. However, only 5055% of this energy is utilized for actual service delivery, while the rest is diverted in cooling of the base transmission stations and charging of uninterrupted power supply systems (UPS).
The actual utilization of the network equipment is the major constituent of CO2 emission in the telecom network. But at the same time, the cut in power consumption could be affected by prudent network planning, effective infrasharing and adaptation of energy efficient technologies, use of renewable energy sources and effective use of renewable energy sources among others.
As per a Telecommunications Engineering Center study, in the telecom network, the components that contribute to carbon emissions are the Radio Access Network, Fixed line network, Fiber to the x networks in the access networks, the core, aggregators and the transmission systems in the central core network.
“Base transceiver station division of the mobile industry is the chief contributor of CO2 emissions – when compared to manufacturing and utility divisions of mobile phones,” add researchers at CSTEP.
Unrealistic Go-Green Laws
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had asked telcos to make at least 50% of all cell towers in rural areas and 20% in urban areas compliant to hybrid power (renewable energy technologies and grid power) by 2015, while 75% of rural towers and 33% of urban towers are to be powered by hybrid power by 2020.
But these targets look unachievable, as there is not sufficient incentive for the tower and telecom companies to make the huge investments. nor is it backed by a viable business model.
With 3G becoming pervasive, the energy demand will increase by two–three folds at least because data transfer would consume more energy and the introduction of 4G, with a speed transfer rate 10 times higher than the 3G, will further substantially increase the energy consumption patterns of the telecom sector, according to NGO Greenpeace.
T R Dua, Director General at TAIPA (Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association) says, “The DoT green directives are highly ambitious, non-realistic and non-implementable. The infrastructure providers deploy tower and energy to power a small part of the total telecom networks which includes radio access network, switching equipment, transmission equipment, servers and other associated equipment.”
As per the directives by 2014-15, the service providers should achieve a carbon reduction of 8% and go to 17% reduction in the next five years.
Echoing similar views, Mahesh Uppal, Director, Com First (India), says: “The targets are difficult to achieve in the absence of sufficient incentives, technology breakthroughs, among others. Solar energy is still unviable for most applications and now with falling oil prices, cleaner energy has become tougher.”
Further the directives state multiple targets that look impossible. It should have been a single reduction target in direct carbon emissions, think many in the industry.
“The implementation of these directives require huge investments of about Rs 66,000 crore by 2020 and is difficult for the industry to execute without the government support. Further, the onus of delivering the power lies with the separate body,” says Dua.
Umang Das, Vice Chairman, TAIPA, adds, “When we say ‘green telecom’, the whole idea is ensuring a reduction in the consumption of diesel, the combination of renewal energy model and better grid power. So, currently, about 30% of towers are running diesel-free but the reality is site by site solutions are not moving or have not become viable. Though there is
The DoT green directives are highly ambitious, non-realistic and non-implementable. The directives state multiple targets, which are highly impossible and it should have been targeted on a single target of reduction in direct carbon emission. The...
—Rajan S. Mathews Director General, COAI India’s national electricity grid currently meets barely 33% of the energy needs of this industry. Therefore, the industry is forced to address the deficit by other energy sources available to them, which is a...