What are the global challenges in telecommunications

Sustainability in telecommunications

Our society and our planet simply can no longer bear “business as usual”. Many professionals believe that COVID-19 is an opportunity for companies to incorporate new ways of thinking into their operational practices and decision-making processes.

Companies that recognize this early on will benefit in the long term. Also, according to recent research, 40% of millennials (the generation born between 1981 and 1996) said they chose a job based on the company's sustainability agenda. Since millennials will make up three quarters of the workforce in the coming years and will be the current / future employees and customers at all, companies are virtually forced to set up a transformation plan for more sustainability.

What challenges does the telecommunications industry face in terms of sustainability?

The telecommunications industry has grown very rapidly over the past few decades. The main drivers have been general economic growth, the increasing acceptance of the Internet of Things (IoT), intelligent cities and 5G. Rapid growth brings sustainability challenges with it. The three most important challenges for the industry are as follows:

  • Increased energy consumption and CO² emissions due to more data volumes and supply chains. IoT devices and networks generate large amounts of data that need to be transferred and sorted. The increasing data could consume 20% of the world's electricity by 2025. The telecommunications industry also needs a variety of modes of transport to deliver devices that emit CO2 into the atmosphere. It is becoming increasingly important for telecommunications providers and device manufacturers to work together with their suppliers to ensure that sustainability standards are adhered to.
  • E-waste, which is currently one of the fastest growing waste streams in the EU at around 9 million tonnes in 2005 and is expected to grow to more than 12 million tonnes by 2020.
  • Gender equality, especially women in leadership positions. Women make up less than 40% of the workforce in three-quarters of telecommunications companies, and only 12% of executives in leading telecommunications companies are women, according to a survey.

What has Huawei done so far regarding the sustainability challenges in ICT?

Huawei has achieved an average annual growth of 20% over the past 10 years. However, this stellar growth brings sustainability challenges and the company is working with other industry players to build green ICT.
Huawei has worked on numerous sustainability initiatives so far:

In 2018, the reuse rate of returned materials rose to 82.3%

Reusable products that meet certain criteria are initially allocated into Huawei's internal reuse channels such as research and development, spare parts and new manufacturing. Materials that do not pose any cybersecurity risks and contain no sensitive information are resold, disassembled and recycled. In 2018, the reuse rate of returned products rose to 82.3%.

Focus on developing energy efficient devices

The continuous improvement of the energy efficiency of the devices is very important to Huawei. The energy-saving technologies used by Huawei can be found in a wide variety of areas, including architecture, processes, and materials. Innovations in this area can in some cases save up to 60% energy.

Commitment to renewable energies

It is probably unknown to many, but Huawei is also active in the field of renewable energies and is one of the largest providers of solar inverters worldwide. Since 2013, Huawei has generated more than 180 billion kWh of solar power for the world.
In addition, the first PV system was installed in Huawei's southern plant in Dongguan, China. It can generate 18 million kWh of electricity annually and thus cover 10% of the plant's energy needs.

In the future, 5G and IoT offer great potential for energy savings and may enable a carbon-neutral network. But that will not be possible without strong commitment and cooperation. Recognizing the challenges ahead and the risks of the future will help today's leaders make the right decision and build green ICT.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Huawei in Europe. Huawei's vision is to digitally provide every person, every home and every business with a fully connected, intelligent world. ICT is playing an increasingly important role in addressing global environmental issues and helping to make progress towards the SDGs. ICT can help reduce energy consumption and emissions in any industry, use more renewable energies and mitigate the effects of climate change.