Communication service providers (CSPs) around the world believe artificial intelligence (AI) is essential to reduce fast-rising network energy demand and emissions, spurred by internet traffic growth, according to a new report by Nokia and GSMA Intelligence (GSMAi).
In line with the United Nations’ COP26 climate change conference which is taking place currently, most CSPs surveyed in the report said that energy efficiency is either very important or extremely important in their network transformation strategy to counter rising energy consumption and emissions, driven by surging internet traffic growth.
“Reducing its carbon footprint is an important challenge for the telecommunications industry, given rising internet traffic trends and its implications for energy consumption. This research from Nokia and GSMA underscores the shared concerns of our industry and the variety of solutions and services that Nokia is working on with communication service providers to address this shared responsibility,” said Volker Held, Head of Marketing for Managed Services, Cloud & Network Services at Nokia.
Shrinking environmental footprints
According to the report, along with the use of renewables, AI energy management software is central to many CSP strategies to shrink their environmental footprint, due to those solutions’ ability to be used quickly and effectively across an entire network with little to no human intervention.
GSMA Intelligence, an industry authority on global mobile operator data, insights, reports and forecasts, found that 83% of CSPs surveyed see energy efficiency as a major network transformation driver that will grow in importance as 5G is operationalised by industry; while 67% expect their energy costs to rise over the next three years based on current trends.
“AI solutions hold the promise of realising quick and substantial energy efficiency gains and ensure we fully live up to our environmental and social responsibilities,” added Held.
Tackling increasing global traffic in an eco-friendly way
Global internet traffic has risen exponentially in recent years due to a convergence of factors like increased television and movie streaming, video conferencing from remote working, and online gaming as 4G and now 5G become a larger share of the mobile customer base. Such activities require more energy-consuming telco equipment and bandwidth capacity, as well as large amounts of data stored in an ever growing number of energy consuming data centers.
Tim Hatt, Head of Research and Consulting at GSMA Intelligence, said: “AI has clear and tangible benefits to improving the energy efficiency of telecom networks and is a big part of the solution in driving sustainable 5G networks. It’s important to deploy AI early in order to train the algorithms and continually optimise network ops and costs over the long run.”
Many CSP respondents acknowledged they are still in the early planning and testing stages of getting their AI efforts off the ground with respect to energy efficiency. Still, nearly 50% of CSP respondents said they expect to achieve energy savings of 10% to 20% over the next two years as AI energy solutions are rolled out and optimised.
Nokia and GSMA Intelligence also announced a separate white paper that estimates the four top carbon-emitting industries, which are responsible for 80% of global emissions, can enable and accelerate a reduction in carbon emissions through the widescale implementation of mobile and digital technologies, particularly over the next 10 years.