O2, a UK operator Telefonica, announced in March 2020 that it plans to drastically mitigate carbon emissions in all its business and network by 2025. In a report that was unveiled on August 13, the firm explained how 5G technology will enable it to reach its goals for 2025 and beyond.
The Telefonica firm said that 5G will play an integral role in four major vertical markets. They include transport, utilities/home energy, healthcare, and manufacturing.
Among the new report’s findings, O2 discovered that by using 5G and connected solutions, the four targeted sectors can reduce up to 269 megatons of CO2 emissions by 2035. That amount is almost equivalent to England’s total emissions in 2018.
The biggest effect will be felt in the utilities and home energy industry. 5G will supposedly help boost a ‘greener’ national energy grid; and simultaneously power a new generation of smart home applications. Cumulatively, O2 expects a CO2 savings potential of 181 megatons.
Particularly, O2 estimates that smart heat pumps and thermostats can become the most critical 5G-powered contributors to greenhouse gas reductions.
Furthermore, 5G-powered autonomous vehicles coupled with new transportation management systems can minimize reliance on the traditional fossil-fueled vehicles. This shift will get rid of 43 megatons of CO2 emissions.
Letting employees work from home even after the COVID-19 pandemic is over can help in reducing CO2 emissions, according to O2.
The manufacturing industry will experience improvements in various sectors including automated production lines. Experts project that this improvement might eliminate 40 megatons of CO2.
As per the O2 report, 5G will enable “higher flexibility, lower cost, and shorter lead times for factory floor production reconfiguration, layout changes, and alteration.”
Turning to healthcare, the new e-health applications powered by 5G IoT devices can help reduce carbon emissions by up to 6 megatons. They will also improve patient outcomes.
Notably, the gamut of 5G-enabled applications consists of remote/virtual appointments, 5G-connected inventory management devices; predictive maintenance of critical medical equipment, and connected ambulances.
The rollout plan
The new report by O2 raises some questions. First, the firm assumes extensive penetration levels of 5G technology in the UK in the coming years to achieve the expected carbon emission standards.
O2 seems on track this far announcing in August that it is already ahead of schedule on its 5G rollout plans. The company said that it had reached 60 cities and towns by June. That coverage is significantly ahead of its 50-community commitment.
Another issue that arises is how to determine which applications need 5G technology and which can work with 4G/LTE or other technologies like Wi-Fi.
Additionally, O2 also acknowledged that 5G comes with carbon reduction difficulties. The anticipation of millions of 5G-connected devices and the need to set up new cell towers to meet rising 5G demand might increase energy consumption.
In that context, O2 suggests the need to heavily rely on renewable energy sources. Also, it encourages sharing infrastructure with other operators whenever possible. One case in point: the United Kingdom’s Shared Rural Network; is currently being jointly developed by EE, Vodafone, O2, and Three.