Use of life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology for information and communications technology (ICT) equipment, networks, services and organizations is growing in importance. The complexity of conducting LCA for ICT has led to several initiatives (e.g. by ITU-T and ETSI) to develop standardized methodologies. LCA is an important methodological platform for understanding environmental impact of various product systems and is found to provide a good basis for prioritization of a company's environmental work. However, results of an LCA are always model-based representations of the real environmental impact, and the absolute impact of a certain equipment, network, service or organization is beyond reach. LCA results are only valid under the assumptions of the study and are still associated with substantial uncertainty, which needs to be considered to the extent needed to understand the study results. This paper demonstrates that by examples related to uncertainty and variability of scenarios and data.
This article quantifies the global carbon footprint of mobile communication systems, and discusses its ecological and economic implications. Using up-to-date data and life cycle assessment models, we predict an increase of CO2 equivalent emissions by a factor of three until 2020 compared to 2007, rising from about 86 to 235 Mton CO2e, suggesting a steeper increase than predicted in the well-known SMART2020 report. We provide a breakdown of the global carbon footprint, which reveals that production of mobile devices and global radio access network operation will remain the major contributors, accompanied by an increasing share of emissions due to data transfer in the backbone resulting from rising mobile traffic volumes. The energy bill due to network operation will gain increasing importance in cellular business models. Furthermore, technologies to reduce energy consumption are considered a key enabler for the spread of mobile communications in developing countries. Taking into account several scenarios of technological advancement and rollout, we analyze the overall energy consumption of global radio access networks and illustrate the saving potential of green communication technologies. We conclude that, conditioned on quick implementation and alongside other "classical" improvements of spectral efficiency, these technologies offer the potential to serve three orders of magnitude more traffic with the same overall energy consumption as today.
Robert Kirkpatrick, Director of the United Nations Global Pulse, speaks about the opportunity big data presents to help communities develop in a more sustainable way.
A report from the UN’s Broadband Commission identifies what governments can do to ensure their people reap the full benefits of broadband and sustainable development.
An Ericsson report shows that due to advances in technology, and industry efforts to reduce energy consumption the ICT sector as a whole is unlikely to account for more than 2 percent of the total global carbon footprint.