ICT Sector

Downward energy trend continues. Several recent studies indicate that the massive growth in data traffic in ICT networks in the last few years has not resulted in equivalent growth in the energy-related carbon footprint of the networks.

Our joint study with Telia in Sweden in 2016 showed that despite a continuing exponential increase of data traffic, the carbon footprint of ICT in Sweden started to decrease around 2010, after 20 years of constant growth. The study concludes that the total ICT and E&M (entertainment and media) carbon footprint is about 1.9% (1.2% ICT and 0.7% E&M respectively) of Sweden’s total carbon footprint, with a decrease from 2010 of around 10%.

In 2017, we expanded the project and focused on the ICT network operators in a global context, gathering data built on network operators’ overall energy use from 2010 to 2015. This unique data set corresponds to 45% of overall global mobile subscriptions and 15% of fixed subscriptions. Using this as a basis, we estimated the overall global emissions. In spite of the very high data traffic growth and a subscription increase from 6.7B to 9.0B, the result shows only a limited increase in annual electricity consumption and operational carbon emission. The increase is associated with the mobile network expansion, since the fixed and broadband levels remain nearly unchanged. Still, the impact per subscription is actually decreasing in most cases. The report ’The electricity consumption and operational carbon emissions of ICT network operators 2010–2015’ was published by KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

Read more on this topic on our latest Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility report.