Telecoms is an energy intensive business. We are managing the significant challenge of running and expanding our mobile and fixed networks, fulfilling our customers’ growing demands for data while meeting our commitments to reduce carbon emissions.
Our services can help our customers and businesses of all sizes reduce their own energy consumption. And we believe that our digital technology can help society to become more energy efficient and greener, increasing the use of renewable power and transforming national and local energy systems for the future.
The expansion of our mobile and fixed networks means we now carry around 10 times more data compared to just five years ago, yet our total power consumption has remained roughly flat over the same period. Every gigabyte of data carried on our network today consumes 90% less power than it did in 2017.
Vodafone’s mobile base stations, fixed access sites and technology centres account for around 96% of our total energy consumption, with the rest used by our shops, offices, and other activities. To improve our energy efficiency, we therefore focus on the areas of our business with the greatest potential for efficiency gains.
This includes modernising our networks, upgrading power-hungry 3G equipment to more efficient 4G/5G standards, and consolidating our mast sites. Our data centres and network sites are being equipped with the latest high-performance servers and storage, backed by highly efficient passive infrastructure for power conversion and cooling.
By retiring our legacy 3G networks, we are freeing up spectrum for 4G and 5G services that support greater volumes of data and increase our energy efficiency. Vodafone has achieved significant energy savings in four European markets by reallocating our 3G spectrum and we expect to complete this transformation across Europe by 2024.
We are installing new 5G technologies, such as Massive-MIMO operating on the 2600 MHz spectrum band. Massive-MIMO dramatically increases our mobile data capacity compared to 3G and 4G, for a relatively small increase in overall power consumption. 5G Massive MIMO is around 15x more energy efficient than 3G and 3x more efficient than 4G to deliver the same quantity of data.
Vodafone is rolling out ‘multi-band’ technology that can accommodate multiple frequency bands in a single antenna, replacing legacy antennae that only support one band. On frequencies that are upgraded with multi-band equipment, we estimate that energy consumption will be reduced by 30%.
Vodafone is also exploring ways of reducing the power used by mobile networks during times of low traffic demand, without impacting our service. We are deploying advanced software that optimises radio power, including automatically switching off some capacity at night and at certain times during the day.
We have implemented sophisticated machine learning algorithms to optimise cooling in our technology centres, and our ‘big data’ analytics system continually monitors data from electricity suppliers and smart meters at over 53,000 locations across Europe and Egypt. We are virtualising software applications and moving to cloud solutions, allowing us to shut down less efficient legacy server infrastructure.
11 Vodafone markets have already adopted the ‘best in class’ ISO 50001 Energy Management Standard in their operations. We engage with suppliers to explore energy efficiency improvements for both hardware and software, benchmarking them for energy efficiency.
Despite the ever-growing demand for data and the expansion of our networks, our energy efficiency drive reduced our total Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions in FY22 by 23% to 1.09 million tonnes of CO2e.
In 2020, Vodafone committed to helping our business customers reduce their own carbon emissions by a cumulative total of 350 million tonnes globally over 10 years between 2020 and 2030.
Since setting this target, Vodafone has helped customers improve their energy efficiency and saved an estimated 22.7 million tonnes of carbon emissions. Vodafone’s IoT service offer - including logistics, fleet management and smart metering - has been central in delivering these savings so far.
We are providing free advice and support to SMEs through our V-Hub service, with the aim of reaching 5 million SMEs. V-Hub provides content on helping small businesses use digitalisation to improve their energy efficiency.
There are enormous opportunities for digital technology to help governments transform their energy systems for the future, and we believe that digitalising national and local energy systems is critical if society is to move towards renewables and improve energy efficiency.
Digital technology can provide real-time data on energy production and consumption, helping to create smarter and more flexible energy grids that better match demand with supply. Combined with automation and the internet of things (IoT), technology solutions can deliver a more intelligent, convenient, and cost-effective use of energy.
Opportunities include more widespread adoption of consumer devices that measure and improve energy consumption to city-wide smart energy management systems that manage street lighting and make buildings more efficient.
To deliver the EU’s twin digital and green vision, it will require sustained investment in technology innovation, driven by collaboration between public and private sectors, and across industries.
Across Europe, Vodafone has held showcases and exhibitions to show the potential of digital technology to green our society, demonstrating how we can boost green jobs, grow green technology skills and accelerate the wider green economy.
We’re playing our part by investing in a range of green technologies such as smart metering, IoT energy management solutions and smart cities solutions. We continue to look for opportunities to roll these solutions out at scale across Europe.