5G’s rise must coincide with sustainability

Whilst 5G is set to bring a range of benefits to business consumers, it will also increase the capacity to create and transfer more data than ever, and without a more significant move to sustainable practise there will be a large increase in the carbon footprint of data centres across the world.

The amount of data produced will correspondingly require more bandwidth and storage. This undoubtedly strengthens the need to focus on sustainability and avoid a massive escalation in the carbon footprint of ICT, according to The Green Grid.

5G is the next generation of mobile networks, and is still in the early stages of development, with no formalised standards in place to define or govern its usage.

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It will yield a substantial increase in data transfer speeds – for example, currently a full HD movie requires a number of minutes to download over 4G, whereas with 5G it is estimated that this could be accomplished in less than 10 seconds. 5G will also reduce response time from around 50 milliseconds on 4G to about 1 millisecond.

Roel Castelein, customer services director at The Green Grid commented on the significance of these changes: “Just as 4G accelerated the shift to mobile by enabling it to become a speedier and more reliable computing device, so 5G will also create the conditions for exciting technological developments. For example, 5G’s speed and low latency could be the key factor in developing autonomous transport networks, by enabling vehicles to communicate with each other constantly and almost instantaneously via the internet of things.”

“Envisioning this future, it becomes clear that as the technological possibilities expand, so will the amount of data that is produced, and the need for storage to support that data. What tends to be forgotten in the rush towards this hyper-fast, hyper-convenient 5G-fuelled future is that all of this data, bandwidth, and storage requires certain ICT infrastructure to be in place to support it.”

>See also: UK government pledge: superfast 5G mobile networks

Data centres already account for 5% of global CO2 omissions – as much as the aviation industry. Castelein believes that without a renewed focus on sustainability, this percentage will increase, along with other polluting elements of ICT infrastructure.

“Too often, ICT infrastructure is created without sufficient importance being placed on the sustainability of these energy-guzzling elements. 5G will radically increase the demands placed on this infrastructure. With the inevitable rush to expand and create new infrastructure to tap into this demand, there’s a serious danger that the damage these can do to the environment is left completely unconsidered.”

“As we’ve found at The Green Grid, there are sustainable ways to design data centres, and to create a more sustainable way for our technology to coexist with our environment.”

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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