O2 says 5G can massively reduce UK carbon emissions

(Image credit: Future)

O2 says the deployment of 5G networks can reduce carbon emissions in the UK by up to 269 megatonnes – a figure that is almost equivalent to England’s total emissions in 2018.

The operator says 5G applications such as smart grids and autonomous vehicles, coupled with the efficiencies it promises in manufacturing, can significantly reduce energy consumption.

For example, 5G-connected factory systems will enable automated processes and productivity gains that lower costs, accelerate production, and could take up to 40 megatonnes of carbon out of the economy by 2035.

O2 5G green

Meanwhile, the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic is expected to accelerate demand for remote working applications that reduce the need for commuting and business travel. 5G will enable more advanced remote computing capabilities and new use cases such as Virtual Reality.

However it is the utilities and energy sector that O2 believes stands to benefit the most. Smart metres and connected systems could save as much as 181 megatonnes.

CEO Mark Evans said any path to net zero must start with the telecoms industry that will enable such shifts. 

“Ultrafast connectivity can play a significant part in rebuilding Britain whilst helping to green the economy, and at O2 we are committed to playing our part,” he said.

“Our ‘Greener connected future’ report sets out a vision for how connected solutions enabled by 4G and 5G could power a green revolution over the next decade and beyond. If we invest now, there is a real opportunity for Britain to become a leading adopter of 5G and unleash the power of connected solutions to build a greener future for generations to come.”

Earlier this year, the operator pledged to become the first ‘net-zero’ mobile network in the UK by removing all carbon emissions from its business by 2025. It already uses renewable energy for its operations and has upgraded its network to automatically save power during periods of low demand.

The O2 Recycle scheme has prevented more than three million devices from reaching landfill – the equivalent of 450 tonnes – and waste has been further reduced by a decision not to sell new phones with a charger as standard.

BT has pledged to become a net zero business by 2045 while Vodafone is aiming to halve its environmental impact by 2025.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.