Asian telcos step up 'green' in 2009

Green will be a "high priority" for the region's telcos going forward as they seek to cut costs and ride out the downturn, note industry observers.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

Telcos in Asia, as with their counterparts in other regions, will place greater emphasis on green IT this year, as they seek to cut costs and ride out the downturn, according to industry observers.

Ovum's senior analyst of telco operations Sally Banks, noted that telcos globally will place emissions reduction as a high priority this year. "As take-up of broadband and mobile services slows and the global economic crisis bites, telcos need to look at opportunities to stay ahead of the competition," she pointed out.

There are also tremendous opportunities for operators to help other businesses reduce their carbon footprint, noted Banks in a brief last month. "Estimates suggest that telecoms operators can achieve a 1- to 2 percent reduction in global carbon emissions by implementing green initiatives within their operations.

"However, the telecommunications industry is expected to enable other businesses to reduce emissions by up to five times this amount, highlighting that telecoms has a major role to play in enabling a green economy," she said, adding that improving brand perception is an additional benefit for telcos to go green.

Banks said operators worldwide have introduced green initiatives, such as the "use of renewable energy sources, to power networks and mobile base stations" as well as using natural resources from sustainable sources. They are also starting to use fresh-air cooling systems instead of air-conditioning in data centers, and converting fleet vehicles to LPG-rather than diesel or petrol-based ones.

Other green priorities include using cutting down on energy use, tapping on energy-efficient technologies, recycling materials from phones, networks and offices, and improving the battery life of mobile phones to limit charging them.

Over in the Asia-Pacific region, Ovum has observed that mobile operators including those in Cambodia, China and Pakistan, have implemented solar powered infrastructure "as a way of not only lessening their impact on the environment but also reducing costs", said Banks.

However, more needs to be done, she pointed out. "Ovum expects a lot more activity by players that have yet to implement a formal green policy as it becomes a corporate requirement to be green and as legislation becomes more stringent in this space," she said in the brief.

According to Matt Walker, principal analyst at Ovum, Japanese telcos and the largest wireless operators have been most active in looking at ways to lower energy costs. Attention on energy management issues, however, differs depending on the type of operator, he pointed out in an e-mail. Wireless network operators, for example, are concerned with energy usage in base stations.

"Because of its vast size, China Mobile has [for example] focused lots of management attention at the energy efficiency of its network equipment," he explained.

S'pore telcos step up green
ZDNet Asia understands from a SingTel spokesperson, the telco will remain focused on energy efficiency and corporate sustainability in 2009.

According to the spokesperson, the company has been engaged in activities relating to the reduction of its carbon footprint and management of energy use and waste. These initiatives are a part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) program.

In its Australian operations, SingTel introduced a number of energy-saving initiatives, including solar-powered air-conditioning to an office, he noted, adding that its subsidiary Optus achieved 50 percent carbon neutrality at corporate sites "through a combination of green power and carbon offsets". From its corporate office in Singapore, the telco has also raised the air-conditioning temperature, encouraged staff to switch off their lights and introduced an e-billing option.

SingTel in 2008 received the Green Globe Award from the New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change for its Macquarie Park facility, which is capable of recycling 92 percent of all waste material exiting the site, the spokesperson added.

Michael Sim, StarHub's senior corporate communications and investor relations manager, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview that the telco is "firmly committed to establishing sustainable green practices this year" across its operations. More details will be made known at a later date, he added.

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