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By the end of 2020, approximately $ 2.7trn will be spent globally on developing 5G mobile Internet connectivity. Europe, which aims to have a net-zero emitter by 2050, believes that this investment can help achieve its climate goals by saving energy. Yet doubts about the technology – from its energy-saving claims to its impact on health and privacy – remain rife, including the banning of technology in its manifesto to several Green mayors appointed in France’s recent local elections.

Europe’s belief is based on the capability of 5G, which is capable of large-scale processing data in real-time with potential, for example, improving traffic liquidity and reducing fuel consumption in cities or solar-like To assist in the production and integration of decentralized renewable energy. Air. At the same time, power consumption per bit or piece of information can be 90 percent lower than 4G (fourth generation) at 5G (fifth generation connectivity), the European Commission says. Professor Lars Dittmann at Denmark’s Technical University has described the technology as “an impetus for future low power consumption and a more sustainable ICT ecosystem.” But this fact is not entirely taking away from the information and communication technology (ICT) sector as a “green challenge” is being faced. Estimates suggest 5 to 9 percent of global electricity consumption and over 2 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“Most people think the technology is at its best carbon-neutral, but it is an incredible pollutant,” says an associate fellow of the International Security Program at the think tank Chatham House. He points to a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that suggests training of the same artificial intelligence (AI) model may result in multiple carbon emissions over the lifetime of five cars. Anne Vignette, the newly elected Green Mayor of Besançon, a city in eastern France, echoes and adds to this concern. “Digital consumption related to digital usage continues with a two percent increase nationally.” China, where the 5G rollout is more advanced, “is already seeing three times more power consumption in its telephone network with 5G than 4G,” she adds. Jop Hagenberg, director of European foreign affairs at GSMA, a trade body representing mobile operators, says power consumption increases in the first phase of 5G because the technology requires more dense and complex networks. “Once the network becomes more mature, all energy efficiency features will kick in and optimize energy consumption,” he says. French MEP David Cormand is confused, and more digitalization will reduce energy use. “Now everyone has four to five connected things, if it increases to 50, how will we save energy?” He asks. Experts suggest that by 2025, more than 20 billion devices will be connected to the Internet of Things.


The Commission, however, is elevated on this issue. It provides new, more energy-efficient ICTs that aid other industrial sectors, reduces carbon dioxide emissions as much as they produce, and ultimately cut global emissions by up to 15 percent. Research from GSMA and the UK-based Carbon Trust found that mobile technology reduced carbon dioxide by about 2,135 million tonnes in 2018 compared to carbon dioxide globally, more than ten times the mobile industry’s global carbon footprint.

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Cormand, like many others, is also concerned about the broader environmental impact of frequent upgrades from one technology to another, describing it as a “volatile economic model.” But for Professor Reitman, sticking to 4G is not an option. “4G was primarily developed to provide more capacity and was never targeting applications such as 5G,” he says. Operators will build 5G networks and keep 4G (and to a lesser extent 3G and 2G) active for many years, as they will “serve entertainment applications like Netflix or YouTube.” 5G networks, by contrast, can be used for specific ends, such as making manufacturing processes more secure and efficient.

The best long-term option for the Green Agenda is to “build and expand 5G as soon as possible”, Reitman says, stressing that the software is designed to be long-lasting and rebuilt. Although advocates see the sheer volume of data 5G can process as a good thing, Cormand sees it as yet another step in the direction of “surveillance capitalism,” where personal data is a bigger currency for advertisers and more frightening. There are others with ends. According to Taylor at Chatham House, the optimistic view is that information from connected devices in smart cities will make things “more environmentally friendly” and that 5G advocates, such as Dittman, underline how all technology is.

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