Issam Darwish, CEO, IHS. Issam Darwish, CEO, IHS.

Green issues are moving up the agenda for MEA telecom operators as environmental concerns grow and cost pressures encourage greater efficiency.

What makes a ‘green’ telecom operator? The answer lies not only in the way that a company conducts its own affairs, but also in the services and products that it makes available to its customers.

Ericsson’s head of sustainability and corporate responsibility for the Middle East, Joe Battikh, says the size of an operator’s carbon footprint depends on a range of factors, including the market they operate in and environment. In order to minimise their impact on the environment, operators need to look at all aspects of their business and assess how they can operate more efficiently. He says: “Our assessment of the process and procedures used throughout, confirm that energy use of products in operation remains our most significant environmental impact.”

Du’s vice president of asset management and corporate administration Abdulhadi Alalyak says that when assessing the size of an operator’s carbon footprint, it is important to look at the total amount of CO2 emitted to the environment for sites running on generators and sites running on mains power. “This calculation will give an indication and visibility of operator carbon footprint and once the operator has its carbon footprint, he can work on reducing it accordingly by implementing certain initiatives.”

Some of the areas that UAE telco Du looks to address include waste management and implementing a culture of e-services and the sharing of components such as antennas, feeder cables, BTS, and other transmission equipment. It has also looked to eliminate diesel generators powering its mobile towers.

Boosting efficiency

In the fast-growing mobile markets of the Middle East and Africa, mobile towers are often given as one of the most significant causes of pollution.

Increasing consumer demand for both universal coverage and capacity has led to the rapid proliferation of base stations,” says CommScope vice president, wireless Middle East and Africa Vick Mamlouk. “The number of off-grid base stations powered by generators was projected to reach 640,000 in 2012 and expected to consume $14.6 billion worth of fossil fuel. Energy costs weigh heavily on every wireless operator’s bottom line.”

Indeed, Mamlouk says power consumption is one of the top five economic operating expense considerations. “It is steadily becoming a major concern for operators because of fast-rising electricity and back-up system costs, as well as the obvious concerns about air and noise pollution.”

Despite this, carbon emissions and green initiatives are not at the top of regional telco chief executive’s agendas, according to Arthur D Little managing partner Thomas Kuruvilla. He says: “Telecom companies are more focused on finding new ways to stay ahead of the game vis-à-vis continuous pressure from new players entering the market and having their sights set on revenue growth and cost optimisation, versus concentrating on green issues.”

Ericsson’s Battikh says that the focus on energy efficiency and the reduction of carbon output in Europe and the US is more apparent than it is in the Middle East. He says: “It is important to remember that those markets are all very different. Operators in the Middle East are now actively working towards ensuring that their networks are energy efficient and we are already seeing a demand for our energy efficient solutions in the region such as the deployment of our Tower Tube solution (a system that uses air flow inside the tube to cool equipment located at the top of the tower) in both Egypt and Saudi Arabia.”

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