Research by network equipment provider Ciena has found that 42% of British adults believe the future of the internet will be driven by our desire to become more energy efficient.
Commenting on the research, Jürgen Hatheier, Ciena’s CTO EMEA, said: “Our experience and expectations around the network are changing. There’s a greater desire to support a more connected, energy-efficient world, through smart devices, connected industries, and new applications underpinned by high expectations for service reliability.”
Ciena’s research uncovered the fact that two-thirds of Brits are using digital services to reduce their carbon footprint, such as making digital healthcare appointments (25%), working remotely (24%), and attending e-meetings and digital conferences (22%). For many, home is now the office and, at times, the classroom, which means a reliable network connection is more important than ever. Interestingly, the research found that 44% of customers say they use their mobiles more than any other device, with 25% preferring laptops and just 14% still mainly using desktops.
With COVID-19 accelerating digitalisation and digital adoption, almost a third of British adults told Ciena that they intend to continue to work remotely for at least part of the week – even after restrictions are lifted.
But as more customers opt for digital solutions, Ciena points out this is only part of the answer. As digitalisation boosts data usage, the environmental impact of data usage also needs to be reduced. This is a pressing issue, as according to a GSMA Energy Efficiency Report, the move to digitalisation could result in a two- to three-fold increase in energy consumption. Making networks more energy efficient and greener is therefore extremely important.
The good news is that new network technologies such as full fibre networks and 5G promise a step change in energy efficiency. With Ciena’s research showing that 43% of customers plan to upgrade their internet connection within the next 24 months and 36% willing to pay more for 5G services, substantial gains in energy efficiency should be delivered in the next 2-3 years.
“Rethinking our approach to the way networks are built and managed is key to supporting the growing digital landscape,” said Hatheier. “While demand and our digital lifestyle will continue to drive the future of networks, it’s critical that they become closer to end users, smarter, and faster to deliver an exceptional customer experience.”
While 5G and full fibre networks promise higher levels of energy efficiency, it’s important to remember this is only part of the story. In order to capture all the benefits promised an end-to-end approach is needed, including behavioural and attitudinal change.
The UK telecoms industry needs to promote increased recycling, refurbishing and re-use of devices; move away from a fast-fashion approach to devices; retire old and less energy-efficient network equipment and CPE; and help customers make better choices by exposing the environmental impact of different digital behaviours.
Making environmentally-aware generation Z customers more conscious of how their digital choices affect their carbon footprint is critical if the UK is to meet its green targets. This can be substantially impacted through very simple decisions such as using less energy-hungry devices, retaining devices for longer and making smarter choices about how to stream media and use digital applications.