An analyst’s take: Huawei Green ICT Development Summit (Analyst Angle)

Huawei kicked off MWC 2023 with their Green ICT Summit.  It was a series of presentations showing how they and their partner stakeholders are innovating to bring the power of ICT to help enterprise not only improve their own telecommunications environmental impact but also the means for enterprise to create their own green revenue generating services.  The theme was true to each speaker’s message:  Green for ICT; ICT for Green.

Li Peng, President of the Carrier Business Group, kicked off the event highlighting the progress the industry has made toward green ICT and Huawei’s contributions.  Standards organizations and industries bodies have formalized the green theme with the formation of the ITU-T on Environment, Climate Change and Circular Economy, and publication of the GSMA’s report, A Blueprint for Green Networks.  Huawei is contributing having helped over 100 carriers deploy energy efficient networks.  In fact, Huawei made the CDP A-List in 2022, the only Chinese company to do so for its actions on climate change and transparency of disclosures.  In addition, Huawei is using technology to become more energy efficient and using more renewables to power its operations.  Mr. Li concluded that green is the shared future for all of society.  

Presentations by the GSMA and United Nations brought gravity to the growing embrace of green ICT.  The GSMA brought survey data presented in partnership with Huawei on consumer and enterprise insights toward sustainability.  Quite telling was the importance of climate change to consumers which ranked number one both for today but also 5 years from today.  This top concern beat out several pocket-book issues such as high inflation and economic stability.  

The GSMA also demonstrated the telecom industry’s alignment to ESG principles outlining key Mobile KPIs and their sustainability component:  Environment; Digital Inclusion; Digital Integrity; Supply Chain.  Led by telco suppliers such as Huawei, the GSMA highlighted two areas where telco investments are increasing.  The first is creating a truly circular economy for mobile devices.  Over 1 billion smartphones are shipped every year, yet smartphones contribute to approximately 10% of all e-waste worldwide.  Maximizing reuse and minimizing waste are key sustainability goals.  Second is digitization of the economy where many telcos are participating in pilot projects to accelerate key projects with major sustainability benefits.  Per the GSMA, mobile technologies can enable up to 20% reduction in global carbon emissions by 2030.

The United Nations presented how ICT drives green, sustainable development.  They reinforced several of the GSMA’s core talking points but with even more emphasis on sustainability’s impact on core human needs.  For instance, the UN advocates apply green and digitalization to one of the carbon intensive core human needs of transportation using telecommuting, greater access to digital services and car sharing.  The UN also recognize the benefits of technologies such as blockchain which can enhance circularity and use of software and AI for energy efficiency.  The UN presentation concluded with the importance of collaboration and how its value will only be met by collaborating on many levels:  nation to nation; ICT supplier collaboration; public-private sector; and for use case development.  Use case development recognizes that identification of core sustainability implementation use cases can raise all boats when confronted with sustainability challenges that can be unique by enterprise sector and country.

Carrier participation is where the rubber meets and the road.  Their presentations brought the reality of sustainability challenges and associated implementation requirements as presented in three key themes:

  • The Power of Partnerships – While the ICT industry is partnership driven given that the foundation for value is networks, the sustainability challenge requires even more reliance on partnerships.  This includes collocation of 5G radios as happening between China Telecom, China Unicom and China Broadnet Group.  Another is the Orange partnership with Huawei for on-site renewable energy generation upgrades.  Finally for all operators, collaboration with enterprise to help them go digital and decarbonize.   
  • You Can’t Measure What You Don’t Know – Net zero carbon emissions is a key goal for operators with several sharing their target date and initiatives to get there.  (MTN: 2040; Orange: 2040).  However, they acknowledge that measuring carbon emissions is critical to achieving net zero to both measure against and for reporting.  Operationalizing this requirement, Orange shared it is using Huawei’s NetEco solution, a centralized remote OSS solution for site energy, temperature and humidity monitoring and control.
  • End-to-End Value Chain Approach – All operators seemed to recognize that sustainability needs to be addressed at all levels of the value chain – from the networks to the data centers and to the devices.  Each also linked this approach to the broader value to enterprises and consumers.  China Telecom, a top 10 operator worldwide with over 390 MM mobile subscribers, demonstrated how improvements in cost structure from energy reduction initiatives will be good for the environment, good for telco revenue generation and lead to new enterprise digitalization opportunities.  With support from Huawei, China Telecom is applying key technologies such as high-performance computing, liquid cooling technology, AI and fiber across its network with the goal of enabling enterprises to reduce their carbon emissions by 10-fold.  Orange is accelerating its use of green power such as solar across its operations and placing circular economy and LCA criteria in all of its RFPs.  In addition, it is employing network features to achieve zero network power when there is no network traffic.  Finally, was MTN whose mobile networks are predominantly serving developing regions of Africa and Middle East.  For them, sustainability is an opportunity.  Sustainable technology implementations will not only reduce the negative effects of climate change for these under-developed markets, but also create new job opportunities.

The event culminated with a presentation by Peng Song, President of ICT and Marketing.  Mr. Peng showed that network energy consumption growth is inevitable due to new network technologies and applications combined with AI, labelling it the AI Big Bang: The New Intelligent Era.  But this evolution will also lead to new opportunities for mobile operators through new user experiences, new services/revenue opportunities and autonomous networks.  However, Huawei does not see that increased demand on networks means mobile operators cannot also be green.  Huawei sees that mobile operators can both develop and be green – in other words choose not to choose!

To enable both outcomes, Huawei has focused development of its products and services in three areas.  First is in energy efficiency technologies.  Networks can be tuned to operate either more efficiently in light load scenarios or effectively be put to sleep during ultra-light load to zero load periods.  Second is in deployment of renewables.  Huawei can provide insights on the right sites to deploy renewables to maximize their ROI, as well as employ intelligent algorithms to maximize renewable’s energy generation based on site use scenarios.  Third, the user experience can be optimized while balancing network performance and energy usage through intelligent policy applications.  Intelligent policies can prioritize energy savings in light use scenarios and maximize the customer experience in heavy traffic applications.  These policies will be informed by user experience data and complemented by AI so that policies are created and applied dynamically on the order milliseconds rather than days.

Huawei’s approach to ICT and green is embodied in its sustainability framework called the 1+2+3 solution, which is an enhancement to its 1+3 solution introduced in 2022.  The 1 stands for a standards-based approach to measuring network energy use which recognizes that carbon emission reductions need to balance both network performance and energy efficiency.  The 3 refers to the three levers where network performance and energy use are optimized – site, network, and operations.  The 2 recognizes that there are two scenarios where green and network performance are optimized: high energy efficiency and ultra-low energy consumption.   These scenarios recognize the multi-dimensional nature of mobile networks that serve a range of customer needs and a range of applications from IoT to FWA.

ABI Research has assessed Huawei’s sustainability credentials and found it is a leader among the telco equipment supplier community1.  It is a leader in on-site renewable energy solutions not only in implementations but also through its use of AI and real-time analytics.  It offers a full suite of network products scoring highly for sustainability in 5G RAN, Massive MIMO, AI driven network software, and antenna solutions.   To enable greater energy efficiency in its 5G network product suite, it offers operators its GreenSite and PowerStar2.0 solutions that target site level and network level energy use.  

A final takeaway of the event was that Huawei recognizes that sustainability needs to be inclusive.  Indeed, Huawei serves markets worldwide, but is a top telecom/ICT equipment provider to developing regions.  Developing regions will feel the most acute impact from carbon emissions and waste.  Huawei is doing its part to contribute to the well-being of the planet, enabling sustainability within ICT for shared peace, security, and human development.


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