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How does 5G affect climate change?

5G affect climate change; The largest radio wave auction in India's history ended on Monday, with a spectrum worth ₹1,50,173 crore sold.

By Wahid Bhat
New Update
How does 5G affect climate change?

The largest radio wave auction in India's history ended on Monday, with a spectrum worth ₹1,50,173 crore sold. But there have been several concerns about the effects of 5G technology.

In a new study on the impact of digitization, a team of researchers from the University of Zurich and Empa has analyzed the consequences of the 5G mobile phone standard on the climate.

One thing is clear, 5G technology can curb greenhouse gas emissions, as new applications emerge and digitization is used more efficiently. The study authors are presenting the results to members of the Swiss Parliament in Bern.

With the increasing digitization of our society, the question arises of what potential this digital change has for climate protection. A team of researchers from the University of Zurich and Empa have analyzed the effects of the 5G mobile phone standard on greenhouse gas emissions.

The team concludes that, with an assumed eightfold increase in future data traffic, 5G technology will be more efficient and enable innovative applications such as flexible working, a smart grid or precision agriculture, helping to reduce emissions. of CO2. Today, the authors of the study will present their results to the parliamentary groups “Cleantech” and “Digital Sustainability” in Bern.

Emerging technologies

The study examined the flows of energy and materials for the construction and operation of the infrastructure of a 5G network and, therefore, possible (new) applications up to the year 2030. Expressed in kilograms of CO2 equivalents, the climate impact can be calculated using life cycle assessments.

The production and use of a typical business laptop, for example, generates around 32 kg of CO2 equivalents per year. “Our calculations are based on the current planning specifications of the mobile phone operator Swisscom,” says Roland Hischier of Empa's Technology and Society lab in St. Gallen.

The 4G network will still exist in 2030, but it will only account for about 20 per cent of data traffic. The study shows that the expansion of the 5G network and the new equipment needed for new applications in the 5G network should cause environmental pollution of the order of 0.18 megatons of CO2 equivalent in 2030. “On the other hand, the new applications also offer a potential savings of up to 2.1 megatons of CO2 equivalents,” says Hischier.

One of the reasons for the climate-friendly CO2 savings is the higher energy efficiency of 5G technology. The 5G network in 2030 should cause around 85% fewer emissions per unit of data transported than the current mobile phone network. In addition, there are indirect savings from new uses, such as smart grids or new applications in agriculture with more targeted use of fertilizers and pesticides. In addition, faster, more reliable, and (in terms of quantity) much greater data transmission supports flexible working, which in turn reduces commuter traffic and business travel, as virtual collaboration can be carried out more efficiently in the 5G network, according to Empa investigator.

Additional reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved through new technologies that will only emerge with the expansion of 5G networks, such as autonomous driving, telesurgery and smart buildings. Hischier: "These applications, however, will not be able to exploit their full potential in the very near future, so they will not yet materialize within the time window of our study until the year 2030."

With the study, Hischier notes, a foundation is now laid for future policy decisions, showing that the spread of 5G technology has environmental benefits. "Technological advances, if applied intelligently, are an important factor in further reducing our CO2 emissions." After all, the 5G network promotes and enables promising technologies, which in turn meet the future needs of society and help achieve sustainability goals.

The Impact of 5G on Ecosystems

There is some evidence that new devices and technologies associated with 5G will be disruptive to delicate ecosystems. The main component of the 5G network that will affect terrestrial ecosystems is millimetre waves.

The millimetre waves that are being used in the development of the 5G network have never before been used on such a scale. This makes it especially difficult to know how they will affect the environment and certain ecosystems. However, studies have found that there is some harm caused by these new technologies.

What is 5G?

5G represents the fifth generation of wireless technology. It is the wave of wireless technology that surpasses the 4G network that is used now. Previous generations brought the first cell phones (1G), text messaging (2G), online capabilities (3G), and higher speeds (4G).

The fifth generation aims to increase the speed of data movement, be more responsive and allow greater connectivity of devices simultaneously.

This means that 5G will allow almost instant download of data that, with the current network, would take hours. For example, downloading a movie using 5G would take only a few seconds.

These new enhancements will enable autonomous vehicles, the massive expansion of the use of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and the acceleration of new technological advances used in everyday activities by a much broader range of people.

How to avoid possible harmful effects?

There are essentially three mechanisms to prevent interference from some services from affecting others: evaluate, protect and improve.

Evaluating is precisely one of the objectives of the Rutgers study. If we better understand the effects of interference and how it occurs, we can avoid it without having to give up using either of the services involved.

A correct evaluation helps us with protection. This is precisely what the ITU does. The WRC explains that, at the same time that the use of the millimetre bands for 5G was approved, protection measures were also agreed for the Earth exploration service through satellite and for meteorological sensors and other similar ones that can operate in bands. adjacent. These ensure that such services remain undisturbed, just like radio astronomy stations.

But protective measures may be insufficient in some cases. That is why it is necessary to develop technology with the following objectives:

  • Better model propagation and interference.
  • Evaluate the effect of the density of transmitting stations.
  • Determine good transmitter and receiver design options to produce and receive less interference.

Steer the signal away from the direction that might affect satellite measurements (this is done particularly well at millimetre waves with a technology called beamforming).

Improve weather forecasting systems to be robust to these residual interferences.

The authors of the Rutgers study conclude by noting that they will continue to work on techniques that mitigate the effect of interference. Technological advances allow a harmonized use of the spectrum, which contributes to improving our quality of life, to which accurate weather forecasting undoubtedly also contributes.

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