Telefónica’s O2 touts energy efficiency as data usage rises

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The moves are part of O2’s efforts toward its commitment to reach Net Zero by 2025. (Getty Images)

O2, the Telefónica-owned U.K. mobile operator, said its network carried around 55% more data throughput at peak hours during the first week of May than it did in the same week of 2020.

This year Covid-19 related restrictions are lifting, but 2020 still saw O2’s network traffic up 89% from the pre-pandemic average in 2019.

As 4G and 5G mobile data consumption continues, the operator is touting energy savings from cooling equipment and software for temperature-control efficiency at its data centers and core network sites.

Part of the upgrade involves management software from EkkoSense, which O2 is rolling out across its data centers. The software is tied to smart sensors that monitor data center equipment to precisely determine how much cooling each site requires at a given time, allowing optimal cooling levels depending on need.

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O2 anticipates energy savings equal to 1 million kilograms of CO2 year on year from the EkkoSense software.

More energy efficient cooling equipment itself has also been installed, with around 70% of core network sites upgraded. According to O2, it uses fresh outdoor cool air to help keep equipment temperatures down when needed, rather than relying on strictly electric-powered air conditioning.

Together, the equipment and data center software upgrades are delivering energy savings between 15-20% per year, the operator said.

Tracey Herald, head of corporate responsibility and sustainability at O2, said in a statement that keeping customers connected can’t come at the expense of the environment.

“Data center cooling is a great example: the more data we use, the hotter the centers can become,” Herald noted. “Historically networks have relied on air con, but the UK has plenty of fresh, cold air that does the same job – so we’re getting rid of old kit and using energy in a smarter way.”

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The moves are part of O2’s efforts toward its commitment to reach Net Zero by 2025.

Many mobile operators have committed to climate and environmental targets, including U.S. operators AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. In 2019, the GSMA Board set a mobile industry goal to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Earlier this year it released the first annual assessment (PDF) of traction against the targets. As of April, operators covering 36% of the industry (by total revenue) had committed to Net Zero targets by that time.