Nokia: Global warming exists, and here’s what we’re doing about it

Nokia core networks (Nokia)
Around 70% of all installed base stations remain "unmodernized," according to Nokia.

Nokia is taking a stand on climate change, saying in no uncertain terms that global warming is real and the telecom industry needs to do its part to reduce carbon emissions.

The Finnish vendor released a white paper titled "Building zero emissions radio access networks" this month outlining its position. The Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) tweeted about it last week, just before U.S. President Donald Trump took the oath of office.

Reports surfaced Friday about the disappearance of all specific mentions of “climate change” and “global warming” associated with the official White House website, instead promoting a new energy policy page that states it will pursue the elimination of key environmental policies like the Climate Action Plan.

A Nokia spokeswoman said she did not think there was any coincidence, noting that “Nokia has always had a strong sustainability approach. That is, in protecting the environment, this means reducing the environmental impact of both our own operations and that of our customers.”

As Mashable reported, several of Trump’s cabinet nominees have been skeptical or lukewarm about their opinions on climate change, with some acknowledging that carbon emissions are having some influence on the climate but they're not interested enough to do something about it.

Nokia has been a longtime proponent of tackling environmental issues. In 2015, Nokia President and CEO Rajeev Suri penned a letter that can be found on its sustainability site outlining the company's commitment to protecting the environment and other initiatives such as the YFactor program aimed at enabling more women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math disciplines. In 2016, Nokia launched Nokia AirScale Radio Access, a next-generation RAN system designed to better manage energy consumption.

“There is compelling evidence that the burning of fossil fuels by our civilization is driving climate change,” Nokia’s white paper states. “Global warming is a threat to every person on the planet, which is why governments have joined forces to address the challenge. The 2016 Paris Agreement to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) came into effect in November 2016 following its agreement by more than 190 UNFCCC members, of which most have ratified the agreement.”

There are clear benefits to be gained by improving the energy efficiency of infrastructure, but Nokia estimates that around 70% of all installed base stations remain "unmodernized," using outdated, energy-hungry hardware. 

The paper also addresses the feasibility for operators to implement zero emission radio access networks quickly enough to meet rising consumer and legislative pressures while still being commercially realistic. “Nokia believes it is practical and that although the journey to a fully zero emission radio access network will take many years, at each step the improvements made will bring their own benefits through lower costs and improved brand image.”

Most of a mobile operator’s carbon emissions come from the radio access network, making it a prime target for environmentally friendly improvements, the white paper states. “About 80% of a mobile network’s energy is consumed by base station sites. Running a typical urban base station site in Europe for 10 years accounts for more than 84% of its GHG emissions, with logistics and production making up the remaining 16%.”

A decade ago, trials of base station sites powered by a mix of solar and wind power seemed like the answer, but most of those early tests were not deemed successful due to the higher costs and lower reliability of power than expected. The white paper says the picture for renewables is a lot different today, however, and "there has been a quiet revolution that makes renewables much more attractive today."