Thinking of becoming sustainable? Cutting-edge technology can help

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Technological innovation will not only animate user experiences, but can help seek a greater good – that of sustainability.
Image Credit: AP

When it comes to sustainability, many of us think about the importance of carbon emissions, switching to renewables, and reducing unnecessary products like plastic.

The Saudi Vision 2030, the Kuwait Vision 2035, the UAE Vision 2021 and the UAE Strategy for the Future all aim to take a holistic approach to the circular economy. The Expo 2020 event focuses on sustainability, promising one of the most sustainable world fairs ever. While these should definitely stay high on the agenda, it is important to consider the role of a more sustainable internet and an underlying communications network.

Our reliance on a more digital world and the continued growth in bandwidth are key indicators of the importance of networks in everything we do. From basic communication to remote working and healthcare or online shopping, the internet and the underlying telecommunications network can contribute to a more sustainable future. This is possible thanks to continuous advancements that push the boundaries of physics and improve the efficiency of our networks, paving the way for a green networking approach.

Sustainable digitization

The internet can do almost anything at the push of a button, and it can significantly help reduce our impact on the environment. In April 2019, the UAE government became the first to sign on to the World Economic Forum’s ‘Scale 360’ initiative, which seeks to apply technologies from the Fourth Industrial Revolution to establish a highly efficient circular economy. Some examples include the use of IoT sensors, smart apps, energy efficient devices, and even remote working.

Research has shown that 42% of consumers in Saudi Arabia and 43% in the UAE are ready to embrace the internet as a way to reduce their carbon footprint. In this context, it is interesting to note that more than half of Saudis and 42% of UAE think they can be more energy efficient by working from home.

It wasn’t that long ago that the only things on the edge of the network in the average home were an email client and a web browser. The average home today, in terms of connectivity and the complexity of that connectivity, has more in common with a small business. The way we want to live and work is changing.

However, whether we are just sending an email or playing a movie, the data has to travel through the network from a data center and back to reach the end user. All of this consumes energy.

Greener technology

Simply building additional networks to meet increasing bandwidth demands is not a more viable option. Coherent new technology is available to help network providers deliver higher speeds, handle unpredictable traffic, and do more with less power, space and cost.

The incredible advancements in coherent optical technology over the past decade have paved the way for more efficient transfer of high-bandwidth applications and services, reduced network costs, and scalability. Without these innovations, we wouldn’t be living in this ever-active digital world, where we can communicate and access any content we want, from virtually any location.

Coherent optical innovations have also been the answer to address the continued and significant reduction in network footprint and power consumption. This is necessary to support our digital way of life, laying the foundations for creating greener networks. As an example, we have seen consistent technological innovations enabling network providers to reduce their energy consumption per bit by more than 90% over the past 10 years.

Choose sustainable development

The need to capitalize on these advantages will become crucial for network providers who wish to take a more sustainable approach. These innovations will also allow network operators to increase their profitability, reduce the costs of building more networks, while providing unshakeable performance.

In addition, the emergence of disaggregated solutions also presents a valuable tool for enabling network providers to optimize their footprint and improve the customer experience. These technologies promote the convergence of services and networks to allow a reduction in power, space and complexity. Network operators need more choice and the freedom to adapt and grow their networks in a more sustainable way without being tied to a specific platform, company or product. Disaggregated solutions make this possible.

Networks ready for the future

As an industry, we are seeing greater awareness on this topic, with a need to create more energy efficient networks and to push the boundaries of what technology can do. The networking space has evolved dramatically, especially over the past decade, to achieve this.

These innovations don’t just mean delivering higher capacities to meet critical connectivity demands, it also means investing in the right resources to spur innovation for new efficiencies that will enable greener networks. Having a more sustainable approach will allow network providers to achieve a better return on investment and an ever better customer experience in the future.

Advances in technology allow network providers to scale their infrastructure to support exponential capacity, while keeping energy and power consumption under control. As data and demand continue to increase, networks will continue to play a vital role in our journey to sustainability.

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