In the Middle East, the telecommunications industry has undergone a rapid transformation, transitioning from legacy systems to modernized networks to meet the escalating demands of consumers and businesses. Amidst this evolution, network providers find a significant opportunity to enhance their sustainability performance, aligning with the visionary goals of GCC nations like the UAE and KSA. These nations aspire to lead as digital economies, propelled by sustainable practices.
Exemplifying their dedication to sustainability, the UAE’s Green Agenda 2030 and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 underscore the commitment of these nations. The UAE aims to cultivate a knowledge-based, competitive economy while promoting sustainable development, while Saudi Arabia envisions establishing itself as a global technology hub, driven by environmental sustainability. Both visions recognize the vital role of sustainable technologies, particularly in telecommunications, in fostering economic growth and preserving the environment.
Sustainable digital transformation has quickly become an imperative for telecom service providers, as emphasized by the World Economic Forum. Failure to address sustainability concerns could result in a significant economic loss of $12 trillion by 2030. By adopting sustainable technologies, organizations can mitigate environmental impacts, optimize resource usage, and reduce their carbon footprint, all while improving operational efficiency, cost savings, and customer satisfaction.
Many leading telecommunications companies are setting ambitious climate change targets that align with the Paris Agreement. This is now critical as network operations are one of the most energy-intensive parts of a service provider’s footprint, with estimates that total energy use is increasing by approximately 10 percent year over year. For example, United Arab Emirates telecoms operator and technology conglomerate e&, formerly known as Etisalat Group, pledged its commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2030 at the COP27 UN climate summit in Egypt.
Networks across the globe have built modern societies – from smart cities to digital healthcare and better education systems. Therefore, it makes sense for operators to use every opportunity to embed sustainability into their network operations to meet growing capacity demands responsibly. There are many touchpoints where providers can reduce the environmental impacts of networks without compromising the connectivity needs of today’s digital economy.
One of the most effective strategies to reduce emissions is through network transformation. Thanks to continuous innovation, it is now possible to increase network capacity while reducing the energy and space required to operate them and minimize the downstream and upstream impacts of materials and waste. At the same time, as data consumption soars, new and innovative designs are creating tremendous power efficiency for the same routing capacity. For instance, decreasing power per bit can help keep energy consumption and emissions in check. Having more capacity with fewer units and smaller forms also results in fewer materials used, less waste, and lower emissions from shipping and packaging.
Even without the latest equipment, advanced software provides opportunities to keep networks humming while cutting emissions. Virtualized services can help operators reduce the need for discrete network devices by taking advantage of Cloud-based Network Functions (CNFs). Intelligent automation and software-defined networking SDN can help customers improve the efficiency of their workforce and their networks to ultimately reduce the amount of network hardware required and associated energy, materials, waste, and emissions.
For instance, Ciena helps telecom service providers modernize their networks by using new platforms that consume lower power, enhance capacity, and ensure efficient data transmission. Its advanced SDN solutions enable organizations to embrace sustainable technologies and contribute to the region’s digital evolution.
As networks across the region rapidly evolve to keep pace with growing demand, they will face a constant drive for more, and better, bandwidth. Equally, there will be more pressure to ensure that networks are run cost-effectively, reliably, and sustainably. This is where network transformation services can help operators identify outdated equipment, eliminate unnecessary network elements and the energy they consume, and ensure the network meets operational and sustainability objectives.
The upcoming COP 28 event is a platform for the GCC region to showcase tangible sustainable practices on a global scale. Discussions at COP 28 will no doubt focus on aligning digital transformations with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But the summit is also an excellent opportunity for deeper and more meaningful discussions around how digital transformation is vital to building sustainable networks.
The transition to clean technologies is even more critical for the GCC as it accelerates its net-zero targets and climate sustainability obligations. Network providers must seize the opportunity to share best practices and collaborate with industry peers today to accelerate their sustainable digital transformation ambitions in the future.