The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta has said that as a responsive world-class organization, the NCC has been proactive in responding to the realities and challenges posed by the impact of using fossil fuel as a power source in the telecommunications industry.
Danbatta who spoke in Abuja at the commemoration of the 2023 World Consumer Rights Day, pointed out that because the Nigerian situation is peculiar, and owing to the overall energy challenges of the nation, the 54,000 BTS scattered across the country depend on diesel generators with the attendant noise and environmental pollution.
He said that some of these BTS operate on diesel generators for 24 hours across seven days of the week in some locations, and noted that transitioning to a renewable energy source like solar power will significantly reduce the menace of pollution from individually-powered generators that would in turn, result to zero carbon emission from the BTS just as noise pollution would become a thing of the past.
The EVC said the theme of this year’s World Consumer Rights Day celebration– “Empowering Consumers through Clean Energy Transition,” was geared towards delivering a smooth transition for consumers experiencing a high cost of living as the globe responds to the ongoing energy crisis caused by supply and climate issues.
He pointed out that the theme was very relevant given Nigeria’s recent licensing of the 5G spectrum networks, which consume twice as much energy as 4Gs, and added that with the recent licensing of the Fifth Generation (5G) spectrum, Nigeria will witness an increased deployment of telecom infrastructure to satisfy the wireless service coverage requirement for 5G services.
“This anticipated growth in the number of 5G coverage will trigger high demand for data services which will result in increased energy consumption for the network infrastructure especially the Base Transceiver Stations (BTS), Internet of Things (IoT), 5G Customer Premise Equipment (CPEs) and mobile devices for example.
“This requires the industry to look for green and sustainable power solutions required for the connectivity of IoT devices and network optimization,” he stated.
The EVC observed that all over the globe, telecom companies are among the biggest energy users, as a result of the stiff industry competition which causes them to try to satisfy their consumers by providing higher-speed networks.
“With the rising utility costs, it is critical for companies to reconsider the sustainability of their operations by lowering the operational impact on the environment. This is more so because it has been found that implementing energy efficiency measures could potentially reduce the operating costs of telcos by up to 20%.
“Some of these energy-efficiency measures include the redesign of the Radio Access Networks (RAN) of Base Stations which were initially built to maximise connectivity, not energy efficiency. More than 75% of the time, the radio base station resources remain unused because of the hardware components activated at all times to transmit system information and synchronisation and reference signals,” he said.
Danbatta explained that to avoid waste heat, whereas some of 5G’s newest RAN is equipped with an energy-saving measure allowing for the automatic switching of components, some other energy efficiency measures can also include the use of renewable energy sources such as hydrogen, wind, and solar to supply the energy needed.
On Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and the need for energy-efficient networks, the EVC advised that to minimize the environmental impacts of climate change caused by carbon emissions, telecom network providers need to come up with a modern and more energy-efficient network.
This he said, includes the use of Solar-powered Cells, wireless electricity, or a hybrid system to replace higher energy-consuming equipment that will lead to a reduction in capital expenditure (CAPEX) and operational expenditure (OPEX) and by implication, a reduction in service costs to consumers.
According to Danbatta, “Transitioning to renewable energy is predicted to result in a lower cost of operation as operators will be able to save on the cost of diesel, which accounts for a large chunk of the costs incurred by these licensees.
“The competition that the Commission consistently promotes among industry players has a natural consequence of the savings on the cost of diesel passed on to consumers, which would potentially result in lower prices for services.”
He tasked the MNOs and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to come up with innovations in sustainable energy in line with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Recommendation ITU-T L.1380 on smart energy solutions for telecom sites’ performance, safety, energy efficiency, and environmental impact, insisting that this is vital to address the challenges of climate change and environmental degradation.
“In this regard and for the industry stakeholders, especially consumers, to benefit from the advantages of renewable energy, the Commission is working on a policy to encourage the adoption of renewable energy sources by operators.
“When operational, the Policy will ensure that using clean energy sources for power has the potential to resolve the three key needs of the telecom industry, namely: reduction in diesel usage; expansion of telecom infrastructure to off-grid areas; and reduction in carbon emissions.”