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Tech innovation will not solely liven up user experiences, but can help out with chasing 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 renewable energy, and cutting back on wasteful products such as plastic.

The Saudi Vision 2030, Kuwait Vision 2035, UAE Vision 2021 and the UAE Strategy for the Future all look towards adopting a holistic circular economy approach. The focus of the Expo 2020 event is on sustainability, promising one of the most sustainable World Expos ever. While these should absolutely remain top of the agenda, it is important to consider the role of a more sustainable internet and underlying communication network.

Our reliance on a more digital world and continued bandwidth growth are key indicators that networks are important in everything we do. From basic communication to remote work and healthcare or online shopping, the internet and the underlying telecom network can help enable a more sustainable future. This is possible thanks to the continued advancements that push the boundaries of physics and improve the efficiency or our networks, forging a path for a green networking approach.

Sustainable digitalization

The internet can enable almost anything at the touch 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 the ‘Scale 360’ initiative by the World Economic Forum, which is looking to apply Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies to establish a highly efficient circular economy. Some examples include the use of IoT sensors, smart apps, energy-saving devices and even remote work.

Research has shown that 42 per cent of the Saudi Arabia and 43 per cent of the UAE of consumers are ready to embrace the internet as a way to reduce their carbon footprint. As part of this, interestingly, more than half of the Saudi and 42 per cent of UAE respondents believe they can be more energy efficient by working from home.

It wasn’t that long ago that the only things at the edge of the network in the average home were a client email and a web browser. Today, the average home, 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 simply sending an email or streaming a movie data needs to travel across the network from a data center and back to reach the end-user. All of this uses energy.

Greener tech

Simply building additional networks to cope with the surging bandwidth demands is not a more viable option. New coherent technology is available to help network providers offer higher speeds, support 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, network cost reduction, and scalability. Without these innovations, we would not be living in this always-on, 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 meeting the continual and significant reduction in network footprint and power consumption. This is required to support our digital lifestyle, putting in place the foundation to create greener networks. As an example, we have seen coherent technology innovations enable network providers to reduce their power consumption per bit by more than 90 per cent over the last 10 years.

Go sustainable

The need to capitalise on these benefits will become crucial for network providers looking to adopt a more sustainable approach. These innovations will also enable network operators to increase profitability, save costs on building more networks, and still offer unwavering performance.

In addition, the emergence of disaggregated solutions also presents a valuable tool in enabling network providers to optimise their footprint and improve the customer experience. These technologies drive service and network convergence to enable a reduction in power, space, and complexity. Network operators need more choices and the freedom to adapt and grow their networks most sustainably without being tied into a specific platform, company, or product. Disaggregated solutions make this possible.

Future-ready networks

As an industry, we are seeing more awareness around this, with a need to drive more energy-efficient networking and pushing the limits on what technology can do. The networking space has significantly evolved, particularly over the last 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 drive innovation for new efficiencies that will enable greener networks. Having a more sustainable approach will allow network providers to see a greater return on investment and continued improved customer experience in the future.

Advancing technology allows network providers to scale their infrastructures to support exponential capacity, while simultaneously keeping power and energy consumption under control. As data and demand continue to increase, networks will continue to play a critical role in our sustainability journey.