Earth Day and Sustainability

Earth Day and Sustainability

Happy Earth Day!

The point of no return is fast approaching. The problem is so complex that it can’t be boiled down to one slide or a pithy commandment. We already have places on the planet with millions of people who are going through the realities of climate change whether it is low lying islands and cities or the countries like India facing extreme heat that will deplete water resources. So, the question always becomes what kids generally ask you when you discuss the climate change problem with them – what can I do to make a difference? Besides personal adjustments to lifestyle, are there things that we can work on professionally to make a meaningful difference. All of us in the wireless industry have a responsibility and opportunity to do so. There are two areas that need immediate attention:

Reduce Rabid Consumerism with new sustainability models – My good friend Sailesh Chutani has articulated this really well in his excellent piece – “True circularity and sustainability require new business models –” We just have to change our consumption patterns, product designs, and business models to make this work. There is NO short-cut. This has to be end-to-end from chipset manufacturing to retail to recycling. Wish some of the name brand companies actually do something about it than just greenwashing.

Drastically change the equation on energy consumption for the wireless ecosystem – Though the industry will point to the energy efficiency gained with 5G, what they will not tell you is that we haven’t made a meaningful dent in net energy consumption which is what matters. So, we need to become more honest about how we measure and present data or we are just fooling ourselves. Second, AI actually affords us the opportunity to “really” optimize energy consumption. Fortunately, some of the operators are finally starting to pay attention to this massive problem – not because of their good heart but rather it hurts the pocketbook, sometimes too much. Operators are literally investing hundreds of millions of dollars in solar farms to pay for the energy in the base stations. Fortunately, startups are showing the way to harness the intelligence that is already in the RAN to optimize energy consumption. I have had the good fortune to work with companies like Opanga Networks, A5G Networks™, Inc. , and Tata Communications Transformation Services (TCTS) who are looking at energy consumption from a fresh set of eyes. Incrementalism won’t help. Radical transformation is needed.

Like we discussed in our Sustainability panel at MFF Summit last year, Sustainability can only work if there is an economical model attached to it. The human species has a hard time adapting otherwise.

On this earth day, I remain committed to finding solutions that make a real difference and not the pithy taglines for the corporate brochures.

I hope you do too.