The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on Wednesday urged telecommunication companies to adopt a modern and more energy-efficient network to reduce carbon emissions emanating from the sector.
NCC disclosed this during its 2023 World Consumer Right event tagged “Empowering consumers through clean energy transition”, held at the NCC’s Communications and Digital Economy Complex, Abuja.
Speaking at the event, the Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of NCC, Umar Danbatta, said with the recent licensing of the fifth generation (5G) spectrum, the country will witness an improvement in the deployment of telecom infrastructure to satisfy the wireless service coverage requirement for 5G services.
Mr Danbatta, represented by Adeleke Adewolu, the executive commissioner on stakeholder management, explained that 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.
“This requires the industry to look for green and sustainable power solutions required for the connectivity of IoT devices and network optimisation,” he said.
He added that the commission 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.
In this regard, Mr Danbatta said the situation in Nigeria is peculiar.
“Owing to the overall energy challenges of the nation, the fifty-four (54) thousand BTS scattered across the country depend on diesel generators with the attendant noise and environmental pollution.
“Some of these BTS operate on diesel generators for 24 hours across seven days of the week in some locations. Therefore, transitioning to a renewable energy source like solar power will significantly reduce the menace of pollution from individually-powered generators.
“This will be zero carbon emission from the BTS just as noise pollution would be a thing of the past,” he said.
According to the NCC official, 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 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,” he said.
He noted that the 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 telcos.
“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 said.
He further explained that the policy on renewable energy in the telecom sector is an additional layer of other policies that contribute to protecting the environment.
“In recent years, the Commission introduced a regulatory framework on infrastructure sharing and collocation among the licensees which has encouraged operators to fully maximize their already-deployment infrastructure.
“By sharing infrastructure, some operators do not need to entirely build a telecoms site in an area where another operator had deployed one.
“With the challenge of inadequate public electricity supply in Nigeria, telecom companies rely on diesel-powered generators to keep their telecom sites live round-the-clock.
“A regulatory framework such as infrastructure sharing, and collocation is helping in this regard and the commission has recorded appreciable adoption of this regulation,” he added.
Also connected to NCC’s regulatory efforts in dealing with issues of sanitizing the environment, Mr Danbatta explained its efforts to commence activities that will result in the formulation of regulation on e-waste in Nigeria.
“Today, the global concern for the regulation of e-waste is two-pronged. First, is the acute awareness of the hazardous properties and the potential risk to human health, as well as their capacity to degrade the environment. Secondly, is the business case and vast potential for wealth creation in recycling e-waste into more benign and productive uses,” he said.
He noted that in line with its regulatory mandate and to keep pace with efforts at managing e-waste-related issues, in a manner that reduces cases of indiscriminate burning of electronic devices with the potential for increased carbon emission in the environment, the commission has been working with other relevant agencies, to develop regulations on e-waste.
“The regulations will represent a holistic intervention aimed at providing clarity and delimiting the responsibilities of various stakeholders in the e-waste value chain within the telecommunications industry.
“While the proposed regulations are industry-specific, they, nonetheless, key into other initiatives at national and international levels,” he said.
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He, however, called on mobile network operators (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.
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