Vodafone turns to big data and AI to slash network emissions

Vodafone UK has outlined plans to use big data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) technology to optimise the energy efficiency of its network and sites in a bid to reduce emissions.

Vodafone turns to big data and AI to slash network emissions

Image: Vodafone Italy

Vodafone UK’s network accounts for around 95% of the company’s total energy consumption and is therefore a priority area in Vodafone’s efforts to reach net-zero emissions in the UK by 2027.

In a bid to reduce emissions, Vodafone UK has announced the use of a big data analytics platform, developed in-house, to drive energy efficiencies across its 11,500 owned radio base stations. AI and machine learning have also been incorporated to help energy specialists identify ‘consumption anomalies’ and respond accordingly.

Additionally, the Vodafone Smart Sites programme uses the Internet of Things (IoT) and AI on Vodafone’s highest energy-consuming radio base stations, in order to reduce the need for engineer visits. In just one month, more than 1,300 sites have been connected.

As a result, the company has revealed it has de-coupled data growth with energy usage and carbon emissions. Vodafone UK has recorded a 300% increase in data carried on its network since 2019. In the same timeframe, energy consumption has remained flat due to energy-saving initiatives. Overall, Vodafone UK’s total carbon emissions have fallen 77% since 2019.

Solar fix

The company has also confirmed that it has installed its first onsite solar panels at a mobile telephone exchange (MTX) network site in Gloucester.

A total of 720 solar panels have been fitted at the site, which will produce around 240,000kWh of renewable electricity a year, supplying around 12% of the site’s annual energy requirement.

Vodafone UK’s network director Andrea Dona said: “We all recognise the need to drive energy efficiencies – both from a financial and environmental perspective. The fact we’ve been able to decouple the link between data carried, energy consumption and carbon emissions is thanks to our laser-focus on energy efficiency – and nowhere is this more important than across our network.”

“Using our own technologies to deliver brilliant programmes such as big data and Smart Sites is hugely impactful.  Onsite power generation is another important ambition, and I’m delighted we now have our first on site solar up and running on our Gloucester MTX. We will continue to drive innovation in this space.”

Earlier this year, the company signed its second corporate solar power purchase agreement (PPA) in the UK.

The ten-year PPA with Centrica as the power supplier and MYTILINEOS as the generator will see Vodafone directly procuring electricity from five solar farms in Norfolk, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire, Buckinghamshire and Dorset.

The first generation of this portfolio of projects is expected in early 2024 and, in 2025, Vodafone expects the PPA to cover some 44% of its annual energy requirements in the UK.

Vodafone already sources 100% renewable electricity in the UK, but does so mainly by opting for tariffs backed by renewable energy guarantees of origin (REGO) certificates.

Vodafone committed to reducing its carbon emissions to net-zero globally by 2040 back in November 2020 and will eliminate emissions from its activities and energy and halve scope 3 emissions by 2030.

For the UK, Vodafone will eliminate carbon emissions from its operations by 2027.

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