Old and new problems are fueling unprecedented change in telecommunications. Learn how industry leaders, policy makers, and the public are driving companies to adapt.Key Takeaways:
- Closing the digital gap is essential for telecommunications companies to fulfil their roles
- Reducing environmental impact and increasing sustainability in communications are priorities for the public and policymakers
- Embracing options like alternative energy, 5G, and circular economies can help telecommunications companies stay responsive
- Adopting machine learning can keep companies connected to consumer data, which can drive innovative solutions
Ending digital divisions creates a more connected worldThe telecommunications industry connects people to each other, to resources, and to opportunities. Millions of people around the world are currently hindered by no or limited access to cell phones and internet through lack of telecommunications service or unaffordable options. This is the “digital division” which the telecommunications industry must reduce. A lack of internet access makes day-to-day tasks more difficult for millions of Americans and can compromise educational performance. Globally, data from the Pew Research Center found the cost of mobile devices is the leading reason many emerging economies don’t use cell phones. These two factors can harm quality of life and reduce the chance of a prosperous future for some ethnic and economic groups. The telecommunications industry can play a valuable role by embracing innovative solutions to these connectivity barriers. Examples include Ericsson’s Connect to Learn and the World Economic Forum’s EDISON Alliance which includes telecom giants like Verizon, Nokia, and Dell. Reassessing current hardware and/or data-delivery models can be enable affordable access to all locations and incomes. Becoming a provider in the government’s Affordable Connectivity Program could help your telecommunications organization join the growing coalition seeking connectivity for all.
Responding to environmental necessityMaking telecommunications more widely available carries environmental responsibilities. Massive levels of pollution are produced across many industries; Green America named the telecommunications industry a big contributor. This is due to its use of millions of megawatt hours of electricity (and the burning of fossil fuels) causing 16 million tons of CO₂ emissions every year. Green America also highlighted how some major telecommunications providers have become agents of positive change. These shifts are in line with customer desires; 81% of consumers expect companies to use environmentally sustainable communications. They also align with government initiatives aiming for massive greenhouse-gas reductions by 2050 to “shape the public’s tastes and buying habits.” The United Nations’ Net Zero project is further driving necessary operational changes. Evolving consumer tastes and federal policies mean the telecommunications industry must pivot toward greener operations to retain customer faith and comply with regulations. Here’s how they can start.
Adopting innovative technologies and attitudesTelecommunications companies can keep pace with global environmental regulations and customer expectations by upgrading existing infrastructure and business models. A few options to consider are:
- Greater reliance on wind turbines or solar power panels as sources of renewable energy
- Investigating 5G’s potential for positive environmental impact such as reducing greenhouse gases (there are also concerns about 5G’s effects; it must be considered carefully)
- Enabling customers to reuse, resell, or recycle old telecom devices. Vodafone is encouraging a positive circular economy.