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Round Table Telecommunications Sector

This Round Table convened on Wednesday 8 September 2021

The recording of the session is available here. Register for the Round Table series here, past Round Table events available at the CGM blog and YouTube channel.

The roundtable attracted more than 80 industry participants, was expertly moderated by Dr. Gary Theseira of Malaysian Green Technology and Climate Change Centre (MGTC) and involved the following panellists:

Afzal Abdul Rahim (CEO) TIME dotCom

Albern Murty (CEO) Digi

Gökhan Öğüt (CEO) Maxis

Idham Nawawi (CEO) Celcom Axiata

Imri Mokhtar (Group CEO) Telekom Malaysia

Wong Heang Tuck (CEO) U Mobile

Theme I: Reducing Emissions from Operations

(Celcom Idham Nawawi) Every operating company within the Axiata-Celcom group embraces the bold GSMA ambition of net zero emissions by 2050 with a midway target 55% by 2030 which is short runway.

Using 2020 as baseline, Celcom emits around 250k tonnes of CO2 annually and quite early on recognised that there simply wasn’t enough land to plant the trees they would need to offset these emissions.

So they are actively looking at how to reduce GHG emissions in network via efforts such as hybrid sites and considering options to offset what cannot be reduced by compensating with trees and other methods.

In his view, the real challenge beyond Celcom, is how much emissions all networks are producing? when devices, users etc. As an industry, operators need to look closely at this and share more aggressively methods of using less power eg consolidation of networks.

(TM Imri Mokhtar) environment is a much more prominent topic and a priority at TM, across the board of directors and at management level.

Reducing energy consumption with fibre by sunsetting the legacy copper network over a 5-7 year timeframe. Recognise that the country is optimising resources by moving towards single network infrastructure with 5G

By 2023, TM will be moving to a more efficient campus style building in Cyberjaya, with 60% of staff working from home which will significantly reduce transport needs.

At present, energy needs of 600GWh is mainly from brown energy, looking for green sources of energy, convinced that networks savings will fund slight premium for greener power.

Theme II: Making Consumers and Businesses Make the Right Choice

(Digi Albern Murthy) expectation from Telenor to half carbon emissions by 2030 – still have a gap after all initiatives, eg. gensets to grid, solar, reduce AC systems, less space, more efficient employee solutions.

Collectively, there 30+ mil Malaysians using telco operator services - modernising how technology is used and how, to reduce emissions – need to continue to modernize to reduce shared carbon footprint.

Innovations are need to enable smart cities, artificial intelligence to organize and manage homes, access to information for better utilization of energy, use of digital technology to improve lives and power used, as well as enabling internet of things.

Digi believes in the Yellow Heart Sustainability brand, convinced that consumers will choose brands that make a stand and introduce more products that enable them to make better decisions aligned to their personal values. Affinity with brands that have a bigger purpose (not just providing connectivity).

Albern views is that it is critical to ensure consumers are aware, as an estimated 40% of participants in a brand health survey don’t understand what ESG is.

(Maxis Gokhun) all employees and board of directors see climate change as one of the most challenging issues mankind is facing and Maxis is committed to doing their part.

They are in a unique position, as Maxis and as an industry, to help consumers to raise awareness and reduce carbon emissions.

Telco operators fall into a high involvement category, their services are unique in that it covers all Malaysians, every hour of every single day.

This is a valuable opportunity to engage: digitisation to reduce carbon emissions, reducing travel with more self-help and call center support, industry initiatives eg e-waste, collecting old ICT equipment; serving enterprise and individual customers to reduce carbon emissions.

5G will only accelerate the momentum with access to higher bandwidth, real-time connectivity eg smart cities, smart agriculture – this will only help more industries and customers to reduce emissions.

(U Mobile Wong Heang Tuck) agreed that the telecommunications industry plays an important role in educating the public on the importance of climate change and of reducing carbon emissions. One example would be on handsets as there is a large volume of it – an estimated 10-12 million handsets per annum, with each handset having a life cycle of 2- 3 years.

Hence, the industry can educate consumers as the industry has leverage to pressure manufacturers to disclose carbon footprint of handsets, so consumers know what they are buying into. Industry can also collaborate on an e-waste program to better treat and manage e-waste.

Theme III: Message to Policymakers About Building Resilience for Times of Crisis

(Time Afzal) Clear that the industry not doing enough and needs to work more closely to understand the flow of energy, building on the precedent of Digi’s “campus” which was the most energy efficient and optimized power usage.

On a revenue per employee basis, Telecom is 4-5x the size of Time which unfortunately is biggest [GHG] polluter with high capacity data centers.

It is for this reason, Singapore imposed a data center moratorium 18 months ago because power usage was taking up 8-9% of the national grid, realising that tangible economic benefits were outweighed by the climate impact.

In Malaysia, data center usage is estimated to 23,000MWh or 12-15% of the grid in next 7 years. Essentially, data centers just convert electricity to heat, very low thermal efficiency.

Power usage is inefficient where every 1kW of power inputs needs a further 1.3kW to cool the room and keep servers running. Data centers don’t distribute power well [macro picture of power transmissions] – Telecom 40-50 mW load?

Data centers are placing significant demand onto the grid, making it difficult for governments to plan, even advanced countries are struggling.

To bear in mind: if consumers didn’t expect high standards of search returns, etc, operators would be able to reduce idle capacity and peak capacity. Users are currently addicted to instant content, backups are happening into the cloud every night, over-providing processing and storage in servers per individual – need to trigger a whole change in the mindset of consumers.

However, telco CEOs meet at least twice every month and are able to coordinate the rollout of infrastructure, easy to include carbon agenda – cleaner power?

"Under this new normal, power needs have shifted to the home. We need to consider more aggressive promotion of renewable energies." Idham Nawawi

"Addressing climate change makes business sense and us, being a responsible corporate citizen of Malaysia will embrace this wholeheartedly: we are ready to step up." Imri Mokhtar

"There is a lot more where industry can work together on, we are always looking for ideas from consumers and business partners, we all have to jointly own this ambition and drive it. It is clear that all 6 brands are very open to feedback and continuous suggestions, as we care deeply what happens to Malaysia." Albern Murty

"In the future, energy consumption will only increase. We need to work harder and collectively, make sure we “own” this challenge with the government, with incentives, with consumers – brands like us are trying to do the right thing." Gökhan Öğüt

"Climate change is real, coming fast and furious. Being a responsible corporate citizen, this is the least we can do: communicating with consumers to bring awareness. Internally, U Mobile is looking at technologies and partners to help consumers and enterprises make the right decision." Wong Heang Tuck

"If there was a green index, millennials would buy products from components (for example, China banning gaming in excess of 3 hours a week) and these measures would reduce consumption in areas with a net positive social effect." Afzal Abdul Rahim


Responses by the panellists to some of the questions raised by the audience:

What TM do in saving energy in both their data center in Johor and KV?

(Digi) Most telcos have adopted energy saving initiatives in our data centers. For Digi, our data centre was designed with environmental considerations at the onset. We have a Green building Index (GBI) Gold certification for design and it includes features such as renewable energy, rainwater harvesting, smart cooling, energy efficiency and etc.

Any plans for the companies to achieve carbon-neutrality?

(Celcom) For now, Celcom Axiata is focused on its goal to achieve net zero carbon by 2050 (or earlier) with an intermediate goal to reduce emissions by 55% (2030) based on our 2020 baseline.

(Digi) As part of the Telenor Group has an approved Science based target initiative (SBTi) to halve our GHG emissions in business process by 2030 as our commitment to take a stand and responsibility to being part of creating a greener future.

Why don’t all adopt right approach to reduce CO2 by regenerative battery and proper battery monitoring? Will you have the statistics of CO2 emission caused by usage of battery and charging ?

(Afzal) No problem. Its frustrating as I wish we could harness more solar, but other than powering the office, it doesnt move the needle on the IT load in data centres

(Celcom) We do not currently have a specific system but have been looking into Energy RMS (Remote Monitoring System) and have engaged others for regenerative batteries.

Would you be interested with a monitoring system where you are able to monitor the CO2 emission released and the efficiency of your asset?

(Celcom) We are looking into different technologies to help us to advance to zero, including advanced monitoring systems and other automated energy efficient systems.

(Digi) We are currently monitoring our CO2 emissions via our non-financial reporting system. We are always keen to explore new tools and technologies that are feasible and able to help us improve further.


GSMA videos played before and after this webinar:

Mobile Creating a #BetterFuture: Climate Action (6:45min)

Mobile Creating a #BetterFuture: Progressive Leadership For A Digital Age Trailer (0:56min)

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