Cable and telecom service providers are making significant investments in reducing their carbon footprint profile. It represents a direct response to rising consumer awareness of climate change challenges, the emergence of stringent regulations and the mainstreaming of environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives across all sectors of the economy.
After crunching the numbers and assessing their options, many leaders in the industry have concluded that the design, manufacture, distribution and management of customer premises equipment (CPE) offers an ideal opportunity to move the needle on this important priority.
We sat down with Koen De Wulf, director of sustainability at Vantiva — formerly known as Technicolor — to learn more about sustainability in the network service provider ecosystem.
Here is what he had to say:
Q: How is the principle of sustainability changing how network service providers develop strategies for bringing next-generation customer premises equipment offerings to connected home consumers?
Koen De Wulf: There is a serious and ongoing discussion in the CPE ecosystem around how key players can work together to make the entire ecosystem — including product development, design, supply chain, and transportation — more sustainable. It is creating an opportunity for network service providers (NSP) who offer connected home CPEs to their customers to rethink their strategies for reducing their global footprint.
There are three major areas where changes can be made to make CPE offerings more sustainable.
- Hardware. Operators are exploring, designing and investing in low-power CPEs that are made from recycled and environmentally sensitive material. They are also putting pressure on the value chain to improve and streamline manufacturing processes that produce less waste and consume fewer resources before, during and after CPE deployment.
- Software. There has been a lot of progress in reducing the form factors and energy requirements of connected home devices that are more intelligent and situationally aware. As a result, they can reduce power consumption when the unit is not in frequent use during different times of the day.
- Packaging. Operators are switching to using only sustainable materials for packaging and are eliminating elements that do not directly contribute value to the user experience.
These may not seem like earth-shaking changes, but when you multiply each of these key areas by the millions and millions of devices around the world, it starts to have a major impact on our climate and sustainability.
Q: Are multi-featured CPEs contributing to a reduction in the impact that devices have on the overall environment and sustainability objectives?
De Wulf: The current generation of CPEs — whether it’s gateways or set-top boxes — are very different today than they were just five years ago. They’re more intelligent and more capable. These devices are able to perform multiple functions that, in the past, would have required multiple devices.
These multi-feature CPEs are not only more convenient for the end user, but they also introduce major wins in the battle to improve sustainability.
When you combine multiple devices into one powerful CPE, you are effectively reducing the number of resources needed for packaging and transporting these devices into homes all around the world.
That said, this approach presents a challenge on the other end of the spectrum. When you start packaging and integrating a lot of functionalities onto a single platform, the device itself becomes far more complex. This can result in elevating thermal heat generation and power consumption.
Q: Is sustainability manifesting itself as a strategic priority in how network service providers go to market?
De Wulf: Sustainability is definitely resonating with operators, and millions of devices in connected homes around the world. These operators are making major commitments to improving their sustainability profile. They are also finding that doing what is good for the planet is also good for business. In many cases, sustainability initiatives lead to practices that decrease the costs associated with packaging and transportation.
Telcos and cable operators across the world have made commitments to reduce drastically their carbon footprint or become carbon neutral in the coming years. We also see that NSPs are setting up dedicated management roles to drive sustainability initiatives and that sustainability considerations are increasingly driving their strategic decisions.
As a result, companies are investing in hybrid and electric vehicles for their fleets and implementing programs to recycle the cable and related material used to deploy broadband networks.
A growing number of consumers are taking sustainability into account as they select the companies with which they want to do business. This has prompted NSPs to not only take action but also take a stand. They have become global champions and cheerleaders for global sustainability journeys.
We believe consumer demand for sustainable products will only increase over time. This creates opportunities for NSPs that have been successful in generating awareness around their sustainability initiatives. It is emerging as a key differentiating factor. Eventually, it will become a competitive requirement.
There can be significant up-front costs associated with the creation and implementation of sustainability practices. In this sense, NSPs have to make a commitment to spend money before they can save resources. Over the long run, however, it is the right thing to do.