Spectrum Environmental Efficiency Thematic Working Group

The Digital-Environment System Coalition (DESC) is committed to developing an open access database of relevant high quality research on all matters pertaining to the interface between digital technologies and the environment. Each Thematic Working Group (TWG) undertakes a range of activities, one of which is to share brief bibliographies of recent important literature that may be of use to the community of researchers and practitioners wishing to explore specific themes. These not only address direct linkages with digital technology, but also provide scientific background on important emerging themes.


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Context: Spectrum Environmental Efficiency

Much research in recent years has been devoted to understanding spectrum efficiency, and an increasing amount of work has also recently begun to address the relationships between spectrum efficiency and energy efficiency (see I et al., 2020). However, almost no research has yet explicitly addressed the wider concept of “spectrum environmental efficiency”, which focuses holistically on the environmental efficiency of different kind of spectrum use. Indeed a search on DuckDuckGo in June 2022 only identified five results for the string “spectrum environmental efficiency” (and a Google search likewise listed only 7 results). DESC’s Spectrum Environmental Efficiency TWG aims to fill this gap, and is working closely with the Wireless World Research Forum towards this end

Much research in recent years has been devoted to understanding spectrum efficiency, and an increasing amount of work has also recently begun to address the relationships between spectrum efficiency and energy efficiency (see I et al., 2020). However, almost no research has yet explicitly addressed the wider concept of “spectrum environmental efficiency”, which focuses holistically on the environmental efficiency of different kind of spectrum use. Indeed a search on DuckDuckGo in June 2022 only identified five results for the string “spectrum environmental efficiency” (and a Google search likewise listed only 7 results). DESC’s Spectrum Environmental Efficiency TWG aims to fill this gap, and is working closely with the Wireless World Research Forum towards this end.

There is growing international awareness about the inter-relationships between spectrum policy and climate change, with much of this highlighting the positives of, for example, how spectrum policy can be used to tackle climate change (see, for example, Tech UK report, 2021). However, very little work has as yet been done on the wider potentially harmful environmental impacts of different kinds of spectrum use. Likewise, much of the industry’s attention has been focused positively on how 5G can be used to improve efficiency in energy distribution, thereby reducing climate change (see, for example Ericsson, 2020), rather than on its effects on other aspects of the environment (including potential health implications).

While 5G has been designed to reduce energy use per unit of data (byte) compared with preceding generations, the vast number of new sensors this has enabled means that overall energy consumption has continued to increase unabated. A report in 2021 by the Datacenter Forum, for example, suggests that 5G will prompt energy consumtpion to grow by 160% in ten years. Systems and policies urgently need to be put in place to ensure that future generations use spectrum frequencies in ways that minimse their environmental impact.

Key literature

All DESC Thematic Working Groups provide a short introduction to some of the most important literature in their field to serve as a guide so that those unfamiliar with the theme can gain an understanding of the issues. The literature listed below provides a starting point for such an enquiry.

Members of the Working Group

Chair: Knud Erik Skouby

Members

Page first written 18 July 2022