O2 cools down data centres to save energy as 4G and 5G hot up

As lockdown eases and mobile data use sees 4G and 5G consumption hot up to new records, O2 is rolling out brand new smart cooling technology to better control the temperature at its data centres and boost the efficiency of its network – delivering energy savings equivalent to one million kilograms of CO2 year on year.

In the last 12 months O2 has carried record levels of data – up 89% from the pre-pandemic average in 2019. As the UK emerges from COVID-19 restrictions, our appetite for mobile data is expected to continue growing (with the O2 network carrying an average 55% more peak hour data throughput in the first week of May than it did in the same week in 2020) – putting pressure on data centres and creating carbon emissions from ‘hot’ equipment that needs cooling.

To help build a greener network, O2 is radically overhauling its data centres and core network sites with brand new, energy-efficient cooling equipment to regulate temperatures at the sites that keep its mobile network running. The new equipment uses the natural cold air outside to help cool data equipment when it needs it – rather than relying solely on traditional electric-powered air conditioning. Using fresh air also reduces O2’s reliance on polluting refrigerant gases.

O2 has also become the first major mobile network operator to roll out new management software from EkkoSense across its entire estate. The software uses smart sensors fitted to data centre equipment to monitor exactly how much cooling each site needs at any one time, and report back on how to optimise cooling as demand changes. This not only helps make sure each site operates as efficiently as possible, it also helps identify any issues and prevents overcooling or overheating. The new EkkoSense software is expected to deliver energy savings equivalent to one million kilograms of CO2 year-on-year.

O2 has already upgraded around 70% of its core network sites with the brand new equipment and EkkoSense data centre optimisation software, delivering an energy saving of between 15% and 20% per site – equivalent to 678,000 kilograms of CO2 in its first pro-rata year of use.

Tracey Herald, Head of Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability at O2, said: “Our number one priority is keeping customers connected, but that cannot be at the expense of the environment. Data centre cooling is a great example: the more data we use, the hotter the centres can become. Historically networks have relied on air con, but the UK has plenty of fresh, cold air that does the same job – so we’re getting rid of old kit and using energy in a smarter way. Investing in upgrading our network will help us hit our efficiency targets as we head towards net zero by 2025 – without compromising on the service we provide.”

Dean Boyle, CEO at EkkoSense, said: “We’re delighted that O2 chose EkkoSense to help them cool their data centres more efficiently and deliver energy savings at a time when demands on their critical facilities have never been so intense. Our software’s ability to capture and analyse O2’s critical power, space and cooling information in real-time gives their data centre team access to much more powerful optimisation capabilities, as they progress towards net zero.”

Turning masts on snooze mode and running on renewables – a greener network

O2 is investing more than ever in its network to improve coverage and experience for all its customers across the UK, matching growing demand with its industry-leading green ambitions. Introducing various energy-efficiency enhancements (such as free air-cooling and advanced automation, that “switches off” technology on its networks when demand is low) is one of the reasons O2’s network is now around 82% more energy efficient than it was in 2015.

O2’s operations are powered by 100% renewable electricity wherever O2 directly controls the bill. After starting its renewable energy procurement in 2008, the operator has since invested approximately £400 million in renewable energy supply and is now going even further, working with landlords to encourage the switch to renewables on third-party sites where O2 doesn’t control the energy bill. Currently, 70% of O2’s total estate is powered on renewable energy sources.

Net Zero and O2’s commitment to a greener future

In 2020, O2 became the only mobile network operator to commit to net zero by 2025, whilst working with supply chain partners to reduce emissions by 30% in the next five years. It has already made significant progress against its Net Zero goals, including:

  • Reducing carbon emissions in its operations by 29% since 2015
  • Achieving a 35% carbon reduction in emissions in its supply chain since 2016 – already exceeding the supply chain target.

For more information on O2’s Net Zero commitments please visit o2.co.uk/our-blueprint

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