TalkTalk: Switch to full fibre benefits climate

Study from leading UK operator pinpoints green gains from switching to full fibre over copper networks, including increased efficiency, reduction in degradation and exchanges, and fewer engineer journeys

Full fibre has cemented itself as the future of fixed broadband, promising longevity, supporting myriad use cases and bringing business benefits – and, says a study from leading UK operator TalkTalk, 80% improvement in energy efficiency compared with existing copper-based services.

The report, Making the ‘climate case’ for full fibre, revealed the direct climate benefits of switching to full fibre over copper networks. Key benefits included increased efficiency, reduction in degradation and exchanges, and superfast connectivity.

Putting a stake in the ground, TalkTalk cited a study by the Centre for Economics and Business on behalf of Openreach, which estimated a £59bn boost to UK productivity by 2025 powered by a nationwide roll-out of full-fibre, while enabling far greater flexibility in terms of how businesses operate and employees work.

TalkTalk says its full-fibre network will be up to 80% more energy efficient following the switch from existing copper-based services to full fibre, and by switching to TalkTalk, customers can reduce their lifetime carbon emissions by up to 565Kg – around 26 adult trees are needed to absorb that amount of CO2. It added that unlike with copper cables that can only reliably carry signals for seven miles before significant degradation, light used in full-fibre networks can travel tens of kilometres without degradation and therefore requires far fewer exchanges.

Currently, TalkTalk operates in some 3,035 exchanges, but with full fibre it calculates that it will require only the use of 1,000 exchanges. Furthermore, given the ability to transmit signals over far greater distances, the use of street cabinets will be virtually eliminated in a full-fibre model. In addition to the rationalisation of the network, TalkTalk says that advances in the technology it uses to operate a full-fibre network means it is much more energy efficient – requiring less power to operate and less cooling compared with copper networks.

TalkTalk calculates that typically its field engineers travel some 740,000 miles a year to identify and repair network faults. But with fewer faults, exchanges and street cabinets, the number of visits required by engineers could fall dramatically. The operator noted that even if this fell by as little as a third, hundreds of tonnes of greenhouse gases would be saved as fewer journeys would be made.

With a move to full fibre, TalkTalk says it will replace existing Multi-Service Access Node technology housed in Openreach exchanges with smaller, more efficient switching technology. Engineers estimate – using onsite measurements of power consumption – that the new technology will be around 10-15% more energy-efficient. Furthermore, the newer fibre optic technology has a much smaller physical footprint and generates far less heat. TalkTalk engineers estimate 10% less energy required for cooling and the company says that this could be a far greater saving if, for example, the entire exchange was converted to full-fibre.

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In addition, TalkTalk said that with a full-fibre connection it is possible to connect more smart devices to track, control and minimise energy consumption. They are also up to five times more reliable than older, copper-based broadband, and less likely to slow down when lots of people use them at the same time. Compared with the seven minutes taken to upload a 1GB file on the superfast copper network, a full-fibre connection would take around 42 seconds.

In conclusion, TalkTalk said it is committed to building a full-fibre network that creates a broad range of benefits for UK society in a way that reduces environmental impact. Its analysis, independently reviewed by Carnstone Partners, has given it confidence that this is the case, and that over time, the energy and emissions savings from full-fibre networks are significant.

TalkTalk also claimed that as it pursued commercial goals and rolled out full fibre, these achievements would be enhanced because business growth goes hand-in-hand with a reduction in environmental impact.

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