A friend of mine was lamenting a decision by her boss the other day. We'll call her Anne for the purpose of this article and to protect her privacy. Anne is not a fan of wi-fi systems and has had a long held awareness of the harms that began to arise with the advent of 3G technologies and the wide spread use of wireless technologies and electronic devices.
The decision Anne was lamenting was her boss's enthusiasm to go to a completely paperless work environment (all under the guise of being a responsible company who cares about the environment and is looking to reduce their carbon footprint, the words better efficiency were also thrown in for good measure.) Anne explained to me how a new whiz bang wi-fi router system was being installed at her place of work and that she would now be 'drenched' - her words - in wireless radiation, all day, whilst at work.
Anne's place of work greets 10's of people each day for resolutions to health problems, an irony that wasn't lost on me as Anne explained her concerns, many of these clients being children. I interrupted Anne as she was speaking to say " but wireless uses more energy, vastly more , it's carbon footprint at your work would probably be greater than using paper " Anne was a little taken aback and others who were with us and engaged in the conversation looked at me a little sideways as if to say 'what on earth are you talking about?' or words to that effect, so I explained .....
Wireless technology consumes a lot of energy , as a direct example far more than would be used with wired connections. Aside from the health benefits of NOT having wireless in the space you occupy a wired connection ensures that you are in fact using far less energy to undertake your day to day work. Essentially a wired connection is the most energy efficient way to communicate digitally and there is data to support this.. lots of data in fact but here I will quote from a 2015 publication released by the Centre for Energy Efficient Telecommunications (CEET)
“Our energy calculations show that by 2015, wireless cloud will consume up to 43 TWh, compared to only 9.2 TWh in 2012, an increase of 460%. This is an increase in carbon footprint from 6 megatonnes of CO2 in 2012 to up to 30 megatonnes of CO2 in 2015, the equivalent of adding 4.9 million cars to the roads. Up to 90% of this consumption is attributable to wireless access network technologies, data centres account for only 9%.”
“… the final link between telecommunications infrastructure and user device is by far the dominant and most concerning drain on energy in the entire cloud system . . . wireless access networks are clearly the biggest and most inefficient consumer of energy in the cloud environment. ”
3G technologies use about 15 times more energy than wired connections, and 4G technologies consume 23 times more energy. There is no data yet on 5G but one can assume, that with the astronomical numbers being discussed with regard to 5G use in terms of bandwidth, the physical infrastructure being generated and all that is planned for the IoT, that will lead to the reasonable conclusion that the consumption of energy with 5G will far surpass that recorded in the 4G environment. It is anticipated that by 2020 there will be 50 billion IoT devices online.
Now here's a curious thing to ponder. Fiber is safer, faster, more reliable far more cyber secure and energy efficient than wireless. In essence it is a better product. This being the case why, why, why is it that 5G is so aggressively being pushed and pushed everywhere simultaneously right now across the world? From a carbon footprint perspective alone this flies in the face of every environmental rally cry since the mid 1990's....
For a more comprehensive and detailed analysis further reading can be found
The infographic below, created 3 years ago by CustomMade, is presented here to help give an idea of the carbon footprint of the internet as it currently exists . Please note that this infographic is purely about the amount of energy used and carbon produced as a result. It does consider or reflect on the health effects of using cell phones and tablets. Whilst the use of these is described as 'better' this is only in regard to the amount of energy required for those devices versus desktop PC's or Macs.