Climate action is one of Aotearoa’s biggest future challenges. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2022, climate action is the greatest threat facing our world over the next decade.
So, what role can broadband technology play in supporting a low-emission future?
Fibre is, by design, an energy-efficient technology. Fibre uses light, is passive (meaning it doesn’t require active electronics across the whole network) and does not require powered electronics in the street. Essentially the only equipment that needs power is in the exchange and the fibre box – or optical network terminal – in your home. It’s also much more resilient than copper lines, meaning fewer maintenance repairs, and the optical cables will last for several decades.
With little New Zealand information available about the electricity usage and emission profiles of varying broadband technologies, New Zealand’s fibre companies (Chorus, Enable, Tuatahi First Fibre and Northpower Fibre) commissioned a study to look at differing broadband technologies.
Their study focused on the emissions profile of using the networks for broadband once they were up and running. It didn’t look at any of the emissions associated with the build of the network [in part because 5G networks are largely still under construction and so there isn’t good data to compare].
The results from the study were published in December last year. It showed that the per-user emissions from fibre broadband were lower other broadband technologies when the average download speed was 50 Mbps and above. Today, the current average speed of fibre plans in New Zealand is 405 Mbps, with 98% of plans at 50 Mbps and over.
Interestingly the report also showed that the emissions profile of fibre stays consistent despite speeds increasing to meet our growing data use demands. Alternative broadband technologies, such as fixed wireless, struggle to keep emissions at the same level as increased demand for bandwidth where users are sharing capacity from a cell tower means more equipment is required to sustain the higher speeds required.
Our appetite for data with video streaming, gaming and video conferencing shows no sign of abating. With an emissions profile that stays consistently low even as speeds increase, it is clear that fibre is a future proofed broadband technology for a low-emissions future.
For Chorus, we’ve also taken a hard look at our emissions and carbon footprint and recently committed to the Science-Based Target Initiative (SBTI). We’ve also developed our first emissions reduction plan, and are now using Toitu carbonzero-certified electricity provider Ecotricity to power our fibre network.
The combination of having confidence in fibre as a technology being low-emission and a solid commitment to reducing our carbon footprint makes us believe that fibre can support a low-emission digital future.
You can read the full research document on our Chorus company website: https://company.chorus.co.nz/sustainability
 https://www.mbie.govt.nz/dmsdocument/21219-quarterly-connectivity-update-q1-to-31-march-2022, at p 6.
 See page 16 of the full report for more information: https://company.chorus.co.nz/file-download/download/public/2314