• The application of 5G and connected technology, such as smart grids and autonomous vehicles, could see the UK save up to 269 megatonnes of CO2 by 2035, almost equivalent to England’s total emissions in 2018 (280 megatonnes)
  • The utilities and home energy sector could see the greatest benefit, as up to 181 megatonnes of CO2 could be removed from the sector by 2035
  • O2 is ahead of schedule with its 5G rollout, hitting 60 towns and cities in June – surpassing its commitment to switch-on a total of 50 places by summer 2020
  • The company launches its third Blueprint for people and planet reiterating its target to become a net zero business by 2025

Advances in mobile technology are set to play a key role in helping the UK achieve Net Zero by 2050. Powered by 5G, the application of smart connected solutions in key sectors could save the UK up to 269 megatonnes of CO2 by 2035. If achieved, this would save almost as much CO2 as all of England’s emissions in 2018 (280 megatonnes).

O2’s new report – entitled ‘A greener connected future’, conducted in partnership with IC&CO and Cenex – found that ultrafast 5G connectivity and the solutions it enables are expected to cut carbon emissions across a number of sectors, with utilities and home energy expected to see the greatest benefit. O2’s research findings estimate that smart tech will enable up to 181 megatonnes of CO2 to be removed from the sector by 2035. The mobile network is in the process of rolling out 5G across the UK, with 60 sites already live and plans to reach 70 before the end of the year.

Transforming high emissions industries

Heating our houses and powering the myriad devices that keep Britain moving has a significant energy cost, but 5G could help reduce this by enabling reliable and ultra-fast communication between machines, powering next-generation smart meters to enable households to track and reduce their consumption.

Other sectors

  • Energy – For energy providers, 5G has exciting applications that are expected to enable sweeping efficiencies, including smarter transfer of energy from electric vehicles straight to the national grid.
  • Travel – As flexible and home-based working looks set to become more commonplace beyond the COVID-19 lockdown, up to 43 megatonnes of carbon could be removed from the economy as people become less reliant on transport, and 5G-powered autonomous vehicles and smart tech make the UK’s transport system greener. Much of this reduction in CO2 from transport (85%-89%) is set to be achieved through improvements in the ‘remote office’ experience, with 5G powering virtual reality meetings and providing high-speed data processing capabilities, relegating the commute and other unnecessary business travel to a thing of the past.
  • Manufacturing – manufacturing in the UK is entering a fourth industrial revolution, with 5G networks set to power the factories of the future. Increased automation will drive efficiencies as well as overall improvements in productivity. 5G will facilitate greater flexibility, lower costs and shorter lead times for factory floor production that together could take up to 40 megatonnes of carbon out of the economy by 2035.

Telecoms must lead from the front

Any connectivity-powered path to net-zero must start with tackling the carbon impact of the telecoms industry, which is why O2 is aiming to reach net zero and reducing supply chain emissions by 30% by 2025, in line with science-based targets. O2’s latest Blueprint reaffirms its commitment to building a Greener Network, delivering carbon savings through the enabling role of mobile technology.

Mark Evans, O2 CEO, said: “Ultrafast connectivity can play a significant part in rebuilding Britain whilst helping to green the economy, and at O2 we are committed to playing our part.

“Our ‘Greener connected future’ report sets out a vision for how connected solutions enabled by 4G and 5G could power a green revolution over the next decade and beyond. If we invest now, there is a real opportunity for Britain to become a leading adopter of 5G and unleash the power of connected solutions to build a greener future for generations to come.”

Steve Martineau, UNFCCC COP26 High Level Climate Action Champions Lead, said: “There is no doubt that connectivity has helped us navigate the COVID-19 crisis, enabling us to work and socialise remotely, deliver remote healthcare and order food and supplies like never before. This unplanned disruption has shown us that there are many things we can do, which were unthinkable just a few months ago. This report makes clear that connectivity has a major role to play in reducing carbon emissions and rebuilding Britain.”

The full report, A Greener Connected Future, can be viewed here, please contact pressoffice@o2.com for more information.


– ENDS –


Notes to editors

All statistics in this release are taken from O2’s ‘A greener connected future’ report.


To account for the uncertainty in possible 5G coverage/penetration in the next 15 years, three scenarios have been modelled. These scenarios are low, medium, and high penetration, and are split by coverage in urban (cities and large towns) and rural areas (rural and motorway roads and railways). The penetration factor is assumed to be the % of total data transmitted using 5G networks and devices.

The scenarios are based on conversations with O2, where it became clear that 5G would be used first where it is immediately needed: in highly populated cities. It will then be rolled out in smaller cities and finally, in the road and rail networks borrowing features from 3G and 4G. This information is corroborated by a report published by Juniper Research on behalf of O2, which states that “the total number of 5G connections will reach 1.5 billion globally by 2025, rising from only 5 million in 2019” and that “the year 2025 is used based on the assumption that 5G penetration will be close to 100% in UK cities”.[1]

Within each sector, it is important to understand the difference between projected direct effects of 5G and the projected indirect effects.  As an example, in transport, direct effects come when 5G enables such innovations as ‘platooning’ – where convoys of commercial vehicles can work in auto-pilot slipstreams, radically reducing fuel consumption.  Indirect effects come as 5G becomes the preferred network for increasing numbers of citizens and flexible workers, enabling reduced commuting and business travel.

The report features a series of qualitative case studies – current trials that indicate the potential role and impact of 5G in our lives and the UK economy. We interviewed key personnel and linked their cases to other trials and trends.

All references to CO2 also include emissions of other greenhouse gases on a CO2 equivalence (CO2e) basis.

About O2

O2 strives to do the right thing both as a business and for its customers.  It has committed to becoming net zero by 2025 and to working with supply chain partners to reduce carbon emissions by 30% in the next five years.

The O2 Recycle scheme was named Best Recycle Service at the Mobile Industry Awards and encourages customers to dispose of old devices responsibly.

Last year O2 was one of only three companies globally to be recertified at the highest level by the Carbon Trust Standardfor reducing supply chain emissions.  Through its partnership with the NSPCC, since 2015 O2 has helped parents take over 7 million actions keep their kids safe online.

O2 is a mobile network operator and the principal commercial brand of Telefónica UK Limited, which is part of the global telecommunications group Telefónica S.A, headquartered in Spain and operating in Europe, and North, Central and South America.

O2 is the UK’s largest network, providing 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G services to more than 34 million connections and operating a nationwide O2 Wifi service.  It has been named Uswitch Best Network Coverage provider for three years running, and won Best Network Performance at the Mobile News Awards 2019. Global Wireless Solutions (GWS) named it Best Network for Reliability in 2020.

The company is the network of choice for mobile virtual network operators such as giffgaff, Sky Mobile and Lyca Mobile as well as managing a 50:50 joint venture with Tesco for Tesco Mobile.

O2 has around 6,500 employees and more than 440 retail stores and sponsors England Rugby, The O2 and 20 O2 Academy music venues across the UK.

O2 is the only mobile operator in the 2019 Social Mobility Employer Index and was named as one of the best places to work in the 2019 Glassdoor Employee’s Choice Award, the only mobile operator in the top 50 for three years running.

Telefónica UK Limited is registered in England and Wales. Registration number: 1743099.  Its registered office is at: 260 Bath Road, Slough, Berkshire, SL1 4DX, United Kingdom.

[1] http://d10wc7q7re41fz.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Smart-Cities-Report.pdf

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