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Fibre the most environmentally friendly broadband option according to new research

By Mitchell Hageman, Fri 3 Dec 2021

New research has determined that fibre is the best broadband option for consumers concerned about carbon emissions.

In a first for New Zealand, Chorus, Enable, Tuatahi First Fibre and Northpower Fibre have all collaborated to conduct the study, which involved processes such as testing speeds and tracking carbon footprints. The research gathering was headed by Sapere Research Group.

A mix of data was used, between real-world network data and theoretical data. Real-world network data was used to assess the emissions impact of fibre and VDSL. 

The research focused on broadband connections to homes and smaller businesses. It examined the emissions during the access network use and included the shipping and disposal of equipment, such as optical network terminals and Wi-Fi routers.

The overall consensus from the research was that fibre was found to be the lowest emission broadband technology, compared with copper-based VDSL, Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) and 4G and 5G fixed wireless.

An entry-level fibre plan, operating at 50 Mbps, was up to 41% more efficient than copper VDSL and up to 56% more efficient than 4G fixed wireless. For higher speed plans, around 300 Mbps, fibre is up to 29% more efficient than HFC, and up to 77% more efficient than 5G fixed wireless.

Researchers came to the conclusion that the emissions profile of fibre stays consistent as speeds increase, while the emissions for alternative technologies increase with speed.

Chorus CEO JB Rousselot – speaking on behalf of the four fibre network operators, says that the new groundbreaking research will benefit NZ consumers and businesses alike.

"This is the first research completed in New Zealand that assesses the carbon generated by different broadband technologies. It's an important step in empowering consumers to make communications buying decisions based on what's best for the planet."

He also says the findings will enhance the climate of today's broadband network industry and allow for expansion in the future.

"Fibre is the most sustainable of the broadband options available today. It will likely continue to be the best option in the future as consumers increasingly demand high-capacity broadband services to do all the things they want online."

The emissions research highlighted that equipment in the home is a significant source of power usage for a fibre broadband service and contributes up to 65% of its emissions. The research suggests plenty of future opportunities for emissions reduction in fibre networks.

According to EY's 2021 Future Consumer Index, 90% of New Zealand consumers engage with sustainability as an issue that needs to be addressed. Furthermore, half of these people will make conscious, sustainable purchasing decisions at a cost to them.

EY's research also highlighted the need for companies to make it easier for consumers to purchase network and broadband, with 56% of respondents needing more information to help make better sustainability choices when they shop.

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