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April 12, 2023

Forecast - Investigating the Energy Use of Video and Mobile Networks

The volume of video traffic inside both fixed-line and wireless networks has been growing vigorously for years. It is often said that around 80% of total web traffic consists of video, and the immense recent popularity of short-form video has placed stress on mobile networks. While long-form video content is more suited for viewing on fixed-line networks, the smartphone represents a new vector for video demand growth.  Put simply, more video is going to be both produced and consumed on smartphones, and mobile network operators are feeling the burden of this growth.

It is important to outline our reasons for undertaking this project, which undoubtedly falls outside of the traditional scope of RAN Research. This report arrives at a time when sustainability is becoming an unavoidable consideration for companies in the wireless industry, regardless of their size or status.  Those at the heart of network infrastructure – hardware OEMs and MNOs – have had economic incentives to keep their spend on energy consumption in internal networks at a minimum, but many other stakeholders have been able to offload that responsibility elsewhere. Pressures from regulators, and consumers demanding more sustainable approaches, are making stakeholders of all shapes and sizes prove their commitment to the cause.

Snapshot Summary

  • Global energy use of video distribution and consumption industry at 3,398 TWh by 2027.
  • Although a fall from 2022, the total energy use will start to trend back upwards with the growth in OTT viewing.
  • Despite their energy usage steadily declining at -4.15% a year, Pay TV networks (primarily cable) are still the largest drain on energy in 2027 at 1,575 TWh.
  • Video devices makes up next largest segment, growing to 1,165 TWh by 2027, at a CAGR of 3.82%.
  • OTT infrastructure (data centers, broadband and mobile networks) consumes 820 TWh by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 5.99%.
  • Estimated carbon emissions of video consumption and distribution falls to 1.15 billion tCO2, in-line with rising carbon efficiency of electricity.
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RAN Research

RAN Research is essential reading for anyone who wants to stay on top of current trends and thinking among Mobile Network Operators