Requirements placed on mobile networks in terms of number and types of connected devices, data volumes and types of supported applications are increasing. 5G mobile networks, the roll-out of which is currently discussed in politics, industry and academia, are intended to meet these increasing requirements.
Rolling out network infrastructure is not only capital-intensive, it is also associated with significant energy requirements and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by producing and operating the network infrastructure. On the other hand, each generation of mobile network technologies has shown to enable additional types of applications so far. This enabling effect can have an impact on patterns of production and consumption and therefore on the related GHG emissions. For example, 5G technology is expected to be an enabler for automated driving, a use case which is expected to have substantial impacts on GHG emissions caused by transport in the long term.
As Switzerland has ratified the Paris Agreement and aims at being climate-neutral by 2050, it is important to assess the impact of 5G mobile networks on GHG emissions in Switzerland and to identify the main factors that influence the net GHG effect of this technology. For these reasons, the present study investigates the following research questions:
(1) How much GHG emissions will be caused by the production and operation of 5G network infrastructure in Switzerland in 2030?
(2) What are use cases which will benefit significantly from 5G mobile networks and what is their potential to contribute to the reduction of GHG emissions in Switzerland in 2030?