T-Mobile Goes Green
September 28, 2012
Milan Zika, T-Mobile’s chief technology and innovation officer, talks to Elżbieta Wrzecionkowska about environmental standards and sustainable development.
Sustainable development is part of T-Mobile’s corporate strategy, building an image of an environmentally friendly company. How is this strategy being carried out?
Environmentally-friendly activities are among Polska Telefonia Cyfrowa’s priorities. We have been carrying them out for years and try to make sure they are a part of all our operations.
However, one of our most important activities is our drive to reduce the amount of electricity needed for the network and IT infrastructure and for maintaining the proper temperature of base stations.
As an operator, we own about 20 exchanges and data centers, each of which is 7,500 sq m in size (for comparison, a full-sized soccer field is about 7,600 sq m). They consume huge amounts of electricity. Recent modernizations and replacements of equipment with more advanced and more efficient models have reduced the demand for electricity by 500,000 kWh per year. Upon completing our modernization we hope to reduce electricity usage by another 15 million kWh annually.
We are designing our latest base stations to make use of renewable energy sources. We use energy that comes from solar batteries and wind turbines. After introducing these systems we have managed to reduce the energy used at base stations by 20-40 percent.
Our energy balance was also greatly improved by the introduction of BTSs (Base Transmission Stations) which turn off unused sectors with the changing work load. We keep on seeking new solutions.
The way electromagnetic waves emitted by base stations affect the lives and health of local populations continues to be a hot topic. What is the case with your base stations?
Polish regulations on maximum allowed electromagnetic field intensity—a fact that is not mentioned often—are the most restrictive in the world, next to those of Switzerland and Luxembourg. Under Polish law, every base station is measured by a certified laboratory upon startup and then monitored regularly during operation. The measurements are sent to provincial sanitary and epidemiological stations, for example.
As an operator we work to meet Polish standards but we also increase them in accordance with our own policy, and this is visible in the measurements. Those performed at our stations show field intensities that are up to 1,000 times lower than permissible levels.
Moreover, we were the first operator in Poland to obtain the ISO 14001 environmental management certificate giving our customers the guarantee that the construction and operation of PTC’s telecommunications network is under the continual supervision of certified and independent laboratories, and complies with the most rigorous standards. It’s also worth mentioning that this certificate is not granted once and for all. We have to keep renewing it. The current one is valid until March 2015.
Does your policy of sustainable development only cover customer-oriented activities, or do your green activities also include employees and their work conditions? What is T-Mobile’s office like?
T-Mobile has long been committed to initiatives involving corporate responsibility and does its best to act responsibly toward the environment in its many projects. This is the attitude we encourage among our customers, promoting eco-friendly solutions such as a simple move from traditional paper invoices to their electronic version, but we also address activities to our employees. We have numerous campaigns in place, including one involving the so-called environment-friendly room where employees learn to sort office waste, and we also encourage everyone to commute to work by bicycle. We have managed to win more than 300 people over to this eco-friendly and healthy mode of transportation.
We are launching a new project in September to encourage employees to reduce the amount of electricity, water and paper they use up in the office. Next June we will move to a new, green headquarters on Marynarska Street in Warsaw, with a number of eco-friendly solutions. Some of these were put in place by the developer, Ghelamco, at the design stage, at our special request. I will mention just a few: parking spaces for bicycles will be available at the entrances to the building and in the garages; this group of employees will also have a restroom and showers in the underground space. Extra meters are being installed throughout the building for better control of usage of utilities. Because we were very keen on having the greatest possible amount of light, 85 percent of the facade is glass. This means our staff won’t have to switch on any lights on sunny days. The elevators will be fitted with an energy-recovering system and LED lighting that will reduce the amount of electricity used. These are just some of the ideas that will materialize in the new headquarters. We are already telling our employees about them and offering training; we want to develop good habits and new, eco-friendly behaviors.