Orange solutions for digital sustainability

Digital technology is not in itself the enemy of the environment. At Orange, putting digital technology at the service of the ecological transition requires very specific actions.

Because of the technical equipment it uses, digital technology is a fast-growing sector in terms of energy consumption. At Orange, there are solutions in place to optimise the energy efficiency of its networks and to become an environmental role model.

Thousands of technical installations and data centres complete the networks of telecommunications operators. At the same time, the use of computers, tablets and phones continues unabated. As a result, digital technology is consuming an ever-increasing share of the world’s energy.

Nevertheless, for operators, including Orange, energy consumption has stabilised or even reduced slightly, despite a surge in usage.
These results are achieved through implementing action plans designed to significantly improve their energy efficiency and reduce their environmental impact. Optimising and sharing technical installations, replacing obsolete equipment with new, more energy-efficient models, virtualising servers or even using solar self-consumption systems are examples of some of the actions taken.

In order to put digital technology at the service of the ecological transition, the Orange Group takes specific actions, starting with the thermal improvement of equipment. For example, “cold door” systems through which water circulates are deployed on computer and telecom racks to recover heat. “It works on the same principle as a car radiator (with or without a fan)”, explains Dominique Bodéré, project manager at Orange. Other fluid-based techniques such as “liquid cooling” or “water cooling” are also used to submerge servers and components to cool them down. These techniques are gradually replacing ventilation systems, which are a major source of energy consumption.

Solar energy is also a way of reducing the environmental cost of digital equipment. At Orange, on Ushant island, masts are powered using this renewable energy, which, according to Dominique Bodéré, “coupled with data recovery, means we can see how much is being consumed by technical installations in real time. In the long run, these energy consumption measurements will be stored in servers using software, which can then be retrieved and analysed in order to adapt our consumption for the best”. Artificial Intelligence (AI), through processing this data, is also involved in making savings and, above all, in energy-efficiency measures. In particular, the planned implementation of power strips (a kind of “smart” electrical socket) will make it possible to measure electrical load on each server and adapt energy to its consumption needs in real time. “If you have three servers and one of them is only operating at 20% capacity, these power strips will detect this and distribute its activity to the other two servers, disconnecting the one that is being under-utilised”, explains Dominique Bodéré.

Orange is also moving toward self-consumption for equipment. This equipment operates using solar power and batteries that store excess energy if necessary. “It is a very useful system for supplying small sites, for example”, notes Dominique Bodéré.
Batteries also help improve energy balance. The currently used lead-based batteries will gradually be replaced by more efficient lithium batteries to store solar energy in particular.
Finally, telecom equipment, including servers and routers operating at 230 VAC, is gradually shifting towards 400 VDC. “A way of transporting current a little further by increasing the voltage and reducing the losses in the distribution for an equivalent power”, says Dominique Bodéré. This technology has implications for the number of rectifier transformers required for technical installations. It will also have a positive impact on invoices from EDF in view of the decrease in the number of subscriptions.

A lot of work is being done at Orange to reduce environmental impact and cost. The whole Group commits to this engagement.

Digital technology is not in itself the enemy of the environment. At Orange, putting digital technology at the service of the ecological transition requires very specific actions.

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SOGREEN: an Award for Orange


Last June in Valencia, a team from Orange’s Lannion Research Centre in France was presented with the “CELTIC Excellence Award” for its research on energy savings in telecom networks. They worked with 16 other European partners as part of the SooGreen project. Together, they invented and mapped an architecture called “Centralized-RAN (C-RAN)”, which is very promising because it increases network capacity by improving energy efficiency while providing adaptability and flexibility. A way of reducing the energy bill for masts and exchanges. Also a way of optimising equipment and taking action when anomalous excess consumption is identified.