French telcos to cut power consumption as winter approaches

Orange and Altice this week joined Bouygues Telecom in outlining plans to reduce energy usage.

It comes as France faces the prospect of blackouts this winter, and a potential gas shortage due to the disruption of supplies from Russia.

Altice detailed on Tuesday how it is ramping up its ongoing sustainability plan – called ‘J’avance avec Altice’ – with some new measures, including rolling out automatic deep standby to its SFR TV decoders, which will begin in November and promises to reduce each decoder’s power use by up to 90%.

Altice will also review its mobile network settings and adopt traffic-based power consumption. At its data centres, the telco will phase-out less energy efficient equipment and reduce its use of air conditioning where possible. Air conditioning and lighting use will also be more tightly controlled at its offices and stores.

Altice is also rolling out e-learning programmes to employees to educate them about what is generally being referred to in France as ‘energy sobriety’. It will also offer financial assistance to staff that want to commute by bicycle.

Altice is even altering the editorial policies at its BFMTV news channels to provide more information to consumers about reducing energy use, as well as giving real-time shortage alerts.

It came a day after Orange announced measures of its own.

In a statement, the French incumbent said it will reduce energy consumption across its footprint by 5-10% for one hour per day. It will achieve this by switching to backup batteries for “several thousand” fixed network installations, saving up to 20 Megawatts, equivalent to the power consumption of a medium-sized city with 40,000 inhabitants.

Similarly to Altice, it is also rolling out extended standby to its Orange TV set-top-boxes, reducing the use of lighting and air conditioning at stores and offices, and will even close some of its quieter offices entirely.

Meanwhile, Bouygues Telecom has also been keen to highlight its sustainability strategy. Last week, it too announced broad plans to cut consumption at peak times and educate customers, partners and employees about energy sobriety.

As well as making a genuine difference to energy usage, there are some potentially useful PR points up for grabs for these telcos.

As reported last week, with the weather starting to turn, and France’s nuclear output still below where it’s needed due to ongoing repairs and maintenance at several power stations, energy distributor Enedis proposed managing shortages with power cuts of up to two hours if necessary.

Under the plan, blackouts would be implemented in different areas of the country on a rotating basis, and would not affect so-called priority customers like hospitals, the police, military, government or important industrial installations.

Crucially for CSPs, networks were not included on that exemption list, and with mobile towers reportedly having enough battery backup to last just 30 minutes, network outages are a distinct possibility. Enedis says it is up to local authorities to decide whether to designate telcos as priority customers.

By publicising their aggressive energy-saving measures, Orange, Altice and Bouygues might just curry enough favour to merit a place alongside these other critical services, and avoid potentially-damaging network outages.


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