Ambitious ESG targets for digital infrastructure are achievable with the right tools: mobile towers

10 May 2024 | Transaction support

Sylvain Loizeau

Article | PDF (12 pages)


Digital infrastructure’s greatest contribution to the transition towards a sustainable global economy lies in its critical role as the conduit for other sectors’ sustainability improvements. Nonetheless, it also needs to look at its own direct impacts, risks and opportunities, especially as regulatory requirements and social pressures assert themselves. The most important environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks and challenges include energy intensity and carbon footprint, data privacy and security, impact on local communities, labour practices, governance and reporting.

Sustainability initiatives can serve as a powerful driver of innovation, business transformation and growth. They have the potential to shape evolving markets, driving positive change across the sector.

This article is the second in our series of five, and focuses specifically on mobile towers. It presents a selection of the sustainability initiatives that can help investors in, and operators of, mobile towers outperform their peers. All of these articles are based on research from Analysys Mason’s dedicated sustainability research team, and draws on our recent client project work.


There are around 5.2 million mobile towers worldwide, so there is ample scope for a reduction in their potential negative impacts. New technologies and strategies can reduce energy consumption, minimise disruption to local communities and wildlife, and cut the risk of vandalism and physical deterioration. Analysys Mason recommends that every towerco should create a coherent ESG framework to manage these impacts. They should also consider implementing some of the most ambitious, transformational and innovative ESG practices, which are increasingly becoming standard features of modern networks. The following initiatives are among the most effective for operators seeking to make their digital infrastructure fit for the future:

Generate green power: Generating solar or wind energy (especially when combined with battery storage) reduces a mobile site’s reliance on the electricity grid and lowers its carbon footprint. In developing markets and remote areas, this renewable power is typically displacing diesel generation, which is highly polluting, costly and has substantial security and maintenance requirements. Vantage Towers is a leader in using renewable wind energy to power its towers and has taken steps to generate wind energy for 52 of its sites in Germany.

Share towers and radio access networks: Fewer than 35% of towers in Europe are under sole ownership of the network operator, and most sites host multiple parties. Independently operated towers are not yet the ‘default’ model in other regions. Sharing assets is one of the most effective ways to improve the sustainability of infrastructure. Shared sites allow for multiple telecoms operators and carriers to offer services from a single set of physical infrastructure, removing the need for each operator to build its own towers. The multiplying effect of fewer raw materials, less land, reduced visual impact, reduced deployment costs and efficient use of the shared equipment translates into a very significant financial gain in addition to the improved sustainability. As well as the physical tower, it is also possible for the active electronics equipment of the radio access network (antennas, radio units, backhaul, batteries) to be shared by multiple operators, with consequent sustainability gains in terms of components and energy use. The reduced capital and operating costs free up funds for faster expansion of the network, as well as making it more viable to serve economically marginal areas. Networks in a range of European countries including the UK, Italy, Poland and Sweden have implemented such forms of sharing.

Use low-carbon materials, and recycle: The concrete and steel used in a conventional mobile tower are two of the most carbon-intensive building materials. Depending on location, site deployment can draw from an array of alternative materials – some new (e.g. graphene products), some old (e.g. bamboo), and some a blend of the two (e.g. laminated timber) – which can substantially reduce the carbon cost of construction. Replacement and repair of sites should prioritise materials with a smaller carbon footprint (which may include low-carbon steel), and also look to recycling or reprocessing the discarded energy-intensive materials to recover some of the energy invested in their original production, and to minimise cost and land requirements of landfill.

Deploy IoT on mobile infrastructure: Remote, connected sensors or video cameras installed on towers could reduce the costs and emissions associated with in-person field visits. Tower owners can receive real-time updates to detect corrosion or maintenance issues remotely, which means that physical attendance is only necessary for occasional remediation rather than routine monitoring, and also allows minor problems to be addressed before they become more significant. There is an additional benefit of improved security arrangements. Connected infrastructure can also harness big-data analytics and AI-powered forecasts to optimise preventive maintenance tasks.

More details on these and other ESG initiatives for tower companies – with a focus on the different stakeholders – can be found in this article.


The telecoms industry has always thrived on innovation, and finding creative solutions to technical questions. The increasing pressure to find sustainable paths for growth offers new opportunities for that innovation and creativity.

Analysys Mason is the leader in telecoms-related ESG analysis and consulting. We operate at the nexus of digital infrastructure and sustainability. To speak to one of our experts, get in touch.

Ambitious ESG targets for digital infrastructure are achievable with the right tools

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Sylvain Loizeau

Principal, expert in telecoms strategy and regulation