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Sustainable business practices in satellite communications

by Tech Reporter
28th Nov 23 11:34 am

Brian Allen, Head of Product Design and Development at equipment case manufacturers CP Cases, provides his expertise.

As businesses increasingly come to rely on automated technologies in a digital landscape, the focus turns to satellite communication as the most efficient means of connectivity.

While satellite internet offers a number of benefits – particularly in locations where traditional telecom infrastructure is lacking – the environmental impacts cannot be ignored.

It’s up to businesses investing in and benefitting from satellite technologies to take accountability and drive for responsible and ethical usage as satellite-based connectivity systems gain popularity across the UK.

Environmental impacts of satellite communication

For its numerous benefits, satellite internet comes at a price. Mass satellite groups including SpaceX’s Starlink have garnered criticism for their detrimental environmental impacts.

Astronomers have panned such schemes, blaming failed observations of sensitive radio telescopes on light pollution and radiation leaks. Astronomers from the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON) have detected radiation between 110 and 188 MHz from 47 out of the 68 satellites observed, with such levels of radiation contributing to global warming upon passing through the atmosphere.

Radiation emitted from satellite internet systems has also been linked with the decline of nesting success for birds, as well as disruptions to seasonal animal behaviours.

Furthermore, while the satellites themselves are solar-powered, the ground stations responsible for sending and receiving signals require immense amounts of energy – the majority of which is sourced from fossil fuels. As a result, satellite communication systems accumulate larger carbon footprints than other forms of internet access; energy consumption by satellite internet systems is estimated to be four times higher than traditional internet services, such as cable or fibre optic.

With such an environmental cost attached to the implementation and use of satellite technologies, action must be taken to mitigate and minimise impacts to the climate. While much of the onus is on the proprietors of these satellite systems, accountability also lies with the businesses that benefit from such systems. They need to initiate positive change towards a greener and more sustainable future.

Four steps towards connectivity sustainability

There are numerous ways in which a business can contribute to minimising satellite communication’s effect on the environment, with tangible change possible through small shifts in day-to-day operations.

  1. Investment in energy-efficient satellite designs

With satellite communication promising to surpass the efficiency and effectiveness of traditional telecom systems, satellite-based internet systems are here to stay. With that in mind, businesses must actively look to invest in the development of greener technologies and continue to reap the benefits of satellite communication while safeguarding the environment.

  1. Adoption of environmentally friendly materials and production processes

Businesses can look to offset carbon emissions created by satellite communication through small changes to their ground-level day-to-day operations, countering global warming’s effects through green business practices.

They might shift energy solutions towards renewable energy sources, cutting down greenhouse gas emissions in the process. For example, business premises and production facilities might integrate solar power, or optimise production processes to reduce waste.

  1. Environmental advocacy

While individual businesses can ‘do their bit’, it‘s vital for action to be taken on a systemic level. Without the cooperation of the government, industry associations and regulatory bodies, any change will be limited.

Through lobbying, raising awareness and outspoken advocacy of sustainable connectivity systems, legislation may be introduced to enforce ethical and environmentally friendly satellite communication practices. From responsible satellite disposal to regulation of radiation exposure, systemic change must come from positions of authority, while initiated at grassroots levels.

  1. Environmental consciousness 

With the rapid onset of a climate crisis and projections of net zero by 2050, environmental consciousness must be at the forefront of all business decision-making. It’s vital that concentrated efforts are made to curb global warming, avoid climate catastrophe and establish future-proofed connectivity solutions at the same time.

This extends from offsetting satellite communication’s carbon footprint to responsibly investing in greener satellite technologies. With sustainable methods of operation and green business practices, businesses are able to move forward with technological advances, reducing uncertainty and securing a responsible, sustainable and successful future.

It’s paramount that businesses are aware of the environmental impacts of satellite communication. And with the continued uptake of satellite-based connectivity systems, environmental agencies must work alongside proprietors to find sustainable solutions as we look to the future.

With satellite communication here to stay, a balance must be struck whereby technological innovation and environmental consciousness can coexist. As we service businesses and communities with improved connectivity, we must also protect the environment from potential climate disasters.

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