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Life cycle assessment of the mobile communication system UMTS: towards eco-efficient systems

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6 Author(s)

Telecommunication providers and telecommunication manufacturers are getting ready to implement the third generation (3G) mobile telecommunication systems known as UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunication System) in Europe. Next to the technical problems involved, no statement regarding the sustainability of the UMTS can yet be made. In a joint effort Motorola, Swisscom, Deutsche Telekom and ESU-services have carried out an evaluation of the environmental sustainability of the UMTS mobile communication system in Switzerland by means of a life cycle assessment (LCA). A baseline environmental impact profile across the full life cycle of the UMTS mobile communication system and its predecessor, the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) is presented. The baseline assessment was a necessary first step to evaluate the environmental impacts of the mobile communication systems use and growth and thus permitting the evaluation of its environmental sustainability. The analysis showed that the manufacturing of electronic components, the life time of the appliances and energy consumption are key parameters influencing the environmental profile most. From this baseline, necessary environmental improvement strategies on the technical level, such as design for environment for products (e.g. cellular phone and base stations) and LCA improvement assessments (e.g. combined devices) are developed so as to show ways towards sustainable mobile communication.

Published in:

Electronics and the Environment, 2003. IEEE International Symposium on

Date of Conference:

19-22 May 2003