Carbon Footprint of Video Streaming

Video transmission using fiber optics almost 50 times more efficient than via UMTS

Many people are not aware that surfing the Internet and streaming movies and music leads to considerable CO2 emissions. For example, video streaming in HD quality causes large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, depending on the transmission technology. The technology used to transmit the data to the users is largely responsible for the amount of greenhouse gas emissions. In comparison, emissions from data processing in data centers are relatively low.

The German Environment Agency (UBA) has now determined the CO2 emissions caused by different types of data transfer.

The most climate-damaging type of data transmission is transmission via UMTS (3G). This releases 90 grams of CO2 per hour. If the data transmission is done using copper wires (VDSL) instead, the environmental impact is 4 grams of CO2 per hour. These emissions can be cut in half again if the HD video is streamed at home using a fiber optic connection, as this only. However, these calculations do not include the power consumption of end devices.

These findings are particularly relevant in the current situation since the use of streaming services and cloud gaming is at a record high. For example, a peak value of 9.16 terabits of data throughput per second was measured at the world’s largest Internet node in Frankfurt/Main (DE-CIX). This corresponds to a simultaneous data transmission of over two million HD videos.

Another way for consumers to save CO2 is to reduce the resolution in which the respective video is streamed. Considering that the difference in quality is not visible to the naked eye on devices with small displays, a reduction in quality makes perfect sense.

So why not take this as a reason to support your local cinema (suffering from the corona crisis) and reduce your personal CO2 footprint :-).

All research results were developed on behalf of the UBA by the Öko-Institut and the Fraunhofer IZM in the context of “Green Cloud Computing”.

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