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The environmental impact of streaming has long been a topic of discussion – now there is a solution

The environmental impact of streaming has long been a topic of discussion – now there is a solution
The environmental impact of streaming has long been a topic of discussion – now there is a solution

Commercial context

Demand for live video streaming is booming, but it’s not free – it contributes significantly to the industry’s environmental footprint. As Brightly points out, one hour of streaming generates about 55 grams of CO2 equivalent – as much as charging seven smartphones. Because streaming is so widespread – and continues to grow – CSPs can play a key role in turning this practice into a more sustainable pastime.

Indeed, streaming is associated with high energy consumption, especially during live broadcasts of popular events such as sporting events. On such occasions, short-term but significant traffic spikes occur, requiring large network capacity. This leads to suboptimal utilization of networks and content delivery networks (CDNs). CDNs, which are essentially geographically distributed groups of servers that cache content close to end users, are often deployed for peak usage periods and thus often run idle during off-peak hours, resulting in unnecessary power consumption.

With streaming on the rise, this lack of optimization has reached critical levels and poses a serious challenge: how to balance the need to meet increasing user demand with sustainable operational practices? Considering the environmental impact of video streaming is not only a technological imperative, but also a commercial one, as CSPs must look for cost-effective solutions that do not compromise the user experience.

The solution

The Sustainable live streaming Catalyst seeks to address this challenge by improving the delivery process and architecture of live video content. The fundamental improvement is to make network and CDN capacity available to content providers and share them to ensure more efficient use of existing resources. A key innovation that the project team is deploying is a multicast transmission that helps to balance peak loads and improve overall network utilization. This approach enables a significant reduction in the required hardware and energy consumption in live streaming. The solution’s design principles are based on achieving a quick return on investment, maintaining or improving the quality of the user experience, and presenting a clear commercial model to enable widespread adoption.

Application and value

The impact of this solution spans operational, environmental and commercial areas. Once deployed, the project team expects significant reductions: in peak live streaming traffic by 55% to 85%, in hardware requirements by 85% to 95% and in energy consumption by 80% to 90%. From a financial perspective, the savings in hardware and energy consumption will result in an almost immediate return on investment, making the solution commercially viable and attractive for widespread adoption. Crucially, this approach maintains the quality of experience for end users and ensures high levels of user satisfaction and loyalty. The solution integrates seamlessly with existing infrastructures and requires no changes for content providers, enabling rapid and effective adoption.

Diego Gibellino, Senior Manager of Multimedia at TIM, notes: “For CSPs faced with growing streaming traffic and associated costs, this solution offers a sustainable path forward that balances scalability with cost efficiency and environmental responsibility. Its broader value lies in jointly reducing the environmental footprint of streaming, benefiting CSPs, consumers and global sustainability goals.”

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