Will Green Sell? Telcos Try

Although telecom service providers have talked about the "green" benefits of services such as telepresence and unified communications and collaboration, they haven't been aggressively selling services based on their ability to reduce carbon emissions. But there are signs they might be changing.

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) last week announced a new Business Sustainability Advisory Council, a set of industry players that will advise AT&T on the links between its services and environmental initiatives. And this week, Verizon Enterprise Solutions opened its $1 million lab designed to show government agencies how Verizon's new fiber-to-the-desk Optical LAN can significantly cut power bills. (See Verizon Brings GPON to the Desktop.)

To date, most businesses have seemed more interested in how telecom services can save them money, especially capital expenses, than in how they can cut negative environmental impacts, said Gloria Lewis, AT&T's executive director for channel solutions. But that is changing.

"We are seeing more questionnaires come in from customers that have sustainability-related questions for their suppliers, as well as RFPs coming in that have questions about how we are operating sustainably and how we deal with our suppliers," Lewis said. "But we are not necessarily seeing purchasing decisions made on basis of sustainability."

One goal of the new council is to establish metrics by which businesses can easily measure the impact of their use of information and communications technologies (ICT) on greenhouse gas reduction. Having such measurements becomes more important as there looms the real possibility of government regulations requiring business to reduce their carbon emissions or face potential financial penalties.

But AT&T isn't banking on environmental concerns to sell its services, Lewis said. In a white paper also released last week -- titled, "Networking for Sustainability: The Network Offset Effect" -- the telecom giant explains that green services are also budget-friendly.

"Part of our strategy, and what is talked about in the white paper, is the fact that our products and service are not just about sustainability," Lewis says. Other benefits include increased efficiency and productivity, and a lower total cost of ownership. "With the economy we have been living in, it is about the bottom line. We realize our customers might not be willing to pay more for sustainable solutions, but typically the sustainable solution tends to be great for bottom line."

Verizon Business likewise touts the savings its Optical LAN products can offer, by reducing the use of active electronics in building a high-speed LAN and thus eliminating power consumption by up to 75 percent, space requirements by up to 80 percent, and capital costs related to network elements by up to 74 percent.

At the new lab in Columbia, Md., federal agencies -- which are under a mandate to cut carbon emissions -- can see the Optical LAN in action.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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