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Promoting Energy Efficiency

Sprint's primary approach for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is to reduce its demand for electricity and improve its energy efficiency. The table below shows the four functional areas responsible for Sprint electrical-energy use and their usage in kilowatt hours (kWh) for the past five years.

Sprint Electrical Usage by Function, 2007 to 2011, in kWh

As you can see, Sprint's Network organization is responsible for the majority of electrical use (88 percent), with Real Estate a distant second at nearly 7 percent, IT third with about 3 percent and Retail fourth with just over 2 percent. Each business function has its own reduction target and is responsible for its results.

Since 2007, Real Estate has improved its energy efficiency the most with an overall reduction of 24% through 2011.

IT increased its usage through 2010 but then saw a decrease of 6.57 percent in 2011, resulting in a net decrease of 3.02 percent. The increase in IT emissions from 2007 to 2008 resulted from the addition of several data centers through business acquisitions. Although IT could have adjusted its baseline to account for the acquisitions, it chose to absorb the increase and not adjust the baseline or target. IT implemented a wide range of energy-efficiency projects in 2011 that drove its significant 2011 decrease of 6.57 percent.

Network's net reductions of .08 percent in 2011 and .85 percent through 2011, seem minor but are significant given the increase in data usage and customers Sprint has experienced in the past few years and the fact that Sprint has begun implementing our Network Vision project, adding new hardware throughout the network.

Retail has also shown steady improvement since 2007, achieving a total reduction of 21.05% through 2011.

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Energy Efficiency Efforts 2007 - 2011

Real Estate

The Sprint Real Estate function significantly improved its energy efficiency from 2007 through 2009, slightly increased in 2010, and then slightly improved in 2011. The reductions achieved from 2007 through 2009 were the result of efficiency programs and portfolio reductions. Throughout the past decade, the Real Estate team has been gradually improving the energy efficiency of commercial facilities. Some actions include:

    • More than 75 percent of Sprint square footage has a building-automation system deployed.
    • Most have energy-efficient lighting in place.
    • Building managers have strong methods and procedures to follow for energy management.
    • Inefficient heating and cooling systems have been replaced with more efficient systems as they reach the end of their life cycle.

In addition, Sprint's Real Estate team has curtailed employees' desk use of optional electrical devices (such as personal heaters or refrigerators) and put reminder stickers in conference rooms to turn off the lights when done using the room. Many sites have their overhead lights automatically shut down at night and on weekends. Temperatures in buildings are kept a bit cooler in winter and warmer in summer. The most significant reduction effort was the deployment of Unified Communications (UC) as part of Sprint's Mobile Workforce initiative. Through this effort, Sprint has saved an estimated 30 million dollars a year through reduced square footage, elimination of PBX systems, reduction in recurring telecommunications circuit costs, and reduction in conference-bridging costs. In addition, with the reduction in square footage, Sprint reduced its electrical usage by an estimated 10M kWh annually. This majority of this reduction occurred in 2008 and 2009, but Sprint continues to fine tune the initiative to maximize financial and environmental benefits. A copy of the case study for Sprint's UC deployment can be found here.


IT has significantly improved its energy efficiency over the past five years, despite taking on an increase in managed data centers (as a result of business acquisitions) and an increase in customers in 2010. In 2011, IT achieved a 6.57 percent reduction through a series of energy-efficiency projects. For the first few years (2007 through 2009), IT focused on reducing the complexity of the IT environment. The organization identified, consolidated and removed redundant or unused applications and focused on air handling and lighting infrastructure, deploying new zone-control systems, variable-frequency drives and proximity lighting, incorporating these elements into the Sprint Data Center design template. Highlights include:

    • Hot and cold aisle configuration — placement of Computer Room Air Conditioner (CRAC) units at the end of "hot" aisles to optimize the natural thermodynamics and airflow within an aisle. Cool air from the CRAC units is forced to flow only to the area needed over the "hot" aisles.
    • CRAC chimneys — raising air intake near the ceiling eliminating cold-air recirculation. This effort allowed Sprint to show down 20 percent of cooling units at some sites.
    • CRAC Zone Controls systems — providing a software-control package that enabled CRAC units to operate as a "team" when controlling humidity and temperature.
    • Blank panels — keeping air from recirculating and helping to separate air from the hot and cool aisles.
    • Variable Frequency Drives on fans and pumps — allowing the volume of air and liquid to match the system demand, reducing energy requirements.
    • Raised floor-system sealing — installation of Plenaform, Koldlock grommets and plenum-rated foam helps managed under-floor airflow and prevent excessive loss of air through access openings for electrical cables, refrigerant lines and cable bundles.
    • Proximity lighting — turning off lights when no motion is detected in the data center. Additionally, the lights are zoned so that only lights in the area of work activity are turned on.

In addition to specific energy-efficiency projects, Sprint has increased use of server-virtualization and storage-efficiency technologies. Forrester Research completed a case study on this effort and concluded that the benefits were significant. As noted in this study: "From January to December 2008, Sprint retired 127 applications, decommissioned or redeployed more than 2,239 servers, and freed up 291,042 gigabytes of storage. This translated into $28 million of redeployable assets, a $20 million reduction in operating costs, and a reduction of data center—related carbon emissions by 10,450 metric tons."

Network Vision: Energy Impacts

With purchased electricity as the major driver of Sprint Greenhouse Gas emissions (98 percent), Sprint's greatest opportunity is reducing its electrical-energy consumption. By far, the largest opportunity is within Sprint's Network organization, which consumes 88 percent of its total electrical use. Within network electrical use, wireless sites account for 87 percent and wireline sites 13%. Cell sites consume 70 percent of the total energy for Network, with switch sites a distant second at 13 percent. Although cell sites are Sprint's largest reduction target, there are more than 50,000 of them, making operational or equipment changes costly and time-consuming.

Today, Sprint uses separate equipment to deploy services on 800 MHz spectrum, 1.9 GHz spectrum and, through its relationship with Clearwire, 2.5 GHz spectrum. Under the terms of the new contracts, Sprint's Network Vision partners, Alcatel—Lucent, Ericsson and Samsung, will install new network equipment and software that brings together multiple spectrum bands, or airwaves, on a single, multi—mode base station.

With Network Vision, Sprint will make substantial changes to the cell sites that power its wireless network. The top image shows Sprint's existing base stations, which require single, refrigerator–sized cabinets for each technology. The Network Vision multi–mode base station will require less space and consume less energy. Other advantages will include the ability for Sprint to use spectrum bands on multiple technologies, replacing coaxial cables with fiber that is not affected by signal loss and improved remote radio heads that replace existing less efficient radios.

With Network Vision, Sprint will make substantial changes to the cell sites that power its wireless network. The top image shows Sprint's existing base stations, which require single, refrigerator-sized cabinets for each technology. The Network Vision multi-mode base station will require less space and consume less energy. Other advantages will include the ability for Sprint to use spectrum bands on multiple technologies, replacing coaxial cables with fiber that is not affected by signal loss and improved remote radio heads that replace existing less efficient radios.

Multi–mode technology

The implementation of multi–mode technology throughout the Sprint network will:

    • Enhance service
    • Create network flexibility
    • Reduce operating costs
    • Improve environmental sustainability (reduce carbon footprint)

Sprint's implementation of Network Vision may result in GHG increases through 2013 when network traffic is moved off of the old infrastructure and the associated hardware is decommissioned. The potential for kWh increases will be highest during 2012 and 2013. The full reduction target should be achieved by the end of 2016.

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Sprint Mobile Workforce

Sprint's history in formal mobile-working programs began in 2003. With an increasingly mobile workforce, an average of 300+ square feet per associate and new technological advances occurring regularly, an opportunity existed to implement a significant portfolio rationalization. In 2004, Sprint formally launched its first mobile-workforce program, called Mobile Zones — designated "open" work places where employees could use office space as needed with unassigned mobile-work areas. It quickly became clear that Sprint could realize the rich benefits associated with mobile working, such as reduced real-estate costs and GHG emissions, improved employee satisfaction, and an opportunity to leverage Sprint's mobile products and services within its own operations. The Mobile Zones, since they were primarily used by sales and other customer-facing personnel, quickly became showcases for Sprint technology.

Over the years, the program has matured and now includes four distinct categories of mobile work opportunities — Telecommuting, Voluntary Work Anywhere, Sprint Mobile Zones and Virtual Call Centers.

  • Telecommuting: Sprint's telecommuter program was designed primarily for exempt or salary-level positions and for very limited use on a business-need basis. It is full-time remote working and requires Director approval. Home broadband and some office furniture may be supplied at the discretion of business-unit management. These employees do not have any permanent office space assigned to them.
  • Voluntary Work Anywhere: Sprint associates self-select a "work anywhere" designation, obtain management approval, and vacate their dedicated work space. Voluntary Work Anywhere associates use shared work stations or flexible workplace areas established by Real Estate. Work Anywhere tools and training are provided. This requires management by objectives rather than "face time" — often more of a challenge for managers rather than the Work Anywhere employees.
  • Sprint Mobile Zones: This program was initially designed to accommodate Sprint's sales organizations. Traditional floor plans are transformed to create more community and group-work options. Although some individual work spaces are dedicated to assigned associates, the majority of space is flexible seating and shared by Work Anywhere associates. Mobile Zones are designed to foster collaboration and showcase Sprint's mobile-technology solutions.
  • Virtual Call Centers: This program is a work arrangement within a call-center function where a group of agents are designated to perform their work responsibilities from home either on a part-time or full-time basis. It provides flexible hours and convenience to employees and management. Customers on the calling end receive a completely seamless experience. Special IT infrastructure is required and participants are required to provide their own home office connectivity.

The tools our employees use within these programs include WiFi and Web-cam enabled laptops, Sprint Broadband Cards on the road, Sprint Extended Workplace Remote Access, Microsoft Lync, and other solutions and services available through remote and mobile solutions (iDigitize, print services, collaboration tools, etc.).

As of the end of 2011, Sprint had more than 100 Sprint Mobile Zones nationally and had reduced square foot per head by 50 percent by eliminating 1.5M square feet of office space. This resulted in savings in excess of $30 million annually. The environmental impact has also been substantial, reducing electricity usage by 63M kWh since 2005, equivalent to 45,000 MT of CO2e.

The employee benefits are also impressive. An employee survey we conducted in 2010, demonstrated the following:

  • On average, self-reported productivity increased by 33 percent
  • 92 percent overall program-satisfaction rate
  • 94 percent have experienced improved work/life balance
  • 88 percent would not move back to old "assigned" environment
  • 91 percent recommend it to colleagues and customers
  • 70 percent reporting spending more time with customers

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