Sustainability of the Use of Mobile Phones

Sustainability of the Use of Mobile Phones

A. Paiano (University of Bari Aldo Moro, Italy), G. Lagioia (University of Bari Aldo Moro, Italy), A. Cataldo (University of Salento, Italy) and E. De Benedetto (University of Salento, Italy)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8239-9.ch029
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In the present chapter, a global overview of mobile phone sector is presented. Specific focus is given to the Italian mobile phone sector, the sustainability of which is addressed by taking into account two critical aspects related to the behavioral patterns of the users (namely the energy consumption of mobile phones and associated equipment, and the conflicting link between potential dematerialisation due to the miniaturisation of the devices and the resource consumption and waste generated in this sector). This chapter also assesses the impact of the mobile phone sector on the national electricity consumption in a reference year (i.e., 2009), on the growing consumption of resources and on e-waste production. Additionally, some experimental guidelines for evaluating energy consumption and efficiency of mobile phones, of chargers and of batteries are provided. Finally, resource consumption and the e-waste generated by increased mobile phone usage are analyzed.
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Mobile phones are characterized by a high turnover rate (Assinform, 2007–2011; ITU, 2009); in fact, although their potential life span is approximately ten years, most users change their phones frequently, causing the usable life of these devices to decrease to less than two years (Huang et al., 2008). Such a behavior is clearly fostered by the technological obsolescence of mobile devices and by fashion trends. This, in conjunction with decreasing mobile phone prices and with the marketing strategies of mobile network operators, has led to an exponential increase of mobile phone sales (Lagioia, Paiano, & Gallucci, 2006). For the sake of example, Figure 1 shows the markedly-increasing trend of the Italian mobile communications market. The so-called penetration rate (the number of active lines per 100 inhabitants) is greater than 146, which is the highest in the European Union (EU) (European Commission, 2010). Also, mobile broadband represents a significant option in many countries; the average penetration rate is 19% in the EU, which is equivalent to over 95 million users. Italy has an expansion rate of 16.5% and accounts for 10 million users, of which approximately 6 million connect by phone and just over 4 million (6.8%) by cards, modems and other tools. As a matter of fact, the Italian market exhibited a growing trend in the mobile sector and it was less affected by the slowdown than the rest of the European Union. Currently, there are approximately 95 million active lines in Italy, while there were approximately 63 million users in 2004 and approximately 89 million in 2009 (the reference year in this chapter).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Energy Use: Electricity consumption during the use and charging process of mobile phones is analyzed.

Mobile Phones: Devices that can make and receive calls, by connecting to a mobile network provided by a mobile phone operator. In addition to this, modern mobile phones (smartphones) also support a wide variety of other services such as text messaging, MMS, email, Internet access and short-range wireless communications.

Sustainability: This concept is linked to the sustainable development which aims to use resources efficiently and to minimize the environmental burden in the production and consumption phases.

Resources Consumption: Quantity of natural resources (such as energy, water and chemical substances) used in the production process of mobile phones.

Usage Patterns: They describe the behavioral patterns of mobile phones and their related services by the users.

Experimental Test: Experimental guidelines for the estimation of energy consumption and efficiency of mobile phones, of chargers and of batteries.

End-of-Life Devices: After the useful life the mobile phones become potential waste, which are ready for end-of-life management.

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