In his keynote speech at Mobile World Congress this week, China Mobile's boss Wang Jianzhou gave an interesting insight into the challenges of operating a network in mainland China (and occupied Tibet).

He started off with a few statistics and 'interesting facts', for example his company now provides mobile phone coverage over Mount Everest, via what's probably the highest base station in the world, located 6500 metres up.

However, most of what he talked about seemed designed to show how seriously China Mobile - and by implication, the Chinese government - is taking green issues.

For example, the company is thinking a lot about power. Jianzhou claimed that its base stations are responsible for 73 percent of its electricity usage, and that it has plans to reduce is consumption by 30 percent.

That could save 5.2 million tons of CO2, although in a country that's short on generating capacity, the company's carbon footprint is clearly not its only motivator. As Jianzhou said, while corporate social responsibility might bring short-term costs, in the long term using less energy saves money.

The power reduction will come in a number of areas, he added, including the use of solar and wind energy for base stations in remote areas. He said there's also a proposal for network operators to band together to demand and buy energy-conserving comms equipment.

The company is also promoting simpler packaging and reusable (or less wasteful) packing materials, and believes it could save 57,000 cubic metres of wood a year.

To give an idea of the scale of the problem that's emerging as China industrialises, Jianzhou mentioned China Mobile's programme for collecting and recycling waste cellphone batteries. He said that in 2006, it collected 60,000, while in 2007 the number was three million.