The 5G transition has taken center stage in the data center world this year. It will bring faster and denser data streams and drive demand for more data center capacity. However, the forecast for timing and breadth of adoption is clouded by hype and marketing.
Realistically, 5G will begin to generate noticeable business for data centers by late 2019. Service providers and hyperscale operators will begin to deploy next-generation networking equipment in preparation for 5G services in 2020 and beyond.
“I think 5G will be a big enabler for data centers,” said Sami Badri, a securities analyst at Credit Suisse. “Interconnection players will benefit from 5G. We’re in the very first inning of this transition,” Badri said at the CAPRE 2019 Data Center Forecast earlier this year.
“A useful leading indicator of 5G adoption is the progress of network equipment vendors,” said Badri, who highlighted Arista Networks as a bellwether for 400 Gbps switches that will dramatically boost network capacity. “Engineering foreshadows demand,” he said.
Why 5G Wireless Matters
5G wireless is the next-generation mobile protocol. New data-intensive services (think autonomous vehicles) which are weak because of current wireless connectivity will improve. Additionally, if 5G succeeds, it will be easier to move data between locations. This is a trend that has always been good for the data center business. Here are three key attributes to 5G technology:
1) High-bandwidth mobile broadband of 100 Mbps or better
2) Support for massive machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. And, density projected to be up to 100,000 connections per square kilometer.
3) Ultra low-latency communications, enabling sub-10 millisecond latency for mission-critical apps. 5G will be deployed over a number of years and spread as new equipment is finalized. It will require new transmission infrastructure, including thousands of cell towers and tens of thousands of antenna. These antenna, known as small cells and DAS (distributed antenna systems) will be deployed on utility poles and other urban infrastructure. Finally, 5G will also need a lot of fiber.
The 5G transition will bring many benefits and many challenges, according to Kelvin Cheung, Principal Global Solutions Architect at Equinix. “Faster, lower-latency 5G network infrastructures will be a huge boost to IoT, AI, online gaming,virtual/augmented reality, and smart cities,” Cheung writes on the Interconnections blog. “But before any of this can see the light of day, many regulatory, spectrum licensing, security and infrastructure retrofitting issues that currently exist must be resolved on a country-by-country basis.”
5G Wireless Deployment
The South Korean deployment of 5G is the first step towards a new paradigm in wireless communications, according to Cisco Systems. “By 2022, we believe 5G’s initial impact will be measurable and significant,” Cisco concludes in its latest Mobile Visual Networking Index. It projects that the average smartphone will generate 11 Gb of mobile traffic per month in 2022, compared to 2 GB per month in 2017. This will bring us to the verge of what Cisco calls the “mobile zettabyte era.”
“While these projections are impressive, the full value and transformational capabilities of 5G cannot simply be measured by performance improvements over 4G (higher bandwidth, broader coverage, and lower latency),” writes Thomas Barnett Jr., Cisco’s Director of Service Provider Thought Leadership. “5G will also deliver enhanced power efficiency, cost optimization, massive IoT connection density and dynamic allocation of resources based on awareness of content, user, and location. 5G will be able to concurrently support both low-end IoT applications (such as sensors and meters) as well as high-end IoT applications (such as autonomous driving cars and tactile Internet experiences).”
Data centers will be key components of the digital infrastructure needed to support this tremendous growth.