5G at the edge

Editorial Type: Feature Date: 2020-03-01 Views: 1,344 Tags: Networking, 5G, Data Centres, Edge computing, R&M
5G is set to vastly increase the proliferation of edge data centres - but there will be challenges. Dr. Thomas Wellinger, Market Manager Data Centre at R&M explains how to tackle them

Once it is rolled out, the global 5G network should be capable of linking 100 billion devices simultaneously. Realising this potential requires enhanced network connectivity, higher density, more fibre, more cells, and ample data centre capacity in small facilities close to end-users. However, bottlenecks between the edge and end-user can significantly compromise performance, making edge data centres essential for transporting and processing the 5G data load.

The first 5G deployment stage, network densification, moves baseband technology to hubs: so-called baseband unit hotels. This process is augmented in the second deployment stage when embedded baseband technology is deployed at the edge. Owing to inherent wireless bandwidth limitations, this requires high-density FTTX networks close to wireless connection points to connect billions of devices with high, uninterrupted, low-latency symmetrical bandwidth.

Additionally, digital microwave links between base stations will be replaced by antennas integrated into fibre networks and connected to local or regional edge data centres, allowing 5G's data loads to be processed in real time. Depending on location, this will require one and a half to three times as many base stations than are currently available, and two to three times more optical fibre.

Because of the vast scale it is vital that antenna infrastructure is easy to install. Finding appropriate locations and obtaining permission to place antenna on those sites presents a challenge. Power consumption will increase as a result of enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) or Network Densification. Replacing remote radio heads with active antenna units will triple power consumption from 500 W per radio head to 1500W per active antenna.

Edge data centres will need to accommodate more connections than ever. However, space is limited, leaving little room to house racks, patch panels, and other components. Higher density makes it possible to save space, easily scale capacity and adapt to future requirements.

High density fibre solutions generally offer up to 72 LC-duplex ports per rack unit, making management difficult. In densely packed racks, gripping cables and seeing exactly what you're doing is challenging, increasing the risk of damage and faulty connections. Pre-term installation cables and cable systems with push/pull connectivity significantly reduce handling and installation time and will guarantee specified functionality. Make sure higher fibre count cables can be handled and terminated just like regular cables.

Higher density make Moves, Adds and Changes, cable tracking and fault finding difficult. Edge data centres, typically unmanned, will exacerbate the issue. An IoT-enhanced hardware and management software system is required to automatically supervise cabling infrastructure, as well as connected equipment. Monitoring and administration using a common software tool, with the entire infrastructure represented in an up-to-date database, is essential.

Poor cable management introduces inter-symbol interference, damage failure and data transmission errors, performance issues and downtime. This can be reduced by ensuring tray arrangements and cable management respect bend radii. Avoid cramped conduits, observe strain relief, and make sure no cables or bundles rest on each other.

It is important to note that high density infrastructure runs hotter. In the event of a cooling failure, temperatures may rise quickly. Make sure to reserve part of the space saved by introducing higher density components for airflow. HD racks and patch panels are heavier and require 19" racks specified for increased weight. Preconfigured cabinets, pre-fitted with connectivity, power, cable management, cooling, fire suppression and rack monitoring, enable rapid service deployment and offer compelling financial benefits.

5G requires the highest port density with the smallest footprint. By designing infrastructure with flexibility in mind and making smart technology choices, 5G's requirements can be met now and in the future without adding space. NC