When people connect their smartphones and other gadgets to mobile networks, they may see tiny 3G or 4G icons on the displays but lack an understanding of those networks. The G stands for “generation,” so 4G means “fourth generation.” Each new generation of wireless network promises to be more secure and reliable than the last. The first network capable of multimedia data transfers was 3G. Then, when 4G arrived, it was faster than most in-home Internet connections. Keep in mind that all new mobile-network generations must meet certain requirements to be considered a true representation of the latest standard.
What Is 5G?
5G is the newest mobile network and is scheduled to officially roll out in 2020. One characteristic that makes it different from 4G or 3G is that it will use different radio frequencies than the older networks and therefore will require different antennae. The 5G antennae will be shorter than those of 4G and will accommodate more devices per meter. The new frequencies will likely be extremely high and could be near other frequencies without experiencing interference. Moreover, 5G transmitters are extremely directional, unlike 4G transmitters that waste energy by sending energy over a broader range of directions.
People familiar with the new network’s capabilities say 5G will be better able to sense individual device needs compared with 4G. It could then switch to a low-power mode for less intensive tasks or to a high-power mode for activities such as video streaming. The 5G network should be substantially faster than 3G or 4G, letting users handle data-intensive tasks such as downloading full-length movies in seconds. The network’s greater bandwidth will cater to more users, too.
In addition, latency—a measure of the time it takes data packets to travel between two points—will be so short that it’s nearly undetectable. The 5G network could be instrumental in developing data-dependent technologies that must handle data without delays, including self-driving cars. More broadly, how will 5G affect current and future data centers?
Data Centers Could Appear in Greater Numbers
The 5G network will support up to 1,000 times higher data volumes than older networks. Its wider-spread availability could make people more eager to use the Internet than ever. Furthermore, 5G could bring better Internet coverage to rural areas.
Accommodating the people who want to use 5G may mean the massive data centers that are so common today will become less prominent. Specifically, they’ll be replaced by more-local data centers that are close to the mobile-network towers. The data centers necessary for processing edge data, however, won’t be able to keep up with the demands of 5G. So although construction of mega data centers may slow, the edge data centers will likely become more substantial owing to the demand that comes with 5G.
There’s also a possibility that edge computing and micro data centers could substantially reduce the cost of smartphones that work with the 5G network because people may not need gadgets with such intensive processing power and the expensive requisite components. AT&T, for example, plans to build edge-computing data centers and believes doing so could reduce dependence on ultra-pricey phones.
The 5G Network Will Create More Data
There’s also a widespread belief that the 5G network will generate more data than earlier network generations. That change is primarily because 5G will handle amounts and types of data that weren’t as feasible for less advanced networks. For example, Internet-connected devices with sensors are compatible with 5G’s capabilities, and 5G’s availability could increase overall adoption.
A Gartner report found that 57 percent of the people who responded to a survey about businesses planning to use 5G said their organization’s primary aim was to enhance communication between Internet of Things (IoT) devices. That same survey found that respondents were willing to pay more for 5G connectivity. Plus, most expected widespread 5G availability by 2020. But such availability may have to wait a couple of years after that.
Even so, use of IoT devices is rising. The fast speeds and low latency offered by 5G may make people more interested in trying IoT technologies. Beyond IoT gadgets, 5G networks will increase the mainstream appeal of other technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Although VR and AR applications exist now, the improved capabilities of the 5G network will allow people to more easily experiment with those technologies and use them for new applications. When that happens, the overall amount of data will go up, affecting data centers.
Data Centers Will Prize Scalability and Depend on New Technology to Achieve It
Intel has been discussing potential real-life cases concerning how 5G will affect data centers. It wants to focus on interoperability in future data centers to help operators avoid vendor lock-in. It would be possible with an Intel chipset that’s compatible with numerous vendors and supports data centers’ need to scale as demand fluctuates.
On the software side, 5G will probably lead to more data centers using software-defined power (SDP). In short, SDP divides the application load across data centers to optimize performance and reduce the possibility of outages. The shifting of power allocations as needs change happens autonomously and continuously. SDP could also let data centers operate with more efficiency by ensuring that power usage is at its lowest during times of peak demand. Then, those establishments could receive rewards from utility companies that offer perks for cutting usage in those time frames.
Additionally, SDP makes data centers adaptable, which is crucial. Ken Hu, one of Huawei’s three rotating CEOs, predicted during a recent keynote speech that all applications would operate in the cloud. If he’s right, there will be a push toward even more app development and deployment in the cloud, and the 5G network would facilitate such activities. Therefore, data centers must prepare to ramp.
Some New Needs Are Not Yet Apparent
The world’s biggest communications brands are at work getting ready to launch services on the 5G network. Since 5G is a new technology, it’s impossible to know all of its implications now. As telecommunications companies start offering trial 5G service to customers, some other impacts of 5G on data centers will probably become evident. Outside of those impacts, the ones listed here are some of the most likely possibilities that will affect the data center industry.
About the Author
Kayla Matthews is a technology writer and reporter, contributing to websites like VentureBeat, Vice, MakeUseOf and TechnoBuffalo. Visit ProductivityBytes.com to read more recent posts by Kayla.