24 Nov 2020

The Putty Blog - 5G is coming of age...

2020 has seen our personal and professional lives change beyond all recognition and our dependency on digital technologies has never been greater.

Seamless connectivity with negligible jitter, latency, congestion and capacity issues on the telecoms and broadband networks is fundamental right now because for many it’s their only means of keeping in contact with the outside world. But with platforms like Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams, combined with automated speech recognition services (ASR) like Siri and Alexa churning out data like never before, communications networks must not only be resilient from a Quality of Service perspective, storage of all machine and human data generated as a result must also be taken into account.

An obvious solution to these bandwidth and capacity issues is 5G. There has been a great deal of hype, speculation and even detraction around its capability. However, now that it’s being rolled out in earnest, there is much excitement about the true capabilities of this next-generation mobile network and the technological innovations that will unfold as a result.

Not only is 5G poised to take commercial telecoms services to a whole new level with superfast uplink and downlink speeds, it’s going to be the start of a new era for all wireless enabled services. This next-generation network is also going to shake up the telco ecosystem in its entirety, effecting data centres in particular because of the colossal amounts of data that will need to be compressed and stored as a result.

The difference between 5G and its predecessors

To fully understand the true impact this new network is going to have, you need to understand the key difference between the fifth generation (5G) mobile network and its predecessors. Until now, all mobile networks have been designed to meet the needs of people. 5G on the other hand, has been designed with machines in mind, offering low-latency and high efficiency data transfer speeds. And it’s is not just limited to mobile; 5G promises to be the underpinning technology behind smart cities, smart transport, autonomous vehicles, remote surgery and all other AI-driven services and applications.

5G is also transmitted differently, using mWAVE technology, and much of the associated global marketing has been centred around this because it enables m2m communications. 5G mWAVE operates in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz spectra and is able to deliver extremely high data rates to end users, using extremely sophisticated network equipment. Indeed, there is the potential for 5G to reach 10 gigabits per second, up to 100 times faster than 4G. In reality this may be of little consequence to regular telecoms services, but this high performance will permit machines to achieve near-seamless communication.

Why does 5G matter?

With delays in its rollout and the latest handsets not being used to their full potential, why is there so much hype? It boils down to faster access and greater bandwidth at both end-user and network levels. It is also predicted to become the next-generation mobile protocol and will be the underpinning technology for all things IoT. 5G wireless networks will enable superfast transmission of complex information captured by embedded sensors and Edge devices typically deployed in smart applications.

5G up to 100 times faster than 4G

Central to this will be the much lower latency rates 5G pledges to deliver. The latency rate for existing 4G networks is 200 milliseconds, not far off the 250 milliseconds it takes for humans to react to visual stimuli. The 5G latency rate is significantly lower at just 1 millisecond.

Subsequent to this real time data processing capability, 5G is poised to accelerate AI and machine learning technologies.

Next generation networks need next generation storage

Data centres geared up for 4G will already have the capacity to handle 5G data. They will, however, need to modify their network infrastructure to accommodate the 5G frequency bands, which have shorter propagation rates than their 4G counterparts. For end users to see the true benefits of this superfast network, their respective devices will need to be really close to the signal source. The same holds true for the embedded technologies needed for automation and IoT, and a lot of things can get in the way. Supplementary small cell like infrastructure, such as inbound and outbound antenna, will be needed in densely populated areas (where 5G is being rolled out initially) and this will require accompanying storage capabilities. What this means for conventional data centres is seamless integration with a new wave of micro data centres and the ability to efficiently packet up and store this increased volume of data without compromising security or the fidelity of that data.

Data centres must redefine themselves to survive

There is a finite size data centres can be scaled to, and to meet the anticipated storage demands, they must be able to store more data per server using less power overall. They must also maintain 99.9% uptime, higher for mission critical applications.

Kao Data is one such facility that ticks all the boxes. It has been purpose built for high performance computing and AI and was the first Open Compute Project (OCP) certified data centre to operate in Europe. I'm enjoying helping the team here ensure our connectivity options are first class and as many end-users - local, national and international, can access what is a tremendous data centre asset.

Mark Putt

Mark Putt is Kao Data's Senior Carrier and Connectivity Consultant. From being a mainframe software and hardware engineer, to specialising in large-scale digital transformation projects, Mark has spent more than 30 years working within telecoms and network connectivity.


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