Networks Europe: Containerised Data Centres For 5G

We explain why containerised data centres for 5G prove the old expression ‘small is beautiful’ in the July-August edition of Networks Europe.

Although most of the major mobile providers are dipping their toes into the world of superfast 5G, we’re probably still a few years away from mass-market penetration.

But that’s not to downplay the tech and social revolution that fifth-generation mobile communications could instigate.

Likely speeds in excess of 10Gb/s mean downloading an HD film will take a matter of seconds. But more importantly, the potential for industry, healthcare, automation, and driverless vehicles – to name just a few – is massive.

All these promised benefits depend on low latency, near-instantaneous processing power. And that’s something our existing cloud and enterprise data centre infrastructure struggles to deliver.

We speak to Networks Europe magazine and outline how containerised micro data centres will be an essential enabler as we head into the 5G era.

Data Centres In A Recycled Shipping Container

With even the most advanced 4G networks there’s 40ms latency. The best supposedly “superfast” broadband can offer is 10-20ms – not good enough for the 5G era.

Untapping the power of 5G means bringing the computer processing closer to the sources of data. This reduces the demand for bandwidth and delivers the necessary super-fast processing.

With the necessary supporting infrastructure at the edge, it’s estimated 5G will offer 1ms latency for mission-critical applications, with 4ms for mobile broadband.

Naturally, it isn’t cost-effective or practical to build hundreds or even thousands of huge data centres next to factories, hospitals, or in town and city centres.

The solution is micro or modular data centres. These prefabricated facilities include all the tech and components of any hyperscale, but in a heavily reduced footprint in a weather and fire-proof steel shipping container.

These space-saving “shrunken” bit barns are suitable for installation in unusual environments, for example unused offices, building car parks, or even on the roof of a factory or hospital.

Containerised data centres are designed, built, and tested offsite, then installed once ready to go live – often within just a couple of months of project kick-off.

Most are classified as temporary structures, so don’t require any UK planning permissions. And they’re easily transportable between different locations. Move them by rail, road, sea, or air without having to break them down and reassemble.