Many are touting 2019 as the year of 5G – the hype has been building and some of the technologies were on display during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2019 last month. Here’s a look at what it all means for IT infrastructure and data centers.

What 5G Means for IT Infrastructure and Data Centers

There are many efforts that are ongoing to deploy 5G wireless infrastructure in support of voice and data as well as not so obvious efforts including radio frequency (RF) spectrum reallocation and auctions, new and existing use cases, and edge computing (aka Mobile Edge Computing – MEC). The key linchpins include latency (less than a few milliseconds) and bandwidth both of which require a wireless infrastructure and compute power for almost instantaneous decision loops with built-in redundancies or failovers.

The 5G evolution is not only a US one but a global push to keep pace our insatiable appetite for data in support of consumers and businesses alike. Regarding data rates and bandwidth, infrastructure companies have tested downloads speed for 3G as 384 kbps (kilo-bits/second), 4G 100 Mbps, and 5G 10 Gbps or a 1000x increase over 4G – there’s no doubt that 5G in the enterprise tops many lists and data is the ‘new’ oil.

The old adage, follow the money, has never been made truer with investments in both infrastructure and IT. According to Gartner, projections for 2019 are expected to reach $3.8 Trillion globally for IT. With a 3.2 percent increase over the previous year, the top three segments include enterprise software, IT services and data center systems.

Radio Frequency (RF) Spectrum

Wireless infrastructure depends upon available RF spectrum which must be licensed and, in some cases, shared with public safety, first responders and the U.S. military. In the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is responsible for licensure as well as private and commercial use. For fair market competition, the FCC must auction various ranges of RF spectrum. Over the past few years, the FCC has auctioned off various spectrum bands in support of 5G with the next auction for 24 Giga Hertz (GHz) being scheduled for March 2019 and on the horizon is 60 GHz.

The ongoing China trade war has had an impact on 5G with some speculating that China may win the race because of their aggressive tactics despite the recent Huawei incident. Staying clear of the politics, it is important to follow the standards bodies and development of 5G-related technical standards and their respective release timelines – including the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP)5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership (5G PPP), and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). The ITU typically regards 5G as IMT-2020 with support for the following use cases:

  • Enhanced mobile broadband
  • Ultra-reliable and low latency communications
  • Massive machine-type communications
  • Fixed wireless access

While the markets focus on 5G, another contender, IEEE 802.11ax-2019 (MU-MIMO or Wi-Mesh), is quickly closing in and promising to overtake 5G.

5G Use Cases

There are now many market drivers and reports projecting new tech advances and yet more data production than in previous history. 5G isn’t as much as about networks as it is about the need to much improved security and redundancy.

A recent report from IHS Markit top trends for 2019 includes the following:

  • Video everywhere
  • Edge
  • AI
  • 5G
  • Blockchain
  • Virtual assistants and HMI
  • AI in China
  • Next-generation cloud gaming
  • IoT apps
  • IIoT

Regarding Edge, IHS identifies adequate bandwidth as a limiting factor for effective deployment which includes video content delivery as a top application and a need for reducing upstream traffic.

Building on this list is IoT, IIoT, AR, VR, automated transport, smart cities, 4thIndustrial Revolution (Industry 4.0; cyber-physical), public safety, telemedicine, UAVs, smart home/building, sensors, unified connectivity (C-V2X), 3D mapping and precision location and more.

5G is Game On

The global push is on and some say that China may win the game due to its aggressiveness. There are conflicting views as to whether or not the data center should be at the edge (decentralized) or not (centralized). The best approach is to adopt and interface/interconnect with 5G architectures with service-oriented cores in a localized distribution – 5G network slicing. Data centers should already be preparing for improving content-based tasking, dynamic load sharing, database synchronization, cache optimization, and contingency operations (backup/restore). Additionally, this should include expanding power budgets, racks, PDUs, cooling capacities, space, compute power and storage allocation.