Subscriber adoption of the fifth generation of wireless communications (5G) has increased significantly, as global wireless 5G connections for the second quarter of 2021 reached 429 million, according to data from Omdia cited by 5G Americas, a wireless industry trade association.
“5G is progressing at a very rapid pace,” said Chris Pearson, president of 5G Americas. “Yet, the pace of subscriber uptake is only the beginning. 5G will be foundational for a new era of technology innovation throughout the world.”
According to Omdia, a statement from 5G Americas reads, the world added 124 million 5G connections between the first and second quarters of 2021, increasing 41 percent from 305 million to 429 million. 5G remains on pace to triple the number of connections in 2020 and is forecast to reach 692 million globally by the end of the calendar year.
Additionally, 10 5G commercial networks went live globally in the second quarter of 2021, bringing the global total up to 182 networks, according to data from TeleGeography. That number is expected to reach 220 by the end of 2021 and 323 by the end of 2023, 5G Americas said.
According to 5G Americas, projections for 5G and 4G LTE from Omdia remain healthy, with estimates of global 5G connections reaching 4.7 billion in 2026. Of that, 512 million is expected to come from North America and 277 million in Latin America and the Caribbean.
By region, Omdia data indicates North America had a total of 44.6 million 5G connections by the end of Q2 2021, which is an addition of 17.9 million 5G connections and 67 percent quarter over quarter growth, 5G Americas said. Additionally, the continent had 501 million LTE connections by the end of second quarter of 2021, which 5G Americas said marks a 0.66 percent quarterly decline in LTE.
“In its first year of commercial availability in Latin America and the Caribbean, 5G connections reached 15,706, which includes 11,655 new additions in the past year,” the 5G Americas statement reads. “LTE remains the dominant wireless cellular technology in the sub-region with 454.8 million connections, an addition of 71 million new LTE subscriptions year over year, representing 18.4 percent annual growth.”
According to Jose Otero, vice president of Caribbean and Latin America for 5G Americas, the ongoing geographic expansion of enhanced mobile broadband networks together with the wider availability of handsets supporting this technology is driving 4G adoption in markets such as Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico.
“However,” Otero said, “at the other end of the spectrum, 2G and 3G continue to lose subscribers as operators start planning their disconnection and prepare for the impending mass-market demand of 5G services, expected to start in 2024.”
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers recommends air temperatures in IT environments range from 64.4 to 80.6 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 27 degrees Celsius). Those numbers have crept up over the years, with data center employees and service technicians increasingly eschewing jackets for short sleeves and CIOs welcoming the effect on their electric bills.
Still, the safe operating temperatures for IT equipment are a far cry from what’s common in many telecommunications deployments. Traditional telecom equipment must function in environments prone to extremes, with temperatures in excess of 100°F or far below freezing not uncommon. Telco equipment is built to withstand temperatures up to 131°F (55°C) or higher.
Telecom environments also lack the intense heat-generating servers at the heart of the data center, so cooling is focused more on protection from outside heat sources than on rejecting heat from the equipment. Shelters and enclosures are the tools of the trade, not the precision cooling systems used in the data center. With the advent of 5G wireless communications, however, telcos’ thermal profile is changing, and the toolbox is expanding.
Global mobile data traffic is expected to increase fourfold by 2025, with network energy consumption trending up by 150 to 170 percent, all due to the widespread implementation of 5G. 451 Research calls 5G “the most impactful and difficult network upgrade ever faced by the telecom industry,” with good reason. 5G isn’t the latest refinement of the traditional cellular network; it’s something new entirely.
5G applications require low-latency computing, which means IT systems are being introduced into the telecom space to be closer to the consumer. Suddenly, the sensitive electronics in those IT servers, designed to operate at no more than 80.6°F, are being deployed en masse to new and existing sites across the telecom network. That includes exchange sites at the core and traditional access spaces and cell sites, where thermal management was often an afterthought.
The transformation of those exchange sites from what used to be called central offices to what now can be characterized more accurately as edge data centers is well underway. The effect on the thermal profile is profound. These facilities now house racks of servers and associated IT equipment, all of it producing hot air that must be managed. But even that oversimplifies the emerging architectures in these exchange sites. In most cases, the equipment footprint is shrinking – those racks typically take up less space than all the switching equipment housed in an old central office – and the unused space factors into the cooling strategy almost as much as the used.
In many cases, exchange sites have enough cooling capacity in terms of BTUs in their basic HVAC systems, but that cool air is being blown into a large, mostly empty space and not reaching the IT equipment it needs to cool. Operators could blow more, colder air at the problem, but that’s massively inefficient and, when repeated across hundreds or even thousands of sites in a network, it makes energy costs (and carbon emissions) unsustainable.
Instead, data center cooling solutions are making their way into exchange sites. These can be in-row cooling solutions, rear-door cooling systems or fully integrated systems that can use contained hot or cold aisles to maximize cooling efficiency. Integrated systems are a popular choice, enabling not just efficient cooling, but effective use of space and easy, modular capacity increases. They provide other benefits as well, such as integrated fire suppression.
Because these facilities are larger than currently needed for these IT systems, rack densities typically are relatively low. For that reason, the high-density cooling solutions becoming more prevalent in the data center – including liquid cooling, which is designed for racks at 15 kilowatts and above – are not yet a significant factor in today’s exchange sites. As network computing demands increase and as more equipment is packed into these spaces, that design is most likely to change. Already, expectations for cooling efficiency are moving past industry norms of 95 to 96 percent and into the 97 to 98 percent range, and nothing is more efficient than liquid cooling.
5G is pushing IT equipment into the access space as well, although these sites typically rely on a single server to handle the necessary computing. That puts a premium on small enclosures and cabinets that typically have built-in cooling capabilities. In mild environments, with clean outside air, those cabinets may use that outside air for cooling. Elsewhere, the cabinets and cooling systems must be more robust, producing cool, dry, clean air for the server intake.
As 5G applications become more common and more sophisticated, the criticality of these micro-edge computing sites will increase. Thermal management will become increasingly important to ensuring the availability of these sites, as will remote management of those cooling systems. With 5G driving an inevitable spike in energy consumption, operators will seek out efficiency and cost savings wherever possible. Advanced thermal controls that turn cooling on or off depending on inlet temperatures offer significant savings opportunities when scaled up for the thousands of access sites in a typical network.
5G requires an influx of computing equipment across the network – equipment that both produces heat and that is far more sensitive to heat than traditional telecom gear. Operators are responding with new approaches to thermal management at their sites, including data center-like cooling strategies in their exchange sites and more sophisticated cooling systems and management in the access space.
The urgency here is twofold. First, a failure to adequately cool these systems will result in network outages, and second, failure to do it efficiently will add to already skyrocketing electric bills.
David Michlovic is America’s Offering director at Vertiv and has been with the organization more than 15 years. In this role, he supports Vertiv’s telecommunications business and its DC power portfolio. At Vertiv, formerly Emerson Network Power, Michlovic has filled several roles with increasing responsibilities in product design and engineering, followed by product management ownership for a variety of product lines. His responsibilities cover the DC power and outside plant portfolio for Vertiv Americas. Michlovic received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Ohio University and an MBA from Baldwin Wallace University.
Spirent Communications said that it has released a midyear addendum to its annual “5G Report,” based on analysis and takeaways from more than 1,400 global 5G engagements, including more than 400 new engagements during the first half of 2021.
A British multinational telecommunications testing company, Spirent Communications stated that milestones at the 2021 halfway mark show that 5G trends continue to accelerate, with 5G SA Core evaluation, testing and launch activities growing significantly across all geographic regions. “In particular, there is considerable demand for managed solutions and XaaS (anything as a service) offerings, with automation technology providing a proven, practical approach to cumbersome testing in complex, multivendor environments,” a statement from the company reads.
Spirent’s head of market strategy, Steve Douglas, said that at the halfway point in 2021, the dominant 5G trends that were present at the start of the year continue to gather pace, with the need for agility and responsiveness enduring. ”It’s clear that the global 5G movement is back on,” he said.
The mid-year addendum to the 5G report draws on the company’s work with service providers, network equipment manufacturers, governments and device makers worldwide, Spirent said. It said the addendum provides an update to the developments along the journey to global 5G.
The addendum spelled out several key findings.
eographic trends said that the regions of North America, Europe and Asia are aggressively pursuing 5G standalone (SA) core testing and deployments. “North America is driving the demand for customer experience and service assurance solutions,” Spirent said. “Asia Pacific continues its focus on and investment in transport infrastructure, toward the goal of supporting industrial use cases. Europe is starting to accelerate activities after COVID and high-risk vendor delays.”
5G standalone said that new services and differentiation underpin its growth. “5G SA core evaluation, testing and launch continue to grow significantly across all geographic regions,” Spirent said. “Large service providers are looking to use multiple vendors while smaller telcos look for one key partner. Key challenges include supporting high release volumes and managing multi-vendor performance.”
Additonally, with the 5G telco edge cloud, Spirent found that partnerships, early trials and deployments between hyperscalers and service providers are expanding. “Providers are still working to benchmark edge performance and integrate assurance for consistent, deterministic latency,” Spirent said. “Latency looks set to become a key battle ground for the hearts and minds of industry and enterprises.”
pen radio access networks (RANs). “There are 45 ongoing open RAN trials and early deployments across 27 countries,” Spirent said, citing TeckNexus. “Leading 5G service providers are targeting larger scale open RAN non-dense urban rollouts during 2022. Early deployments will focus on rural, indoor, and private coverage. Interoperability, performance, robustness, and system integrator overheads require that service providers continue to test and validate every deployment phase.”
6G vision Spirent said that the industry is beginning to coalesce around some key themes, including THz frequencies, use of intelligent reconfigurable surfaces and metamaterials, open networking and network of networks, which it said include terrestrial cellular, NTN, subsea and Wi-Fi convergence.
Source: Spirent Communications
Swedish kit vendor Ericsson has always been a bit more realistic about this whole China thing than the rest of the free world. I have read various stories where their CEO, Börje Ekholm, has been vocal in suggesting a more realistic approach to dealing with China’s issues.
Sweden’s bureaucrats have the same lack of understanding of the technology ecosystem as do most free-world governments. Ericsson, unlike most other western companies, has taken the position that this blanket decoupling from China is not good for the high-tech segment – thank you, Mr. Ekholm, for having a cool head on your shoulders.
In his communiqués, Echolm makes some statements that contain realistic scenarios and challenges, if the free world continues on its path to completely decouple from China’s technological sector.
He has vowed to fight for Chinese presence, despite the Swedish government’s positions. He stated, in an interview with Reuters, that, “We have been in China for 120 years, and I don’t intend to give up easily. We are going to show that we can add value to China.” If the situation stays status quo there, they will see a significant reduction in business, including stock value, which has taken a bit of hit.
He also noted, and I have discussed this as the most significant failing of 5G if it emerges, that fragmentation of the global 5G ecosystem will only create a competitive environment that will not bode well for either side. Unlike 20 years ago, the China of today is at the top of the technology game, with some of the most advanced technology and brightest minds anywhere. China also has enormous resources. All of this makes it a formidable competitor.
Neither Ekholm nor I am alone in this perspective. There have been opinions from organizations such as New Street Research, EJL Wireless Research and some others that have voiced similar sentiments.
On this side of the globe, most U.S. companies are looking through rose-colored glasses, if they believe America can skip happily off into the 5G sunset as a fragmented global ecosystem, unabated and scoffing, at least publicly, at the loss of China technology and business.
The fact is that America losing China’s advanced technology will significantly impact America’s development of 5G networks and much of what 5G promises to enable, especially if the world fragments the 5G and beyond 5G (B5G) standards. Even with a pedal-to-the-metal mentality by our government with funding and legislation, this government is a sluggish behemoth that takes a long time to implement such programs. At present, none of the players have the capability to produce products or technology at a rate that can keep up with China.
The current western world geopolitical approach to dealing with China, especially their wireless companies such as Huawei and ZTE, is not coming from any kind of intelligent, informed understanding of high technology.
I just attended the Big5G event in Denver and had several discussions with my session speakers in this space. A talking point with nearly everyone was that they wished the U.S. government would listen to the technologist, rather than let the China hawks run amok. While they certainly agree there have been problems with Chinese products, they again, overwhelmingly, wished the U.S. would work with the tech segment to find ways that will protect our security while not unilaterally drawing a Chinese curtain.
We have been living with a technology-fragmented 4G platform (CDMA vs. GSM – a TDMA technology ) for the last 10 years, and it has its challenges. The fact that the world had to develop dual-mode phones to do what a single standard can accomplish is not the way it should happen in 5G. When all is said and done, a fragmented 5G+ ecosystem, with China and friends on one side and the United States and friends on the other, will create a sub-par 5G and B5G ecosystem. We cannot kludge the next wireless ecosystem – it is just too complex and has too many components that will be difficult to zipper together.
Is there a solution? Absolutely! While there have been issues between the United States and China that go way back to the Obama administration, back then the dealings were made with cooler heads than those of the last administration. This administration needs to step back and find a realistic way to reestablish communication with China, and particularly Huawei, ZTE and others involved in the development of 5G and related (AI, satellite, etc.). Failure to do so will make a global mess out of 5G.
Ernest Worthman is an executive editor with AGL Media Group.