Starting a Series of blog posts on Wireless and edge/micro data centers, Part 1

In 2010 I wrote about containers being put at Cell Tower sites. Over the past couple of years there has been lots of excitement about edge/micro data centers.

one interesting pain point for why cell site IT infrastructure needs to be improved is the sites have a PUE of 2.0.

Cooling and the costs associated with facilitating and managing cooling equipment, according to studies from analysts and telcos worldwide, account for more than half of telcos' total expenses for operating their wireless networks. Global warming (which, from the perspective of meteorological instrumentation, is indisputable) is a direct contributor to compound annual increases in wireless network costs. Ironically, as this 2017 study by China's National Science Foundation asserts, the act of cooling 4G LTE equipment alone may contribute as much as 2 percent to the entire global warming problem.




China Mobile's breakdown of its annual capital and operational expenditures for maintaining one 3G base station. 

(Image: China Mobile)

To fund 5G deployments is a strategy to dramatically reduce the cost of cell site infrastructure.

Moving BBU processing to the cloud eliminates an entire base transmission system (BTS) equipment room from the base station (BS). It also completely abolishes the principal source of heat generation inside the BS, making it feasible for much, if not all, of the remaining equipment to be cooled passively — literally, by exposure to the open air. The configuration of that equipment could then be optimized, like the 5G trial transmitter shown above, constructed by Ericsson for Japan’s NTT DOCOMO. The goal for this optimization is to reduce a single site’s power consumption by over 75 percent.

What’s more, it takes less money to rent the site for a smaller base station than for a large one. Granted, China may have a unique concept of the real estate market compared to other countries. Nevertheless, China Mobile’s figures show that rental fees with C-RAN were reduced by over 71 percent, contributing to a total operational expenditure (OpEx) reduction for the entire base station site of 53 percent.

With the power consumption problem of cell sites and the drive to change the cell site hardware infrastructure to be cloud based supporting a range of 40km, how many edge data centers are needed for a given area?

Having fewer cloud cell sites supporting multiple towers looks like the direction. When I wrote about containers at cell sites in 2010 I also imagined a container supporting multiple cell towers.

Some people get excited about low latency being on the edge. Urs Hoelzle at one of the last Structure events made the observation that people are over estimating the business value of latency. Will users pay for sub 5 ms latency or is 10 ms fine. Light travels 300,000 meters (186 miles) in 1 millisecond.