By Craig Doyle, Director, Sales, CommScope
The closer you are to the base station antenna, the stronger the wireless signal and the higher the peak data rate you get on your smartphone. This is the basic idea behind cell densification and small cells. Smaller cells deliver more bandwidth.
More cells means higher costs, forboth equipment and operations. Enter C-RAN. A cloud-RAN architecture separates the wireless Remote Radio Head (RRH) from the BBU (Baseband Unit). The RRH is located at the cell site and the BBU is located closer to the core network, and the two are linked by fiber (i.e. fronthaul). This can eliminate the shelter, power and cooling needs that are required for a typical base station. An edge site known as a BBU hotel serves multiple cell sites, which result in OPEX savings. Having collocated BBUs with minimal latency between cells also enables inter-cell interference coordination techniques such as Coordinated Multi-Point (CoMP), which are features in LTE-Advanced. This in turn delivers more bandwidth and a better experience for subscribers at cell boundaries. Northbound, the BBU hotel connects to the wireless packet core.
What does a BBU hotel look like? Like a data center: power, cooling, and racks of switches, routers, servers, storage, and of course BBUs. Today, these are separate boxes; but as virtualization accelerates, BBUs, Wi-Fi controllers and other network functions will become purely software running over virtualized server hardware. Hence, today’s BBU hotel will evolve into a full-fledged wireless edge data center.
Key characteristics of the wireless edge data center are modularity and flexibility. The mix of services to support is changing rapidly as DAS units, BBUs, small cells and Wi-Fi hotspot deployment are all evolving (with 5G on the radar). The ability to quickly add new capacity or redeploy existing capacity is essential.
Pre-fabricated or modular data centers, sometimes called “data center in a box,” may be an elegant solution to the challenges of edge buildouts. As a self-contained solution, they can be deployed in a much shorter timeframe than traditional brick and mortar facilities and can be deployed nearly anywhere. Any existing real estate with access to power and communications could be transformed into an edge data center. Modular solutions can also be deployed alongside existing central offices to leverage existing real estate and communications lines. Because of their flexible size, modular data centers can be deployed in a wide variety of applications to suit the client’s unique requirements. Modular data centers can also designed to be very efficient on power usage, with certain designs leveraging adiabatic or free-air cooling as opposed to direct exchange cooling used in many traditional designs.
CommScope’s Data Center on Demand™ offer was designed with this mind – quick deployment, easily scalable, and customized to fit the environment and the applications.