November/December 2021 | Vol. 26 No.6
As we all look toward 2022, this final 2021 issue of electroindustry peers even further ahead. It explores how our industry will galvanize the connected future over the coming decade.
There’s much attention on 5G, and most of it focuses on its broad-reaching opportunities to enhance industrial processes. We must also consider that the 5G revolution is going to require sweeping changes to our country’s infrastructure. I’m talking about our cities, homes, buildings, industrial sites, data centers, and telecommunications—our street corners and rooftops. The fabric of our built environment will change.
For instance, the 5G speeds of tomorrow will require many more transmission points than previous technologies. No matter where they are placed, whether on a telephone pole, within a building, on a roof, or along transportation routes, 5G transmission points need to be protected and powered.
These transmission points—or nodes—will need to be closer to users and their equipment and require NEMA Building Infrastructure Division products, conduit, electric boxes and enclosures, and surge and overcurrent protection to operate as intended.
True low-latency, high-band 5G connectivity also depends on vastly distributed telecommunications and IT equipment networks—otherwise known as the network edge. But it’s not just telecommunications and IT infrastructure that will transform. The way we use energy also needs to change. After all, when we’re talking about more data, we’re also talking about more electricity.
The arrival of true 5G will dramatically increase energy consumption. One recent report estimates that the total energy consumption for telecommunications networks will see a 10 percent compound annual growth rate until 2030. So, how do we support exponentially more 5G data with exponentially more electricity without creating exponentially more carbon emissions?
One area we should focus on is the network edge. An IDC report estimates seven million edge locations are already operating today—spread across hospitals, factories, and hotels—compared to 39,000 core data centers. That number will only grow.
A microdata center on every street corner is the key to 5G ultra-low latency. But let’s face it: Street corners aren’t ideal IT spaces. It takes extra care and NEMA building infrastructure products to keep them secure and supplied with reliable power and cooling.
Fortunately, it’s now possible to achieve robust monitoring and optimization across IT networks, from the cloud to the edge. Advanced remote monitoring software tracks real- time conditions and sends text alerts when downtime threats arise. And cloud analytics can quickly distill petabytes of data into significant energy efficiency opportunities. With these advances, sustainability at the edge is possible.
And yet, our focus shouldn’t end at the edge of the network; we must also transform the edge of the grid. Data centers will need clean energy microgrids in every neighborhood or home as our lives grow more digital.
The coming years promise major transitions for the electrical and telecommunications industries, and NEMA Members are at the forefront. Our technologies will make it happen and usher in an electrified, digital, resilient, sustainable future for all. Let’s take this on together. ei
Annette Kay Clayton
Chair, NEMA Board of Governors