The seemingly insatiable demand by users for more data has taken many players in the African telecom and communications sector by surprise. To keep up with demand, new infrastructure is often needed and particularly data centres - the heart and brain of any network. With speed to operations being essential, prefabricated and modular data centres that can be deployed in mere days have become all the rage. Telecoms expert Peter Karaszi explains.
GLOBAL mobile data traffic grew 81 percent in 2013, according to a recent report by Cisco (Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update). Last year's mobile data traffic was nearly 18 times the size of the entire global internet in 2000. Smartphones and tablets are driving this traffic explosion. A typical smartphone generates 48 times more mobile data traffic than a basic-feature cellphone.
Not surprisingly, traffic growth was strongest in Africa and the Middle East, up 107 per cent. Despite high costs for data traffic, consumers on the mother continent are snapping up smartphones and rapidly building an addiction to being online everywhere, all the time. And it is not slowing down anytime soon - global mobile data traffic is expected to increase nearly 11-fold between 2013 and 2018, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 61 percent. Again, Africa is outpacing the rest of the world with an expected annual growth of 70 percent.
To cope with the increasing traffic, telecom infrastructure is key. And that often means investing in new infrastructure, and better infrastructure. There are many ways to improve efficiency in every part of the network, from smarter OSS solutions to ultra-high efficiency antennas.
High quality, efficient data centres are essential. They house and power all the equipment needed for transmission of data and are both the heart and brain of any network.
Data and switching equipment is relatively easy and quick to order. The data centre building itself is trickier. In Africa, it can take over a year to plan, co-ordinate with different suppliers and construct a new data centre facility. There are often delays and budget over-runs. Buildings for data centres are often not purpose built to be used as technical facilities and often have water leaks and other problems.
Mobile operators, hosted data providers, internet service providers and others are increasingly choosing turnkey prefabricated data centres instead of brick and mortar solutions. They are much quicker to deploy, which saves time and money, and will always be the "right" size since their modular structure make them easy to quickly expand in response to changing needs.
A second reason for mobile operators needing a new data centre speedily is when there has been a data centre-related incident of some kind, which needs a very quick fix. Energy efficiency is also becoming more important, especially in Africa where energy supplies are generally unreliable and the cost of power is constantly rising. A modern prefabricated modular data centre uses the most appropriate and efficient cooling solutions available. For example, indirect free aircooling can provide up to 70 percent electricity savings. A smart infrastructure management system can monitor energy efficiency remotely and optimise power usage. In all, this leads to significant reductions in energy consumption and cost.
The author is a communications expert in intelligent telecom solutions based in Cape Town, South Africa. He has over 30 years of experience in the telecom and IT industry, including at C-level positions and boards of global technology corporations. He has written six books and numerous articles.