5G is the next generation of mobile networks, and is still in the early stages of development, with no formalised standards in place to define or govern its usage. It will yield a substantial increase in data transfer speeds – for example, currently a full HD movie requires a number of minutes to download over 4G, whereas with 5G it is estimated that this could be accomplished in less than 10 seconds. 5G will also reduce response time from around 50 milliseconds on 4G to about 1 millisecond.
Roel Castelein, from the Green Grid, commented on the significance of these changes: “Just as 4G accelerated the shift to mobile by enabling it to become a speedier and more reliable computing device, so 5G will also create the conditions for exciting technological developments. For example, 5G’s speed and low latency could be the key factor in developing autonomous transport networks, by enabling vehicles to communicate with each other constantly and almost instantaneously via the internet of things.
“Envisioning this future, it becomes clear that as the technological possibilities expand, so will the amount of data that is produced, and the need for storage to support that data. What tends to be forgotten in the rush towards this hyper-fast, hyper-convenient 5G-fuelled future is that all of this data, bandwidth, and storage requires certain ICT infrastructure to be in place to support it.”
Data centres already account for five per cent of global CO2 omissions – as much as the aviation industry. Roel believes that without a renewed focus on sustainability, this percentage will increase, along with other polluting elements of ICT infrastructure: “Too often, ICT infrastructure is created without sufficient importance being placed on the sustainability of these energy-guzzling elements. 5G will increase the demands placed on this infrastructure. With the inevitable rush to expand and create new infrastructure to tap into this demand, there’s a serious danger that the damage these can do to the environment is left completely unconsidered. As we’ve found at the Green Grid, there are sustainable ways to design data centres, and to create a more sustainable way for our technology to coexist with our environment.”