Interview: Eaton's Dan Agnew on 5G's power demands

Eaton Industries Pty Ltd

Wednesday, 06 November, 2019

Interview: Eaton's Dan Agnew on 5G's power demands

The imminent spread of 5G small cells and the overall need for energy-efficient, secure, low-maintenance infrastructure is driving changes in the telco sector.

With 5G rollouts underway across the nation and around the world, attention is turning to ways in which telecommunications enterprises can ensure their infrastructure meets efficiency, security and environmental expectations. Suppliers and operators at all levels within the sector have a role to play in this.

To find out more about some of the issues involved, we spoke with the Dan Agnew, Managing Director of Eaton ANZ, a provider of energy-efficient management solutions for electrical, hydraulic and mechanical power systems. Eaton is a global manufacturer with 2018 sales of $21.6 billion. The company has a network of more than 900 resellers and partners in power quality, and over 1000 electrical wholesale branches in power distribution servicing a variety of sectors across ANZ such as telecommunications, data centres, education, transport and industrial.

What sort of tech challenges is 5G presenting?

The customers that we service, such as data centres and telecom central offices, are a critical backbone for 5G networks and require intelligent, highly efficient and low-maintenance infrastructure for successful rollouts to ensure the lowest operational costs.

The demand for faster speed and higher connectivity increases the power demand on customer sites, with significant upgrades required to traditional power supplies to ensure a smooth transition in this new era.

We are investing globally in our DC range to ensure telecom and data operators are able to manage the exponential growth in power consumption. This includes the launch of a DC portfolio which focuses on providing intelligent energy storage, intelligent control and high-power density. Eaton ANZ has taken a lead with specialist engineering capabilities and a wide range of DC services including design, installation, remote monitoring, on-site services and training.

Does Australia present any special challenges?

In terms of regulation, one of the biggest challenges for the rollout of 5G is the time and cost to deploy a small cell. Traditionally, to install a small cell, a telco needs to gain site and equipment approvals; negotiate fees with the city or other landlord; ensure it has sufficient power and back-up; and ensure compliance with local environmental requirements. If every small cell has to go through that process, the cost and scalability of the network is severely compromised.

Geographically, Australia’s vast landscape is at a disadvantage when compared to other countries. 5G coverage requires 100 to 350 micro cell sites per square kilometre throughout metropolitan areas, rather than the every 1 to 5 per square kilometre that is needed for 4G. This network densification through small cells is essential for the successful rollout of 5G and remains a huge challenge in order for Australia to achieve ubiquitous 5G coverage.

How are your customers responding to environmental concerns?

What we are seeing, particularly from data centres, is an interest in software technologies such as electrical power management systems that provide greater visibility into power consumption and can identify and improve wasteful energy practices.

Demand response is also a growing interest area across organisations, and we have been doing a lot in this space globally. With a growing amount of renewable energy being integrated into Australia’s interconnected energy system, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Australian energy providers to balance production and load demand. Globally, large data centre operators are harnessing this opportunity by selling their excess power back to the grid through demand response, which helps energy operators maintain power quality.

What are the next trends coming up?

Underpinning 5G is edge computing technology, which needs to be delivered efficiently and effectively and is top of mind for our partners as 5G networks continue to take shape. But with these opportunities come cybersecurity challenges.

That’s why Eaton is collaborating with global safety science organisation UL to advance cybersecurity for power management technologies across industries; we are the only company in the industry to have two labs approved to participate in UL’s Data Acceptance Program for cybersecurity.

This collaboration is helping establish measurable cybersecurity criteria for network-connected power management products and systems so we can provide cybersecure products that give our customers peace of mind.

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