The power of choice: power solutions for future networks

As power needs grow and change, Vertiv talks us through the opportunities to excel through innovation

Read this article to learn:

  • Who Vertiv are and what solutions they offer
  • How European power needs are unique
  • Potential drivers for renewable power solutions in Europe
  • The critical infrastructure needed to support a de-centralised network

With over 30 years of experience, Vertiv isn’t just looking at its past achievements, but is focussing on driving the innovative solutions which will power extensive 5G rollout and densification in European communications infrastructure. In this interview, we ask Eric LeCalvez, Vice President, Strategic Accounts, Telecoms, EMEA, Vertiv, more about the company’s experiences in powering urban sites, and find out how he sees power needs and expectations changing in the future.

TowerXchange: Please introduce Vertiv, your background and how the company was formed

Eric LeCalvez, Vice President, Strategic Accounts, Telecoms, EMEA, Vertiv:

Vertiv leads the design, build and servicing of critical infrastructure. Our technology enables vital applications for data centres, communication networks and commercial and industrial facilities. We support today’s growing mobile and cloud computing markets with a portfolio of power, thermal and infrastructure management solutions.

As a business, we have a long heritage within the industry. Formerly Emerson Network Power, we have operated for decades, building our knowledge base and expanding our global footprint to become one of the leading providers of critical infrastructure solutions. Vertiv is a nimble and agile organisation that can take on business challenges with the spirit of a start-up, but with the experience of a legacy brand.

Within Vertiv, we have four separate flagship brands. These are Chloride, Liebert, NetSure and Trellis. Vertiv also recently acquired Energy Labs, a global manufacturer of air handling solutions, and Geist, a global manufacturer of Rack Power Distribution Units. These acquisitions will add complementary capabilities to accelerate growth in Vertiv’s key markets – cloud, colocation and edge.

TowerXchange: Can you tell us about your global scope and particularly about your footprint in Europe?

Eric LeCalvez, Vice President, Strategic Accounts, Telecoms, EMEA, Vertiv:

Given the breadth of our portfolio, coupled with our long heritage, we have built an extensive global presence and can serve virtually all major telecom operators and leading tower companies in Europe and around the world. We provide critical infrastructure and services within telecom access, edge and core, as well as data centre facilities globally.

In addition, we provide a complete range of services to help customers improve the operating performance of their critical infrastructure, deliver capacity expansion and optimise energy costs.

It’s safe to say, wherever you’re based in the world, or whatever your critical infrastructure need may be, we can help you out!

TowerXchange: What unique challenges and opportunities do you feel European towercos face?

Eric LeCalvez, Vice President, Strategic Accounts, Telecoms, EMEA, Vertiv:

Optimisation of colocation sites will be the single greatest challenge for tower companies. Specifically, new site locations in urban areas are faced with the twin issues of delivering higher utilisation from available sites while upgrading them in preparation for 5G. But with any challenge comes an opportunity – managing the critical infrastructure to perform at its most efficient while being largely unable to standardise site consumption is possible with innovation. 5G will drive higher power consumption, mainly due to new antenna technologies, and the harmonisation of sites holistically across the network through management platforms will present a considerable opportunity to make operational efficiencies and performance harmonisation. We need look no further than data from TowerXchange’s Europe Dossier 2017 to see the proliferation of European tower companies: over €1.5bn of tower acquisitions (at the time of publication); 44 tower companies active in the Europe region; and 92,732 towers and sites potentially for sale; numbers which suggest there is a great deal of confidence in European tower companies.

TowerXchange: In the recent TowerXchange Tower Power Report, 83% of respondents said they planned to allocate capex to power in the next 12 months. Can you tell us a bit more about why European power needs are growing, and what your recommendations for European tower owners are?

Eric LeCalvez, Vice President, Strategic Accounts, Telecoms, EMEA, Vertiv:

Power needs are not only growing, they are changing. ICT convergence and network de-centralisation are widening the options on energy topology at site level. Since energy topology is a topic that is far from being standardised, flexibility in energy topology is recommended to accommodate the broadest range of technology loads.

Looking to the immediate future, the challenge for the next 12 months will be to keep up with increased bandwidth requirements, which will require an update of existing networks from a capacity perspective. Overall power needs are increasing and the recommendation is to survey the sites to frame these needs and identify those sites requiring a power distribution upgrade. Ensuring energy efficiencies are factored into such solutions is vital. To this regard, Vertiv can support telcos by providing Energy Savings as a Service, (ESaaS).

TowerXchange: Renewable and hybrid power solutions are far less common in Europe than in markets like Africa or Asia. Do you see this situation changing in the future? If so, what will the catalyst be for change?

Eric LeCalvez, Vice President, Strategic Accounts, Telecoms, EMEA, Vertiv:

Unlike Europe and other developed markets, there are more pockets in Asia and Africa that lack access to conventional utility sources, which has led to them being greater adopters of renewable and hybrid power solutions. But the situation in Europe will certainly change, with environmental considerations providing the catalyst, and renewable and hybrid power becoming more cost-efficient. Monetary considerations like the fluctuation cost of oil will also be a factor.

TowerXchange: Do you think the shift to 5G will have a significant impact on the way infrastructure owners use power and provide backup power for their assets?

Eric LeCalvez, Vice President, Strategic Accounts, Telecoms, EMEA, Vertiv:

5G and its surrounding network elements are allowing architects to frame new models that directly impact power and energy storage.  Certainly, there will be a need for a number of different solutions and remote power will be a contender for use in metropolitan areas. In addition, we will see sites with or without battery backup fed by either AC or DC power.

TowerXchange: We’re increasingly hearing about how network architecture will be revolutionised as 5G rollout gathers pace – what’s your view on edge computing?

Eric LeCalvez, Vice President, Strategic Accounts, Telecoms, EMEA, Vertiv:

The new use cases for 5G, with requirements for higher bandwidth and low latency, will force telecom and solution providers to bring computing power away from a central point to dispersed locations at the ‘edge’ and closer to the user. This will require new high-density solutions covering both traditional telecom and data communications requirements.

Essentially, edge sites are the result of a great deal of work readying the network for de-centralisation. Pushing application hardware towards the consumer will mean that, depending on the criticality of the site, edge sites will need to be designed to protect and back-up hardware that is rapidly increasing in thermal density.  Besides power requirements, there are also rigorous climate requirements with increased heat load and narrow temperature range limitations to consider. If they are to perform as intended, edge sites will require some serious innovation, not least in the design of their critical infrastructure requirements.

Help is at hand though, with tower companies emerging as essential colocation facilities – not only for radio equipment but for the processes and consumer content generated through the coming phases of digital transformation. Doing such computing locally provides additional benefits of reducing logjams at central data centres/repositories, increasing the speed at which data is processed and reducing latency. Requiring as little as 100 square feet of space – and increasingly affordable thanks to an increase in out-of-the-box solutions and modular capabilities – there is much to recommend tower companies for edge computing deployment.

From here on to 2020, we expect to see many more telecom operators testing and trialling 5G. However, it is no longer realistic for wide-scale deployment by 2020 as there is still more to be done on next generation telecoms standards. It is quite probable though, that 5G hardware can be deployed running LTE software on it so that, once agreed, 5G could be rolled out relatively quickly. For 5G to work at the speed it’s intended to, significantly more optical fibre has to be placed in the ground between sites to move all of the data around.

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