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Features Hub Opinion

Q&A: What’s new and what’s next in cabling and smart city infrastructure

Thu 28 May 2020

Stuart McKay is business development manager, Enterprise Technologies, Panduit EMEA, a world leader in infrastructure products and services for data networks and electrical power applications.

We asked McKay to give his thoughts on some of the most important and interesting infrastructure questions facing the industry right now. Under the microscope are Smart Cities – namely, the winners, losers and initiatives that show the most promise. McKay also dives deep into connectivity and the cabling implications for WiFi 6, the next-generation wireless standard tipped to improve performance in congested areas.

Can you list out some global trends impacting physical infrastructure in 2020?

There is a great deal of discussion currently on Global Smart City Tech Spending, which is predicted to Reach $124 Billion in 2020, the Middle East region has been significant in generating this momentum.

National and regional governments are investing in new infrastructure where information technology (IT) is now a key component of these development plans. Very large municipal governments, in particular, are spending more on Smart City projects that provide unique advantages. IT infrastructure developments are gaining momentum across the globe, as established and emerging technology applications are adopted by the forward-thinking regions.

Global spending on smart cities initiatives are forecast to total nearly $124 billion this year — that’s an increase of 18.9 percent over 2019, according to the latest worldwide market study by International Data Corporation (IDC).

The top 100 cities investing in smart initiatives in 2019 represented around 29 percent of global spending, whether this growth can be sustained due to the current pandemic reducing economic activity among the top spenders in the short term is yet to be seen.

In 2019, use cases related to resilient energy and infrastructure represented over one-third of the opportunity, driven mainly by smart grids. Data-driven public safety and intelligent transportation represented around 18 percent and 14 percent of overall spending respectively.  Looking at the largest use cases, smart grids (electricity and gas combined) still attract the largest share of investments, although their relative importance will decrease over time as the market matures and other use cases become mainstream. Fixed visual surveillance, advanced public transportation, intelligent traffic management, and connected back-office follow, and together these five use cases currently represent over half of the investment opportunity.

According to the IDC assessment, the applications that will see the fastest spending growth over the five-year forecast are vehicle-to-everything (V2X) connectivity, digital twin, and wearables.

According to the report, Singapore will remain the top investor in smart city initiatives. Tokyo will be the second-largest spender in 2020, driven by investments for the Summer Olympics, although we now look to 2021 to see results of that investment. These are followed by New York City and London. These four cities were predicted to see smart city spending of more than $1 billion in 2020, although it is reasonable to predict that a percentage of that investment will roll into 2021, due to the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic

Regional and municipal governments are working hard to keep pace with technology advances and take advantage of new opportunities in the context of risk management, public expectations, and funding needs to scale initiatives,” said Ruthbea Yesner, vice president at IDC.

Analysts now believe that many governments are moving to incorporate Smart City use cases into budgets, or financing efforts through more traditional means, which is helping to grow further investments.

Looking to the future, more IT infrastructure investment will likely focus on new technology applications such as artificial intelligence (AI) combined with the internet of things (IoT) and 5G wireless communications.

What are the implications of WiFi 6 on cabling infrastructure design?

Category 6A Cabling Required for Wi-Fi

Category 6A cables are the fastest-growing cabling segment on the market and are recommended for wireless deployments because they are standardised for 10GBASE-T and provide optimal PoE (Power over Ethernet) performance. For best practice, Panduit recommends Category 6A cables for Wi-Fi 5 and higher applications.

Wi-Fi 7 and the Future

The next generation Wi-Fi 7 is currently referred to as extremely high throughput (EHP) and a standard is being developed by the IEEE 802.11be Task Force. While Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 7 currently can only operate in the 2.4 and 5 GHz spectrums, the FCC plans to allow a new spectrum between 5.925 and 7.125 GHz to open up for Wi-Fi. This new spectrum has 1200 MHz of additional bandwidth as compared to the existing 500 MHz bandwidth in the 5 GHz spectrum and 90 MHz bandwidth in the 2.4 GHz spectrum.

In addition to the new bandwidth, the IEEE 802.11be Task Force is exploring Wi-Fi 7 technologies such as coordinated orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA), coordinated null steering, and distributed MIMO to enhance beam forming and employ massive multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO).

The 802.11be Task Force has a stated objective to use two Category 6A cables per access point to support the required bandwidth and to use an existing and common cable type.

Wi-Fi 6 Advantages

Wi-Fi 6 continues to offer numerous advantages over Wi-Fi 5, which for any organisation planning smart building and smart environment infrastructure allow end device data rates improvement of speed up to 4x. More advantages from OFDMA, beamforming, and improved modulation allows for improved data rates for end devices, which include increased capacity.

Improved performance in in-situ many device environments will benefit from OFDMA, improved MIMO, and beamforming to help improve total capacity, as well as improved performance in environments utilising the 2.4 GHz band which will benefit IoT devices. For many of these end devices manufacturers have increased battery life and Wi-Fi 6 employs a “target wake time” (TWT) feature and directs the Wi-Fi radio when to sleep and wake up to receive its transmission. This reduces power consumption with no impact on performance. Whilst, OFDMA is improving latency performance across the network to under 1ms.

Do you think edge data centres will warrant fibre optic connectivity and automated infrastructure management tools?

For specific applications, fibre at the edge could offer the most applicable solution to the users’ requirement, be that bandwidth or latency and where the application cannot be achieved using a comparable but more cost-effective solution. Fibre technology moved from the infrastructure backbone to the cabinet in a relative short period of time, and its utilisation is dependent on the requirements at the edge. It is conceivable that developments such as vehicle-to-everything (V2X) could require fibre loaded edge sites to optimise the bandwidth for the volume of data acquisition required for that application.

Additionally, automated infrastructure management tools like Panduit’s SynapSense are essential to ensure robust edge management at remote locations. Monitoring systems and environmental changes within the edge structure will maximize operational capabilities and minimize service call outs. Within the edge containers, intelligent PDUs offer power management, access control and environmental monitoring, on standards based, quality engineered and manufactured connectivity systems, that are designed for reduced space enclosures.

Are we going to see the end of copper in data centres now?

With Cat8 availability and its capability to deliver 40Gb on RG45 connectivity, there is still life for copper in the data centre. The key is if the hardware manufacturers and their customers decide whether the alternative cabling systems offer a comprehensive enough solution, in respect of cost and capability to render copper redundant.

 

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