Understanding the Impact of 5G Networks on Today's Data Centers

Henry Franc

There’s no way to avoid the coming of 5G. Although the 5G ecosystem isn’t fully realized yet, it’s well on its way. Data centers that take a wait-and-see approach instead of preparing now for what’s ahead will only fall behind as 5G moves into the mainstream.


As they continue to permeate the world, 5G networks will positively impact connectivity and the user experience in several ways:

  • Increased data throughput and capacity will facilitate faster speeds
  • Lower latency will provide better and more reliable mobile service, as well as the ability for technological advancement and real-time data transmission and response
  • Improved connection density will support a much larger number of devices than previous networks could.


What does all this mean? From enhancing employee, patient and customer experiences to improving safety and streamlining building and data center operations, 5G connectivity is poised to revolutionize how we work, live and play.

As of January 2023, according to GSMA Intelligence, more than 90 broadband service providers had launched commercial 5G-based fixed wireless services across 48+ countries. There are currently 229 commercial 5G networks available globally. In addition, GSMA Intelligence also predicts that 5G connections will double in the next two years, including the launch of new 5G networks in more than 30 countries this year. The GSA (Global Mobile Suppliers Alliance) says that 5G subscriptions account for 10.7% of all global mobile subscriptions—and predicts that this number will grow to 16% by the end of 2023.

Why 5G Needs Fiber

In addition to changing the way we live and interact, 5G networks will also increase connectivity among IoT devices, as well as the people and applications that use them. These devices connect directly to the network and operate without manual intervention. Their embedded sensors capture and relay data over networks in real-time.


The capabilities of these devices fully depend on behind-the-scenes networks like 5G, which places enormous demands on wired infrastructure. 5G networks will also increase computing capacity demand, as well as the need for more storage, connectivity and edge computing.


As 5G rolls out, it’s creating a domino effect on existing data center infrastructure. Increased bandwidth and lower latency mean that lots of information and processes are running through the data center. To support new devices and connections, data center speeds are accelerating from 40G to 100G and emerging 400G Ethernet technologies. This could translate to the need for network upgrades and changes to switching and routers, as well as to new data center infrastructure and/or new network architecture approaches.


For example, containers and virtual servers are moving to cloud services and edge computing to process 5G innovation.


These changes must involve the shift to a robust fiber network that can accommodate a dense, data-hungry environment. 5G won’t exist without a high-performance, reliable and robust fiber backbone to ensure link quality. Because fiber is the only network infrastructure solution that can support data rates of 50G and beyond, the data center equipment responsible for transporting and carrying signals must rely on it.


Fiber is fast becoming the go-to for data center architecture not only for these reasons, but also because of its smaller size and weight compared to copper cables and its built-in immunity to interference.

Other Impacts of 5G on Your Data Center

In addition to cabling and connectivity infrastructure, 5G will impact other areas of the data center, too, including:

  • Higher levels of power. To operate more compute resources, additional power may be needed within the data center.
  • More cooling. If more power is generated, more data center cooling will be needed to manage increase temperatures.
  • Security. Securing the data center continues to increase in importance. To reduce vulnerabilities as new security risks associated with 5G arise, data centers will likely need to find new ways to isolate network resources and protect data.

In addition, experts at JLL also predict that the industry will see an increase in the number of data center locations. As organizations rethink large data centers on the outskirts, they’re bringing smaller-footprint facilities, such as edge data centers, closer to users to improve the performance of 5G networks.

Are you making plans now to prepare for 5G networks, or are you waiting? We can help you create a roadmap to maximize the use of existing infrastructure and resources while also making sure you’re prepared for the change that 5G will inevitably bring to data centers. Learn more about our data center solutions.