The global ICT industry is booming and this digital revolution requires more energy than ever before, resulting in higher operational costs. The solution, according to Huawei executives speaking to Telecom Review at the company's ICT Energy Efficiency Summit in Dubai, is a product line dedicated to simultaneously reducing the energy consumption and OPEX of telecom base stations and data centers.
The ICT Energy Efficiency Summit, held from May 18-19, focused on Huawei's energy efficiency solutions which promote legacy telecom power to a new level by making it smarter and more sustainable, explained Dr. Fang Liangzhou, VP of Network Energy Product Line at Huawei and Mr. Sanjay Kumar Sainani, Regional VP of Cloud, IT and Data Center Solutions.
"Digital has changed our lives driven by the increase in ICT technology. Mobile phones have changed the way we live. Sometimes we think in the future and believe that digital will change everything for the better," said Dr. Fang. "Huawei's strategy is to use digital transformation technology to provide smart solutions in the telecom energy area from data center energy to solar PV solutions."
These solutions "improve energy efficiency to simultaneously improve the reliability of power and improve the operation and maintenance efficiency for customers," Dr. Fang added. "We believe these smart solutions will improve our customers' efficiency very well and reduce TCO [total cost of ownership]."
Huawei's network energy product line, established in 2009, is one of seven product solutions offered by the company as a whole. The first solution under the energy product line umbrella is the telecom energy product line which mainly focuses on providing power and cooling solutions for telecom equipment including wireless, fixed line, router or transmission.
The second solution under the umbrella is the data center energy solution product line which provides power and cooling solutions for data centers. The third solution under the umbrella is the smart PV (photovoltaic) solution for solar panels to provide sustainable energy. The fourth solution is referred to as board mounted power which focuses on providing energy for chipsets.
"All of these services are about power and providing cooling solutions for our customers," explained Dr. Fang. "In this area we have a strong presence in the Middle East. For telecom energy we have been ranked number one since 2014, and for the solar smart PV solution we have been ranked number one since last year, and for the data center energy solution we are ranked number one worldwide. In this area, major telecom carriers choose our solutions."
Strong growth in Data Center business
The Middle East has seen "humungous data growth" in recent years, said Mr. Sanjay, in line with what is happening around the world with consumer behavior. For instance, e-commerce is steadily growing, while social mobility is catching up and more business is being conducted over the phone. This massive "explosion" of data being created and transmitted requires new ways to process and store digital information. As a result, demand for data centers is stronger than ever.
The Middle East has typically been a "follower" in the area of data centers, said Mr. Sanjay, unlike other parts of the world, but it has caught-up. For example, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE are undergoing "massive infrastructure surges". Qatar is planning to hold the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the UAE is setting itself up for Expo 2020, all of which is leading to growth in terms of data centers.
Data center services today are provided to a large extent by telecom service providers themselves because they own the fiber, they have the enterprise customers, and so on. From that point of view, Huawei expects in the next 3-5 years about 5-7 and a half thousand racks worth of data centers to be added to the Middle East.
"Data centers are energy guzzlers consuming massive amounts of energy," said Mr. Sanjay. "If you visit large cities like London, New York or Singapore, you will find that data centers are the single largest power consumers of the city. You need a huge amount of power and a huge amount of connectivity for them to function. This is where there is huge opportunity."
Energy efficiency is a major area of concerns for Huawei's customers. Even the slightest amount of energy saved can result in vast savings. It's important to note that business today is extremely fast-moving particularly in the ICT domain. There is also disruptive technology such as artificial intelligence and big data. Therefore, carriers need to come up with data center resources quickly because time-to-market is a big part of the "winning proposition".
"Huawei is leading data center transformation with a complete data center offering which is modular throughout all the layers of a data center," explained Mr. Sanjay. "Modularity at a sub-system level, modularity at a system level, and modularity at a complete data center level."
These offerings allow the company to make "valuable propositions to its customers". For instance, Huawei can build a data center in the shortest amount of time and also make sure that it is scalable. In addition, Huawei's offerings can provide high levels of efficiency, and allow for future proofing which ensures that capital is protected for a long period.
The Middle East has a reputation for having plenty of oil and limited energy consumption concerns, but that's not true at all, said Mr. Sanjay. The price of oil remains stuck at around $40-50/barrel and GCC countries have canceled subsidies. Carriers' oil price is increased by 50%, so they have higher expectations on energy saving and emission reduction.
"Energy efficiency is clearly a major play today as consumers have become more switched on and governments are driving more initiatives to drive it forward which then drives businesses to jump on the band wagon in order to stay competitive," said Mr. Sanjay. "One aspect of this is for businesses to reduce OPEX."
Mr. Sanjay further explained: "Most businesses, within a 5-10 year lifecycle, will see that 60-70 percent of their OPEX is energy consumption, so it's a no-brainer that there is a lot of focus going into energy efficiency."
Huawei uses an index called ECR (Energy Cost Revenue) that calculates energy costs divided by revenue. Europe ranks high in the index, Dr. Fang pointed out, with about 1-3 percent of revenue spent on energy. The Middle East doesn't rank so well, not because of the GCC, but because of countries like Iraq where the energy grid lacks reliability. Because of this, diesel generators are common, which according to the index, can reach up to 8 percent of energy costs.
Solutions are customized by Huawei to help countries like Iraq reduce their ECR, said Mr. Sanjay. "It isn't one size fits all." For example, Huawei provides a solar solution which can power a base station and at the same time charge a lithium battery to use when the solar panels aren't generating enough power.
"Normally you need 2-3 hours to charge a whole battery but we give our customers the solution to fast-charge a battery within one hour," said Dr. Fang. "This also means that they no longer have to rely on the grid and instead rely on their rechargeable battery. We have even developed an algorithm for the solar solution and batteries to work together. The overall solution can significantly reduce OPEX for our customers."