The Role of Power Optimization in the Transition to 5G (Interview with Raj Radjassamy, 5G wireless segment leader for ABB Power Conversion)
Interview with Raj Radjassamy, 5G wireless segment leader for ABB Power Conversion.
Bodo: In today’s power designs, the footprint of power modules is increasingly shrinking while processing power continues to grow. Can you explain the paradox of processing capacity versus power design and the issues it can present? How does newer generation technology reflect this?
Raj Radjassamy. Image used courtesy of Bodo’s Power Systems
Raj: While this paradox is nothing new, what is new is how we are developing solutions to address the higher power demands of newer applications requiring increased processing capacity. New generation applications such as edge data centers and 5G small cells have presented a big challenge and change the way we think about space. As computing needs continue to increase, so too will the demand for more power and more capabilities within smaller footprints.
For instance, to introduce 5G at scale, wireless networks are deploying miniaturized small cells that offer higher levels of connectivity within a smaller footprint. And some are incorporating small or “miniaturized” repeaters that use beamforming technology to extend and redirect millimeter waves, helping to ensure 5G connectivity across the network while also lowering power consumption and energy needs. Powering these miniaturized cells and repeaters requires scaling down the size of power components – from embedded, board-mounted DC/DC converters to the rectifiers used to power small cell radios and equipment.
DJT090 DC/DC Converter. Image used courtesy of Bodo’s Power Systems
Other industrial applications also will need to adopt similar power supply structures to maintain a competitive advantage, from autonomous mobile robotics (AMRs) to smart-city devices powering the industrial internet of things (IIoT). In EV charging, which is becoming more widely adopted nationwide, a lot of energy must be pumped into a small space within a short period of time to provide efficiency for drivers looking to charge vehicles quickly while they’re on the go.
An additional and sometimes overlooked factor that can come into play is how outdoor versus indoor power needs are addressed. In both applications, power and connectivity are top priorities, but there are other unique aspects that need to be considered for each. While aesthetics is a key consideration for outdoor standalone power supplies, it is less of a concern when used in enclosed cabinets and indoor power rooms.
Bodo: I’d love to break these down a little bit more, especially seeing as designing in an aesthetically pleasing way is an added challenge. Can you provide some examples? How would this work outdoors, for example with EV charging or 5G connectivity?
Raj: As mentioned, with the transition to 5G, smaller radios and power infrastructure are being implemented. This presents a shift from the larger macro cell sites and towers that we’ve grown used to. This smaller, more power-dense equipment is being deployed in greater numbers in high-visibility environments – such as throughout smart cities – to help ensure reliable connectivity and improve throughput and latency.
Because this equipment will be more prevalent and decentralized, creating aesthetically pleasing “street furniture” designs that both meet power needs and are small enough to blend in with the surroundings is essential. This unique need has triggered several new “smart power pole” and “smart streetlamp pole” designs that not only blend well with the surrounding but also contain the hardware needed for a 5G small cell or repeater. That said, developing aesthetically pleasing equipment designs cannot come at the cost of reliable, high-quality operation.
Bodo: And what about some indoor examples? What is the difference when solving for edge computing and data centers, for example?
Raj: When it comes to edge computing and data centers, designing for power optimization and the miniaturization of power remain both a challenge and a priority.
In the current environment of ever-evolving technology, there continues to be increased demand for smaller and smaller highdensity power supplies to support new technologies. This is true at every layer of the data center – both in large-scale, centralized data centers and edge facilities.
Maximizing power with miniaturized components typically starts at the board level, where every millimeter of space is important. This aspect is significant for data center power supplies, as engineers are called on to create circuits with increasingly higher power densities, better efficiencies, and higher reliability. One way to tackle this is through the miniaturization and use of point-of-load DC/DC converters to support distributed power and DC power architectures. In edge data centers, there is an even greater emphasis on density since these facilities need to pack as much computing and networking power as possible into even smaller footprints.
Data demands and computing capacity needs are only going to continue to increase (and exponentially) in 2021 and beyond, so it’s imperative to keep making advancements in power density to help propel the technology of the future.
Bodo: As next-gen power continues to evolve, what will the next challenge be? As you try to meet the next paradoxical question, what are your answers?
Raj: That is the million-dollar question. We are always working with our customers and keeping our pulse on the industry. While the constant challenge is to reduce the height of the power solutions, the newer challenge is in the “contactless” or “wireless” charging of mobile robots and EVs. The power demands for these applications are not only very high (several KWs), but they also require efficiencies greater than 90% to justify the convenience of a wireless charger when compared to wired charger.
This article originally appeared in Bodo’s Power Systems magazine.