Emerging countries have always had myriad challenges for mobile operators and other telecom companies to overcome. These include the lack of or substandard infrastructure, political uncertainty, regulatory issues, challenging environments, vast and sparsely populated geographical areas to cover, unreliable energy supplies, and poorer target groups.
These challenges have been overcome with ingenuity and perseverance. In many countries, prepaid cards in small denominations sold in numerous mobile booths have given consumers with little money access to mobile telephony.
Off-grid base stations in Asia, the Middle East and Africa are increasingly using green power solutions that almost completely replace the use of dirty and expensive diesel. In East Africa, M-PESA and other mobile money systems have revolutionized the way money is transferred, making it possible for almost everybody to use basic banking services.
So when developing countries take the next big step into the “post-mobile data revolution,” there are of course going to be a number of challenges to overcome. The penetration of data in many of these markets is still low and prices are still high.
And even if everybody agrees that data will take off in a big way, it is difficult to predict when it will happen and how fast. Can you best prepare to quickly respond to the anticipated demand without investing too much too early?
The biggest challenge is infrastructure, where high-quality, efficient data centers are essential. They house and power all the equipment needed for transmission of data and are both the heart and brain of any network. But traditional builds for data centers take a lot of time to plan, co-ordinate (with different suppliers) and construct.
Furthermore, challenging environments add a lot of risk to a data center project, often resulting in delays and budget overruns. Buildings for data centers are usually not purpose-built to be used as technical facilities -- often with water leaks and other problems -- as well as being over-sized since they cannot be expanded quickly and easily.
The solution is pre-fabricated modular data centers. They are quicker to deploy and will, in most cases, save considerable time and money compared to traditional brick and mortar buildings.
The facility will always be the “right” size since its modular structure makes it easy to quickly expand in response to changing needs. More efficient power and cooling will make a pre-fabricated data centre more cost-effective to run.
Quality, budget and the time plan can more easily be ensured for pre-fabricated, purpose-built facilities, bringing predictability to the project. A pre-fabricated solution also makes it much easier to customize the data center for specific needs and it can be deployed anywhere.
Vodacom in Mozambique (a subsidiary of Vodafone) recently decided to deploy a modular data centre on top of a six-story parking garage next to its corporate headquarters in central Maputo, the capital city.
The rooftop turn-key deployment is a 126-square-meter open space data center. The pre-fabricated build reduced the project risk significantly because the construction work was all done in 10 weeks in a clean environment (in Sweden). The installation work needed on site was completed in only eight days – less than what a similar local brick-and-mortar project would have taken.
Speed and predictability in challenging environments are critical issues in Africa considering it is the fastest growing mobile market in the world and the takeoff for data could be right around the corner.
Pre-fabricated, modular and custom-designed data centers that can be deployed very quickly, and easily re-deployed if needed, is yet another innovative solution to an African situation.
David King is CEO of Flexenclosure