Mobile operators and various telecom companies face various challenges in developing countries including lack of suitable infrastructure, political uncertainty, regulatory issues, difficult environments, vast and sparsely populated geographical areas to cover, unreliable energy supplies and poorer target groups among others.
However, ingenuity and perseverance can help overcome many of these challenges. In several countries, prepaid cards in small denominations sold in numerous mobile booths have given consumers affordable access to mobile telephony. Off-grid base stations in Asia, the Middle East and Africa are increasingly using green power solutions almost completely replacing dirty and expensive diesel. In East Africa, M-PESA and other mobile money systems have revolutionised the way money is transferred, making it possible for almost everybody to use basic banking services.
Developing countries are next in line for a data boom
Taking the next big step into the ‘post-mobile data revolution’ will bring many more challenges to developing countries, which to begin with, grapple with low data penetration and high prices.
Infrastructure is the biggest challenge with high quality, efficient data centres being the need of the hour. Data centres house and power all the equipment needed for transmission of data and are the heart and brain of any network. But traditional builds for data centres take a lot of time to plan, co-ordinate (with different suppliers) and construct.
Challenging environments also add a lot of risk to a data centre project, often resulting in delays and budget over-runs. Buildings for data centres are mostly not purpose-built to be used as technical facilities, often facing water leaks and other problems, as well as being over-dimensioned since they cannot be expanded quickly and easily.
Pre-fabricated modular data centres ideal for emerging markets networks
The solution is pre-fabricated modular data centres, which are quicker to deploy and will in most cases save considerable time and money compared to traditional brick and mortar buildings. The modular design will ensure the facility will always be the ‘right’ size since it can be expanded to suit 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 allows easy customisation to meet specific needs and can be deployed anywhere.
For instance, Vodacom in Mozambique (a subsidiary of Vodafone) recently decided to deploy a modular data centre (the eCentre) on top of a six-storey parking garage next to its corporate headquarters in central Maputo, the capital of this southeast African country.
The rooftop turnkey deployment is a 126m² open space data centre featuring a pre-fabricated build that met Vodacom’s requirement to put the facility in place quickly, efficiently, and on time. The pre-fabricated build reduced the project risk significantly because the construction work was all done in ten weeks in a clean environment (in Sweden) and the installation work needed on site was completed in only eight days - all in a fraction of the time that would have been required to complete a similar brick and mortar project.
Speed and predictability in challenging environments are critical issues in Africa given that it is the fastest growing mobile market in the world and the take-off for data could be right around the corner. Pre-fabricated, modular and custom-designed data centres that can be deployed very quickly, and easily re-deployed if needed, offer yet another innovative solution to the African situation as well as in all developing countries in the world, enabling data centre owners such as internet service providers, hosting companies, mobile operators and banks to act quickly and confidently.
This article is by David King, CEO of Flexenclosure, a specialist developer of hybrid power systems and pre-fabricated data centres for the ICT industry.