The Breathtaking Complexity of the Wireless Spectrum
Explore the high resolution version of today’s graphic by clicking here.
As it turns out, the hottest real estate market may be one we can’t see.
Everything from space exploration signals to HAM radios are vying for room on the radio spectrum, in which frequencies range from 3Hz to 3,000GHz. This spectrum acts as the “transportation system” for all wireless communication, and blocks of it are divvied up for specific uses.
The map above, from the U.S. Department of Commerce, vividly illustrates the complexity of this allocation system.
Plots of “Land” on the Frequency Band
Nearly all of the radio spectrum is already divided into a number of civilian and military uses. Some of the most prominent blocks (turquoise on the map) are set aside for television and radio broadcasting, as well as various types of navigation and satellite communications.
The spectrum also has a number of blocks dedicated to amateur radio and satellite.
It’s worth noting that the allocation map only lays out uses within a specific frequency, and that any number of licenses can exist within a frequency block. For categories like “fixed”, multiple licenses can exist in the same part of band provided they’re far enough apart to avoid signal interference.
The Spectrum Crunch
It’s predicted that mobile data traffic will skyrocket in coming years as consumers’ appetite for high quality video streaming continues to grow. Rapid increase in mobile data usage isn’t confined to specific markets. It’s a truly global phenomenon.
Rising data consumption, coupled with the explosion in IoT devices and the emergence of the 5G standard, means that space within the radio band is increasingly coming at a premium.
In fact, periodic auctions for space on the spectrum see telecommunication companies shelling out billions of dollars for a piece of the pie. The spectrum auction run by the FCC in 2015 raised nearly $45 billion and 2017’s auction raised nearly $20 billion.
The hills are alive with data
The long awaited move to 5G is a hot topic in the telecommunications world, and for good reason. 5G is the next generation of wireless technology, which will deliver super-fast connections for smartphones and higher capacity for broadband networks. It’s estimated that 5G will be 100x faster than current 4G networks.
For a fascinating and detailed look at the 5G rollout, check out the video below.
Can Data Centers Be Sources of Sustainable Heat?
Data centers produce a staggering amount of heat, but what if instead of treating it as waste, we could harness it instead?
Can Data Centers Be Sources of Sustainable Heat?
Data centers support the modern technologies on which we rely, but also generate incredible amounts of heat as waste.
And since computers tend to be very sensitive to heat, operators go to great lengths (and expense) to get rid of it, even relocating to countries with lower year-round average temperatures. But what if instead of letting all that heat disappear into thin air, we could harness it instead?
In this visualization, we’ve teamed up with HIVE Digital to see how data centers are evolving to recapture and recycle that energy.
How Much Heat Does a Data Center Produce?
To get an idea how much heat we’re talking about, let’s imagine a mid-sized cryptocurrency operation with 1,000 of the most energy-efficient mining rigs on the market today, the Antminer S21 Hydro. One of these rigs needs 5,360 watts of power, which over a year adds up to 47 MWh.
Multiply that by 1,000 and you end up with over 160 billion BTU, which is enough energy to heat over 4,600 U.S. homes for a year, or if it happens to be Oscar season, enough heat to pop 463,803 metric tons of popcorn. Less if you want melted butter on it.
How Waste Heat Recycling Works?
At a high level, waste heat is recaptured and transferred via heat exchangers to district heating networks, for example, where it can be used to provide sustainable heat. Cool air is then returned to the data center and the cycle begins again.
Liquid cooling is by far the most efficient means of recapturing and transporting heat, since water can hold roughly four times as much heat as air.
Data centers around the world are already recycling their waste heat to farm trout in Norway, heat research facilities in the U.S., and to heat swimming pools in France.
A Greener Future for Data Centers?
Waste heat recycling has so far been voluntary, led by operators looking to put their operations on a more sustainable footing, but new regulations could change that.
Amsterdam and Haarlemmermeer in the Netherlands require all new data centers to explore recycling their waste heat. In Norway, they require it for all new data centers above 2 MW, while Denmark has taken a carrot approach, and developed tax cuts and financial incentives. And in late 2023, the EU Energy Efficiency Directive came into force, which will require data centers to recycle waste heat, or show that recovery is technically or economically infeasible.
With Europe leading the way, could North America be very far behind?
HIVE Digital Provides Sustainable Heat
HIVE Digital is already recycling waste heat from its data center operations in Canada and Sweden.
Their 30 MW data center in Lachute, Québec, is heating a 200,000 sq. ft. factory, while their 32 MW data center in Boden, Sweden, is heating a 90,000 sq. ft. greenhouse, helping to provide sustainably grown local produce, just one degree short of the Arctic Circle.
Learn how HIVE Digital is helping to meet the demands of emerging technologies like AI, sustainably.
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