Implications of 5G and Network Enclosure Needs

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Fifth-generation (5G) wireless networks are here… sort of. Major carriers have begun deploying 5G infrastructure that will ultimately bring incredible enhancements to the download and upload speeds we all now enjoy on remote devices, laptops, cell phones, or tablets. While these enhancements won’t happen overnight, the network deployment process is happening now.

5G will initially deliver slightly faster speeds than 4G LTE, but that’s poised to ramp up to 20 times faster than current 4G speeds for certain applications that will rival current landline speeds. However, 5G is not just a speed upgrade, nor is it just a carrier-only upgrade. It is a fundamental change in network architecture that will impact all physical networks, including end-user-owned commercial networks.

Individuals responsible for ensuring enterprise network availability and speed are learning what 5G enables and how it will impact these networks. Those in the know are making preparations.

This blog post explores the coming world of 5G and its impact on physical network infrastructure, specifically looking at equipment storage changes and the remote monitoring that’s needed more than ever to protect the network in preparation for 5G upgrades.

Building the 5G Physical Network

To achieve anticipated capabilities and fully support planned usage scenarios, new 5G specifications and standards have been developed. Additional spectrum will be allocated for 5G in each geographic region.


Figure 1: 5G will support faster download speeds for multimedia, the connection of large arrays of sensors, and direct machine-to-machine communications.

5G Physical Network Changes

5G will include new approaches in the build-out of physical networks.

  • More Antenna Sites (Network Densification): Massive MIMO Antennas means more antenna sites.
  • Siting Facilities: Access to power and fiber cable or right of way with a line of sight for wireless fronthaul will be critical.
  • New Small Cell Locations: Small cells will be located indoors and outdoors. Placing small cells will also require connection to power and network, and possible consideration for thermal management.
  • Adapting Enterprise-Owned Wi-Fi and Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS): Radio convergence will require additional routers, compute, and data storage in carrier and enterprise networks.

Selecting the Right Enclosure for 5G

Although not the most complicated component of the physical network, enclosure solutions are the first line of defense in protecting your electronics and information and communications technology (ICT) equipment. Here are a few key considerations when selecting enclosures to store and secure equipment in your physical network.

Enclosure Type

Enclosure type refers to the level of environmental protection the enclosure provides. Enclosures can be specified to designate a level of environmental protection against particulate or liquid penetration and for corrosion resistance. Indoor enclosures in controlled environments, such as computer and equipment rooms, are often open to allow airflow. Enclosures located outside of these controlled spaces need a degree of protection against particles and liquid penetration. If located near chemicals or salt air, the enclosure will also need corrosion protection.



Example of a Type 1 (IP20) enclosure (cabinet) typical of the style used to house computing and data storage equipment in controlled environments like data centers and computer rooms. Doors are vented to allow front-to-rear airflow. In some instances, ducting is used to guide hot air away through the top of the cabinet.


Example of a Type 4 (IP66) industrial enclosure typical of the style used to place computing or networking equipment in harsh environments. This type of enclosure is completely sealed when closed to prevent penetration of dust and liquid. It can be fitted with a cooling unit when used to store computer or network switch equipment.

The table below provides a simple guideline to protection ratings for common enclosure applications.

NEMA 250
Type Rating

IEC 60529
IP Rating

Standard Material, Construction and Finish


Degree of Protection

Type 1

IP 20

Mild steel, welded, painted

Indoor use in controlled environments, data centers, equipment rooms, office spaces.

Minimal protection against particulate or liquid penetration.

Type 12

IP 55

Mild steel, welded, painted

Indoor use in warehouse or manufacturing environment.

Medium protection against particulate and liquid penetration.

Type 4

IP 66

Mild steel, welded, painted

Indoor or outdoor use.

High protection against particulate and liquid penetration.

Type 4x


Composite or stainless steel

Indoor or outdoor use.

High protection against particulate and liquid penetration and corrosion protection.

Note: IP Ratings do not include a factor of corrosion protection.

Power Distribution and Remote Monitoring

Enclosures that house computing, data storage, or network equipment require multiple power connections for equipment. A rack-mount Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) and Power Distribution Unit (PDU) are primary options.

In larger configurations, a room-level UPS may condition that power and PDUs are used in each enclosure to provide multiple connections for equipment. UPS and PDUs offer optional remote monitoring of power. Monitoring power helps you optimize site utilization. PDUs may also offer remote control of power (the ability to toggle power to outlets and equipment) to reset equipment, remote environmental monitoring to ensure proper conditions and integrated remote access control to protect unauthorized access to equipment (Figure 2).

Thermal Management

Environmental enclosures are sealed to protect equipment from particles and liquid penetration and may require a cooling unit to remove heat generated by the equipment. Similarly, a heater may be required in significantly cold environments.

Access Control

If access to your facility is tightly controlled, you may not need to add access control to your enclosures. Electronic access control simplifies key management and provides a record of access attempts (Figure 3).



Figure 2: Rack-mount PDUs distribute power to equipment within the enclosure and can provide remote power monitoring and outlet control.


Figure 3: Electronic locks restrict access to equipment and will provide an audit trail of each access attempt.

5G will be a literal and figurative data communications networking game-changer for applications such as connected learning, augmented reality (AR)/virtual reality (VR) devices, to multi-sensory technologies like remote surgeries in 5G-connected hospitals and much more. The pace of 5G telecom network build-out will only increase over the next few years. This build-out will include network densification with small cells and microsites and new edge data centers to provide computing and storage. Each of these sites will need one or more enclosures to protect electronic equipment. Enclosure selection includes consideration of how to power and cool equipment and how to control access to equipment.

When exploring your needs for network enclosures in support of your 5G network deployment, make sure that you work with partners with the proven technology and decades of expertise you will want and need to secure the most effective enclosure solutions.

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Value-added benefits:

  • Reliably secure fiber, network, or power equipment
  • Protect network gear in harsh, outdoor environments
  • Ship in various standard styles, sizes, and mounting options
  • Can be quickly customized to match specific requirements


The opinions expressed in this piece are solely Chatsworth Products’. They do not necessarily represent WESCO’s views.