Who has failed to notice the proliferation of these man-made ‘trees’, or cellular transmission towers, spreading across our cities? In the US alone, there are well over 100,000 cell towers and thousands more are being added each year. While some may debate the aesthetic nature of these towers, there is little doubt that in the last decade we have become cellular addicts…as dependent on them as we are to electricity in our homes.
We use these cell towers to virtually connect with the world, making them vital
to our 21st century every day life. How do they work? Whether you
are making a simple phone call or downloading the latest score in the Giant’s
game, these towers operate more or less the same:
Your cellphone radios to the nearest tower’s antenna that connects you to the cellular network in your area. Your call, along with many others, gets routed to a backhaul, usually an underground
wired T1 or T3 line. If there is no
ground connection your call goes back up the mast to a powerful line-of-sight
wireless microwave antenna. An incoming call similarly comes back from the
backhaul and up through the switch to the antenna, where it then hits your
phone wirelessly. If you are moving out
of your towers range, then there's a handoff to a different tower that
transmits a response back to you…and all of this happens in the blink of an
At the base of each tower you will find the tower’s brains in a small fortified bunker to house the gear required for each station. This equipment needs to run 7X24 with zero downtime… for obvious reasons. Since a 100% reliable source of energy does not exist, batteries and generators are typically deployed as backup. And there are safety regulations for example: The FAA requires constant red blinking lights on each tower to identify it to low flying aircraft. This equipment also generates a great deal of heat in these tiny enclosed spaces. Since many cell towers are remote, fuel theft and security can be a problem as well.
While communities have gone to great lengths to blend the towers into landscapes, there remains an opportunity to better manage these bases and reduce their energy footprint. Considering the sheer number of towers, even the smallest improvement can have a significant multiplicative affect.
Enter the IBM Intelligent Site Operations solution which was announced this year. The focus is on instrumenting the management of a mobile network’s passive infrastructure and integrating it with active network management. This solution improves operations and reduces operating and energy costs, while improving asset performance and management.
The solution architecture allows the carrier to manage their passive assets (those not directly involved in delivering communications service such as HVAC systems, generators, batteries, security etc.) This includes monitoring, maintaining and controlling these assets. For example temperature can be monitored inside and outside the facility, and the thermostat can be changed remotely and you can take advantage of free air cooling. Another feature is that antennas can be remotely controlled to optimize coverage.
This solution also contains analytics that can compare the most efficient sites to the least efficient sites in order to focus energy improvement projects. By using the same technologies to manage both active and passive systems we can increase the effectiveness of the CSP in managing their overall operation and the service that is being delivered.
We have completed Business Value Analysis (BVA) at select Telecoms to quantify value, and ROI. The consensus is that this solution can pay for itself while at the same time improving reliability. We are working with partners such as Kentrox and Andrews as well as Johnson Controls. Not limited to North America, we are also actively working with countries such as South Africa, Egypt, Brazil, Mexico, Eastern Europe and Europe.
Reduced Fuel Costs
Enhanced Site Security
Reduction in Truck Rolls
Reduction in Site Maintenance Visits
Reduced Dispatched Technician Costs
The bottom line is this solution can help improve operations and energy use in near-real time; optimize operations that put towers, assets and people where they are needed most; plan better, from budgeting to preventive maintenance, and support security and regulatory compliance with reliable data. Lower cost, greener tower!