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April 14, 2022

Taking a load off: keeping pace with windload challenges

Windloading is not a new problem, but it is a never ending one. As networks advance and deliver more capacity than ever before, so does the need to improve windloading. It is a question that has a constantly evolving answer and we as equipment designers need to keep pace with it. We recently looked at how to address this with microwave antennas, and now Giampiero Capraro, Global Director, Product Line Management at RFS explains what is needed to stay one step ahead on windloading challenges at macro sites.

Giampiero Capraro, Global Product Manager, Base Station Antennas
TAGS : BASE STATION ANTENNA, WINDLOADING

Twofold approach to site efficiency

Alongside the technical capabilities of the equipment, when it comes to base station solutions, windload is a crucial factor. It allows operators and site owners to plan a macro site to ensure that it is as efficient as possible, maximizing capacity, without compromising the safety of the site. One of the big leaps forward to help with this efficiency challenge is to design more compact antennas – to do more in less space, something we have been making great progress on here at RFS with the launch of our compact base station antennas which reduce the width of a typical base station unit by around 15-20%. 

In addition to reducing the overall footprint, the second aspect of making the site as efficient as possible is to address the windloading aspect. If we address the footprint, but don’t master the windload, which is ruled by specific standards (ie the recently approved P-BASTA V12) and limited by various factors, we do not truly maximize the potential of the base station. The key to achieving the windloading gains needed to deliver true efficiency, sits clearly with radome design. 

Redesigning radomes 

Radomes have a huge impact on windloading and so improving the design from a windload perspective, without compromising the technical performance, is a challenge for R&D teams. It has been a significant focus for RFS in recent years and is one of the key features of our latest compact base station antennas. They feature an aerodynamic and aesthetic radome design with an innovative mounting hardware concept. Together, these features reduce windloading by up to 25% compared to standard base station antennas demonstrating the extent of what can be achieved with innovative antenna design. However, although the design element is a significant proportion of what goes into a new solution, an additional key factor is testing. 

Improving testing 

Testing is a critical element of equipment design as it allows us to define what is truly achievable with the equipment. This is especially important when it comes to windloading challenges as it not only allows us to refine designs to deliver the best possible solution for our customers, but accurate results are an essential part of tower optimization. 

Understanding how differently shaped radomes experience different windload elements is key and testing accordingly can yield big improvements. For example, understanding which geometries are affected by lift components and which are affected by drag is important for both design and testing. By looking at this aspect, and seeing how lift, drag and resultant forces impact the antenna, we can inform the design process, resulting in a solution truly optimized to meet the windload requirements of operators. By understanding at a granular level how to measure windload, designers can subject equipment to the most suitable testing to give accurate results and eliminate the risk of oversizing and the consequences this has for customers. 

Conclusion 

Windloading is a challenge that operators will continue to face for several reasons. Firstly, more and more regions are starting to experience increasingly adverse weather and the operational windspeed of equipment needs to adapt in line with this. Secondly, network capacity demands are growing with no sign of stopping. This will only increase the need for equipment that is designed with site footprint and windloading in mind as operators need to incorporate that capacity onto existing sites where possible. It is not a challenge with a single, finite solution, but one that will keep growing, therefore it is vital for MNOs to team up with equipment providers delivering the innovation to meet these needs as they evolve. 

This is something we’ll look at in more detail in an upcoming paper on macro site windloading, if you’d like to be the first to hear about this, let us know. GET THE WHITE PAPER