September 29, 2023

Untangling The Cable Challenges Across Macro Sites

When we start to discuss base-station sites, one of the most pressing issues is the site footprint challenge. It is a longstanding and ongoing headache for the industry – how can we keep pace with connectivity demands without significantly expanding site footprints? In addition, those managing macro sites also need to consider installation challenges and the logistics of delivering fiber and power to antennas.

Markus Pabst,

Every aspect of deploying equipment on base-station sites needs to be continuously examined with a problem-solving mindset as the industry looks to make the space and efficiency gains it needs to meet demand. In this blog, we look specifically at the cable aspects of macro sites and explore how new approaches can make a significant contribution to solving a number of challenges.

Key Cable Challenges At Base-Station Sites

We have looked at the headline challenges for operators on base station sites, but let’s now look in a little more detail at both the challenges and the questions that arise on how to solve them.

Distribution Cabinets
Situated at the top of the tower, it is needed as a centralized point to distribute power and fiber connectivity to antennas as required. However, is there a way to make this more compact or even entirely remove the need for a distribution cabinet by thinking differently about connectors?

More Cable
It is a common theme across the industry that more equipment is needed to serve greater demand. The questions here are: Is there a way to use less cable, and is there a way to better manage cable to make installation easier?

We have touched on the need for high-quality equipment as a way to improve performance without expanding the site footprint. At RFS, we strongly believe that not all cable is created equal, so what role does cable selection have in improving site performance?

Complicated installation processes have many downsides. From increased CAPEX with installers needing specialist training and more time on site, to increased risk of lower performance if there is an issue with how the cables are cut and connected - is there a way to streamline the installation process?

For MNOs, it is essential that their network infrastructure can adapt to keep pace with evolving technology and increasing user demands. Cables that can continue to serve changing standards, minimizing the costs of future upgrades, are a real advantage, but how achievable is this?

Different Approaches

At RFS, our R&D team has a deep understanding of the specific challenges facing our customers and builds tailored solutions to address them. Part of this is acknowledging that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to addressing cable challenges at macro sites. Instead, a number of options are needed to meet the needs that differ from customer to customer and region to region.

RFS HYBRIFLEX was originally designed to address the challenges operators faced when moving to deploy Remote Radios on the tower top. Since RFS created HYBRIFLEX in 2010, it has evolved and continues to support operators addressing base station cable challenges. Combining optical fiber and DC power into a single solution, it streamlines the number of cables needed on each site. Its lightweight and crush-resistant design makes it easier to transport easily damaged fiber cables. It requires fewer installation materials and steps, reducing installation complexity and accelerating deployments to save both time and money for customers.

A two-cable approach
Some customers choose to keep power and fiber separate when designing a deployment. Here, RFS is able to support a two-cable approach, separating power and fiber. We use the strengths of the HYBRIFLEX solution – easy to install, lightweight, crush resistant – and create separate power and fiber feeds. Each feed combines multiple power or fiber links to again streamline the installation process and the number of cables needed per site.

Removing the distribution cabinet
One of the biggest challenges at base station sites is space. This has to be addressed from all angles. OEMs must look to make antennas smaller and more powerful, but as cable specialists, RFS can also make a contribution to a more space-efficient base station. As we discussed, traditionally, there needs to be a distribution cabinet at the top of the tower. This is then used to connect all antennas with the power and fiber they need. We have a different approach and use compact, weather-resistant connectors with jumper cables to give three key advantages.

  • It removes the need for a cabinet as the connections to each antenna can be made directly using jumper cables, saving space.
  • The connectors are easy to install without the need for any special tools to accelerate the speed of deployment.
  • The jumpers can be easily replaced to accommodate any changing connector requirements as network evolution continues. Upgrade costs are minimized as jumpers can be changed without the need to change any of the main cables.

In practice

RFS’s innovative approach to Fiber and Power solutions is being deployed across the globe as operators take advantage of our tailored approach to meet their exact site requirements. One example of this is a recent European deployment. RFS’s custom fiber and power solutions were deployed to support a tier 1 operator in Italy to deliver rapid and streamlined fiber backhaul for its 5G infrastructure. Working with the operator, RFS designed a custom solution that addressed the need for high-performance, plug-and-play connectors, discrete cable and power feeds, within the required cost parameters for the project. You can read the case study in full here.


When it comes to macro sites, it is easy to see the space challenges as an ‘antenna problem’. However, the scale of the challenge means that every possible efficiency gain needs to be explored, looking at the tower from top to bottom and finding ways to improve. Forward-thinking approaches are key to overcoming the challenges of base-station sites. It is vital that the entire industry, including cable providers, contribute through innovative design that understands the key challenges operators face. By continuing to evolve and tailor solutions to individual needs, cable specialists, like RFS, can play our part in the development of efficient, space-saving, and high-performance macro sites that meet ever-increasing demand.