October 7, 2021

Tonics for the biggest BSA headaches facing carriers

In this week’s blog, Giampiero Capraro, Global Product Manager, Base Station Antennas at RFS talks us through some of the biggest challenges operators are facing when it comes to managing their macro cell sites. From rising costs to overcrowding he takes us through the biggest headaches and how equipment designers can help.

Giampiero Capraro, Global Product Manager, Base Station Antennas

It’s no secret that with a growing number of network generations all needing equipment housed on base station sites, operators are facing an increasing number of challenges. The need for more data is growing exponentially and this puts increased pressure on operators to ensure they have the infrastructure to support this. At RFS we have a huge focus on R&D across all our business units, but for BSA in particular we are working with our operator customers to look at the challenges they face around macro sites and design solutions to overcome them.  

  1. Footprint friendly form factors 
    This is not a new problem, but it is a consistent challenge facing operators. In many cases expanding cell sites is simply not an option. The cost of replacing a tower and increasing the area it occupies can span into the hundreds of thousands of dollars per site and in a world where operator margins are getting slimmer as the expectations of their users grow, an alternative approach is needed. For equipment designers this means looking to take the existing technologies that are needed on macro sites and create a more compact version. This will allow more infrastructure to be housed on existing sites, without incurring additional costs.
  2. Wind loading
    The next challenge for operators is addressing issues relating to wind loading on their sites. Alongside space this is an additional factor that limits the equipment that can be housed on each tower. Listening to and working with operators, vendors responsible for designing and manufacturing equipment need to pay attention to this particular pain point and adjust designs to address the problem. This involves looking at aerodynamics when designing the final form of solutions to maximize the wind loading of the antenna. Combined with the compact form factor, an aerodynamic solution gives operators the maximum flexibility possible when planning a macro site. 
  3. Cost is key 
    Again it is not a new headache but certainly one that leaves operators still seeking a cure. When it comes to infrastructure, costs need to be minimized to ensure any return on investment. Difficult lessons were learned with 3G roll outs that were expensive and struggled to deliver on ROI. It is up to equipment designers to help operators be smart with their investments, creating future proof solutions that can adapt as the mobile ecosystem evolves. Take for example RFS’s modular approach to BSA solutions, they can be created to combine multiple frequencies into a single solution which works hard today and is futureproofed to elongate the lifespan of the technology and reducing the need for operators to keep investing in new solutions. 
  4. Cable cutting 
    It is no secret that cell sites are crowded but beyond the obvious of making equipment more compact, is there anything equipment designers can do to ease this? Let’s look at cable. Currently there is a spaghetti of cables needed on BSA sites to deliver both connectivity and power – but can this be cut down? Not only can it be cut down but by using cable, like the HYBRIFLEX solution, which combines power and fiber, the number of cables can be halved. Combining cables reduces the number of individual cables routed on site, saving installation time, resulting in better organization and minimizing the congestion on sites. 
  5. Reducing the need for tower reinforcement 
    Building on the need to minimize congestion on cell sites, there is also a need to work with what already exists. It is useful for operators to be able to reuse what they currently have in order to keep costs down. One of the limitations that comes hand in hand with this is weight limits on towers. Of course, some towers will need reinforcing to hold the weight of new equipment, but if this can be avoided, it certainly helps with the cost of transition to 5G. At RFS, by consolidating solutions so single antennas have more functionality than ever before, operators avoid the need to add additional equipment that would require tower reinforcement to bear the weight. Although not quite the dizzy costs of a replacement tower, it is still a task costing tens of thousands of dollars and if RF designers can alleviate the need for replacement, it is a real help for operators needing to minimize costs. 

If you would be interested in hearing more on how RFS can help to solve BSA headaches, contact Giampiero Capraro, Global Product Manager, Base Station Antennas