Telecom tower cell sites—the first touchpoint for cell phone signal relay anywhere in the world—are critical to ensuring mobile connectivity. Designed per the RF planning process for mobile networks and geographically distributed to achieve desired coverage and capacity, towers and cell sites provide uninterrupted connectivity and handoffs. If a cell site is down, users in that coverage area experience a signal drop; therefore, infrastructure management is a crucial task. The efficient management of towers and cell sites can be cumbersome for telecom tower companies, but customer satisfaction directly affects retention and revenue. This paper explores how Remote Tower Management System (RTMS) solutions can address the challenges of tower infrastructure management.
Telecom tower management in the mobile age
Telecom towers are vital in ensuring a telecom operator’s service quality and uptime, which contribute to customer retention, new customer acquisition, and revenue growth. Management and maintenance of the vast spread of telecom tower sites across urban and rural areas is a continuous challenge for telecom companies. Tower passive infrastructure (the electricity for the grid, generator, and DC; the physical shelter; the access control and surveillance systems; smoke, fire, temperature and humidity sensors; the air-conditioning system; and so on) is traditionally standalone, and operations, fuel management, and breakdown maintenance is time- and resource-intensive with very little direct control and management of outcomes.
Critical challenges in tower management
Increases in mobile connectivity, bandwidth usage, and voice and data traffic, and rapid advancements in mobile technology, are pressuring telecom companies to set up more towers. However, the ongoing challenges and complexities faced by telecom operators and tower companies have shifted the focus from rolling out more tower sites to optimizing operations and infrastructure management of existing towers to maximize returns. Tower companies are collaborating closely with telecommunication companies to achieve these optimization goals through multi-tenancy and reduced costs. Multi-tenancy towers further increase the criticality of the tower infrastructure because failures will affect multiple operators.
High energy consumption and optimization concerns
One of the biggest challenges that telecom tower companies have in tower management is the optimization of fuel consumption and passive tower infrastructures. Telecom towers utilize grid power, generator power, and battery power (DCPS), depending on supply and geographical location. However, in a situation where penetration and network usage is growing exponentially and outpacing grid power availability, telecoms face challenges controlling their energy consumption costs. They invest heavily in diesel to ensure power in the event of a grid outage. The tower industry also invests in green energy options, such as solar and wind power, to support their energy requirements. However, energy consumption monitoring is inefficient, and tower companies are continually seeking advanced fuel management technologies that optimize fuel usage and reduce costs.
Highly decentralized, resource-intensive operations
Given the geographical spread of towers, one of the biggest challenges tower companies face is the highly decentralized, labor-intensive operations required to maintain optimal functionality of the towers. There is a pressing need for personnel optimization to ensure accurate tower monitoring and servicing, including monitoring the network equipment and infrastructure within the tower and the facilities and operations around the tower. For instance, telecom towers need to maintain a specific internal temperature to ensure the proper functioning of electronic equipment and components inside the tower. As a result, air conditioning usage is very high, resulting in frequent breakdowns and the need for preventive and corrective maintenance. Security and access control of tower sites are also an operations management challenge for telecom tower companies. Typically, in urban areas, tower companies deploy one employee to support ten towers. This ratio drops drastically in rural areas, where towers handled per employee are fewer. Additionally, certain equipment repairs depend on OEM resources.
Logistical issues in managing towers in remote areas
Issues can compound when the towers are in highly remote areas. For instance, the worker-to-tower ratio drops further in remote towns and villages. Maintaining an optimal supply of power, diesel, and spare parts and regular tower supervision is more complicated. Additionally, logistics issues related to maintaining unmanned sites add to a technician or engineer’s time per visit.
Lack of operational visibility in overall tower management
Supervisors and senior managers depend highly on field-support teams to provide operational visibility. Leadership needs more insight in the form of data and statistics to analyze tower operations and take any corrective action.
How an RTMS enhances tower management
A Remote Tower Management System (RTMS) specifically equips telecom service providers with the infrastructure to monitor, manage, control, and protect their telecom towers. An RTMS utilizes IoT-enabled sensors and smart devices across telecom tower sites to monitor equipment and key parameters, including energy utilization, battery voltage, diesel consumption, AC monitoring, room temperature, and more. These metrics provide deep insights into performance, operations, and returns for telecom operators.