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Small Cell Combines Art and Wireless

By Esteban DuPont

President, CELLTECH


Birds on Blue

Birds on Blue, as it is known, is a culmination of more than six years of hard work and dedication to its completion by several partners, including the artwork done by Sandy McDaniel and Ron Pekar, notable artists located in Southern California. The original concept was developed by Pekar-McDaniel Design Consultancy and presented to Crown Castle International when the California PUC renewal for the site became due.

Through the vision and foresight of Crown Castle’s own Jon Dohm, the project was brought to life. Initial planning began in February 2012 with Pekar-McDanel’s concept drawings, presented to Crown Castle for review and acceptance. By August of that same year, zoning drawings were completed and approved. The next phase, which included construction drawing and structural and engineering details, was completed in February 2013 with plan check revisions and final approval completed by May 2014.

In March 2015, CELLTECH was approached by Pekar-McDaniel to spearhead the fabrication, manufacturing and installation of the Birds on Blue Site. CELLTECH’s shop drawings were completed later that month and finalized on October 2016. During this revision period, CELLTECH completed fabrication manufacturing of all the component parts for the site, including the FRP framing, innovative hinge design for easy access, custom engineered standoff arms, outriggers & pole topper with engineering help from my longtime friend, Wissam Zalzali with All State Engineering.

CELLTECH overcame many obstacles to fabrication and installation due to the nature of field conditions and a project like this never existing before. Installation began on October 26, 2016, and was completed on Nov. 4, 2016.

Possible Obstacles Remain for Widespread 5G Deployment

By Mike Harrington

5G Technologies text over a blue backgroundThe booming 5G market could ultimately be slowed, or possibly even halted, by three looming concerns — briefly summarized here in Q&A format:

Q: Could 5G RF electromagnetic fields be making you sick?

A: Probably not. The debate continues and conspiracy theories abound, but so far experts have found no solid evidence that 5G causes negative health effects in humans or animals, and scientists have discovered no link between exposure to 5G radio frequencies and cancer. However, researchers have studied EMFs in general and found mixed results, and most agree that more research needs to be done — particularly as 5G radio towers become widespread.

Q: Could the C-Band spectrum of 5G pose a threat to U.S. air travel?

A: Possibly. Earlier this month a large alliance of U.S. aerospace and aviation companies started pressing the FCC to halt the auction of the C-Band spectrum until more research on the effects of 5G operations in the C-Band can be understood and aviation groups can improve the resilience of future radar altimeter designs.

Q: Could the booming 5G market be slowed down by health advocacy groups?

A: Yes. For instance, on Aug. 13, Children’s Health Defense (CHD) won its case against the FCC, challenging the agency’s decision not to review its 1996 health and safety guidelines for wireless-based technologies, including 5G.

Concerning the health effects of 5G radiation, the American Cancer Society echoes the summaries of most medical experts on its website: “At this time, there’s no strong evidence that exposure to RF waves from cell phone towers causes any noticeable health effects. However, this does not mean that the RF waves from cell phone towers have been proven to be absolutely safe. Most expert organizations agree that more research is needed to help clarify this, especially for any possible long-term effects.”

According to the article “Experts Find No Link Between 5G RF and Cancer” written by Gap Wireless — a Canadian supplier of mobile broadband and wireless — published in the April 2020 AGL magazine: “While some high-range frequencies, like X-rays, can pose a health risk, 5G does not fall into that category, and the reason why is relatively straightforward: Human skin. According to a study by Cornell University, human skin blocks high frequencies, like sunlight. Because 5G falls even lower on the electromagnetic spectrum than UV, the supposition is that it is unlikely to penetrate human skin. What does that mean? Generally speaking, experts agree that 5G does not pose a threat to human health or the environment.”

“Generally speaking,” the article continues, “experts agree that 5G does not pose a threat to human health or the environment. “The typical safety perimeter for a standard cell site is on the order of 9.8 feet-16.4 feet, whereas the typical height of a cell tower is 164+ feet,” he continued. “So, for example, if we are 164 meters away from a transmitter that has been identified by Safety Code 6 regulations to have a safety perimeter of 16.4 feet…ten times further away than the minimum recommendable distance.”

Meanwhile, the CTIA has developed a website to address the fears and misinformation about 5G — particularly the recurring headlines purporting that 5G is untested and RF radiation from cell towers could cause cancer. The CTIA says such headlines are being used as ammunition to close down or prevent the addition of cell sites on school campuses or near residential neighborhood nationwide.

The CTIA website addresses the 5G issue in a Q&A format. One example:

“Q: Are cellphones, cell towers, small cells and antennas safe?

A: Radiofrequency energy from wireless devices and networks, including radiofrequencies used by 5G, have not been shown to cause health problems, according to the international scientific community. To cite one example, the Food and Drug Administration said, “Based on the FDA’s ongoing evaluation, the available epidemiological and cancer incidence data continues to support the Agency’s determination that there are no quantifiable adverse health effects in humans caused by exposures at or under the current cell phone exposure limits.”

The issue of 5G’s C-Band spectrum posing a threat to U.S. air travel has been on the aviation industry’s radar for a few years now. But the issue came to a head just recently when a large group of major aerospace and airline companies warned the FCC that the C-Band spectrum of 5G operations could have disastrous effects on the nation’s air travel. The C Band spectrum of 5G refers to a mid-band spectrum ranging from 3.7 gigahertz to 4.2 gigahertz.

Earlier this month, just a few months before the C-Band spectrum is scheduled to be put to use commercially, the aviation groups started pressing the FCC to halt the auction of that spectrum until more research on the effects of 5G operations in the C-Band can be understood and aviation groups can improve the resilience of future radar altimeter designs. Meanwhile, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile have collectively spent almost $100 billion on C-band spectrum licenses for 5G earlier so far this year.

The deployment of 5G in the C-band could lead to possible harmful radio frequency interaction with radar altimeters,” David Silver, AIA vice president for Civil Aviation, recently told Aviation Today magazine. “Protecting the frequency bands used by these sensors, which provide direct measurements of an aircraft’s clearance height over terrain or other obstacles, is imperative to the safe operations of thousands of civil aircraft and the well-being of the flying public.”

As far as the booming 5G market be slowed down by health advocacy groups, there’s this: On Aug. 13, Children’s Health Defense (CHD) won its historic case against the FCC, challenging the agency’s decision not to review its 1996 health and safety guidelines for wireless-based technologies, including 5G.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled that “the FCC’s failure to provide a reasoned explanation for its determination that its 1996 radiofrequency (RF) emission guidelines adequately protect the public against the harmful effects of exposure to radiation from 5G and wireless-based technologies unrelated to cancer, renders the agency’s decision capricious, arbitrary and not evidence based, in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The court judgment remanded the decision to the Commission.”

According to the court, analysis provided by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) on which the FCC relied for its decision, was also not evidence based, failing to meet the level of analysis required from a government agency. The court also dismissed the FCC’s attempt to construe other agencies’ silence as consent.

“The court’s decision exposes the FCC and FDA as captive agencies that have abandoned their duty to protect public health in favor of a single-minded crusade to increase telecom industry profits,” said CHD Chairman and an attorney on the case Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

The bottom line is that much misinformation and many conspiracy theories circulate in news cycles about the dangers of 5G — including it being radioactive, causing cancer, destroying plant life and killing the birds and bees. More research needs to be done on the technology, but so far, no concrete evidence yet exists that 5G causes negative health effects.

However, 5G does generate one big negative: The technology’s power-hungry base stations consume up to three times more power than 4G and LTE networks. This massive electricity consumption will certainly leave a bigger carbon footprint on the environment and could be a big problem for countries that depend on fossil fuels for electricity generation.

Mike Harrington is a contributing editor

From Backhaul to Sensing RF Emissions, Satellite Markets are Expanding

By J. Sharpe Smith, Senior Editor

The satellite industry is experiencing more activity than at any time in its history. At the end of 2019, the Satellite Industry Association (SIA) reported 2,460 operational satellites in space, an increase of 77 percent over five years. At the end of 2020, that number had grown to 3,371 satellites. So far, in 2021, 750 satellites have been launched, with plans for another 220 in the next month.

Thomas Stroup, SIA CEO, moderated the panel, “Satellites Make Inroads into New Markets,” which was featured during the April AGL Virtual Summit.

“So just in terms of the number of satellites, we’re seeing explosive growth,” he said. But it’s not just growth in the number of satellites that’s important. The capacity has increased, and the number of vertical market applications has expanded, as well.”

Clockwise: Thomas Stroup, SIA; Manik Vinnakota, Telesat; Maureen McLaughlin, Iridium; and Adam Bennett, Hawkeye360

In fact, the capacity of each of these satellites grew 420 percent between 2013 and 2019, while costs dropped 80 percent. The advent of privatized launches lowered the costs of launching satellites by 34 percent per kilogram over the last 10 years.

“The capacity and the cost of deployment are also moving in the direction of tremendous growth in the industry,” Stroup said.

The session included three companies that highlighted the innovation now occurring in the satellite field.

Manik Vinnakota, director of commercial and product development, Telesat, described his company’s game plan concerning broadband communications. Telesat has 16 geostationary earth orbit (GEO) satellites that operate in the C-, Ku- and Ka-bands. But it is the global network of 298 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites, dubbed LightSpeed, integrated with on-ground data networks that is driving its future, according to Vinnakota. The LEO satellite constellation is designed to serve the enterprise market, providing backhaul for mobile operators and wireless internet service providers.

“In the provision of broadband communications, the backhaul component is a critical link, especially in rural areas,” Vinnakota said. “We are working with the government of Canada to provide subsidized backhaul to all of Canada’s telcos and ISPs. We are looking forward to doing it elsewhere, too.

“The telcos and ISPs know how to provide local access, and we provide the backhaul,” he added. “Together we can provide low-cost, low-latency internet service.”

Adam Bennett, director of product marketing of Hawkeye360, spoke about his company, which launched a constellation of satellites in January that is now providing services to identify and geolocate sources of radio frequencies around the world. Satellites used to be large, costly and time-consuming to develop and deploy, but Hawkeye360 is taking advantage of new technologies to design smaller satellites with 10 times the capacity, which it privately launches using the Spacex Falcon 9, according to Bennett. RF sources can be identified with pinpoint accuracy with the technology

“We are providing a lot of Department of Defense applications,” he said. “Why? Governments want to be aware of what’s going on around the world, and RF is an indicator of activity.” The company plans the launch of additional satellites into orbit every quarter for a couple of years for a total of 30 birds to provide more coverage of maritime and land-based RF signals.

Possibly, in the future this RF sensing capability could be used to find the source of an interfering signal to a cell site or to inform broader telecom policy around the world by tracking what frequencies are commonly used in which countries. “Even though we are doing a lot of defense security applications, we see a whole host of commercial opportunities for this technology for users around the world,” Bennett said.

The advent of private spaceflight by a new generation of pioneers, such as Elon Musk’s Spacex and Jeff Bezo’s Blue Origin, and the resurgence of NASA are being referred to as “Space 2.0.” Iridium has been around since “Space 1.0,” according to Maureen McLaughlin, vice president of public policy, Iridium, pioneering mobile satellite in the 1990s. It has 66 satellites that are crosslinked and provide a mesh network for secure communications covering the entire globe.

Iridium has a joint venture with Ariane where the satellites track commercial aircraft for real-time traffic management when the planes are over water, in addition to providing maritime communications. The addition of hosting Internet of things data traffic has provided a 30-percent increase in commercial revenues for the satellite company.

“We see huge demand for those services,” McLaughlin said. “It is one of our largest growth areas. We have more than a million subscribers. The interesting thing about the IoT is you have so many ecosystems it can support, such as equipment fleets, utilities, oil & gas, heavy equipment, marine manufacturers.” Most recently, Iridium struck up a relationship with Amazon Web Services, called Iridium Cloud Connect, which allows devices to send and receive through the internet to the cloud. In the South Pacific, Iridium is used for command and control of a drone fleet to deliver vaccines.