February 5, 2015 — In the next year or two, the wireless industry will see antenna mounts that will be stronger and lighter, helping alleviate wind-loading issues caused by the additional equipment being put up on towers, according to Damon Carotenuto, product business unit leader, TESSCO Technologies.
Carotenuto spoke before an audience during the “Next Generation Towers and Mounting” session during the TESSCO ONE Innovation Showcase and Conference, Feb. 4, in Dallas.
“The next wave of mounts will revolutionize antenna site development. The new mounts will be smarter, lighter, easier to install with multiple configurations. It’s about either making something that exists better or take a totally different approach and making it smarter and more universal,” Carotenuto said.
Carotenuto began to see antenna technology evolve with the WiMAX deployments in 2011, and four years later the approach to deploying equipment on a tower has completely changed. “Today there is very little equipment at the base. It’s mostly on the tower,” he said.
In the last 18 months, Carotenuto has seen an increase in sales of antenna mount reinforcement products, which allow carriers to cope with the additional weight of LTE antennas with their
accompanying remote radio heads.
“The deployment of LTE equipment has increased the demand for reinforcement for existing mounts and for new, stronger replacement mounts,” he said.
If the increased weight on the tower is not accounted for, the tower may become a dangerous situation.
“Deploying antennas with accompanying remote radio heads that weigh a couple hundred pounds a couple of hundred feet up in the air on the existing mount can become a safety hazard,” Carotenuto said. “We want to make sure that everything is built to spec and can hold the load that is going up there. Mounts should not be an afterthought, he said, they should spec’d in at the same time the antenna is.”
Concern About Antenna Mount Safety Expressed at AGL Conference
Many 4G-enabled cell towers pose a safety threat today because of improperly mounted LTE antennas, Brandon Chapman, engineering and technical support manager, Valmont Site Pro 1, told an audience during AGL’s Wireless Infrastructure Conference in Irvine, California, back in 2013.
“I haven’t seen a lot of failures. I know the potential is there from an engineering point of view,” Chapman said after the session.
In the hypercompetitive market of the late 1990s and early 2000s, new, inexperienced vendors entered the market and helped to rapidly build out the infrastructure, but sometimes quality suffered, Chapman said. It is a scenario that he hopes to avoid repeating.
“Right now we are in another time period [similar to the 1990s], where speed of deployment is critical,” Chapman said. “But we cannot let it get the best of us. Instead of rushing to get the LTE infrastructure out there, we need to take a step back, do the right thing and analyze how to deploy these antennas properly.”
Chapman noted that, in the name of speed and cost-efficiency, some in the industry are re-using the 3G mounting materials for LTE upgrades.
“With the introduction of LTE and smartphones, many remote radio heads have been installed on towers using the same mounts that the 3G antennas used, which are insufficient because they are rated for much lighter and smaller antennas,” Chapman said.