For years, Kevin Aycock has headed up Dynamic Towers and Dynamic Construction Services of America, developing construction and designing leasing strategies and racking up 1,500 collocations, on towers high above the ground. But his most ingenious idea may be for placing equipment below ground.
InfraSite Infrastructure Solutions, a new company that Aycock cofounded and leads as CEO, has introduced a medium-sized cell site that is designed to merge macro cell tower capabilities and economics with small site access. The heart of the product is an underground equipment enclosure that can fit discreetly in a much smaller geographic footprint.
The germ of the idea came from when a tower that Aycock was developing in a public shopping mall parking lot was rejected because it needed 20 parking spaces for the ground equipment.
“The zoning department said if you are taking 20 parking spaces you need to give us 20 new parking spaces to offset them,” Aycock said. “We didn’t have those spaces, so the zoning application was denied.”
The answer to the problem, Aycock said, was to bury the radio heads, the baseband units and the backup batteries in an in-ground enclosure. In this case, the enclosure occupies a volume below a single parking space, where a car can still be parked. The carrier equipment is then connected through conduit to a light pole or tower where the antennas are hidden.
According to Vitaliy Pereverzev, InfraSite’s CFO and another cofounder, the ability to bury copious amounts of equipment will make medium-size installations possible in urban and suburban areas.
“Small cells evolved from towers,” Pereverzev said. “When the towers couldn’t be deployed because of space constraints, small cells were born. By locating medium-sized towers in nearby shopping centers, now I can get the RF signal into the residential community without upsetting the neighbors.”
Aycock noted that as far back as 10 years ago he was getting pushback from municipalities for zoning small cells in the right of way with Metro PCS and T-Mobile. “I knew we would need to get smaller macro sites into these smaller commercial properties on the edge of the residential communities to get the signal in without putting a small cell outside of someone’s bedroom window,” he said.
Installers place equipment inside InfraSite’s patented enclosure while it is above ground. Using an internal scissor lift system, they then move the enclosure seamlessly below ground. The 150-cubic-foot enclosure offers a dedicated rack per carrier (2 x 25 U racks), and provides for backup power sources at the level a carrier needs.
Made of anticorrosive weathering steel, sometimes called cor-ten steel, the box and its cover are designed to move water away from the enclosure to protect the equipment. The box has redundant seals to keep moisture out. Two sump pumps are available to remove condensation or water in case seals fail.
An internal heat pump protects the equipment from temperature fluctuations. Operators can use an app to monitor and control the site from anywhere. The heat pump can adjust the temperature to suit a wide variety of equipment. The equipment takes less energy to cool because the passive geothermal benefit of being below ground.
For a full macro tower site, a box may need to be buried for each carrier. However, carriers can share, and their equipment can be cooled, within the same enclosure in separate, secure compartments.
Carriers have also indicated their interest in using the enclosure for C-RAN small cell networks. The small cells with the radios and antennas would connect via fiber with the box, which would contain baseband equipment and backup batteries. The box also may be used for edge microcomputing data centers or for smart city kiosks.
“We can provide a full commercial tower with a small footprint, and the racks can be reconfigured for several functions,” Pereverzev said.
Cell Site Developer
According to Aycock, InfraSite plans to become a cell site developer that provides a turnkey solution that includes the proprietary below-ground enclosure; a pole to match the carrier’s design objectives; and engineering, zoning, permitting, construction and installation of the carrier’s equipment.
Along with marketing its product directly to carriers, InfraSite will supply third-party providers, such as tower companies, Aycock said. He said he already is seeing acceptance in residential areas that previously were anti-cellular tower and that were against even small cells.
“Now I am getting calls from gated communities to bury the equipment next to the golf course and to install the antennas on light poles,” Aycock said. “It is a way to repackage the old tower sites into a new solution. Whether, is a medium-size cell site, a mini-macro, a small cell or a kiosk, I’ve got the box and conduit, and you can attach them to any tower you want.”