Eight months after debuting an underground equipment enclosure that can fit discreetly in a much smaller geographic footprint, Infrasite Infrastructure Solutions signed a master lease agreement (MLA) with AT&T to build out macro towers nationwide.
“Now, we are an innovative tower company,” said Kevin Aycock, InfraSite CEO. “Give us the search rings, and we can do the zoning, the permitting, the construction of the box and the tower.”
InfraSite plans to own infrastructure from macro towers and mini-macros to small cells and centralized RAN hubs, and lease space to the carriers. The company will be hiring local site acquisition firms, engineering firms and construction companies to perform installations initially to fulfill AT&T’s pent-up demand to build out mini-macros (80 feet to 100 feet tall) and small cells in the urban and suburban areas.
“I talked with the local real estate managers at AT&T and discussed how many search rings that are waiting because there was no room for the site equipment above ground,” Aycock said. “Now we can go to a nearby parking lot and bury the equipment underground, and that unlocks a lot of commercial real estate across the country that has been off limits to every other tower company for the last 20 years.” The pent-up demand could involve as many as 50 search rings in each of the top 50 to 100 markets, he added.
Pent-up Demand for Mini-macrotowers
Aycock has been in construction and tower development for 20 years with Dynamic Towers and Dynamic Construction Services, and he has seen legacy sites never get built because of space constraints.
“I know these real estate managers have these old legacy sites that couldn’t be built out,” he said. “That’s why I came up with the idea for the Magic Box underground shelter to unlock the potential for those sites. This MLA and others that will be announced in the future will bring more 4G LTE mini-macro site builds across the country. 4G LTE is still the core backbone of the network.”
InfraSite has received a couple of search rings from the south Florida group, but with the signed MLA, Aycock will be visiting the local real estate managers nationwide and negotiating vendor relationships with the local site acquisition, engineering and construction firms.
“This will bring more opportunities for them,” he said. “We will get these sites zoned, permitted and constructed. We will get these sites built.
How Does the Box Protect Equipment?
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.
The enclosure can be used 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.