Reducing tower load – how and why

By Dr. Dahlit Brin 10 min read

Telcos want to minimize tower load on their towers. At the same time, they need to supply maximum capacity to provide their subscribers with optimal customer experience. Wireless backhaul technology can help in many ways to significantly reduce footprint, costs and time to market, while ensuring maximum digital experience for the end-user.


Is bigger truly better? Well, for mobile operators the exact opposite is true when it comes to putting equipment on their towers. Tower space is a precious and scarce resource, so the name of the game is reducing footprint. Mobile operators need to make sure they use their tower space, whether owned or rented, wisely.

At the same time, operators need to expand their reach and provide the best customer experience to their subscribers. The problem is this: with increasing demand for capacity, providers often feel compelled to opt for bigger radios and antennas.

Yet today telcos often struggle with overcrowded towers, often even making it impossible to install new links, which leads to a subsequent loss of new business. Heavy loads, specifically on older towers, often require costly reinforcements. Environmental factors also can cause wireless infrastructure owners quite a headache. Strong winds and difficult terrain call for the minimization of equipment weight and space on the tower.

Reduced tower loads allow operators to build smaller towers, which are less costly and quicker to set up. Also, smaller towers have a lower visual impact, making it easier to receive building permits.

You show me yours, I’ll show you mine

Alright, we get it – mobile operators are desperate to reduce their tower footprint in any way possible, while providing the best customer experience to their subscribers. The more capacity operators can get out of their limited tower space, the better.

So, the question is: how can telcos maximize capacity while reducing footprint on their real estate? Let’s look at what Ceragon can do to help by reviewing our unique offerings and how they compare to other solutions out there.

Good things come in small packages and so do our radios. Compared to the competition, most of Ceragon’s RF units are smaller and lighter, meaning they take up less space and contribute less load on towers. Our packages are not only small, but extremely powerful. Our High Power (HP) radios have an average system gain advantage of 4-5 dB compared to other HP solutions on the market, meaning we can reduce antenna sizes by up to two sizes.

Now let’s look at a standard Space Diversity (SD) configuration. A competitor would need to install four 1.8m/6ft antennas, while Ceragon’s HP capabilities can shrink those antennas by one size to 1.2m/4ft antennas. That is a significant saving of tower space with a weight reduction of 200kg. But we’ve only just got started. When going with our unique Advanced Space Diversity (ASD) configuration we can use three antennas instead of four. This saves 25% footprint when looking at the same antenna sizes, and even more when taking into consideration the significant reduction in antenna size!

Ceragon’s HP radios are such high performers that they can even reduce the number of towers needed altogether. Ceragon’s HP radios carry high capacity over much longer distances, whereas alternative vendors need to install intermittent hops.

Ceragon’s true multicore radios allow us to provide large capacity with one box, where other vendors need two boxes to guarantee the same performance.

Widechannel capability – a true footprint wonder. Our Quad-core solution is the only all-outdoor solution that supports wide channels of up to 224MHz. With this solution we provide 8GPS using only two boxes, where others need up to 12!

Advanced Frequency Reuse (AFR), another one of Ceragon’s unique technologies, allows for doubling the capacity of wireless backhaul networks. AFR requires only 15° separation between wireless backhaul links that utilize the same frequency channel, instead of employing a separation of at least 90° as needed by other solutions. As a result, more capacity can be provided using significantly less equipment. Besides the CAPEX savings, spectrum fees can be reduced by 50% (depending on the local spectrum-fee scheme). Also, where additional spectrum is not available, AFR enables the maximum use of any given spectrum.





Smaller footprint, lower costs

Lower tower load equals lower costs, whereas more and/or larger equipment increases CAPEX and OPEX related to equipment, transportation and installation. Cost savings can be immense, especially when it comes to our ability to reduce antenna sizes. While large capacity often requires larger antennas, everyone tries to avoid using antennas of 1.8m/6ft, as their installation is more difficult and costly. With antennas of 2.4m/8ft and up, direct mount is not possible. These larger antennas arrive disassembled to the site and require very large cranes to hoist them up to the tower. All this means enormous increases in costs and time to market. When passing the 2.4m/8ft mark, the costs of the antennas themselves skyrocket with increases of around 100% per antenna size.

Many operators don’t own the towers and need to rent them. When more space is taken up, tower rents increase accordingly. The potential tower rent savings delivered by our solutions can be huge - and I mean HUGE - depending on tower location and rental costs. In some cases, the savings from lower annual tower rent alone translates into a payback of less than a year for the entire link. Trust me, I crunched the numbers.

Installation time is another factor to consider. When more and/or larger equipment needs to be fitted on the tower, installation times are longer. In particular, very large antennas require very lengthy installation times. Those longer installation times mean longer time to market and longer periods in which subscribers are kept waiting, which is not good in terms of customer experience or time to revenues.

On a final and “green” note, by cutting down the need for transportation-related to installation and maintenance, over what are often very long distances, we help reduce CO2 emissions. This is yet another good reason to “go small” when it comes to tower load.

Futureproof and flexibility are other important aspects of any solution and directly related, among others, to the equipment and its footprint on the tower. In my next blog article, I will discuss in what ways operators should look at the expected upgrade path and compare the costs of any proposed solution over time, when evaluating wireless hauling solutions.

Learn more how you can reduce tower load with Ceragon’s latest products

Download the IP-50 brochure


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