Emergency power planning for wireless carriers

Once again snow storm Nemo demonstrated that traditional methods of powering cell towers need to be revised.

Within the last two years, the Northeast has been hit with several storms including Hurricane Sandy and now Nemo.

In 2011, the FCC proposed that the industry explore wireless networks that can be operated from blimps and unmanned aircraft in a disaster. The wireless industry pushed back, arguing such systems would cause interference.

Wireless carriers argue they don’t need rules to ensure the reliability of their networks during emergencies, because it is in their best interest to do so.

Yet the situation has not changed.

The current emergency strategy consists of:

1. Backup batteries that provide service for 8 hours

2. Backup generators for some critical sites

3. Charging stations and coordination centers

However, as a country that has always led by innovating, there is still much more that can be done.

Octavia Technology suggestions:

1. Power over Fiber solutions. In many cases, there are existing fiber optic cables connecting the base station tower to the rest of the network.

A Fiber Optic Link Power Over Fiber (PoF) system provides power transmission over three multimode optical fibers. It is designed to provide true, isolated power to a Fiber Optic Link CO side card when line sealing current or local AC power is not available. The PoF system delivers constant power and does not require backup batteries at the remote location. Utilizing state of the art photonic technology the PoF system eliminates the need to run conductive copper wire into a high Ground Potential Rise (GPR) zone, and is a reliable and convenient remote powering solution.

2. Greater use of Solar Power.

Tower owners need to be innovative and create a Solar Grid as a Service (SGaaS) Platform as a business offering to wireless carriers. Tower companies such as American Tower Corporation (ATC), SBA Communications and Crown Castle to name a few, can create a new stream of revenue by deploying photovoltaic solar array grids and leasing power back to the carriers.

3. Fuel Cells.

AT&T has joined the list of companies that are committed to using fuel cells away from diesel generators in their data centers. The motivation to find alternatives to diesel generators is rooted in its commitment to become less dependent on the utility grid, and use renewable energy wherever possible. Bloom Energy is currently one of the market leaders in fuel cells and we would like to see the use of this technology beyond data centers into the wireless network.

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