By Wu Guoxiang & Ren Jingbin
To handle the explosion of data traffic, mobile networking is becoming mobile broadband. Besides improving network infrastructure, operators need to conserve energy, reduce operating costs, and minimize their carbon footprint; eco-friendly G3 (third-generation) sites provide an optimal solution.
Emerging challenges for radio sites
When a wireless network is built, onsite facilities generally consume seventy percent of the total investment. Expenses for a radio site typically involve communications equipment, power supply, wireless support, transmission equipment (including the towers that support them), equipment housing, antenna feeders, and civil engineering.
Towers and equipment rooms account for the majority of CAPEX, while OPEX is mostly funneled to energy consumption and maintenance costs. Onsite energy saving and emission reduction will help reduce expenditures for both.
The return on investment (ROI) for early network rollout is low. During this period, network operational stability is top priority; this often leads to construction and maintenance neglect. As the number of subscribers grows on a network, more challenges emerge. One major hurdle to network growth is that suitable locations are becoming difficult to acquire and/or renew. Prime real estate is increasingly being occupied by competitors; and residential concerns about radiation exposure and property value are further complicating things. Even the renewal of current sites is becoming onerous. A provincial branch of China Mobile lost twenty percent of its rented sites in 2010 to unsuccessful renewal and civil reconstruction.
Another drag on network expansion is CAPEX and OPEX; it is estimated that one million radio sites will be built in the next five years, with each site costing hundreds of thousands of US dollars. This will complement the three million physical sites already in use; all will require electricity (typically power grid or diesel), rent (antennas, transmission & land), and maintenance.
A third hindrance is the rollout process itself, which usually takes one to two months for an individual site. This is an eternity in the 21st century, where the king-of-the-hill can become an also-ran overnight.
Eco-friendly & integrated G3 sites
These challenges warrant evaluation and improvement of site rollout. Huawei provides an evaluation system that can help operators find the optimal solutions for building and upgrading their radio sites. This system has abundant indices that cover CAPEX, OPEX, site acquisition/retention, and rollout, each of which encompasses several sub-indices.
First-generation (G1) radio sites are large, both in terms of space and power consumption; they require a long rollout period, as they are typically the foundation for further rollout. G2 sites are outdoor sites, which involve numerous 'boxes' that are troublesome to maintain. Huawei's G3 site solutions are flexible, intelligent, energy-saving, low-cost, and discreet, which can be summarized as FIELD.
Flexible (F) means that these sites can be rolled out for a variety of scenarios and time frames, from two hours to one month.
Intelligent (I) covers network management and evolution. Management can be specified to different layers and levels. Layers include equipment, site, office, and network; while levels include monitoring, control, and operations. Evolution can be measured through site upgrade costs.
Energy-saving (E) can be evaluated through power usage effectiveness (PUE), which refers to the ratio of energy consumption for a site to that of its communications equipment. The smaller the ratio, the more energy is saved.
Low-cost (L) refers to the overall costs for these G3 sites, compared with G1 & G2.
Discreet (D) refers to the modest space that each unit consumes, and its ability to blend in with the surrounding environment without disguise.
Huawei FIELD guarantees that its G3 solutions are suitable for any scenario – urban, rural or legacy. These solutions enable site rollout without equipment rooms, allowing telcos to cost-efficiently operate outdoor sites to save energy and reduce their footprint.
Urban coverage: Acquiring new sites and reserving legacy sites are key challenges in urban areas. In response, Huawei has rolled out its Slim Site, Clean Site and Quick Site solutions.
Slim Site, which is compact in size and can be entirely disguised, is used for terrestrial deployment. With a land occupancy of less than one square meter, Slim Site supports base station distribution and microwave transmission. Compared with legacy sites, Slim Site can reduce TCO by thirty percent and double the construction speed. These sites have already been deployed on a large scale in Africa and Latin America.
Clean Site is intended for rooftop use or deployment in other areas where aesthetics are important. The mast for Clean Site can be erected upside-down, and both the radio and microwave antennas are adjustable. Deployment can be done by two engineers in four hours. Compared with legacy sites, Clean Site requires significantly less OPEX and construction time.
Quick Site, which uses containers and parallel modular towers (lift towers), can be deployed in urban and suburban areas. Supporting up to forty meters of height, Quick Site can be deployed within 24 hours for hotspots, blind spots, aerial sites, and emergency communications. Compared with traditional sites, Quick Site has similar CAPEX yet takes only five percent of the construction period. Over 300 units have been deployed worldwide.
Rural coverage: Operators can adopt the Easy Site solution for rural areas. With its modular design and easy installation, Easy Site features solar battery utilization, low power consumption, and a design that combines the tower and cabinet. In addition, PV cells can be installed on each tower as a theft deterrent. With thirty percent less CAPEX and seventy percent less OPEX compared with traditional sites, Easy Site simplifies site deployment and facilitates network evolution. This solution is now commercially deployed in West Africa.
Legacy site upgrade: During legacy site upgrade, operators need to save energy, space, materials, time, and manpower; and ensure ROI within three years.
Huawei's PowerCube, a hybrid power supply solution, is compact and integrates the diesel, battery, power supply, and control modules. PowerCube can be delivered as a full equipment suite or separately; more than 10,000 sets have been deployed. It can reduce fuel consumption by over forty percent through precise switchover between fuel and electricity.
Zain (Nigeria) once used twenty thousand liters of fuel annually for each remote site, but this volume has been cut in half thanks to PowerCube. Zain has also attained ROI within two years, and maintenance personnel head out half as often as they once did.
Huawei's SmartCooling solution consists of a free cooling system (FCS) supplemented by a constant temperature battery cabinet (CTBC) and is suitable for reducing the power consumed by air conditioners. Operators can save energy by using CTBC to regulate the temperature where batteries are stored, while both systems can be combined to supplement direct ventilation to legacy air conditioning.
With its modular design, SmartCooling can eliminate site surveys. It also supports intelligent management, and reduces maintenance costs through its advanced dustproof netting. Widely deployed by China Mobile, China Telecom and Vodafone Germany, this solution can reduce energy consumption by thirty percent and deliver full return on investment within three years.
A single cabinet from Huawei Mini-shelter (an outdoor equipment room) occupies only one square meter, a sixty percent savings over a traditional equipment room.
It uses separate temperature control methods for different modules, including intelligent heat exchange, direct ventilation, and direct-current air conditioning. In this context, Mini-shelter can ensure smooth equipment performance and reduce power consumption by forty to eighty percent. It also uses splints to ensure heat insulation. Operators can assemble the Mini-shelter onsite or install it as a whole set.
Statistics show that seventy percent of new sites are deployed outdoors, while half of legacy sites are indoors. Mini-shelter provides an optimal solution for migrating legacy sites that require capacity expansion or relocation.
Mini-shelter can accommodate various indoor/outdoor devices, and reduce space by seventy percent, weight by forty six percent, and materials consumed by seventy percent, compared with traditional sites. This solution has been widely deployed in China, APAC, and the Middle East.
Huawei expert teams have conducted in-depth research to determine the optimal site solutions for any operator. Focusing on the challenges that they face, Huawei will continue its innovation and provide operators with what they need, well into the future.