Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Remote Site Tower Monitoring

 Remote Site Tower Monitoring

Connectivity all across the globe is made possible through the use of towers. More and more towers are being installed in remote areas. These allow broadcasters and telecommunications companies to increase coverage area. Unfortunately, these remote towers are often plagued with multiple risks and therefore remote site tower monitoring is required.

BTS remote towers cost around $200,000 and $250,000. They face the risk of downtime, poor maintenance, unnecessary energy consumption, security breach, and fuel theft. Due to the high investment involved, such risks are classified as a major threat. These may lead to revenue loss and expensive unplanned maintenance brought by the unexpected downtime caused by the aforementioned risks. Additionally, such inconveniences also cause dissatisfaction among customers. The improper monitoring of towers can lead to higher costs, energy waste, and loss of vital resources.

To address these issues, companies should effectively implement tower monitoring strategies. Remote site tower monitoring enables activities previously conducted on-site to be done remotely. This allows for increased efficiency and speedy delivery of services. The staff is still very much involved. However, they spend less time on-site. The staff instead does the study monitoring activities remotely through a secure online platform. This can be applied to radio, TV, and cellular towers. The implementation of these strategies will help ensure that telecommunications companies and tower operators are immediately alerted in case a problem arises. 

There are many tower remote site tower monitoring options to choose from, depending on the location. For areas with lighting, basic monitoring products can be used. This will send notifications to the operator regarding strobe and incandescent system alarms. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has ordered operators to report light failures and “alarms” to their organization within 30 minutes of knowing about the malfunction. Within 15 days, the repairs must be made. Logs regarding all events that transpired should be recorded as well.

There are monitoring systems that allow you to dial in and diagnose any lighting systems. This will identify the exact nature of the alarm. Through this, unnecessary physical visits are avoided. It also provides the parts needed for repair prior to sending technicians to repair the specific part. They are also able to detect and report repetitive issues through the status changes. Grave fines and possible liability are significantly reduced through light monitoring systems. 

Other monitoring systems can also monitor the following: 

  • Room and equipment temperature
  • Fuel levels and auxiliary power
  • Antenna VSMR
  • Antenna reflected power
  • Entry and exit
  • Intrusion and movement
  • Humidity
  • Wind speed
  • Smoke and fire
  • Transmit forward power

Notifications, alarms, and relevant data are sent through GSM, PCS, satellite, wireless network, satellite, microwave, fiber optic, and phone line. 

Causes of Tower light Outages

In order to prevent tower light outages, it is important to identify its common causes.

  • Power outages

The primary reason for tower light outages are power outages. The whole site will go dark if there is a commercial power failure and there is no reliable backup power supply in place.

  • Backup power supply failures

Every site is prone to power loss. Due to this, multiple backup systems should be in place. However, if the staff is not oriented for proper intervention, there might not be enough time to stop light outages from occurring.

Monitoring of Causes of Tower light Outages
Photo Credit: www.powerprotectionresource.com

Regular Monitoring

The light monitoring systems utilized by the tower should enable site operators to remotely check the tower’s performance every 24 hours. Some tower owners have been fined by FAA as much as $10,000 for not working monitoring systems. Despite the owners justifying that they checked the system daily, they were unaware of a failure due to a power surge that caused their modem to be disabled. Some monitoring systems have computer-generated systems that automatically send notifications daily. Meanwhile, when a handshake is not performed, a NoCom is provided.

FCC Monitoring

Towers should be painted and lighted in accordance with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations. This is the responsibility of an antenna structure owner. If a licensee authorized on antenna structure has reason to believe that the structure is not maintained as per FCC regulations, the licensee can take immediate steps to ensure that the structure is brought into compliance. The licensee must also notify the structure owner, site management company, and FCC.

Should there be non-compliance by the antenna structure owner, the commission may require the licensee to maintain the structure for an indefinite period in line with the Antenna Structure Registration mandate.

FAA Requirements

The visual and automatic monitoring of obstruction lighting systems is required by the FAA. For sites without automatic monitoring, the visual inspection of obstruction lighting in all operating intensities at least once every 24 hours is essential. Should the structure not be accessible for visual monitoring, a well-maintained automatic monitor should be used instead. This monitor should be able to identify any malfunction of the light on the obstruction regardless of color and position.

Communication and operational status should be confirmed at least once every 24 hours. The visual or aural monitor should be situated in a location generally occupied by the responsible personnel. A remote site tower monitoring may be needed in an attended area in some instances. Every structure should also keep and maintain a log. This log will showcase and record the daily operations and lighting system status.

visual and automatic remote site tower monitoring of obstruction lighting systems requirements of faa
Photo credit: www.surveyworksaustin.com

Benefits of tower monitoring

Proper and effective monitoring can maximize the tower site’s output and reduce costs. Additionally, it also helps preserve the integrity of the expensive asset.

  • Energy management

Tower suites have a large energy consumption. They are a constant liability on the bottom line for several tower operators. By monitoring the site, operators are able to better manage their energy consumption. This prevents expensive energy bills. It also paves the way for a more energy-efficient site.

  • Asset monitoring and handling

An interconnected set of assets work together to ensure that towers have the best output connectivity possible. These assets need constant maintenance. The use of effective monitoring tools will enable agile monitoring of the tower components and their health status. It will also be easier to conduct preventive maintenance for telecommunications and supporting equipment before a major failure occurs. Therefore, avoiding possible downtime and damage.

  • Diesel generator monitoring

Since many tower sites use fuel to operate, they tend to be a common target for diesel thieves. This threat will be mitigated through proper monitoring. Keeping track of the fuel levels and other important components of the site’s supply will help measure power output. It will also prevent theft since unusual fuel level changes will be immediately identified.

  • Security and access control

Broadcasting and cell towers are expensive assets. Due to this, they are often targeted by cybercriminals. The necessary security measures should be implemented in order to protect these assets from malicious intent. Proper monitoring tools can centralize security supervision. This allows tower operators to access, control, and consequently protect the tower sites. Additionally, this will also enable personnel to monitor the site 24/7 and send out alerts in case of intrusions.

  • Natural disaster protection

Natural disasters are often unpredictable and can occur at any time. Therefore, these pose a major threat to remote assets since they can result in damage and downtime. The use of effective monitoring tools will help operators immediately detect unfavorable environmental conditions like storms, floods, fires, and smoke.

Challenges

It is evident that there are many advantages to tower monitoring. However, there are many challenges that hinder proper monitoring despite innovations in technology. 

These tower sites would not be able to be properly monitored without a reliable and stable connection. This becomes particularly challenging to towers constructed in remote areas. These towers have limited avenues for proper connectivity. 

Monitoring and control are a critical need. However, dependable connectivity in tower assets located in rural and inaccessible areas still remains a formidable challenge up to date

Intrusion

Since copper is expensive, ground bus bar and transmission line thefts from tower sites are prevalent. Some thieves even go to a site in broad daylight in populated areas to remove ground systems and coaxial cables. Authorities were able to arrest some of the bandits. However, the number of stripped sites is still increasing. Due to this, site owners and carriers are installing site monitoring equipment in an attempt to thwart theft and vandalism. 

Threats to tower failure

Monitoring tower lights are essential to protect companies from major tower site threats:

  • Aircraft hazards
  • Fines due to little to no monitoring in tower sites
  • Other threats that affect daily operations

A tower light failure can be a dangerous hazard to low-flying aircraft. If a tower light malfunctioned, there is a tendency for an aircraft to accidentally crash into a tower site. Not only will it spell disaster for the company- resulting in financial and reputational damages – but it may also lead to the loss of aircraft passenger lives. In order to prevent this, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) requires that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is immediately notified within 30 minutes of the failure. If the company fails to immediately notify the responsible authorities, it may face serious fines.

Day-to-day operations can be compromised when fixing power outages. Frequent downtime and service outages may cause customers to transfer to the competition. Remote site tower monitoring is crucial in ensuring that broadcast and cellular operations run smoothly. Improper monitoring can have severe repercussions for the companies, both financially and legally. Aside from that, a company’s reputation can also be damaged because of a tower’s constant malfunction. This is why stringent measures should be taken in order to ensure that a tower site is effectively monitored.

Reference Links:

https://www.eutelsat.com/en/blog/remote-tower-monitoring.html

http://wirelessestimator.com/content/industryinfo/46

https://www.dpstele.com/blog/how-to-remotely-detect-tower-light-failures.php

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