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How to Monitor Your Tower Sites: 9 Real-World Examples for 2022

By Andrew Erickson

January 11, 2022

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Monitoring tower sites is one of the most common uses for remote site monitoring equipment. RTUs collect data about local conditions, then send it to a central master station.

Diagram of RTU monitoring beacon lights at a tower site.
In this diagram, a NetGuardian LT G2 monitors "Beacon A" and "Beacon B" (tower lights) for failures. Discrete alarms are also collected from a Control Panel box (if applicable). Alarms appear in the web interface and trigger email/SMS alerts.

The price per site can vary. Some monitoring can be accomplished for less than $1000, while very large sites with high sensor requirements might exceed $5000.

In my role at DPS, this is something that I quote a lot. Every project is a little different, but they share many similarities.

Let's review several of my recent projects and discuss how they might apply to you:

Example #1: County Fire Department Monitors Radio Towers

Here's the proposal summary I put together for a county fire department in Texas that I recently visited. We performed a site survey, and these were my recommendations:

It was great visiting you last week. Driving out to your 3 sites gave me a good understanding of what you need to monitor.

I understand that you need:

  1. A small rack-mount RTU and sensors that will collect alarms from your radios, propane tanks, tower lights, and environmental sensors.
  2. An AC-powered device that runs on commercial power (or your AC UPS)

The solution I've quoted here includes:

  1. A TempDefender G2 to collect data from your radio/lighting/other equipment (via contact closures) and also from...
  2. An assortment of sensors that will monitor temperature, airflow, the site door, and propane level.
  3. A fair amount of additional capacity for future expansion, without going "overkill".
  4. The ability to send email or SMS (via email) alerts whenever important events happen. You can choose which alarms should trigger which alerts to one or more emails/phones.

Example #2: Tower Light Monitoring to Email/Text

Late last year, I was approached by a contractor whose customer is a radio station with an "old and basic" lighting system. He was evaluating his options for monitoring systems.

The goal? They want to avoid a $25,000 fine they heard was recently assessed against another non-compliant radio station: "The enforcers don't get out to these part too often, but sometimes they do."

No matter what he chose, he really needed to received email or SMS alerts whenever a tower light failure happened:

I understand that you need:

  1. Two discrete inputs to collect tower light status from two light systems.
  2. Determination of day/night based on the site's existing light sensor.
  3. Email/text alerts when something is wrong.

The NetGuardian LT G2 I've quoted here will:

  1. Monitor your tower lights.
  2. Monitor your light sensor with a third discrete input, then alert based on "if light not on AND night" logic.
  3. Email/text (text via email) alerts to you whenever something is wrong.

Example #3: NetGuardian for Microwave Tower Sites

I also got the chance to offer two different NetGuardian options for use at a microwave tower.

There were many different goals for this project, and I summarized the matching benefits of the solution in this way:

Thank you again for contacting us regarding your Microwave Tower project. We look forward to providing your client with a tower monitoring solution. Based on our correspondence, I have prepared this proposal to include pricing for the NetGuardian LT G2, NetGuardian ENV, and D-Wire Sensors.

By deploying this solution you will immediately gain the following benefits:

  • Provide the ability to monitor tower lights automatically and continuously
  • Provide the ability to take alarm inputs and report them via SNMP.
  • The temperature sensor will allow you to set user-configurable trigger points or thresholds (Major Over, Major Under, Minor Over, and Minor Under), giving greater detail of temperature being out of tolerance at your site, so you can be proactive in correcting the issue.
  • Having the ability to know the live temperature of the remote site so they can intelligently decide on a
  • uck roll now or schedule a site visit, saving time and money for unnecessary truck rolls.
  • A built-in, user-friendly web browser - and no special software to load on your computer for configuring the device.
  • Having a Telco-Grade, multi-generational, US-manufactured RTU that is built specifically for this type of high-reliability operation to support your operations. Install the unit and let it do its job for the next 10-12 years.
  • The small unit capacity that will align with the project, so there will be no wasted features.

After reviewing the technical overview, application drawings, and pricing, we think you will find our proposal to be the perfect fit for your network. We're confident DPS Telecom will be an excellent partner for you, particularly because we offer you a 30-Day No-Risk Money-Back Guarantee, a long-term client relationship commitment, and 24-hour emergency technical support, as well as other client services that no other company in this industry can match.

Example #4: SNMP for 6 Tower Sites

Here's another county, this time with six sites to monitor:

Radio tower monitored by DPS RTU and T/Mon
Radio towers for police/fire/911 by county governments also need tower-light monitoring. Here, text and email notifications are sent by a T/Mon master station that centralizes alarms from many DPS RTUs.

As you requested, I've prepared this proposal for SNMP monitoring at the first 6 of your tower sites.

At each tower site, I understand that you need:

  • Up to 16 discretes.
  • Up to 4 analogs (propane, temperature, etc.)
  • SNMP (including SNMPv3)
  • 19" rack mounting
  • Dual power (AC & -48v DC)
  • The solution quoted here includes:

    1. Our NetGuardian M16 SNMP RTU, which has 16 discretes, 6 analog inputs (4 for general use, 2 wired internally for power-feed monitoring), and outputs SNMP v1-v3.
    2. Ears for a standard 19" rack.
    3. One AC wall transformer for each NetGuardian (AC to NetGuardian's native -48 VDC).

    Example: #5: Tower Site "Echo Application"

    This project was handled by my colleague Benjamin. It involves an "echo application", where discrete alarms at one location are sent to another and reconstituted as contact closures.

    Here's the overview we included in our proposal:

    Thanks again for contacting us regarding your upcoming project. Based on your conversation with Benjamin, we understand you would like to monitor 2 tower sites and echo certain alarms from your tower site into a dispatch console.

    Although over the phone we reviewed the echo notification technology, DPS believes using a Trap Relay may be a better fit. We have included a topology drawing for review on how the solution would work. By deploying this solution you will immediately gain the following:

    • Having a Telco-Grade, multi-generational, US-manufactured RTU that is built specifically for this type of high reliability operation to support your operations. Install the unit and let it do its job for the next 10-12 years.
    • A built-in, user-friendly web browser, and no special software to load on your computer for configuring the device, viewing live data, and pushing new firmware remotely.
    • Know current status of your alarms in real time, allowing you to know right away what the current status of your tower sites. This will eliminate the current 12-hour wait time for alarms to clear.

    Example #6: Environmentally Hardened RTU

    This solution revolves around RTUs with extended temperature ranges. DPS equipment is installed in remote parts of Alaska and Antarctica, so we know a thing or two about engineering against the cold. In this project, we were installing equipment at high elevation a temperatures well below freezing:

    Tower Monitoring System in a NEMA enclosure
    This monitoring setup was designed especially for a power utility with telecom towers in their network. It houses the monitoring device, a power supply, a battery, and a heater in a weatherproof NEMA-rated enclosure.

    Thanks again for reaching out to us regarding your tower initiative. We look forward to providing you with a perfect-fit solution.

    Based on your conversation with Benjamin & Ron, we understand you are looking to monitor various tower sites across California and have an "Environmentally Hardened" unit to monitor contact closures from site equipment.

    We have revised this proposal to present our RTU the NetGuardian 432 and 480 as an expansion path. We understand that you still are requesting a unit that will support Modbus and come with an onboard switch, please know DPS is still reviewing this solution and will have an answer soon.

    We have also included on pricing on the rCell Modem (DPS is looking into DC to DC converter to power unit), External Antenna and Wall Transformers that can be used with the DC units quoted if sites turn out to need AC.

    You will notice the investment page shows our NetGuardian 432 with an expansion path of swapping the unit to a NetGuardian 480, since the 432 & 480 share pinouts this would give you a way of upgrading the capacity of the unit without needing to rewire the connectors. We also revised the part number to include a 7-port switch, in case these sites do not get internet access.

    By deploying this solution you will immediately gain the following:

    • Having an Environmental Hardened unit with an operating temperature range of -22F to 158F. This will allow you to cover all environments found in California.
    • ...

    Example #7: Wireless 4G Alarm Backhaul for Tower Lights

    Many sites we work in have wired LAN available, even if it is ultimately carried wirelessly over microwave. In this case, we needed a wireless 4G connection for the RTU:

    Thanks again for reaching out to us regarding your upcoming project. We look forward to providing you with a monitoring solution. We understand you are looking into a way to pick up contact closures from your tower light panel, and report alarms over a wireless AT&T 4G network. For this solution we have prepared this proposal with information and pricing on two options of our RTUs:

    • Option A will showcase our NetGuardian LT G2, which starts out at 4 I/Os and has a small form factor.
    • Option B is our TempDefender G2. This unit starts off at 8 I/Os, but does allow space to expand your monitoring and future-proof this solution.

    You will also notice a separate table that features the rCell modem that will be connected to the RTU and allow the unit to send alarm information over the wireless AT&T network. If a different carrier is needed, please let us know and we will gladly revise.

    Example #8: Tower Light Monitoring History Logs

    In this application, I quoted a system to monitor tower lights and also log a complete history of alarm events for later auditing.

    Your tower site is monitored by an RTU
    Here, your hypothetical tower site is monitored by an RTU, with the alarm data being sent to either (or both of) an alarm master and a handheld notification device. In the modern era, that's a smartphone. DPS has been at this so long that we recall a time when alphanumeric pagers were the industry standard.

    Thank you again for contacting us regarding your Tower Light project. We look forward to providing you with a tower monitoring solution. Based on your correspondence with Ron, we have revised this proposal to include pricing for the TempDefender IT.

    By deploying this solution you will immediately gain the following benefits:

    • Provide the ability to monitor tower lights automatically and continuously is critical to avoiding fines imposed for outages.
    • Provide the ability to take alarm inputs and report them in TMon to maintain log of tower light history, by creating TMon window for tower light you will be able to generate history report quick and easy.

    Example #9: Tower Beacon Monitoring with Email Notification

    Tower beacon lights are among the most important things to monitor at your tower sites. If those lights go out, you need to promptly notify the FAA to warn airplane pilots. To enforce this rule, the FCC is authorized to fine you for failure to comply.

    Our smaller RTUs, like the TempDefender and NetGuardian LT G2, are great for achieving monitoring compliance at your smaller tower sites:

    Based on your correspondence with Rick, we understand that you need to monitor your tower lights and get email notifications upon detecting a fault. We have prepared this proposal to include information and pricing for two different options:

    • Option A: TempDefender G2
    • Option B: NetGuardian LT G2

    Call Me to Discuss Your Tower Monitoring Options

    You have many important things to monitor at your tower sites. You have tower lights that affect aviation safety. You have potential equipment failures and service disruptions, both of which can cause expensive problems for you. If you want to get fancy, you can do advanced things like monitoring the weather before heading out on a truck roll or snowmobile/helicopter trip.

    Just tell me what's going wrong in your organization - and what you're trying to accomplish. We'll design a system together that will get the job done.

    Call me at 559-454-1600 or email me at sales@dpstele.com

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    Andrew Erickson

    Andrew Erickson

    Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 15 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and opt...

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