Smoke swirls slowly from the top of a cell phone tower, almost like a pleasant chimney outlined against the slate-gray sky. Within a few minutes, though, the entire tower is ablaze, dark black smoke pouring into the sky, as first responders debate how to put it out.
The electrical units at ground level are sparking and flaming, and determining how to end it is not easy. One thing is clear, though: the tower is completely ruined.
The video of this incident is basically a horror movie for anyone at a telecom company in charge of protecting remote towers. When something like this happens, it breaks communications, heightens consumer anger, exposes the company to financial and even legal liability, and is a waste of a major investment. It’s a nightmare.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
With an effective remote tower management system, operators can be made aware of things going wrong at the tower immediately.
By setting up a system of monitors and alerts, you can get the right people to respond quickly. You can put out a fire before it even starts.
The Benefits of a Remote Tower Management System
The connected world relies on exactly that…connections. There are very few parts of the country that are outside the reach of wireless communication, but that network means there need to be towers everywhere. The vast system of telecom towers that keeps us functioning, by default, includes remote and hard-to-access towers.
A normal telecom tower costs anywhere between $200,000 and $250,000 to build. These costs increase for remote locations, as the cost of transportation and the difficulty of erections makes it more challenging and expensive. It doesn’t matter that far fewer people will be needing its services at any one time; it still has to work consistently.
Remote monitoring helps you understand what is happening at your remote and expensive telecom towers so that you can protect your investment.
With the right system, you can receive constant, real-time updates on temperature, system operability, security, and more. This has many benefits:
- Maintain operability
- Ensure tower uptime
- Ensure security
- Protect the effectiveness of your systems
- Protect the future of your assets
How does this work? It works by monitoring everything important. Let’s take a look at a few areas your system can effectively monitor.
What Remote Tower Management Systems Can Protect
Another video that was making the rounds was a telecom tower in which a squirrel (or squirrels) had been storing acorns inside the antenna drum. And we’re not talking about one or two either: By the time they realized what was happening and opened it up, over 300 pounds of acorns poured out.
Now, no remote monitoring system has a setting for “too many acorns.” But they can be programmed to monitor all of the impacts that might have, as well as the causes such as an animal digging holes into the tarp. By monitoring environmental factors such as weight, you’d be alerted well before it got to 300 pounds.
That’s the great thing about these systems. They can monitor an enormous amount of factors. Some of these include:
- Radio status. This is obviously the primary purpose of your telecom tower. Making sure it is functioning without any obstructions is your main goal. Anything can make it stop functioning, including, of course, 300 pounds of acorns.
Being able to monitor its status keeps you running, and prevents your technicians from having to go to remote locations to do routine checkups. You can reduce pointless windshield time.
- Monitor all other equipment. Of course, you have more than an antenna. You have cell sites, generators, and all kinds of electronic equipment. There isn’t anything pointless or redundant in a tower: as they are lean pieces of machinery. Everything needs to be working.
- The status of tower obstruction lights. Any tower needs lights to warn planes or helicopters about their presence. If those are not working, you face steep regulatory fines.
The FCC issues fines from $10,000-$25,000 for a non-working light. And, of course, if there is an accident, the problem becomes much more devastating, financially and otherwise.
Knowing when they are getting low or have gone out can help you avoid problems—and prevent you from having to go to remote locations to change them before it is needed.
- Basic Security. Just because you can’t be at a tower at all times doesn’t mean no one can get there. What you want is tower management that can monitor security, including concerns like open doors and windows, and even perimeter access.
Remote towers are prime spots for parts thieves. With monitoring, you can alert authorities immediately.
- Environmental factors. Many things can go wrong when the weather acts up. Your remote telemetry unit can detect changes like temperature, humidity, precipitation, and more. You are building fairly rugged systems, but they still need to be protected from extreme events.
- Smoke. Where there is smoke, there is fire. Watch the first video, and see why it is important to get first responders there right away.
So those are just some of the situations your remote telemetry units will be monitoring. But how do you get results?
Get Alerts That Make Sense
We live in an era of constant alerts. We know people who cringe every time their phone buzzes, wondering what bad news is coming now. But sometimes you need to hear that news, and that’s why any good system will have a smart, intuitive process for alerts.
Many telecom businesses use a master station to handle their alerts. This brings all the data to one screen, where it can be monitored and organized as you see fit. This way, you can have a full picture of all your stations at once.
This can be organized the way you want, whether as a list view, a map, or any other way that makes sense to you.
What’s helpful about these systems is that they can be customized for you. You can decide who gets what kind of alerts, and when.
For example, if there is a fire, then you can have the nearest responder get the alert, instead of having to channel it through your team.
Some people opt to get text messages or emails with alerts and manage them that way. This can absolutely work if you have a few stations and not a lot of alerts. A good rule of thumb is that if you have more than nine towers, a master station makes life a lot easier.
Flexibility and Support to Make Your System Work
“Easier” is a term that people who run remote towers probably want to hear. After all, these are towers in remote and challenging places. You want your monitoring system to work, and you want the support to ensure continuity of service. You want to find a partner who can give you support when you’re on some snowy mountain-top. They’ll help you protect the things you need to function right.
If you have a system with multiple remote towers, you likely need RTUs and a master station. But you’re not just getting it for the next year. You want something that can last at least 10-15 years.
When looking at the options, you require a durable remote telecom tower management system for a very critical purpose: to maintain your uptime every time.
And, over the next generation, there will be:
- New laws
- New regulations
- Advanced technology
- New systems
- New standards
- Various protocols
Your management system has to be able to consider these important factors. That means you need a partner who designs flexible systems, as well as one who will be here for the long run.
We know that things will change. But there will always be a need to monitor your remote towers and protect from disaster, fires, extreme temperatures, power outages, and, of course, absurdly-greedy squirrels. DPS knows what it takes to succeed now and will be there in the future.
DPS Telecom has reliable experience in the field of effective remote tower management. Our durable equipment can simplify the real-time monitoring of your vital assets. To learn more, get a quote today!
Image Courtesy Shutterstock