If you’ve been out in remote areas in Canada or elsewhere and you were able to see huge 100 – 200 feet steel reinforced towers with weird white rectangular objects arranged in a “Y” or triangular position vertically, chances are you’ve seen a wireless communication site or cell tower or cell site. In some cases you’ll see cylindrical objects on them too that looks like a drum set strung up individually on the sides of the tower. These are actually transceivers (transmitters + receivers) and they were placed there to help you make and receive phone calls.
How Cell Sites are Powered
A typical wireless communication site (cell tower) consumes 3 – 6 kilowatts per hour and this is for the average 4G LTE networks. Their main power supply comes from the electric grid that is supplied by power plants. Today 5G networks are about to inundate the majority of Canadian cities and other parts of the world and the new power configuration for such towers would require 5 – 10 times the amount of power a normal 4G tower would have. So we’re talking about 15 – 60 kilowatts of electrical energy consumed for every hour and that’s enormous!
Since unforeseen circumstances were expected and considered in designing these cell sites, engineers use a DC power supply back up system like ICT DC power conversion products in case the main power gets cut off for whatever reason (i.e. hurricanes, earthquakes, sabotage, etc.).
A Cell Tower Cannot Work Without a Back Up DC Power Supply
Each cell site constructed has a base station which includes: electronic circuitry which is used for transmitting and receiving data (e.g. to enable people to send and receive SMS, MMS, make outgoing and incoming calls, go online etc.), a back up diesel generator to supplant the 3 – 6 KW of power needed for the facility to operate in case of emergency, and a battery bank with DC – AC power inverter having the same 3 – 6 KW power output capacity to act as a standby power source before the back up generator is activated. Without the reliable DC power supply the cell site would not be able to operate continuously and would cripple communications, which is extremely essential especially in emergency situations.
In 2017 alone there were about 13 tropical storms that had hit the United States from the Pacific Ocean, four of which have been classified as category 3 – 5 major hurricanes. With the help of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) emergency medical services (EMS) were rapidly deployed in affected areas and were able to save many lives, and yet 103 people still died and these hurricanes wreaked havoc through the south western US and destroyed over $200 billion worth of properties. Among them were power-lines, wireless communication sites and other important facilities. Thanks to the telecommunications companies who were able to maintain 100% working condition of their cell sites, a lot more casualties have been prevented. This just goes on to show how important these cell sites are and the back up power supply that help keep them running 24/7.
If it was possible to build wireless communication sites completely self-reliant, then communication won’t be as difficult even in times of calamities. However, it is the size of the area (or lot area) allocated for each cell site constructed and its remoteness that telecom companies have trouble delivering the much needed power to these things. In the future, when scientists will develop better batteries that are capable of storing enough power to keep such facilities operating for days without needing power supply from the grid, then we can truly call them efficient and reliable.