Cell Tower Colocation

What is Cell Tower Colocation?

As the demand for wireless connectivity continues to grow exponentially, co-location services are becoming increasingly important for supporting the explosive data growth and the need for high-bandwidth, low-latency connectivity to wireless networks. Recently, many Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) have shifted their focus from building and owning new towers to selling off the vertical infrastructure and becoming a tenant. This change in infrastructure ownership has led to a significant push towards co-locating on existing towers rather than incurring the expense of building new ones.

Tower companies typically own or lease a tower structure and the passive equipment under a long-term contract. On the other hand, the MNOs are their tenants and they own and operate the equipment and lease the vertical space on the tower and portions of the land underneath for their active equipment. This practice, known as co-location, refers to a single structure that supports multiple antennas operated by different MNOs. Cell tower co-location involves using one structure to mount or deploy mobile telecommunications antennas belonging to more than one wireless service provider within a single location.

Several factors are changing the tower co-location landscape, including the push to deploy new technology on existing sites, such as LTE, the need for added radio capacity, the increasing number of smaller- sized equipment, the implementation of DC and fiber from the ground equipment to the tower equipment, and increased weight and wind loading.

All of these factors are having a drastic impact on the tower industry, and the result is often that towers, when reviewed to accommodate these changes, are often overloaded and require structural reinforcement. This reinforcement can affect the tower steel and the foundation, making it essential to work with engineering companies that analyze the loading factors, and how these factors are applied within finite element design software.

Co-Location Benefits for Tower Companies

Co-location services provide several benefits for tower companies:

  • Generate additional revenue without incurring the cost of building new towers. This approach also enables tower companies to maximize the use of their existing infrastructure, making it a cost-effective option for both the tower company and the wireless tenant.
  • By co-locating on existing towers, wireless tenants can avoid the expense of building their own towers, reducing their capital expenditure and saving time.

The Impact of Technology Advancements on the Tower Industry

Advancements in technology are driving significant changes in the tower industry, with the push to deploy new technology on existing sites being one of the most critical factors. The need for added radio capacity is forcing radios to be located as close to the antennas as possible, leading to the implementation of remote radio heads.

DC and fiber from the ground equipment to the tower equipment are also becoming increasingly important, as they allow for better control over data transmission and improve the wireless network’s overall efficiency. However, these advancements are also leading to increased weight and wind loading on towers, making it essential to review existing towers to ensure they can accommodate these additional equipment loads.