What is TIA-222?

The TIA standard specifies antennas and supporting structures’ structural design and analysis. The Telecommunications Industry Associate (TIA) continually maintains the standard in the United States. TIA-222 provides guidelines for the engineering and construction of towers and related structures, with a strong emphasis on ensuring safety and reliability. The standard strives to help towers remain safe in high winds and heavy ice loads.

This standard was initially published in 1966 and has since received periodic revisions. The TIA does not have a standard release schedule, but typically, revisions are released every 10-15 years.

Revisions aim to incorporate the latest technologies and research to create more thorough and valuable standards that help the entire telecommunications industry. The latest revision is TIA-222-H, also known as TIA/H, published in 2017 to revise the antennas’ and supporting structures’ standards. 

The latest revision is an update on the 2009 TIA/G, or TIA-222-G. The TIA has also begun soliciting input from experts and stakeholders for the next revision, TIA-222-I.

Notable Changes in the Latest TIA 222 Revision

The latest revision to the TIA 222 standards incorporates the latest technologies and breakthroughs in engineering. Let’s explore a few notable changes to these standards that will affect how telcos design, build, and maintain towers.

Decreasing Wind Speed

The latest TIA-222 revision updates wind speed requirements based on recent meteorological data, which the standards committee leveraged to modify the wind speed standards. This change is relevant to the wind speed values used when designing and analyzing telco towers.

Most regions in the United States have had their wind speed reduced compared to the previous version. Wind pressure is proportional to wind speed squared, so reducing wind speed by only a few miles per hour can significantly reduce wind pressure.

This update will affect towers throughout most of the country, especially when combined with the following elevation factor.

Ke – Elevation Factor

On top of the wind speed reduction, a new factor in the wind loading equation. This new function takes elevation into account, providing a more accurate understanding of air pressure.

Why does this matter? Lower air pressure means that the same wind speeds exert different pressure at different elevations. For example, 70 mph wind speed at a 4,000-foot elevation will put less pressure on the tower than 70 mph wind at sea level.

Ke was introduced to allow for more accurate calculations when considering wind pressure during the design and construction of towers. The goal is to help engineers design more resilient towers and improve analysis accuracy.

A New Category for Small Cells

TIA/H is the first revision to specifically mention small cells, the structures behind 5G. Typically, all telecom structures are placed in a risk category of II or higher. Now, small cell structures can be categorized as risk category I. 

This change allows for a more straightforward analysis due to the lower risk to life and other damage posed by small cell structures. From a higher-level perspective, the introduction of small cells as a lower-risk category demonstrates TIA’s focus on evolving alongside technology.

Drone Standards Expected in the Next TIA-222 Revision

Since 2018, the TIA Drones Ad Hoc Subcommittee has been exploring the utility of drones and their benefits for the tower industry. This subcommittee was created due to advancing technologies and aims to help promote adoption by establishing standards. Its findings and reports are expected to influence revision TIA-222-I.

The subcommittee is considering several technological advancements that have made drones increasingly useful for cell tower design and maintenance, which are:

  • Scale and dimensional accuracy: Methods of ensuring accurate measurements from data captured by drones allow for scaling physical towers to digital representations. Methods such as Ground Control Points (GCPs), alongside other methods used during data capture, strive to enhance the accuracy of measurements from drone inspections.
  • Flight automation: Drone software capable of tower-specific automation allows for a high level of accurate data collection within a relatively short period. These datasets can then be used to create 3D reconstructions known as digital twins, which benefit the organization.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML): The subcommittee notes that combining repeated, automated flights with an accurate understanding of the area’s dimensions has enabled a new age of analytics, especially when combined with digital twin technologies. The TIA subcommittee also notes that even though models continue to evolve, existing capabilities are still substantial.

How will the subcommittee’s research and findings influence TIA-222-I? Only time will tell, but based on the information we explored above, we’ll likely see new standards and best practices that guide drone usage in the telco industry.