Cell Site Surge Protection Explained
Cell sites are critical parts of the infrastructure and require protection from the electrical surges that are caused by lightning strikes. Of course, there are multiple reasons for these cellular installations to stay online and functional. One of the most apparent is that if cell sites are offline, the business suffers losses because it must expend resources in order to restore functionality. Downtimes also lead to customer dissatisfaction, which can lead to revenue reductions. Another reason is that the public needs these installations to function at peak performance because they rely on these networks for their daily communication and in cases of emergency. When a site or tower goes offline, there is little ability for its workload to be taken up by other towers. Cell networks consist of millions of dollars worth of equipment, all of which must be positioned within a specific range of the user to be functional. The telecom carriers design these critical placements to provide optimum geography coverage. If a tower goes offline, the result is slow connectivity or dropped calls, and, at worst, an inability to connect as needed.
Of great concern for telecom operators are towers going offline due to lightning strikes on or near the towers. Because cell towers and their base station equipment need to provide the best connectivity to users on the ground, they are almost always one of the tallest structures in a region, making them prime targets for lightning strikes. Lightning seeks the path of least resistance to the earth, often striking the tallest structures during an electrical storm. A strike at a cell tower’s top damages the equipment positioned at the tower top, including the receivers, antenna, and remote-radio heads. But, this equipment is also directly connected to additional equipment at the bottom of the tower, namely the equipment that delivers signals to the network. A lightning strike also damages the equipment in the base station of the tower through the resultant surge. Through the connecting cables, power surges will travel along those connections, damaging the sensitive equipment at the top and bottom of the tower. By positioning industrial surge protection in areas that will direct the surges away from the sensitive equipment, any additional damage can be reduced or eliminated, isolating damage to the point of impact. This dramatically reduces the costs associated with repairs and facilitates a more timely restoration of functionality. By integrating surge protection devices within wireless cell sites, operators are assured that there will be fewer downtimes and reduced repair costs when the inevitable lightning strikes happen. This makes networks more functional for customers and makes the companies operating them more profitable. Installation of surge protection devices within cell sites is a win-win for everyone involved.