Transient Voltage Surge Suppressors, Surge Protective Devices and The Surge Protection Of Telecommunications Systems

Damage from elements such as lightning strikes to cell towers and other field equipment used by the telecommunications industry is one of the greatest threats to profitability and network connectivity.  This is primarily due to a single aspect of the systems that is unavoidable; the towers are positioned and located with intention to be the tallest structures within an area, specifically to provide an unobstructed path for communication between user’s devices and the cell tower itself.  Simply put, the strength and quality of a cell phone signal is dependent upon the device’s distance from a tower, and how much interference is positioned in between the user and the tower.  The single best way to assure strong signals is to position the radio equipment at the tower which sends and receives the signal at a high point on the tower.  While this practice will assure a higher level of signal strength, it also puts this equipment at risk from lightning strikes to the structures.  One of the natural characteristics of lightning is its attraction to the highest point of a structure that is connected to the ground.  In many instances if a cell tower is one of the structures within the area that is seeing lightning activity, the result will be a strike to the tallest tower.  For this reason, the telecommunications industry relies upon the most robust and technologically advanced surge protection systems available, serving two primary functions.  Surge protective devices (SPDs) are installed at critical positions throughout a cell tower to protect the equipment inside from lightning-produced power surges, and additionally keep the tower active and functioning without interruption so as to provide continual connectivity at all times.  These lightning surges differ from “transient voltage” surges, which are normally caused from the power grid or from internal equipment switching which affects the ebb or flow of electricity in a system. In the past, surge protectors were called “Transient Voltage Surge Suppressors” or for short  “TVSS.” But the term has been updated and replaced by the standards body that deals with lightning protection (The IEC or International Electrotechnical Commission)  to “Surge Protective Device” or “SPD”. While this is the new term, the general definition has remained consistent.  A device which is installed on any AC or DC power line specifically to act as an instant cutoff of power flow, if that level of power exceeds a level that is considered safe.  These momentary increases in level and fluctuations in flow are known as “transients” and are critical to suppress so as to protect sensitive equipment involved in any process which would be damaged if a power overload would be allowed to pass through to it.  Within industries like telecommunications, where the equipment used in the process is quite expensive and performance is judged by connectivity, the need for the most advanced and robust surge protection is obvious.

In order to fully understand both the need for surge protective devices in general as well as the superior aspects of Raycap’s Strikesorb products, one must realize the surge levels that are being referred to.  “Impulsive currents” are the enormous surges that are produced in association with lightning strikes to a structure.  These electrical surges can easily exceed 50,000V, which will produce a damage rate of nearly 100% if allowed to pass through to unprotected equipment of all kinds.  Older TVSS technologies like Gas Discharge Tube, Silicon Avalanche Diode and Metal Oxide Varistors cannot protect equipment to the level that Strikesorb technology can, due to the fact that the protection characteristics of these technologies is destroyed by the surge itself.  Strikesorb devices can withstand multiple instances of both higher current lightning surges and Transient Surges, without the need to be replaced. This characteristic alone makes Strikesorb technology vastly superior in protection of mission-critical applications such as cell towers, wind turbines or transformers.  But Strikesorb technology is also very effective in the ongoing protection against “switching surges” which are the brief and minor surges across power lines when equipment is turned off or on.  These events provide a relentless degradation of the capacities of microprocessors and integrated circuitry, and prevention of surges of this nature will extend the overall functional life span of equipment as well.

Telecommunications itself is a unique industry that is heavily reliant upon equipment that is easily damaged by lightning strikes.  The combination of exposed and critical electronics positioned in areas prone to lightning strikes facilitates the need for robust surge protection, as this equipment can almost never survive a strike at or near a tower or rooftop without damage.  The equipment positioned at tower and rooftop locations in a distributed base station architecture (also known as remote radio head architecture), is connected directly via cables to additional equipment used in the process through FTTA (fiber to the antenna) and PTTA (power to the antenna). These cables run from the base of the tower to the top, can easily stretch as far as 50 feet, and are a perfect path for transients to utilize in order to produce damage to equipment not only at the strike point, but also all the way down to the base.  As system architectures become more involved in support of 3-G, 4-G and even 5-G next generation networks, they become more expensive to maintain and support.  Due to increasing expenses involved in the process, the necessity of even more advanced surge protection systems is further expanded.  At the current time, Raycap’s Strikesorb technology is implemented in more than 400,000 telecom installations worldwide, protecting equipment connected by Hybrid cable runs and more traditional PTTA as well.

Perhaps even more significant than equipment repair and replacement costs associated with telecom equipment is the necessity of providing network connectivity and uptime on a 24 hour basis.  Especially during inclement weather events that would produce lightning, the necessity is increased to keep the equipment functioning and the connectivity intact for phone and data transfer purposes.  For both emergency professionals and regular users, the ability to remain connected to a network during a crisis event can be the difference between life and death. Traditional surge protection devices will generally perform their duties and cut off the path between the RRH and BSU, rendering it inactive until a time when it can be reset by a maintenance worker.  Raycap’s Strikesorb devices do not need resetting, and will return to normal functionality after the strike instance.  This feature alone makes Strikesorb superior, due to the fact that connectivity can be maintained even when lightning hits a tower multiple times, keeping the systems online and functioning when customers need it most, and maintaining the protection the company needs against monetary loss. In a world where providers face continual downward pressure to reduce costs and keep charges and fees low within the competitive landscape, and at the same time they’re required to provide a higher level of connectivity than competitors. In this high stakes competitive game, once again the critical nature of advanced surge protection is obvious.

The telecommunications industry is not the only place where the unique situation of uptime and functionality corresponds directly with cost reduction and profitability.  Industries like clean energy production also rely upon keeping functionality alive as long as possible to equipment positioned in hazardous environments.  A wind tower is much like a cell tower, in that the physical makeup of the structure combined with its unobstructed placement makes it a magnet for lightning strikes.  Equipment within the tower top is directly connected to equipment at the base through connected cable and internal structure, and strikes to the tops of the turbines will produce an unavoidable amount of damage that can easily utilize these connectivity paths to damage equipment 50 feet away. The systems must be kept functional at all times when the wind is blowing in order to generate surplus power to compensate for when it is not. While the industry may be completely different, the problems and the solutions remain the same.  Integration of Raycap technology can give a company the edge it needs in order to remain competitive in a landscape that demands top levels of performance for continually lower costs.

Raycap is an industry leader in the surge protection and lightning protection fields, and has been providing continually advancing technologies since their inception.  By starting with the premise of providing the highest level of surge protection available to industrial applications through the use of the best materials, the most robust housings and the most advanced technologies, Raycap leads the pack.  By continually advancing the technologies involved in the products so as to develop higher levels of protection that will allow more advanced systems to be rolled out in nearly any industry without the fear of destruction by lightning or power surges, Raycap continually leads.  Simply put, Raycap currently creates the highest levels of surge protection technology available and will continue to break new ground in the future.  Trust your systems to Raycap, and the future is limitless.

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