In the modern world, people thrive by staying connected—whether that’s via the Internet, social media, or simply the ability to call and text. Having immediate access to other people and resources has become a key part of our technological advancement and everyday lifestyles. Despite how important cell signals are to keeping people in this virtual loop, not many know about the equipment that works behind the scenes to make that happen. Professional tower climbers, however, must be educated on all the tools in their arsenals. If you’re a first-time tower climber wanting to know what you’ll be working on, these are the important types of cell sites to know about.
Cell Tower Sites
The first type of cell sites many people often think of is the cell tower. However, it’s important to note that while people commonly use the terms “cell tower” and “cell site” interchangeably, they’re actually two different things. A cell site comprises all the equipment used to transmit signals between the mobile device and the receiver. This includes the antenna, transmitter, GPS, and backup power sources. The term “cell tower,” on the other hand, refers to the structure to which the antennas are hooked up.
Cell towers are designed to support several different cell sites, which maintenance professionals can access as they climb further up the structure. The transmission equipment is installed within the compound area on the ground and connected to the receiving antennas above. Because of the towers’ height, the signals that the towers send and receive can cover a radius of up to 25 miles. Towers also come in a variety of different designs to blend into the surrounding landscape. Some of the different cell towers include:
These towers consist of a single mast that can extend up to 200 feet, making them particularly dangerous to climb. The antennas are installed on the exterior of the tower, and a climber must take great care in getting to them. Since there aren’t many additional anchorage points to grab on to, cell tower climbing equipment is a must.
Guyed towers also consist of a single pole, but—unlike with monopole towers—several guy wires are strung from their masts to the ground around them. Because of their sheer height (up to 2,000 feet), these wires are necessary to keep the tower stabilized.
Lattice towers are built with several interconnected steel poles to provide the most independent stability. They can be square or triangular in shape and stretch up to 500 feet into the sky. Contrary to popular belief, these towers are also incredibly flexible and can withstand various weather conditions.
Stealth towers, as their name suggests, are cell towers that are partially hidden in order to blend in better with their surroundings. Because they’re often built into existing natural terrain such as trees and cacti, they’re limited in size and require different types of care. However, they can also be made to look like manmade structures such as flagpoles, water towers, and bell towers.
Rooftop Cell Site
Another important type of cell site to know about is the rooftop cell site. These setups are installed on the roofs of various business complexes, schools, and other important areas that need reliable coverage. Since their communication antennas are located atop tall buildings, they can have the same coverage radius as a cell tower. Plus, their height also allows them to receive signals from a multitude of directions. However, their installation method differs from that of other cell sites. Rooftop cell sites are connected to the building’s power system, which then routes the connection into the main telephone system. This gives the cell site more direct contact with and control over the signal for that particular building.
Small Cell Site
Small cell sites are smaller types of receiver that are installed in various places just outside larger coverage ranges. Essentially, they act as extenders to ensure areas have at least some access to a cell signal. Because of their significant reduction in size from standard cell site antennas, this type of site can be placed virtually anywhere. However, they’re most often located in high-traffic areas such as the tops of utility poles or street lights. It’s important to note that while they act as extensions of certain signals, the signals they release don’t go very far. In fact, each device only covers about a tenth of a mile to two miles.
Distributed Antenna System
A distributed antenna system, or DAS, is one of the most current advancements in the cell site industry and has changed the way signals can be received in metropolitan areas. Since these particular regions don’t have the space for formal cell towers, a DAS allows them to get the same service through antennas installed on a group of structures rather than just one. Each of these antennas is connected to a central hub, which transmits the signal from each antenna to its desired destination. Along with being incredibly customizable, these systems are also diverse and can be installed indoors or outdoors, depending on the need.
An outdoor DAS is often set up along a group of electrical poles that cover a unique area outside of the traditional cell tower range. This system’s ability to be placed in any formation allows it to accommodate unusually shaped regions that receive weaker signals.
An indoor DAS is slightly different from the outdoor models because it’s more commonly used to distribute signals evenly throughout a specific building rather than an area. This system consists of several nodes that branch out from a central hub connected to the building’s power system. These antennae then branch out across the complex, delivering an even amount of signal to every floor.
It takes a group of incredibly hardworking professionals to keep local cell sites running effectively and efficiently. This is why we work just as hard at Midwest Unlimited to provide these professionals with the equipment they need to stay safe, from climbing and fall protection gear to power tools to rigging equipment. It’s important to us that the people in the cell maintenance profession have what they need to succeed.