So what does LTE mean to the field worker. Let me help explain what it means to each of you. Let’s start with the tower climber. This means more work! That’s the bottom line. However, for the climber it means hard work and smart work. There has been a shift to put the transmitter on the tower. You call it the RRH, Remote Radio Head, or the RRU, Remote Radio Unit, or the ODU, Outdoor Unit. So it used to be you hung steel, antennas, and ran RF cable up the tower, well not anymore. Now you’re hanging steel, jumpers, mounts, antennas, cables, and a heavy RRH (actually several RRHs). For LTE the RRH is usually 40lbs and up. This is something that the tower has to support, not only the weight, but for the wind loading and the icing. So for the climber you will need to be ready for the challenges of hanging another piece of hardware on the tower. You also need to learn to work with fiber cable. The new cabling going up the tower is called Hybriflex cable and it is a combination of fiber runs and copper for power. Now they run the data direct to the RF unit on the tower. Fiber is needed because of the high speed of data. Copper is for the power, we still need power for everything! These are new skills that the climber will need to learn. Working with fiber is a challenge because it is delicate and needs to be handles with care. Trust me, fiber is way easier to work with now than it was 10 years ago, but it’s still something you need to be careful with, connections need to be very clean and handled with care. Remember climbers, skills matter and they add value to you!
For the field technician and field engineer it means same skills with new software. There is so much work involved with commissioning and integrating an eNodeB. On site you need to load the code and make sure everything is working. The backhaul is so critical because so much of the integration is done remotely. Fiber is also your friend if you learn how to work with it. You will need to learn to splice and learn about fiber connectors. Your skills will need to include routers and IT networking. It all becomes part of your skillset in your toolbox. Make sure you have plenty of documentation on your laptop, without it you will be lost, remember that an engineer may not have all the answers but knows where to find the answers (Credit Arty Beahm with that saying). Also, remember that power is also needed so make sure you are ready to look at power and current on site, because it will be an issue if it’s wrong. Luckily most equipment now can handle the extreme temperatures, which means you will probably be working on an outdoor cabinet in all kinds of weather. Just remember that this will become a challenge all by itself. You will be working in cold and heat out in the elements. Learn to work in your truck, it becomes your office and your best friend. As carriers look to save money on rent they will stop building shelters to save on real estate. Tower companies are looking for money from any real estate they can get, remember that it’s their business and they pay a fortune in insurance and for maintenance. So when working in the field you need to understand so many different technologies, RF and IT are only a few of them, you also need to be able to look around for physical problems and up on the tower to make sure the climbers have everything mounted properly. Whether you’re there for commissioning, backhaul turn up, ground guy for tower crew, or for optimization, do your part and make sure everything looks right!
Let’s not forget the electricians that need to run the power to a new site, they are dealing with the same risks the rest of you deal with. They run the power out there to the site, and it could take quite of heavy equipment to run the initial power but then they may have to improve power to the site. Also, don’t forget the electricians that climb when power needs to be run up to the beacons on the tower. This is all part of the wireless ecosystem.
So there’s the challenge, something that the LTE vendors realize is a challenge, the installation and commissioning of the eNodeB. This is something that needs to be successful. The field workers are the key to success or failure. You are the key to make what happens on paper become the customer experience. Everyone will rely on this key part to make the deployment a success so the wireless system works. We all need to work together. There is a team of engineers that put the hardware, electronics, radio system, electrical systems, cooling, heating, IT networking, and so many other parts of the puzzle on paper that make this thing work. It’s up to the field worker to make sure it goes from paper to reality. All this happens so millions of people have smart phones that will not only make a call but pass data so an app will work. Deployment is a keystone to the entire system.
The wireless ecosystem is something that I will write a future blog about. I plan to cover more parts of this end to end process. I think that the more people in our industry understand what it takes it may help people realize that all the parts matter to make the system work. We all need to work together, whether we know we’re helping each other or not, we need to do our part the best we can.
I would like to hear back from you so I can share your problems and successes. Leave a comment below and let me know how you feel. If you have pictures feel free to send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or post them on www.facebook.com/wade4wireless (and send me a Like) or on Google+ https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/113288320554558521340/+Wade4wirelessWorld/posts (and +1 me). Tell me what you think and give me some ideas for future blogs.