How Will TIA-222 Rev H delay 5G?


When planning the deployment of new systems at tower sites or rooftops, there are serious considerations that are often overlooked in deployments. Many think of the labor of installation and commissioning and integration, which is quickly becoming less of an issue.

I’ve noticed that many people over look site acquisition, yet that is the key to deployment. The landlords, tower and rooftop, all need to know that the structures can handle the new or replaced equipment. The leases need to be updated. The tower and mounts need to be validated. All of this before one piece of equipment is shipped. So ow does TIA-222 Rev H affect any of this?

What is TIA-222?

TIA-222 is the standard used in the industry to set the standards for towers and communication structures in the USA. TIA and ANSI develop standards for structures. TIA-222 is for Structural Standard for Antenna Supporting Structures and Antennas per the TIA.

  • TIA – Telecommunications Industry Association
  • ANSI – American National Standards Institute.

Why does Rev H matter?

It might make sense to let people know how TIA-222 Rev H. For 5G it may or may not matter, except for the fact that new antennas and radio heads are needed. However, for massive MIMO it makes a huge difference.

Why?

Because the massive MIMO antenna has the radio heads in the antenna. Yes, this changes the dynamic of mounting the equipment. Specifically, the mount that holds the antenna. While we all think we need a new mast to old the new antenna, it is much more than that.

Rev H has added a section the addresses the mounts, and that is what this article is about.

Why now?

First, a short history lesson. Many carriers thought it would be a good way to save money by installing the smallest mount and masts to hold the antennas as possible. It makes sense, right? Why pay more than you need? I’ll tell you why growth and expansion. I remember when carriers would put in cheap monopoles to hold the equipment they needed. I can also tell you about how many bent over, collapsed due to loading. That’s why TIA became so important. It set standards, and the states required that the standards be followed.

Many carriers would save $50 to $300 per mount and mast per tower. If you’re deploying 30,000 towers, that adds up to a lot of money. However, did you ever hear the statement, “pay now or pay later”? You eventually must pay. Sometimes it pays to do the work up front to avoid downtime and excess costs later.

How will this affect new deployments?

Now, back to rev H. You may think that Rev H is more about the tower, but it’s not, it’s the mount that is looked at here. Section 16 is the new section dedicated to loading the mount, the design, the requirements. Before the mount was not looked at by everyone. Now, with rev H we must look at the mount, the design, and do a structural on the mount. The mount is key to holding the antenna. Massive MIMO will have heavier antennas. This could be a game changer for the carriers as they expand.

TIA-222 Rev H was implemented in January of 2018, and it’s going to play a big part in rollouts. I would bet that several carriers will need to replace mounts. It could take the site off the air of the mount, and the platform must be upgraded. It is also going to give structural engineers a lot of work.

This is going to be a game changer in deployments as all the carriers will need to do a complete mount analysis for their towers. Documentation will be required.

Can you imagine the work it’s going to take to change a mount during an upgrade? It will take more time to do this. Would it make sense to just deploy the new equipment on a new section of the tower? No, rent increases would be an issue, and the tower may not handle the loading of another platform. So, the upgrade is the way to go. They will do an analysis of the mount, map it, then upgrade as needed.

There is way more to Rev H, but the mounts will be the focus of more carriers site acquisition. The mount is where the antenna is being changed or added. The antenna models are changing, and the radio heads will be incorporated into the antenna, so things are changing in preparation of 5G deployment.

How does this impact 5G?

Because 5G will need new antennas. Specifically, if the carriers go to massive MIMO. Like I said earlier massive MIMO will have the radio heads in the antenna, so all the weight will be in the antenna. This changes the loading to the antenna. While is reduces the need for coax, it puts all the weight in one spot. The weight will no longer be distributed between the radio head and the antenna, all in one unit. That makes a difference in these systems. While it’s great for system performance, it will change the physical structure of the equipment.

That and it may take more power to run each active antenna. It will take more fiber to get more data to each antenna. That means the cables will be larger.

The good news is that massive MIMO normally has everything in the antenna, so the radio heads and coax will disappear.

Summary

I hope this has helped you realize that changes coming up will add even more work to the tower industry. Mounts and the labor to replace them will be needed. Of course, site acquisition wins big time, but then the changes need to be made. The workforce will be overwhelmed in 2019, and this is only going to add to the work.

One more thing, many cities, townships, and municipalities are limiting the building of new towers. I have seen the local governments make a lot of money off the permitting of new equipment on the tower; now, they must make sure that the process is followed. While they don’t want new towers, the requirements for existing towers is increasing. Most times it would make sense to build a new tower instead of trying to load the existing, but if the township says, “NO new towers,” then you need to improve the existing structure to hold more crap.

We also need to make sure they don’t collapse, fall over, bend in half, and that the antennas don’t’ fall or blow off the tower. After all, someone could get hurt. Let’s be as safe as possible on the tower, AND let’s make the tower as safe as possible for the people below. Rev H addresses the issues that caused problems in the past. It keeps the professionals on the tower.

Wireless deployment is not cheap; it takes time, planning, and money. Lot’s of money. Site acquisition costs money; planning costs money, equipment costs money, along with installation, design, testing, and so on. It all adds up. That’s why the professionals do it right, they follow the rules, and they know what needs to be done.

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2 comments

  1. Good article, Wade. Thanks for posting. Like you said, invest in a safer structure now, or continuously upgrade it incrementally every time the carrier changes equipment. The site lease terms may require the tower/structure owner to hold harmless the property owner, the tower/rooftop lease may require the carrier to hold harmless the structure owner, but each wants an increase in rent for every change the carrier makes, unless the carrier has been prudent enough to preclude any rent escalations except for tax increases. A big part of protecting against future rent escalations is due diligence in the initial site acq leasing to forestall escalations except for specific instances all spelled out in the lease and not allow for blanket escalations.

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    • Thank you Tom. I think we often look at deployments as installations or swaps, but as other standards change, it adds cost. We also have to deal with permits, landlords, and backhaul. It’s never just about the equipment or new services to the end user, it’s about the end to end deployment to make things happen the right way.

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