No, it’s not a question about political power, I mean with your equipment power. With all of the deployments going on, grounding and surge suppression are vital to successful deployments. This is more about the instability of the electronic and electrical systems than just weather.
Let’s face it, surges suck! I am talking about power surges here. They cause so many problems from total site failure to ongoing troubleshooting of issues that cause performance issues endlessly at a site or even in a data room. Unstable power can be a major problem anywhere in the world!
When we plan deployments, we often just assume that the power and grounding at the site will be OK. When I did data room design, it was one of the first things we would plan, the UPS and surge protection along with proper grounding. This was the first thing that most customers hated because they thought we were trying to get more money out of them. While power and surge suppression cost more, it’s often worth the investment in the long run. I couldn’t convince everyone that when they were planning their first large data room. Even at tower sites, they rely on the DC power supply to save them. They don’t worry about power until they have intermittent problems which they can’t explain. After hundreds of hours of troubleshooting and changing equipment, they may figure it out. Then it becomes a priority. It could be the grounding or the power. They often blame the design, when in fact, they were trying to take shortcuts.
Lightning is still the enemy, but not the only enemy. That’s why companies spend so much money on surge protection. The electric in an area could be unstable, and that could cause problems or lightning could strike, literally strike a site. If lightning strikes, then you could have issues for months because the electrical system or electronics could be weakened and fail over time. Lightning can cause issues for months to come.
Unstable power is another issue that is all too common at remote tower sites or even sites in the cities. It causes problems that may come and go. Very intermittent. You may have to monitor the power to see what’s really happening. Unstable electric is still an issue. No matter where you are in the world.
Then there are the other problems we often overlook like a car hits a power pole and a surge or outage happens. Lines go down in a storm, overuse of power, like on a hot day with millions of air conditioners running, cause outages than a surge when everything is repaired.
Back in 2016, I interview Jim Grasty of Alltec, (link below), and he talked about the surge problems of the tower sites. He also mentions that a lot of his work is in the data room, not just at tower sites. He thinks that companies suffer from unstable power more often than they realize. Unfortunately, they don’t l see it until something dies or it’s been causing problems for a long time. They are still an issue today.
The problem with a small surge or unstable electric is more than a simple outage. Large surges take the site down, and you repair it. Sure, downtime looks bad on your KPI report, but it’s obvious. The real problem is that it causes in the equipment to act strangely in a way that you can’t track. The router could drop packets, the server could lose data or could be rebooting for no apparent reason. Stable power is critical in all work environments. I have seen anomalies in radios due to unstable power or surging power. Issues like this are often not looked at right away. You just assume that if it’s powered up and working that it has power. It’s got power, what more do you need? You need stability!
It’s like the grounding issues; they also cause really strange problems. These issues take weeks to troubleshoot which drains resources, time, and money. These intermittent problems could be anything; they could be data, power, software, or anything. So often we never look at power until we get a glaring alarm about unstable power. Then we realize that it was the issue all along.
Even when a site dies due to a surge, how many times does it need to happen before you take it seriously? How many repairs and replacements will you do before you actually look for the root cause? Is it lightning? By the way, lightning does strike twice in the same spot, anyone who worked on a tower that got struck several times knows this to be true. Some are more susceptible than others. Many companies have moved the site just to avoid lightning strike problems. I’ve done it! Lighting is a real issue. Unstable power and poor grounding cause strange issues.
What can you do to stop this? Make your power stable. Some do this with a UPS, some monitor the power for stability, and others install surge protectors. This is why many tower sites rely on DC power and batteries to run the equipment. DC can easily be monitored for problems. It’s generally stable and will work with unstable power.
Here are some ideas to avoid power problems:
- Surge protectors on the AC system. Some people put in something on the plug or something for the site or location.
- Small surge protectors on each piece of equipment. This is small, but it may be good enough.
- Site surge protectors are a lot more money, but if you have a roomful of equipment, it may be worth the investment, especially if you lose money when you have downtime.
- UPS to provide clean AC inside the site, as well as reliable power backup in case of a power outage. Typical data room solution.
- Use DC power for the equipment and let the AC feed the DC power supply and use DC to power everything. Typical RF site solution.
- Batteries on DC, they are almost always stable when the power supplies work in conjunction with them. Typical RF site solution.
- Line conditioners for clean power. These are often more money, but worth it.
- Good grounding at the site or in a data room, you can’t always rely on the electrician’s ground, who knows what they used for a ground. Verify their ground or run your own.
- Power monitors are a good idea. Maybe you could get one and use it as you see problems. It would be great to monitor power everywhere, but this may not be practical. You probably already have something that monitors AC power, but how good is it? It may be smart to invest in something that you can move from site to site that is a really good power monitor. It’s up to you, but it may be worth the investment. I have had several units that monitor power but only at a high level.
Plan accordingly. Your budget will determine what you can do up front. I get that. However, if you start to have intermittent problems that you can’t explain, start to look at power as one of the causes.
Thank you for your support and your time. And good job on learning all you can in the wireless industry, you are amazing! Now, go out and impress people!
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