Comms chips

The Perfect Power Storm: Wireless Tower Power Savings & Sustainability

Wireless carriers have always been interested in operational savings on their tower sites, and power usage has always been an easy target, but it is safe to say that carrier focus on reducing power consumption has now reached new levels of intensity. Vendors from all aspects of the tower-site equation – ranging from design, integration, and construction firms to backup power vendors and radio base transceiver system (BTS) providers – are adjusting quickly to meet carriers' expectations.

The reasons for this are simple and stark. The major operational cost portion of a wireless communication tower site is in power use and maintaining backup systems. Also, the cost of electricity has increased in just the last two years, so carriers see very practical opportunities to save. This, coupled with a regulatory and social environment that strongly supports green and sustainable approaches, has created an environment in which carriers not only want to reduce power and save money, but, where possible, employ ecologically friendly primary and backup power systems. Vendors are moving quickly to produce products and services that serve carriers' changing needs.

These are just some of the conclusions in this month's Unstrung Insider, "Mobile's Green Challenge: Less Power for Towers." This report explores the varying strategies that vendors are employing to meet carrier needs for power reduction and sustainable backup and power systems. The report examines 13 of the most influential companies in this marketplace, including:

The move toward more efficient power systems, particularly from the radio BTS vendors, has accelerated in the last two years. Vendors are now reporting new products that drastically reduce power usage. Yet even within the same segment, the strategies that vendors are pursuing to achieve these results can be surprisingly different. Each company is focused on specific approaches to improving power usage: Some focus on the chipset level and board design, others address moving functionality closer to the edge and engineering power needs of their products, while some take just the opposite tack, resulting in a rich, varied landscape of strategies.

Government mandates play an increasing role in carrier decisions. After Hurricane Katrina, new mandates for backup power systems were imposed, and numerous states are adding both environmental and noise restrictions to the power equation for towers. Furthermore, incentive programs at both the state and federal level are enriching opportunities for alternative energy sources, especially for backup power systems.

Future trends may be the most crucial part of the equation, as some vendors report potential looming problem points, especially in chip design, that are forcing changes in their overall approach. But the outlook for new products appears very solid, with several vendors entering uncharted territory in terms of new products, new divisions designed to address green issues, power reduction, and alternative primary power and backup systems.

— Tim Sanders, Contributing Analyst, Unstrung Insider

The report, Mobile's Green Challenge: Less Power for Towers, is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Unstrung Insider, priced at $1,595. Individual reports are available for $900. To subscribe, please visit: www.unstrung.com/insider.

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