Cell tower backup plans

Sean Donelan sean at donelan.com
Wed Oct 10 20:55:40 UTC 2018

On Wed, 10 Oct 2018, Naslund, Steve wrote:
> I am wondering if this seems common to most of you on here.  In my area 
> it seems that all cellular sites have backup generators and battery 
> backup.  Seems like the biggest issues we see are devices remote from 
> the central offices that lose power and cause disruptions, like RSTs 
> and SLCs.  During hurricane Katrina we saw a lot of active outside 
> plant devices underwater and that caused lots of disruption even when 
> the CO survived.

As Hurricane Michael moves across the southeast, cell carriers will report 
to the FCC how many cell sites are out of service.

Generally, there are more cell sites in cities. The loss of a city cell 
site is less severe because neighboring cell sites are close to overlap 
the area. There are more sources of backup power, and fuel (natural gas, 
diesel, etc) for generators. In cities, cell sites are less exposed on 
buildings than free-standing cell towers. COWs, COLTs, etc. are also more 
quickly deployed in cities. COWs and COLTs need connectivity to the PSTN 
to work, and there are most connection options in cities.

In rural areas, there are fewer cell sites, spread further apart. The loss 
of even a single cell sites in rural areas often has a huge impact 
compared to cell sites in cities because no nearby towers, difficult to 
reach for repairs, electical grid is sparser.  Land is cheaper in rural 
areas, so its cheaper to install a solar panel array.  But as happened in 
Puerto Rico, solar panels don't survive Catagory 5 hurricanes any better 
than cell towers.

Long way to say

Both city and rural cell sites have some backup power (usually batteries). 
You just notice the loss of a few cell towers in rural areas more than the 
same number of cell sites in cities.  Of course, catastrophic damage such 
as in Puerto Rico impacts everywhere.

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