MWC 2014 Preview: CommScope unveils plug and play Standard Interface at top of cell tower

Latest tower top innovation aims for further simplicity, time and cost savings for operators by providing a simple Standard Interface between the base station antenna and almost any remote radio unit

MWC 2014 Preview: CommScope unveils plug and play Standard Interface at top of cell tower

CommScope is introducing a new product aimed at reducing installation and maintenance cost, risk and time spent at the top of cellular network towers in the shape of the Andrew SiteRise Standard Interface. The Standard Interface is intended to simplify the interface between the base station antenna and virtually any remote radio unit (RRU) technology.

The innovation expands on its award winning Andrew SiteRise solution, unveiled in 2013, which is the world’s first pre-assembled tower top solution, designed to bring factory assembled quality and consistency to the field assembly environment of a wireless network cell site. (For more on this story see here).

Andrew SiteRise facilitates the rapid implementation of RRU technology in close physical proximity to the antenna connectors, reducing losses and improving network performance.

According to the company, the SiteRise solution is already proving cost-effective for operators by moving the complex connection, configuration and testing work from the top of the tower to ground level where it can be done in a controlled environment.

“Since we began implementing the SiteRise solution in close collaboration with a major wireless operator, we have continued to work closely with the whole operator community to understand what innovations would be of additional value to them,” said Ben Cardwell, senior vice president, Global Wireless Sales, CommScope.

“Those conversations led to a new SiteRise solution aimed at even greater simplification of the radio and antenna interface, which provides for even less interference risk, better flexibility and a true plug-and-play capability at the top of the tower.”

New PIM-free, blind mate connection method

The Andrew SiteRise Standard Interface is a new way of connecting an RRU to the base station antenna, using a unique approach not previously utilized for tower top applications. The Standard Interface gives an operator the flexibility of using multiple RRU technologies and frequency bands in a simplified plug-and-play arrangement. Key to this solution is a patented connector technology that provides an essentially passive intermodulation (PIM)-free, blind mate connection.

The SiteRise Standard Interface offers lower risk and higher quality assurance by moving the complex connecting work at the top of the tower into a more controlled environment. This innovation reduces the risk of craft related errors due to the harsher and more complex working conditions at the top of the tower.

The easy accessibility enabled by the Standard Interface makes upgrading RRUs for changing frequency and technology requirements a plug-and-play feature. Ultimately, SiteRise Standard Interface reduces the time installers spend working on the tower, saving operating costs and creating faster site turn ups, critical for operators’ time-to-market competitive advantage.

“Our antenna/RRU Standard Interface combines the best features of putting remote radios close to the antenna for reducing signal loss and energy consumption, but maintains a level of independence between the radio and antenna for flexibility and ease of support,” said Cardwell.

The SiteRise Standard Interface introduces a new connector technology that provides an essentially PIM-free, blind mate connection. PIM is a major concern with today’s interference limited technologies such as LTE. With blind mate connection capability, upgrading and maintaining radio technology can be done without affecting the antenna’s position.

This functionality reduces the time and cost associated with radio maintenance, and, even more importantly, reduces the risks associated with technology obsolescence.

Combining multiple frequencies is also common in today’s cell sites. The Standard Interface includes an optional filter integration that reduces potential sources of interference and the need for more complex solutions internal to the RRU technology.

As part of its evolution of solutions at the top of the tower, CommScope is also introducing new approaches for fibre cable connectivity and protection. Available now, the HELIAX FiberFeed Direct cabling solution can enable quicker installations by mating hybrid fibre and power cable to any RRU model, reducing the number of overall connections and cutting installation time by half – (for more on FiberFeed Direct see here).

Complementing CommScope’s HELIAX line of RF cable assembly solutions, the new HELIAX SureGuard weather protection system is a simple, easy to install solution that can weather proof up to 10 antenna connectors in minutes while requiring no special tooling and being reusable.

“The top of the tower is a difficult place to work, so having a solution that provides for a more consistent and predictable quality result and provides flexibility for change just makes sense,” said Morgan Kurk, senior vice president, Wireless, CommScope. “We are ready to work with all major radio and antenna OEMs to make this technology broadly available to the benefit of networks everywhere.”

Simplifying site work and reducing operator costs

Speaking to Wireless at a briefing ahead of the launch, Phil Sorsky, VP Europe at CommScope, explained: ‘The Standard Interface is an extension to the FTTA (fibre to the antenna) site rise offering we introduced last year. Again, it is designed to simplify what has become a very complex cell site.

‘The combination of SiteRise and our new Standard Interface means we can slash deployment times by half. It’s a multi-vendor interface that will work with any radio; you just plug and play and it is PIM-free. This has become really important for operators who need to do things faster and for less money.

‘They do not want to be boxed into using a proprietary antenna system,’ he contineud. ‘4G will continue evolve and although 5G is 8-9 years away, they need the flexibility. What they do not want to do is to have to rip down the entire site when the next evolution of LTE comes along.

‘Antennas are very reliable (below 1% failure rate), but radios are much less reliable (2-3% failure rate per year for radio heads). But if you have a plug and play modular approach it becomes much easier to take out the bit that isn’t working, which is usually the radio, and change it over,’ said Sorsky.

Kevin Linehan, VP, CTO, Antenna Systems at CommScope, added: “An integrated antenna comes with a built in radio head, but if you want to upgrade it there is no flexibility to change one element without changing both the antenna and radio. With our Site Rise Standard Interface you get complete site flexibility.

“It has the features of an integrated antenna, but with additional ones that make it much easier to upgrade. If there is a problem you can now just climb the tower and change the radio head, but you don’t have to take down the antenna as well.’

Addressing the issue of self-interference or passive intermodulation (PIM) is also vital, especially with such wide bandwidths now being used, the chances of one frequency band falling into another one is quite high.

Colin Bryce, Director, Business Development, Network Solutions, said: “You have 30-40MB per cell site sector, so you need a very low noise floor to avoid interference. If you increase the noise floor by adding LTE transmissions, you immediately start hitting that noise threshold. Before, with just 2G and 3G, there was more tolerance in the system, but now the noise tolerances are becoming more critical.’

Linehan added: ‘You’ve got to get the connection right at the base station or you get PIM, which is caused by metal to metal contact. We have designed a blind mate non-metal connector, so there is no chance of creating PIM – it is a PIM free/capacitive coupling. Typically what you had before was a jumper cable to the radio head below the antenna, but that has now gone; it is truly a plug and play solution.

‘It is hard to predict what interfaces you will need and what LTE bands will be used in the future,’ continued Linehan. ‘But our solution keeps things flexible and you don’t have to change the whole thing out if it changes or a new frequency band is introduced.’

The latest evolution of CommScope’s Andrew SiteRise solution will be introduced at Mobile World Congress, 24–27 February in Barcelona, Spain. CommScope will be located in stands 2I46 and 6I06.

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