Finding new sites for infrastructure in any urban city is getting rather difficult and expensive. This is made even more obvious when finding a location for the equipment with rather tight restrictions on where the equipment can be located in order to function. The restriction on location applies on both the local air pollution monitoring and high capacity wireless communications equipment and as the demand for increasing data drives us to the introduction of 5G wireless communications, the expected deployment densities of 5G networks have started to look similar to the spatial variation of urban pollutions.
The wireless operators are facing the same problem of securing enough cell sites since GSM was rolled in the mid-1990s, but the operators have become skilled at finding sites for their base stations. With the passage of time operators are not the only people that have become skilled, the landowners have also realized the true value of their building, bridges, poles, and even oil advertising signs at petrol stations. The increase in the knowledge of the landowners has led to a steady rise in the cost of site rentals as a proportion of a network’s operating cost. The increased proportions have reached to the point where they now constitute 40% - 50% 0f the total operating cost. The equipment for the network itself is only about 10% of operating cost. The same economic drivers are likely to apply to air monitoring networks, so they need to keep the rate of innovation steady and continuous to prevent the site rental cost from becoming immeasurable or unmanageable as it is getting difficult to police the increasingly ambitious urban air quality standards.
Shrinking and Remoting control costs:
While the innovation is all about taking risks and exploring something unknown, the telecom companies have found a different definition for innovation which is tried and tested as well as gives companies the safe zone they need for innovating something new. The safest and tested line of innovation for companies that have worked well for the wireless networks is the reduction of the physical size of base stations and combining multiple network functions into a single physical package. Other ways that were found for the problems was to enable the electronics of the base stations to be located at some distance from the antenna. The reason this idea has worked well is the fact that only the antenna is the only part of the network that must be located in a specific place.
While in the early days the antenna was only capable of connecting to the transmitter or receiver by coax cables that were short, bulky and very expensive whereas nowadays an antenna can be connected to the air sample tubes.
Using the same innovative techniques in the sample tube design, including the surface coatings and reliable characterization of the tube can help us in yielding the actual air analysis to be performed where rental costs are lower, visual intrusions are less, and maintenance access is easier.
The importance of Height:
Nowadays pollution is a major factor affecting the local urban societies, not only in terms of the distance along the ground from any congested junction but also in terms of height above the ground.
Local pollution variables can be easily eliminated with height, particularly when it's windy, but the people are mostly living on the ground level so these variations need to be captured. The most common place used for mounting these monitors is the street lampposts which is approximately 3-5 meters above the ground. The new 5G and other high capacity networks have driven the antenna heights down in order to use the multi-storage buildings to block the leakage of radio energy from one street to another, which enables the network providers to reuse the same frequency many times in a small area.
Connectivity and Power:
Location is one of the major factors that affect the cost of providing connectivity and power to a monitoring station. The company generally has two ways of putting any network cables. The first and traditional method is by running cables across a busy road and the second method used by the companies nowadays, which dwarfs the cost of buying an air monitoring unit and attaching the same to a building or street furniture like lamppost or streetlights. Although the situation is improving and giving good progress these factors still govern the siting decision for both the air monitoring and wireless networks. Combining these two sites can reduce the effective cost of providing services to half in cases where both can co-locate.
Lifetime and Maintenance:
The lifetime maintenance of both the service locations can be a very tricky part, especially with the locations where these two services are co-located. Air monitor stations in some cities need the filters changed in every 6 months. In cities with a low amount of particulate levels generally require more sensitive and accurate sensors for correct reading which in result need a visit for regular calibration. Whereas the wireless base stations are visited perhaps once every 2-3 years.
Regular innovations in the technology of air monitoring and wireless network services are likely to help in extension in maintenance period but we cannot disagree with the fact that there is a necessity for designing the co-located sites for easy access to the pollution monitoring nodes without disrupting the operations of the wireless networks.
In the end, this initiative taken by the networking companies of co-location of the real-time pollution monitoring stations and new 5G base stations is very feasible and appreciative in many cases.
This initiative is especially helpful in the metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru which is already overpopulated and lacks the locations for sites for base stations. Co-location not only reduces the visual cutters in city centres but also save the cost for operators of both services and in near future can this step can help in providing the public acceptance for these new networks. This type of boxes will provide something for everyone.
Written by - Abhishek Jha