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Energy Saving Solutions: Innovative measures for shelters and ACs

October 31, 2011
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Anup Gawdi, Regional Director, South Asia, GTL Limited

Operators and infrastructure providers are determined to keep the energy needs of the telecom sector at an optimal level in order to reduce the capital expenditure (capex) and operating expenditure (opex).

Trends in shelters 

Shelters, a part of telecom network equipment, have a defined role in cell sites. For controlling the energy requirements of shelters, infrastructure providers are shifting their focus towards heat management of the site instead of increasing the level of air conditioning.

One of the solutions for maintaining optimal temperature at a cell site are compartment shelters with thermal control. It allows for reduced air conditioning requirement, thereby reducing the capex on account of air conditioners; and opex through reduced power consumption.

The disadvantage with the compartment shelter solution is its requirement of installation space. Besides, the initial capex on shelters are high. The market trends thus show that operators are more in favour of outdoor base transceiver stations (BTSs) than shelters. The compartment shelter solution is only being considered for new sites.

Trends in ACs

The new solutions for air conditioners (ACs) used in cell sites are solar-powered direct current ACs. This solution does not require inverters or alternating current power and can be powered by cost-effective solar photovoltaic panels. However, ACs, like shelters, need a lot of space for installation and their deployment costs are high.

Given this, operators are increasingly opting for outdoor BTSs to reduce capex and this solution is being considered only for new sites with shelter requirements.

The road ahead

Going forward, the use of structures made from fibre reinforced polymers (FRP) will be considered in the telecom sector. FRP is a composite material made of resin and fibre glass. It offers engineering advantages over traditional materials, including a high strength-to-weight ratio, dimensional stability, recyclability, resistance to corrosion, and chemical and pest damage. Also, unlike traditional materials, FRPs are available in a wide range of geometric shapes, colours and surface texture.

The versatility of the material makes it suitable for tower structures. Some FRP structures have been deployed by GTL in Nepal as a pilot run.

The advantages of using FRP structures are:

•  Reduced deployment time

•  Increased product life as products are UV-protected

•  High strength-to-weight ratio

•  Non-corrosive and non-magnetic

•  Reduced human effort on account of low weight

•  Maintenance-free, thereby reducing recurring opex

•  Environment-friendly.

Moreover, such structures are ideal for Category B and C cities, and as roof-top solutions in rural areas due to their light weight.

The disadvantage with this solution is the lack of availability of manufacturers capable of product design and development. Given that it is still an untried technology, there is a certain level of scepticism about material properties, and hence its acceptance will take a while.

Energy management is not only about managing the physical power needs of cell sites but also about making efforts in reducing human energy that is spent in the deployment of physical infrastructure.

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