There are many aspects to site acquisition, site preparation and construction that must be taken into consideration including:
Site Lease: Typically the site owner will provide a lease to the network operator for review and approval. If the site in question is a building or water tower, quite often the WiMAX operator must develop a lease from scratch. A site lease must include certain provisions that are in the interest of the service operator such as 24/7 access to the site, renewal rates and frequency coordination language. A talented and experienced integrator can assist greatly in crafting the lease language to represent the needs of the service operator and minimize future costs and liabilities.
Engineering Drawings: Typically, site plans and engineering drawings must be submitted to the site owner for approval. Weight, cable runs, ice bridges, huts, power termination and other critical information must be supplied in addition to frequency and physical dimensions.
Zoning and Permits: Many municipal codes require permits for radios or antennas to be installed within municipal boundaries. In certain regions of the United States, any proposed outdoor communications network upgrades must go before local zoning committees for approval. This can be a time consuming and costly process if an operator does not have expertise in the zoning and permit process.
Site Walk: Once a site lease has been executed, a site visit is in order. During this visit to the site all parties including electrical, site owner, integrator, riggers and other key personnel should inspect each site to make final decisions about the system installation and remaining work to be done.
Electrical: If the service operator cannot use existing power at the sight, electrical service will need to be secured. It is possible that a pad and H frame may be required at the site to terminate the power and conduit will need to be run from the power source to the base of the site. Other options such as solar power can be pursued if electrical is too costly to provision.
Licenses: After the sites are prepped, the service operator or integrator must submit and file for point-to-point microwave licenses with the FCC for links in the network that use licensed spectrum. In the US, 6GHz, 11GHz, 18 GHz and 23GHz are examples of licenses frequencies that are designated for point-to-point use. The one-time licensing process can take several weeks depending upon the location of the link. In the US, there are other private licensed frequencies (such as 24GHz and 39GHz) that can be utilized that do not require direct FCC licensing, saving time and money.
Staging: While electrical service is being installed at the site, infrastructure can be purchased, shipped, staged, programmed and tested. Out-of-box failure rates can be surprisingly high, so quality testing processes must be put in place to insure the radio, cabling and antenna systems work properly. Having a radio inoperable while riggers and others are at the site (billing per hour or day), can cause significant cost overruns. Once the base station gear and miscellaneous gear has been ordered, shipped and pre-configured per site, the installation process can begin.
Installation: During installation teams of people will be responsible for various aspects of the installation including router and switch, rack, base stations, antennas cabling, and lightning protection. Oftentimes integration with existing T1 or fiber networks is required, which adds another degree of complexity and requires additional expertise.
Rigging: Cell site riggers, depending on dish size, require 1-3 days on site per location. For example, installing a point to point licensed link with 6 foot dishes at both ends can require a full three day effort for installation and tuning. Since all rigging crews comprise at least two people, it is crucial that all equipment configuration and site preparation work occur beforehand so that your riggers spend all their time on the tower, not watching you program your radios.
Testing: Experienced syst ems integrators will also perform a series of field tests once the system is installed to gauge such metrics as throughput, latency, packet loss as well as determine the coverage radius through drive testing.
The installation process will invariably encounter weather delays and other unforeseen issues, but a strong and experienced project team can plan for such circumstances and keep the project on schedule and on budget.
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