How do you choose the right tower for the job? Before picking the type of tower, it's important to consider the key factors leading to that decision. We recently hosted the President of American Tower Company to discuss this process of tower selection. This article highlights the keys from his presentation, plus explains available tower options.
Asking the Right Tower Questions
The keys to selecting the right tower are actually the questions to ask about the tower scenario. Answering these questions before installation makes all the difference:
Key #1 - What's the Application?
Towers are configured differently for backhaul, multipoint, WiFi, surveillance, SCADA and other applications. Likewise, line-of-sight or near line-of-sight applications will look different than non line-of-sight. This ties into the next question of what equipment will be required on the tower.
Key #2 - What's Going on the Tower?
The types and quantities of devices to be mounted, as well as their heights on the tower, will vary per application and location. Radios and antennas varies in size, weight, and shape. Typically listed on spec sheets, wind-load is also key to note per device, as this really helps narrow down the tower options.
Key # 3 - What's the Required Height?
The above factors dictate height requirements for both the tower and the mounted devices throughout the network. Drone surveys or other network analysis help see the picture more clearly. The tower manufacturer can also assist with determining tower height, particularly as it relates to leaving a buffer to avoid restrictions.
Key #4 - What's the Location?
The geographic area of the tower has a major impact on in determining wind-load. For example, Florida's typical wind-load is 130 mph, whereas states further inland are typically 90 mph. Additionally, the soil conditions in the exact space where the tower will be erected impacts what type of tower would work best. A tower that's installed on a rocky foundation in Colorado may not work for soft soil in Mississippi. See below also for how counties address "PE Stamps" differently.
Key #5 - What Local Codes Are Required?
Each county has a set of codes that the follow (typically an "EIA" or "TIA" specification).
Most places today follow code 222-H, versus the older 222-G. The newer H is a bit more lenient that G. Generally speaking, if a tower passes the G code requirements, it will also pass the H code requirements.
The original announcement of TIA-222-H by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) explains that:
"Revision H represents a significant update to this important standard, which provides the industry with critical guidance regarding minimum load requirements and design criteria. More specifically, TIA-222-H addresses the requirements for the structural design and fabrication of new, and the modification of existing antenna supporting structures, antennas, small wind turbine supporting structures, appurtenance mounting systems, structural components, guy assemblies, insulators and foundations."
Key #6 - Is a PE Stamp Required?
Most counties don't require a Professional Engineer (PE) stamp for towers receiving signals on private property. However, a PE Stamp is required for most commercial installations that are transmitting signals, especially in densely populated areas with more building codes.
Before purchasing a tower, it's very important to check the requirements of the county where the tower will be erected. A PE stamp may change foundation or other tower requirements.
Key #7 - Are there any “Special” Requirements?
- Anti-Climb - to prevent children from climbing
- Poor soil conditions - to account for soft soil vs bedrock
- Tenants - to generate rent for offsetting costs
- Lighting - to provide additional safety
- Grounding - to adequately protect mounted equipment
- FAA painting - to comply with rules when in flight paths of airports, hospital, police
- Seismic - to prepare for movement in active earthquake regions
- Wind shears - to handle strain from additional wind in mountainous regions
Don't Settle for the Less from Your Tower
Settling for a less than ideal tower usually comes from not answering the key questions above before purchasing. Proper planning should be done ahead of time, but that's not always possible.
WISPs in particular may feel the pressure of build-out deadlines related to CAF or other funding. For those feeling the time crunch, a helpful suggestion is to request an extension to allow for more time to correctly assess which towers to use.
Once these question have been answered, choosing one of the tower types below and the specific height then becomes a more informed, data-driven decision.
Tower examples from left to right: Self-Supporting, Guyed, and Bracketed
Tower Options to Suit Your Needs
Depending on how the above questions are answered, there are three main types to choose from to best suite the needs:
Self-supporting towers are also called "lattice" or "free-standing." This is by far the most common tower used today for carriers, WISPs, utilities, police and fire departments. They require only a small footprint and can be very tall.
In the image above (far left), notice the heavy crane used to safely install this 180 ft. tower. 120 ft were completed at this point, and the final 60 ft were yet to be added.
Guyed towers are those supported by wire cables. They cost significantly less than self-supporting towers, but require more space.
In the image above (center), note that the cables can be close to a building. This helps reduce the total space needed, as a completely open space is not required. This example is an Amerite series AME-55, used as a central tower for a WISP network.
Bracketed towers are attached to a building or structure for additional support. They are very easy to handle, climb and service. Typical applications are shorter at 10 - 70 ft., and include residential broadband, small business connectivity, and campus video surveillance. These towers can also be powder-coated to match trees and foliage, school colors, or can be made matte black to avoid reflection and hide well.
In the image above (far right) this example is a step series, 12" tubular rung tower. An over-the-air antenna (and rotor) has been mounted above the CPE as requested by the broadband customer, producing an additional TV service revenue for the service provider.
The Value of American Tower Company
So why choose a tower from American Tower Company? For starters, they've been manufacturing high quality towers right here in the U.S. since 1953. They're a 100% American owned and operated company operating out of Shelby, Ohio, the home of seamless welded tubing. Their portfolio has also expanded to include their Amerite series of 25, 45 & 55 ft towers specifically designed for WiFi.
For each tower model:
- All tower sections are inspected & prepared for installation.
- All bolt holes and sections are cleaned for easy fit.
- All “galvanized icicles” are removed. Keeps hands and feet from being cut.
American Tower Company focuses on heights under 300 ft, but taller towers can also be engineered. Their typical markets include residential, Wi-Fi, utilities, telecommunications, education, public safety, military, and oil & gas.
Other benefits of working with American Tower Company include:
- Personal, professional help
- Many pre-engineered tower designs to choose from
- Fastest time to install
- Big labor savings in field
- Short lead times
- Great people!
Looking for More Tower Info?
Be sure to visit our Amerite by American Tower Company page for product information, or to order your Amerite series products today. Additionally, the "Building the Towers that You Need" webinar, on which this article is based, can be seen in its entirety by clicking the button below.