For telecom enterprises, maintaining cell towers and sites is critical for optimal performance. But beyond routine maintenance, companies also have to contend with seasonal weather patterns no matter what part of the world they are located in.
In many areas, the weather is becoming harsher and more challenging than in previous years. Telecom companies have a huge maintenance challenge ahead of them when unfavorable weather conditions approach.
Falling branches, extreme temperatures, heavy snow, and high winds all have the potential to do serious harm. Cell towers, small cells, and all outdoor assets are at risk. Preventative maintenance for telecom, such as vegetation management, is just as important as corrective maintenance when emergencies arise.
Telcos have to be ready to respond quickly. No network is immune. Carriers need to have backup power sources at key sites, as well as field teams that can deploy to restore communications if outages do occur.
In this article, we’ll provide you with a simple guide to seasonal maintenance for telecom sites and pinpoint key maintenance tasks that will keep your networks in good shape throughout the year.
Boost Reliability of Telecom Sites and Assets With Seasonal Maintenance
By keeping up with regular telecom site maintenance, each component can function at its best for the duration of its lifespan. In order to ensure smooth and reliable services, site maintenance is categorized as either corrective or preventative maintenance. Striking a balance between these two forms of maintenance is essential to provide continuous quality service for network providers.
What is Preventative Maintenance for Telecom?
Preventive maintenance involves performing routine checks and services to identify potential issues and address them before they turn into larger problems, and should be done on a time-based schedule.
This includes checking the fans, seals, cables, and connections, and servicing telecom infrastructure, like towers, shelters, and fences, to ensure they are in tip-top shape. Its purpose is to prevent equipment failures and malfunctions.
What is Corrective Maintenance for Telecom?
Corrective maintenance is performed to restore failed equipment and facilities. This type of maintenance is all about restoring functionality, bringing failed equipment back to life, and repairing any damage caused by unforeseen circumstances like natural disasters or vandalism. It is also conducted when equipment needs to be replaced.
Initiate a Thorough and Automated Preventative Maintenance Program
Telecom companies must prepare for all types of weather conditions to stay on top of impending infrastructure damage. By creating a thorough preventative maintenance program that adheres to maintenance management best practices, telecom infrastructure companies can secure their assets should any turbulent weather arise.
Avoid costly outages by paying added attention to critical power supplies, such as UPS and DC power systems, which can greatly extend the lifespan of not only these components but also the entire power train, from generators and transformers to PDUs.
Don’t forget the importance of testing fundamental components like switches and circuit breakers annually to ensure smooth operation. With regular telecom site maintenance, your systems can stay powerful and reliable for years to come.
Telecom maintenance should be trackable, scalable, and automated.
There are essentially three steps to getting your telecom assets ready for bad weather.
- Routine preventative maintenance
- Standardize your process
- Respond to disasters and crises effectively
Year-Round Telecom Preventive Maintenance Checklist
While taking a seasonal approach to preventative maintenance is significant, proper daily maintenance and monitoring are equally essential for ensuring the continued performance of your telecom site.
Regularly checking that antenna, wiring, and equipment are configured correctly, visual checks on security systems, performing monthly backup tests, and monitoring installations are some of the general maintenance steps.
Here is a seasonal telecom preventive maintenance checklist to keep in mind all year long.
- Summer Maintenance: Summer maintenance involves performing regular upkeep and cleaning of the outdoor cabinets, power systems, and TE equipment. Temperature control is vital in a telecom site, and the heat generated during the summer months may damage the systems or increase the risk of equipment failure.
You can use fans or air conditioning to keep temperatures in check. Inspections and maintenance of AC systems, generators, and battery backups help ensure the systems are functioning optimally when outdoor temperatures start to rise.
- Fall Maintenance: Fall maintenance focuses on checking the landscaping around the site, typically raking the leaves and clearing any debris around the site corners, and antennas. Maintenance personnel should conduct a visual inspection of the surrounding area to eliminate any potential hazards that may arise from fallen trees or overgrown shrubs.
Weatherproofing is key during this season, and maintenance checks of the cables, wiring, cabinets, and tower lights should be performed.
- Winter Maintenance: Winter maintenance is about keeping essential equipment from freezing, protecting equipment from environmental conditions, and ensuring uptime during extreme weather periods.
Regular water maintenance checks for humidifiers, heaters, and boilers are essential to ensure optimal performance throughout the winter months. Stay ahead of maintenance deadlines and infrastructure failure by standardizing and automating in advance of December, January, and February.
- Spring Maintenance: Spring maintenance involves ensuring the commercial power source is working efficiently after prolonged winter use, testing backup systems, and taking steps to prevent water damage.
The test of the battery bank and the power system should have been performed throughout the winter to ensure readiness come spring. Additionally, operators are encouraged to schedule routine site visits in the spring to check things out and perform system maintenance.
Network hardening, vegetation management, and standardization
Successful vegetation management, network hardening, and asset maintenance are easier once you’ve standardized the steps needed to make sure all your assets are in the best condition possible. They become tasks that are built into your entire preventative maintenance program, so they become second nature.
In order to execute your plan, you’ll need the right tools:
- You will need technology to enable your organization to standardize and automate your maintenance process.
- Leverage project templates and checklists to reduce human error and keep your team on the same page.
- Empower field teams with a mobile app to take pictures of the overgrowth around telecom assets.
When managers can track and attack issues, they can be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to maintenance.
The ability to standardize the execution of your weather readiness program depends heavily on the preventative maintenance software your company chooses. Make sure to choose a preventative maintenance planning solution that reduces rework, such as double data entry, by leveraging project templates and mobile checklists. In the long term, investment in asset management maintenance will increase infrastructure and network reliability.
Below are some examples of necessary work to do before storms hit:
Network Hardening and Network Densification
The process of network hardening includes improved designs for wind resistance and the use of upgraded materials for anti-corrosion. The most common hardening practice for wireless critical infrastructure is upgrading towers and assets from other cell sites with stronger materials. All cell sites should be built to meet or exceed state structural standards. And, with recent and continuing network densification, there are more cell sites now more than ever.
Network densification brings the telecom industry great promise but also a large mountain to climb. The number of cell sites increased by 52% in the last 10 years, according to CTIA. That large number will continue to grow with the race to 5G and future wireless infrastructure development. More cell sites mean more maintenance.
If you are still using spreadsheets or antiquated software, it becomes almost impossible to track which assets are at risk when you’re managing hundreds or thousands of assets. These types of legacy tools cannot handle this volume and do not offer standardization, automation, or collaboration.
Importance of Vegetation Management
Recurring vegetation management is a crucial part of executing a standardized preventative maintenance program. Vegetation management is important to keep branches and dying trees from falling on the equipment during high winds, heavy rain, or snow.
- Remove branches that are broken, dead, dying, or diseased
- Prune young trees that in the future may become a problem
- Remove entire trees that are dead or diseased
Standardizing the process for vegetation management reduces rework. For example, a field worker with a SaaS-based mobile app can be more productive. They could snap a photo of the tree, note its proximity to the asset, remark on the danger level, and recommend an appropriate course of action.
All of these fields are predetermined when using a mobile checklist and are immediately sent back to the office. Not only are you collecting consistent data, but you’re able to see the new information in real-time. With a complete view of the status of your telecom assets, you can prioritize your maintenance before extreme weather hits.
Standardize Your Maintenance Process
In order to build a proper foundation, standardize your processes, and align your technology with those processes. We call this operational excellence, and it can greatly optimize your business and telecom maintenance activities.
A Project Management Mobile App to Empower Field Teams
Use an industry-leading project management mobile app to empower field teams.
- Quickly and easily update records by uploading photos, videos, and comments to document activities, verify inspections, and increase data quality.
- Guide your mobile teams by configuring checklists so that inspections, upgrades, and maintenance are completed quickly, easily and thoroughly.
- Eliminate unnecessary delays by viewing recent records, favoriting important projects, and searching for nearby sites. This will help you get the most out of your time in the field.
Get Your Whole Team on the Same Page
Project management is not simply managing the process of maintaining or upgrading an asset, it’s managing people and relationships. Telecom field teams have to be dispatched efficiently to tackle vegetation management and preventative maintenance. These tasks must be done to keep critical infrastructure operational. Damage from the impending rain, wind, and snow can severely harm your infrastructure.
Effectively Respond to Harsh Weather Conditions
Don’t let inadequate technology get in the way of restoring critical services when bad weather strikes. There is a much better solution. Use a mobile app with offline capabilities to make updates and confirm critical details to get the repairs done faster.
Coordinate teams between the field and the office and use mobile maps to quickly find nearby sites in need of repair. Keeping critical infrastructure operational is crucial all year long. A standardized preventative maintenance program will keep telecom’s critical infrastructure ready for the most extreme weather mother nature has to offer.
Sitetracker solves the challenge of preventative maintenance for a high volume of critical infrastructure projects. The solution makes it easy to track all project and asset information in real-time. Sitetracker leverages automation and standardization to ensure that companies can be proactive and get ahead of issues.