Making sites ready for 5G in CALA

BSS Engineering are working on how to integrate 5G into city scape economically and aesthetically

Read this article to learn:

  • How should sites be designed for 5G
  • What will be different about points of presence in smart cities?
  • How to balance camouflage with structure capacity
  • The BSS Engineering way of working

BSS Engineering are headquartered in Porto, Portugal but operate globally. They are an engineering firm focused on management and development consultancy that supports towercos and MNOs in getting the maximum value from their towers and sites. They already work with some of the world’s largest telecom tower owners and are expanding across the world. TowerXchange speaks with Tiago Cunha, CEO and Head of International Business about how BSS are confronting the increasing demand for sites which can hold heavy 5G equipment, whilst creating designs which are unobtrusive and integrate into increasingly complex urban environments.

TowerXchange: Please introduce your company – where do you fit in the telecoms infrastructure ecosystem and where do you operate?

Tiago Cunha, CEO, BSS Engineering:

BSS Engineering is a global engineering, management and development consultancy, operating in four locations worldwide. We are focused on guiding our clients through many of the planet’s most intricate challenges. Our team has operated in telecoms since 2013 for some of the world’s major towercos and MNOs.

As a global company we work with a number of companies worldwide including TDF, Vodafone, Cellnex, IHS Towers and Arqiva to name a few. As an engineering consultancy, BSS Engineering offers a variety of services; structural engineering support, development and design of new towers and masts, design of all kind of foundations, feasibility studies of existing structures (towers, masts, rooftop structures et cetera), strengthening of existing structures, and other special telecom structures.

BSS has a multidisciplinary team, that has the required skills to proceed from the inception of a project, throughout all the development stages, up to the fabrication drawings and production of the telecom structures.

Through well-established and long-term joint-ventures with production partners, that strive for the quality and efficiency in the production, we offer the complete skill set and all the services that might be required in any stage of the telecom industry.

TowerXchange: Where is the majority of your work coming from at the moment? What new areas of work do you expect to grow over the next five years?

Tiago Cunha, CEO, BSS Engineering:

At the moment 80% of our work is coming from Europe. A very significant volume of work is related to the analysis of existing structures that are being prepared for, or are already receiving 5G equipment, both in rooftop sites and tower/mast locations.

Taking France as an example, the amount of structural analysis we are doing for rooftop structures has skyrocketed since mid-2020, targeting the spread and implementation of 5G in some cities.

From a ground-based tower standpoint, there is clearly a deceleration in the installation of brand-new sites, but on the other hand there is an increase in the strengthening of existing structures.

There is also an increased demand for special structures (integration structures) that put architectural and design integration into the surrounding area (be it the building or the environment) first.. It is my belief that this will be an area that has space to grow in the coming years, and with that in mind, BSS is already investing in developing innovative and efficient solutions for this market.

TowerXchange: Europe is home to some of the world’s most advanced 5G markets. What lessons can you offer for ensuring existing masts and rooftops can handle the additional equipment load?

Tiago Cunha, CEO, BSS Engineering:

The decision process for analysing the feasibility of installing new and additional equipment is demanding (both in time and resources) and in general faces many challenges with insufficient and incorrect information often available. This starts with a lack of accurate technical information on existing structures, thus necessitating  site visits, measurements, inspections and reporting (and all the logistics inherent to this). This information is critical, as all the analysis and the adequate assessment of the feasibility for carrying the new loads will be based on that intel.

On top of the logistics involved, there is also the lack of the technical capacity of the teams usually involved and responsible for this procedure, along with the absence of any preparation and prior control system that ensures the quality and the efficient and correct level of information.

The imprecisions in the information will cause errors and biased analysis during the elaboration of the feasibility study and the strengthening project (if required).

Here at BSS, all the developed structures are modelled in a 3D BIM Model (Building Information Modelling), including all the details (even equipment, if required), which allows that at any point in time, at any corner of the world, anyone can see the same information as we can. This process avoids any loss of information, there is no need for inspections and measurements on site and the information is available on demand.

This approach merged with a control tool and inspections are key to the success, efficiency and quality of the validation of the suitability of the structure, when assessing the new equipment’s installation.

When it comes to new sites, it is highly recommended that extra structural capacity is included, for the possible addition of further equipment, avoiding the need to reinforce the tower when there is a change in technology or addition of new load. Something we do not find in Europe, unfortunately.

TowerXchange: Non-traditional typologies are becoming more important – including smart poles and the use of street furniture – how should towercos approach these sites to ensure they are safe and effective?

Tiago Cunha, CEO, BSS Engineering:

Smart cities are probably one of the trendiest investments at the moment. BSS Engineering is keen to stay ahead of new solutions and we are therefore involved in this segment of the market, developing new solutions that are unique and perfectly integrated into the architectural frame of a city.

The search for adaptable, economic, balanced and high-quality solutions is the fuel of BSS Engineering. We are on the edge developing – in partnership with architects, designers and telecom equipment specialists – a 360º model of the challenges but also the advantages of these solutions.

It is my opinion that towercos should have a different approach to smart city sites, focusing not only on the economics, but also emphasising the architectural and design benefits, especially in partnership with local authorities, targeting multifunctional design and the scale production.

TowerXchange: How can points of presence be camouflaged or integrated into the new neighbourhoods and smart cities being constructed across the region?

Tiago Cunha, CEO, BSS Engineering:

There are lots of options for camouflaged solutions for points of presence. False “live” trees, false “death” trees, false palm trees, advertising poles, false chimneys, false bushes (rooftop gardens), et cetera.

At BSS Engineering we develop all kinds of solutions, being currently focused on the development of a new type of false chimney, that is more affordable, easier to assemble and install, and which is discrete, with an emphasis on the architectural heritage of typical European cities. We are also focused on the development of a new type of rooftop integration that will cut down the “bad” energy consumption to provide clean energy to all the system.

These solutions are obviously more expansive but the trade-off for the aesthetic of a city is totally worth it and, in the end, a visually ugly antenna structure can overwhelm the look of an entire neighbourhood. The future is that a panoramic view of the city will no longer include antennas in the landscape.

There are European cities, with an architectural heritage of hundreds of years that are “stained” with these structures, but fortunately, the local authorities, the citizens and society is demanding more.

TowerXchange: When designing and implementing new sites, how do you balance the concerns of camouflage, cost and structural capacity? What principals should govern the decision-making process?

Tiago Cunha, CEO, BSS Engineering:

It always depends on if we talk about a ground-based tower or a rooftop tower. When designing a new ground-based site we always focus on the most cost-effective solution and on reducing the required footage. Towercos are always looking to reduce the required land to install their towers, to reduce the ground lease costs and to ultimately reduce the cost of infrastructures.

With these types of sites there is no obvious need for camouflage, and there is rather a higher focus on the structural solution taking into account the equipment to be installed and possible updates. In this case, towercos are generally looking for the most optimised solution, even neglecting the additional structural capacity for some possible upgrades. For instance, a tower that was installed in 2010 (with a long lifespan planned) with no additional capacity already designed will be reinforced because of addition 5G equipment. At the end of the day, the structure will end up having a higher cost than if it had been dimensioned with extra capacity in the beginning. BSS Engineering always points out this situation to towercos.

Nonetheless, there are always exceptions, and we have been having some pleasant, challenging and even I would say “peculiar” designs for towers that are more than integrated into the local environment.

From the rooftop perspective, there is obviously the same concern regarding the capacity (it does not make sense to reinforce a structure, if you add just a small extra piece of equipment to it), with the camouflage factor being of additional importance, we are aiming to have efficient and innovative solutions that are adaptable and easy to roll out in our cities.

Wrapping up, the main key decisions are:

  • Ground-based tower: structural capacity for the required equipment and future upgrades + using the most economical profiles and geometry + reducing the required land.
  • Rooftop: structural capacity for the required equipment and future upgrades + using the most economical profiles and geometry + adding flexibility + adding camouflage if needed.

TowerXchange: Can you give us some examples of recent projects you have completed and some of the results delivered?

Tiago Cunha, CEO, BSS Engineering:

BSS has a substantial footprint of work, including:

  • More than 12,000 projects worldwide.
  • More than 6,500 new lattice towers installed that follow our design.
  • More than 500 studies in monopoles. New solutions developed to have lighter structures.
  • More than 5,000 studies in rooftop structures. New camouflaged solutions developed in house.
  • New approach to control the products manufactured here, easy control of all the logistics.

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