Always Connected and On

Wireless operators must provide reliable service to their customers, but how can they do that if they do not have a reliable backup power source? Anil Trehan will explain the benefits of a hydrogen fuel cell solution.

There are more than two billion wireless subscribers worldwide.

For most, a mobile phone is their only communication device. The rapid adoption of smartphones and the explosive growth of mobile broadband have made wireless communications an even more important part of our “always connected” lifestyle.

We all expect our mobile phones to connect to the network, when required, especially during emergencies. And most wireless operators ensure that they provide uninterrupted service to their subscribers.

The network infrastructure that makes wireless communications possible requires a considerable amount of energy and is usually connected to the power grid.

Depending on the geographical location in the world, a grid power outage can range from a few minutes a year to several hours a day. Recent weather events have shown us that extended power outages can occur even in areas with a reliable power grid. One way to keep wireless services up and running is by having a reliable backup power source.

Most cell sites have batteries, providing short-term power backup. Many batteries are suplemented with a diesel generator, providing backup power for extend power outages. Batteries must be kept at approximately 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit) to ensure optimal life and performance using air conditioning units or other means of active cooling. The cooling, charging and maintenance costs associated with batteries are substantial. Batteries also deteriorate with time , so they must be replaced on a regular basis. Since most telecom networks use lead-acid batteries, their manufacturing process and the eventual disposal also have environmental consequences. Diesel generators use fossil fuel, create noise and environmental pollution and require regular maintenance. Diesel exhaust has also been classified as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization

In certain regions of the world, where power outages are frequent and of long duration, diesel generators are used extensively. A recent trend in these applications is to run the diesel generator, for a shorter duration, to charge a large bank of lead-acid batteries. The batteries store the energy and are used to power the equipment. A controller is typically employed to manage the charge and discharge cycle of the batteries. Some vendors are claiming this as “a green power solution for the wireless site.” The reality is that this solution trades one problem with another.

CommScope’s hydrogen-powered fuel cell solution was developed to be a clean and reliable power backup solution. It provides backup power to a cell site, eliminating all the negatives associated with the batteries and diesel generators. The solution:

  • meets the most stringent environmental standards and protects the electronic equipment from the outside environment through the use of an efficient cooling techniques

  • provides the option to fully integrate the primary power and any necessary electronic equipment before being shipped to a cell site—reducing the site construction costs and startup time

  • lowers overall maintenance costs and provides greater flexibility in scheduling and shipping of fuel cells to sites

  • does not deteriorate when the unit is not in use

  • reduces maintenance when compared to competing technologies

  • uses less real estate resulting in lower site leasing expenses

The hydrogen fuel cell solution has been installed in various configurations at several locations around the world, testing the operational reliability and durability of the system in different climate conditions with varying quality of power grids. These deployments have ranged from outdoor and indoor wireless cell sites to wireline huts and shelters in Asia, Europe and North America.

How can a fuel cell help you with your backup power needs?