What Can I Say About FTTA?

The wireless industry’s acronyms dictionary continues to grow. One of the more popular entries is FTTA (fiber to the antenna). It’s inherently a part of deploying remote radio units (or RRUs to be acronymically consistent). Mike Fabbri talks more about it and provides links to some new FTTA resources.

Andrew SiteRise(1)CommScope's recent FTTA Turnkey Solution announcement seems to have attracted a good amount of attention in the trade press and with customers. Those four letters apparently caught a lot of people's eyes.

Maybe it's because" fiber to the antenna" sounds really cool like, "Wow - all the way to the antenna? No way!" Or maybe it's because there are so many other fiber to the _____ acronyms. FTTH (fiber to the home). FTTP (fiber to the premises). FTTS (fiber to the subscriber-it even rhymes!). One of my personal favorites is the ambiguous FTTx (meaning you fill in the "x").

Whatever the reason, FTTA is a hot topic. I think that is due to the fact that operators have quickly ramped up their remote radio unit (RRU) deployments, which inherently means bringing fiber to the antenna. There already has been a major shift in the U.S. to fiber deployments on cell towers. Many other regions are doing the same. The oft-mentioned need for capacity makes the performance enhancements and future-proofing of RRUs and fiber very attractive.

So what did CommScope recently announce? Just some new fiber? Not really. In fact, we have been making and selling HELIAX® FiberFeed™ hybrid fiber and power cable for awhile. We already announced the base station antennas and other RF Path components that comprise the FTTA Turnkey Solution. What is really new is the expertise and support that we can offer as part of a complete package. Larry Seper already talked a little about pre-site audits in an earlier blog post. In addition to that, we now offer installation and optimization services for FTTA applications and post-site audits where we evaluate installation errors and provide remediation plans.

Another new element is our Andrew SiteRise™ pre-assembly option. If an operator opts for Andrew SiteRise, it means we will assemble an entire RRU and antenna structure that can be hoisted up the tower as one piece. This saves significant installation time - which is money. The structure is also pre-tested for PIM and interference levels to ensure optimal performance. This standardization decreases some of the variability in installation crew skill sets, reducing the risk for error and ensuring a high level of consistency and quality, which is critical to operators implementing new technologies.

The bottom line is that CommScope is offering services, guidance and help to make RRU and FTTA deployments successful. I hope that becomes as popular a subject as the FTTA acronym apparently is. If you would like to learn more, check out the video replay and presentation slides from RCR Wireless' recent "Tower Technology Review" webinar (short registration required) in which our Chris Stockman talked about the FTTA Turnkey Solution. You can also download the corresponding RCR Wireless report "Extending intelligence to the tower: How LTE, remote radio heads and fiber are boosting the capabilities of cell sites" (again, short registration required).

Have you deployed RRUs or FTTA to sites? What kinds of issues did you run into? What could have helped you deal with those issues?