Integration and measurement
Installation of telecommunication facilities involves a wide range of stakeholders which are all responsible for their specific task areas. Within this process, a telecommunication vendor is usually perceived as a unit whose biggest contribution is to provide strong and hard-working hands because the main task of such a company is to transport the technology by means of climbing and handling equipment to tower tops, chimney stacks or roofs and install the technology there. Therefore the installation company does the "dirty job" which, however necessary, is by far not considered a key task for the functioning of a network.
Nevertheless, the final product as it is required by the operator – i.e. the owner of the network who is responsible for its proper functioning – is defined in the following way: "Technology installed in a timely and correct manner according to the operator's standards in order to be able to provide flawless services to the end customers and thus contribute to the building of a good name of the operator."
Such a product description evidently incorporates a demand for flawless services. If we consider its practical execution it becomes obvious that the vendor company cannot just assemble the technology and antennas and leave; the vendor also has to check and verify the correct settings, functioning and integrity of the entire system. Only that way can the vendor company be sure that the product requirements have been fulfilled and that the work may be delivered to the operator.
Installation quality cannot be verified by a visual inspection only. It requires exact measurements with specialized devices operated by highly skilled technicians (Cellular Field Engineers – CFEs) who are qualified to correctly assess the results of the measurements.
These specialized CFE technicians must not only fulfil all the requirements related to the work of installation technicians – such as the ability to utilize climbing equipment, the capability to work at heights, work safety awareness and CPR skills etc. – but are also expected to have comprehensive technical knowledge of the entire system.
Our CFEs operate measuring devices which serve firstly to provide an assessment of the exact status of the technology and the antenna system, and secondly also to integrate the technology by connecting it into the live network and by testing all the necessary functions.
Integration into a live network is conducted via special applications which ensure the correct setting of the database and parameters of the broadcasting technology. There are hundreds of parameters which have to be properly set and tested by our technicians. If the technicians identify a problem within the transmission network, state-of-the-art measuring devices are utilized to gauge the correct setting and stability of the transmission from the transmitter to the central office and back. The measurements include the quality of wire and optical fibres as well as the correctness of the transmission protocols. During this analysis, our technicians communicate with the operator's supervision centre since the operator also participates in the setting of the transmitter and central office parameters. By involving the operator they form a team of experts on integration of telecommunication facilities into a live network.
One of the most important tasks after installation is complete is the measurement of the antenna distribution system with a 2-port Site Master analyser. This device, which costs 15,000 euros when the required configuration is included, is used for several types of measurements testing the passage of the signal from the technology in the coaxial cables all the way to the antenna or alternatively to the TMA antenna amplifiers. Such analysis enables the technicians to recognize any defects of the entire antenna distribution system, i.e. of the feeder (coaxial cable), antenna, connectors and any detected loss of signal.
Another essential measurement is used to test whether the azimuth of the antenna is set correctly. This measurement procedure is very complicated due to the fact that the antenna is practically always attached to a metal construction which makes it physically impossible to use standard gauges such as a compass. Therefore it is necessary to apply special methods which, however, lead to additional costs. The only precise method of measuring the antenna azimuth includes the use of a GPS compass, which is a device worth 8,000 euros consisting of two precise GPS probes, located more than 1m apart, and of a unit comparing the locations of those two inputs. The GPS compass can then determine the azimuth independently from its surroundings and when it is placed on the antenna, it can be used for testing or the correct setting of the antenna direction.
A flawless antenna distribution system and the correct antenna settings have a major influence on the propagation of the signal over varied terrain from the antenna all the way to the mobile device and back to the transmitter antenna. If signal is not propagated exactly according to the theoretical layout defined by the operator's planning department, the end users may face a negative impact in the form of insufficient signal coverage, interrupted phone calls and data transfers, or so called keying and other malfunctions leading to unsatisfied end customers.
Defects which cause the above listed problems may occur during the production of the antenna distribution components, as a result of improper handling during the storage and transport from the producer's plant, due to installation under unfavourable meteorological conditions, unskilled assembly or influence of iron on standard compasses etc. It is evident that there are many possible sources of these flaws; however, their common denominator is the fact that it is impossible to detect them only by naked eye.
Therefore it is necessary for the vendor company to utilize the specialized technology mentioned above and employ qualified workers with the know-how to use it. Nevertheless, it is essential that the evaluation of analysis results be accompanied by a subsequent repair or a proposal of solution in order to remove any found problems. The measurement of one distribution system in the case of a more complex configuration (2G/3G/LTE/TMA) may take one person up to two days and when combined with the costs of purchase of the measuring devices, the entire process can become rather costly.
Except for an entry in the certified record of measurement which is included in the final documentation, these measuring and testing activities are not at all visible; however, they represent a significant and perhaps crucial part of the whole construction process. Therefore it can easily happen that this very important work with a marked impact on key users is neglected and not given the appropriate consideration when creating price calculations. If such costs are underestimated during the calculation by the vendor, the vendor company may find itself facing major problems and being unable to find a simple solution. In extreme cases, some unscrupulous vendors may even solve the issue by breaching the rules of measuring records. If insufficient funds for testing are caused by the fact that the customer does not require the measurement, it usually results in bad signal propagation. Unfortunately, both cases have an impact on end users and often cause noticeable differences in network quality of the individual operators.
We are happy to state that the measurements are required by our customers within all BACKBONE projects. BACKBONE employs highly qualified installation technicians who are able to conduct a wide range of measurements themselves and always verify the quality of their installations. Our company also benefits from the expertise of our team of field engineers which is fully equipped with both, necessary devices and knowledge. As a result, BACKBONE has completely mastered the area of measurement and integration on the professional level and it can be confident that when its team leaves the place of installation, the customers will not only be making phone calls without interruption but also that the signal propagation runs exactly according to the operator's requirements. Top quality services lead to happy end users and that is the way BACKBONE helps to build the good name of the operators.