Carrier Grade v. Enterprise Grade v. Consumer Grade Power & Cabling
Wireless systems can be designed and installed with differing levels of reliability and performance. Power system and cabling can vary from consumer grade to carrier grade. What does this mean?
Consumer Grade – the wireless link is installed with just enough attention to detail to “get it working” without regard to how well it holds up in weather conditions such as high winds, storms, rain or environmental conditions such as UltraViolet rays from the sun, other users stepping on cables, or bumping the antennas. In some cases this is enough, such as in temporary systems or in systems where there is no budget to do anything better. An example is a power supply that may be plugged into power and left to dangle by its power cord or cable laid on a roof or hung on a tower with no protection from being stepped on or vibrating in the wind.
Enterprise Grade – An enterprise grade power system may be a rugged power supply designed to withstand a normal temperature range plugged into a UPS, the UPS may be sized to power the radio for 15 to 45 minutes in event of a power failure. Sometimes each radio has it’s own lightweight power supply plugged into a surge power strip that is plugged into a battery backup system. The power system may have a fuse to protect the load in event of an issue with cabling or electronics.
There’s no warning or indication when the AC power fails, unless the UPS has some kind of monitoring, no reserve power and a trip to the site is usually required to diagnose the problem and a second trip is sometimes required when the problem is diagnosed and the replacement parts are procured.
Enterprise cabling usually has the cables attached to the tower with UV rated cable ties or placed across a roof on sleepers to keep the cables above standing water but not protected from sun or accidentally footprints. Cable penetrations into elevator penthouses or from outdoors to indoors may simply be a hole drilled through the wall sealed with silicone seal and a drip loop on the cable. Lighting protection may be an economical device that acts like a fuse to protect the equipment, the equipment is protected in event of a lightning event, but a re-trip and replacement may be required.
Usually an Enterprise Grade system is enough, particularly if the systems are not mission-critical and are easily accessible where truck rolls to diagnose and repair are not expensive.
Carrier Grade – Carrier Grade power systems usually an industrial grade power inverter and a battery system designed for existing and projected future loads with backup power to keep a system running for 8 to 24 hours. The power system will have redundant power supplies that fail over automatically and provide notification when they do. The system will have SNMP monitoring that will connect to some kind of network management & monitoring system that will notify key people in event of primary power failure. The SNMP system will monitor the health of the battery system, status of connections and loads and support reporting and trending reports. In some cases the carrier grade system will include environmental and security monitoring including temperature ranges both indoors and outdoors, water detection, motion and door lock sensors, air quality and other sensors may be tied into the system.
Carrier Grade cable systems reduce the long term costs of the system by reducing re-trips and maintenance. Multi-conductor cables are installed to a breakout near the antenna to make it easy to install additional systems and additional capacity without the expense of re-cabling a tower with new cables and hangers. Data interfaces are sometimes converted to fiber to eliminate the chances of power surges from lightning or other sources disabling sensitive Ethernet interfaces. Surge protectors designed to react quickly to electrical events that will take multiple hits without failing. Building penetrations may have multiple ports for future cable and a watertight seal. Surge protection may be installed at both ends of cables to protect both radios and indoor equipment. Extra attention is applied to bonding and grounding to divert any surge currents away from radios or cables.
SNMP & Remote monitoring
SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) is a method used to remotely monitor and manage devices on a network. In it’s simplest terms, SNMP can be configured to send a message whenever an event (called a “trap”) happens to the device, such as the temperature outside of a predetermined range, or the power supply voltage drops below a specified level.
These events are usually sent to a NMS (Network Management System) were status of the events is tracked and notifications are sent to responsible parties via text messages, pages, e-mails or other means.
More advanced configurations involve trending; tracking changes over time. Parameters such as temperature, power supply voltages and error rates. Tracking over time enables early diagnosis of potential problems and some warning of changes that may affect the reliability of the system. A range of acceptable levels is defined and if a parameter goes outside of the range, an amber or red alert may be triggered by the NMS system.
SNMP can also be used to monitor the status of power systems and the environment, from door contacts, water detection of are conditioning failure.