In the past, cell phone signals were broadcast with the use of large towers. These towers, however, are often costly to erect and maintain, and they don’t always provide strong coverage to the entire area they’re designated to cover. Recently, a new solution has been introduced: the small cell attachment. These small devices are designed to provide cell signal within a much smaller urban area. They’re integrated with current city infrastructure – street signs, sidewalks, telephone poles, and other common items found in a city.
The Challenges of Small Cell Attachments
The idea is for carriers to place thousands of small cellular devices throughout a city in order to provide strong cell signal anywhere a customer is located. Unfortunately, that hasn’t always been the case. The large scale of the project and the unique requirements each city has for deployment have often derailed efforts to provide uniform attachments deployed in a common manner within each city. Instead, carriers have had to adjust the physical size or shape of the units, adapt to where they can place the units, and meet other requirements which are often unique to each city within which they deploy their small cells.
Light pole attachments, at first, seemed to be the easiest option for deploying small cells. But some small cell devices only have a range of around ten meters, which means they would have to be placed at very regular intervals throughout the city. Light poles already have such placement, making them seem to be the ideal place for these signal emitters. By using light poles almost exclusively as the attachment location for small cells, carriers would be better able to create uniform devices and train installers in one method.
While great in theory, in practice, light poles have turned out to be less practical than believed due to several factors. First, small cells require electricity and, in many cases, a stable connection to the network. Attaching a small cellular device to a light pole is simple enough, but running the wiring needed to connect the device to the network and the power grid is more costly and time-consuming than most carriers had originally assumed. In many cases, installation required digging up a portion of the street or the sidewalk by a pole. To do that, carriers need city permits and various other approvals. In some cases, even after this was done, installers have determined that the electrical system wasn’t able to provide enough power to the devices.
The timetable has also been shifted due to permitting and the additional work required. Instead of simply deploying small cell devices throughout a city, carriers first have to file the correct paperwork. The time it takes to determine every location for an attachment, file the paperwork for each location, and get approval can push back deployment for months, if not years.
Light poles also have a few risks associated with them that have made carriers reconsider using them for small cell attachments. Light poles often offer the small cellular devices no protection from the weather or from vandalism. Hurricanes and tornadoes have been known to rip light poles off their bases, and car accidents can damage or destroy light poles. All in all, the extra work involved, time for permitting, plus lack of protection have turned what seemed like the best solution into one that has caused more delays than anything.
A New Solution
SYNDÉO proposes another solution. This company began by manufacturing detectable warning panels that provide assistance to the visually impaired. However, as it has grown, the company has begun looking for other ways to assist communities in connecting both locally and with the world at large. This has led to the creation of the Smart Vault, a new method for deploying smart cells throughout a city.
Smart Vaults take a number of issues carriers are having with light poles and remove them. Instead of placing the small cell up above the cityscape, the Smart Vault puts it below ground level. These small storage spaces fit into sidewalks, terraces, or sidewalk curbing, creating a space that is protected from the elements and from vandals. The space is completely secure and safe to walk on. In fact, the top panel features a slip-resistant surface so that, even during rain, it’s easy to walk on.
In addition to protecting wiring and small cells from the elements, Smart Vaults are thermally controlled, allowing a carrier to keep equipment at its ideal temperature. Smart Vaults are also available in multiple sizes. Those that are installed on the sidewalk curb also create a ramp for people with disabilities, performing two duties at once.
All in all, the Smart Vault reduces risks to smart cells by protecting them from the weather and from theft while also reducing the cost of adding additional wiring to light poles. It’s an ideal way for carriers to eliminate a number of roadblocks to effective small cell deployment.