Cell towers allow millions of people to text, perform calls, watch vides and use apps, accessing all their information on the go. A cell tower transfers data through fiber optic or copper cables, in most cases, which lead to the antenna at the tower's apex, at which point the tower will communicate with other towers and satellites. Towers serve as foundations of our digital society. To maintain the quality of cell tower and DAS connections, cell tower tests like PIM testing, cable & antenna analysis, carrier-approved cell fiber tests and antenna alignment are essential.
Types of Cell Towers
- RF Cell Towers
- An RF cell tower is mounted with three antennae, each covering a 120° angle to maximize both signal coverage and communication with other towers. These are standard cell sites.
- Microwave Cell Towers
- A microwave cell tower concentrates its signal into a single beam and locks on to a very distant tower, which simultaneously is locking on to the first tower, until their signals are synchronized. Data is then shared back and forth. The powerful bandwidth a microwave antenna generates allows for the transfer of data over long distances.
- DAS (Distributed Antenna Systems)
- A DAS is not a type of cell tower per se, but instead an array of antenna nodes spread over a defined area to both amplify and aggregate cellular signals. Facility owners choose to replace a single high power antenna with this grouping of low power antenna in order to compensate for blind spots in coverage, distant cell towers or signal-blocking materials. A DAS will also lead to a wider signal bandwidth, which means faster data speeds for employees and patrons.
Cell Tower Test Solutions
Cable and antenna analyzers, or Sweepers, measure VSWR / return loss, cable loss, insertion loss and distance-to-fault for copper cables. Operators often run sweepers over the copper section of a tower cables and replace the fiber section.
PIM, or passive intermodulation, is a byproduct of loose contact between inconsistent metal surfaces channeling a current, which generates interference via PIM signals. PIM analyzers perform distance-to-PIM tests, which indicate where the PIM is occuring.
Antenna alignment tools ensure a cell tower’s antenna are directed towards the next tower and connected with the network. Carriers like Verizon, AT&T and Sprint require antenna alignment tools to optimize the link reliability of their towers.