Reader Opinion: “Hot” Poles May Slow 5G Expansion in the USA


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Hot around the collar voters pushing municipalities to take action throughout the United States against the rapid rise of 5G small towers are making their voices heard. And, the heat they are generating is creating a telecommunications industry alert – just not in the way you may first imagine. The issue is not with the heat from voters directed towards elected officials, state legislators, or even the Federal Communications Commission over cell phone towers that are springing up like mushrooms after a summer thunderstorm.

Municipal leaders who are feeling the heat from their electorate are passing the hurt on to telecommunication providers in the form of advice to appease their publics.

 Heeding the municipalities’ advice, especially for 5G providers, is having an out of the frying pan into the fire side effect. So bad, some experts warn the problem could derail America’s efforts to win the global 5G race to fully implement the next phase of world-changing technology if the problem is not corrected.

 So, what is the problem with telecoms responding to municipalities who are advising, “hide the clutter on the poles or put it underground”? It is the tech cover up in the most literal sense. What’s hanging on the towers – more specifically – what municipalities are demanding not be hanging on them, is creating the issue.

Hot. Hot. Hot. Muy Caliente!  

The combination of heating from the sun, plus heat generated from electronics inside the poles, is an unintended consequence of trying to please city leaders demanding a clutter cover up as those leaders try to cool tempers from their citizens.

 Field reports from a number of engineers say cramming radio converters and other tech needed for 5G inside cleverly disguised towers is causing the equipment inside the poles to overheat.

 Heat from the equipment, in some cases, is exceeding 150 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s well above the threshold for the sensitive equipment that is in the 140° – 145° range. In some cases, the cost of replacing equipment damaged or destroyed by the heat exceeds $50,000 per piece of equipment. Certainly not a small figure when multiplied by 5G across the nation.

Adding Up the Heat 

As the engineers describe the problem in more detail, the heat is generated at every point along the communication pathway: the cell phone signal comes in from your phone into the antenna; the antenna is connected to the radio via copper coax cable; the radio decodes the electromagnetic RF signal and converts it to another type of fiber optic signal where it is sent from the remote radio head to the baseband unit where it is again decoded/converted (requiring the radio unit to stay close to the antenna – these are the boxes you normally see hanging on the poles – which the municipalities don’t want you to see) and the whole process generates a buildup of heat that can’t be dissipated from small cell towers due to overcrowded equipment inside and lack of circulating air to cool the whole system. 

 5G Expansion Cooling Its Heels? 

Feeling the heat from municipalities and in turn from hot towers, the 5G race may be on its way to being halted until field engineers solve the excessive overheating problem. Industry leaders who are aware of the hot topic are racing to find a solution but offer no definitive timetable on when that solution may be found. Those who are not aware of the issue may soon feel the heat as well to come up with a solution of their own.

 Hot Race to 5G Rollout Finish Line 

While the “hot poles” are a pervasive national problem in field operations throughout the United States, it is apparently not halting 5G rollout and expansion in other parts of the world. That could be bad news in the international race to become the first nation to roll out 5G.

If the industry is put on alert by overheating cell towers, an even more 5 Alarm Urgent Issue is what happens when 5G overheats and shuts down, leaving consumers holding a 4G or less handheld device that may cost thousands of dollars but doesn’t deliver the performance promised.

 With the consumer cell market saturated, whoever can solve the heat crisis and keep the municipalities happy and approving operations will capture more of the consumer market and win the so-called cellular arms race.

Now that the fire alarm has been pulled, the race is on to solve the hot tower problem. Solving that issue will go a long way towards deciding who captures the most 5G market and can claim consumer cell dominance. While capturing a larger share of market likely will still be a race to the finish-line for 5G dominance in the USA, one thing is certain, right now, the race is definitely heating up in more ways than one.

About the author: Sam Yates is an Emmy award winning reporter and journalist specializing in technology, aerospace and medical development. Yates also owns a public relations marketing firm representing segments of the telecommunications industry.

By Sam Yates, Founder Yates & Associates Public Relations & Marketing

October 3, 2019

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