Radiarc® Technologies, L.L.C. has developed multiple motorized antenna mount product lines that provide remote mechanical azimuth/bearing and down-tilt adjustments. The products provide a low-cost method for increasing the accuracy of antennas for the cellular industry, microwave, military communications, transportation and even 5G Lab R&D.
George Atamian, COO, Radiarc®, has been in wireless since 1996, including several management positions with companies that had cell towers. During that time, he realized that tower crews were being sent out to the same sites over and over again each time a cellular or microwave antenna went out of alignment.
“It seemed that there had to be a way to automate that function to save the mobile network operator (MNO) money and mitigate the risk of additional tower climbs,” Atamian said.
Research and development on motorized antenna mount technology began in late 2018. The products were perfected and made market-ready in late 2020. Radiarc® Technologies was formed in May of that year and located its offices 12 miles outside of Boston in Wakefield, MA. Because of the uniqueness of the Radiarc® product line, the company has been awarded a number of patents and has more pending.
Radiarc® has focused on manufacturing all of its components in the U.S., Atamian said, and the company takes pride in employing Americans to make its products. The company also benefits from controlling the supply chain and increasing its speed to market.
Standards-based Units Make Radiarc® Plug and Play
The products use Antenna Interface Standards Group (AISG)-compatible motor control units and control and monitoring systems, so they can be used by any MNO in their network operating center (NOC). The MNO can control its antennas using Radiarc® through an interface in its NOC, the same way it controls anything else on the tower.
“One of the brainstorms we had at inception was to not make the foundation that it works upon proprietary,” Atamian said. “By conforming to the AISG standard, the products are plug and play with the existing equipment that’s already up there, which means it uses within 10 to 30 volts as required by the AISG standard.”
Radiarc® Product Line Features Several Motorized Mounts
Radiarc® developed the Coverage King to allow for the wide horizontal movement of the antenna through a 120-degree range of azimuth/bearing angle positions (180-degree range available by special order). A second AISG control unit provides an independent 20-degree range of mechanical down-tilt positions. These movements, both azimuth/bearing and down-tilt, are very precise, moving in increments of 1/10th of 1 degree at a time. If only horizontal movement is needed, the Radiarc® Site Saver provides the same horizontal functionality as the Coverage King, without the mechanical down-tilt capabilities.
For microwave antennas, the Pathfinder® series of remote mounts features the Marksman®, which is rugged and especially designed for extreme precision. These mounts are extremely durable, fully tested, and move 25 to -25 degrees azimuth/bearing. They also feature 10 degrees up-tilt and 10 degrees down-tilt, with all movements being controlled at 1/10th of 1 degree at a time.
“We made it a little smaller and more rugged, so that it could handle the abuse that a microwave is subject to. They’re like big sails. They get hammered by the wind and they get a lot of abuse out there from mother nature. The mount has to be very rugged in order to support that,” Atamian said.
Antennas Must be Realigned to Maintain Coverage
There are many reasons an MNO might want to adjust the position of its antennas. It could be to fill a dead spot, or to provide extra capacity to handle increased traffic in another area. Antennas and microwave dishes are often knocked out of alignment, by high winds, from being struck by something, or from simply loosening over time.
To ensure alignment, MNOs have been relying on setting the adjustments mechanically. If they want to move the antenna, they send crews up to move it physically, or they adjust it using RETs, which can only move it a few degrees.
Remote antenna adjustment makes sense from an economic standpoint, allowing MNOs to avoid the expense of dispatching climbers to the tower. For microwave hops, where crews are sent to both sides at $2,500 to $3,000 a day per crew, one realignment will pay for the mount, according to Atamian.
“Some of these sites are so rural that they have to hire special equipment, like a snowcat, a snowmobile, or a plow. Remote alignment eliminates the need for all of them,” he said.
5G Places New Demands on Antenna Mounts
The need for precision in cell tower base stations has increased as wireless data has sped up, according to Atamian. Additionally, the 4G and 5G wireless protocols also have introduced larger, heavier antennas, which makes adjusting them more difficult.
“Wireless signals must be optimized and network performance increased to deliver dependable 5G service to the customer base,” Atamian said.
In the future, MNOs will use artificial intelligence to determine the precise position of each antenna, according to Atamian, to optimize the coverage of their networks. “MNOs are very interested in making sure that the sites that they have are as efficient as possible, so that they can handle the needs of their customers in that area. Otherwise, they have to put up more sites for capacity,” he said. “Our product will allow them to quickly and easily fine-tune each antenna.”
For optimization, MNOs want their antenna to point exactly where it needs to point, when it needs to point there, so that each tower site can have maximum throughput and serve the most people. And to do that quickly and efficiently, remotely controlled, motorized antenna mounts are essential.
For more information, visit https://radiarctech.com.
By J. Sharpe Smith, Inside Towers Technology Editor