Why towercos are getting active with neutral host

With the rapid growth of mobile operator networks and the emergence of network sharing as a cost-effective expansion strategy, the independent macro tower market has boomed. Owner-operator tower companies worldwide today manage substantial portfolios of passive “steel and grass” infrastructure assets ripe for monetisation. Now, as small-cell deployments begin to gather pace – and with site acquisition still one of the biggest challenges – tower companies are beginning to capitalize by supplying the active infrastructure to support next-generation service delivery.

Traditional tower companies are increasingly seizing the opportunity to complement their sites with the acquisition of street infrastructure and even buildings, enabling them to deliver an end-to-end solution for operator and provide a common last-mile connection, often over microwave. In a fast-moving and competitive market, operators simply don’t have the resources to negotiate and manage access to each city’s infrastructure; indeed, for reasons of simplicity, city authorities often actively prefer such access to be managed by a neutral host. By taking care of last-mile access, tower companies can remove this additional layer of complexity for mobile operators. With many countries now strictly limiting or even preventing further expansion of macro tower and rooftop sites, innovative tower companies are well-positioned to help accelerate global small-cell deployment and create enhanced, long-term revenue streams.

For tower companies looking to expand into active equipment provision, CCS’s Metnet self-organising microwave backhaul system offers an optimal solution. Metnet is a simple, easy-to-deploy microwave system that can act as a neutral host for multiple operators in a completely transparent way. Metnet’s highly resilient multipoint-to-multipoint (mesh) architecture incorporates self-healing links that dynamically reconfigure to optimise performance and spectral efficiency as Line of Sight circumstances or traffic levels change, whilst minimising interference. Metnet nodes connect automatically in a hybrid MPTMP (mesh), PTMP and PTP topology.

One of the key benefits for tower companies is that the system is so easy to deploy and requires no radio planning or specific expertise. Due to its unique self-organising capabilities, Metnet enables plug-and-play installation in less than 15 minutes by local contractors rather than telecom engineers, which reduces CAPEX. The small form factor (4 kg/2 litre) and single unit per lamp post easily satisfies urban planning requirements, and the wide 270-degree field of view eliminates the need for manual alignment.

From a service provider perspective, Metnet enables cost-effective small-cell deployment in a flexible, organic way as additional capacity is required, automatically re-organising and re-aligning as new nodes are added. The system uses area-based microwave spectrum, which is widely available in most markets. It operates in a single frequency channel – at 24-29 GHz area-licensed bands – eliminating the need for radio planning.

Tower owners are already starting to embrace this opportunity to evolve the traditional business model and diversify their portfolios, offering network densification and neutral host solutions including active equipment.

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