The Growing Need for Quality Antenna Concealment

Large Antenna RFTC Enclosure

Large Antenna RFTC Enclosure


If you can believe it, we are in January of 2013! We live in a different world than the one I grew up in back in the 70’s, when FM Radio was king; A time before iPods, Walkmen or any portable music device that wasn’t the size of a microwave. The “cool guys” sported which was affectionately referred to as a “Ghetto Blaster” and there were 3 types of music; Disco, led by The Bee Gees and The Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack, Rock, led by groups like The Who and Led Zepplin and, of course, Country-Western, with guys like Waylon and Willie, Merle Haggard and Hank Williams Jr.

Back in those days, if you were on the road, in outside sales or for whatever reason, if you had to connect with someone, you couldn’t text them, email them, fax them or even pick up your cell phone and call; you had to find a payphone somewhere. Some of them were in phone booths on the side of the road, replete with a 3″ phone book including a plethora of $750.00 a month Yellow Page Advertisements underwritten by pizza parlors, plumbers and a host of other local businesses vying for their slice of the pie. Some of those phone booths were pretty disgusting, as in those days, the less than savory citizens found pleasure in destroying them in any way possible, with “biological residue”, engraving their names on the handset, or any other creative and destructive means at their disposal. I thought I would make my “fortune” by producing a little disposable sock you could put over the handset so you wouldn’t have to put your face on it and put them in a little vending machine by each phone for a quarter. In retrospect, I’m glad I pursued other opportunities, since the payphones are going the way of the buggy whip.

But I digress. Today, everyone, their kids, their mother, even their least favorite Brother-in-Law has a cell phone; And not just any cell phone, but a 3G or 4G model, with internet, unlimited texting, games, streaming music and, oh yeah, voice capability as well. If that’s not enough, 1 in 3 have a tablet device, like an iPad, a Nook, a Kindle or one of many other flavors. In addition, there is the growing M2M sector, which stands for Machine to Machine. M2M technology allows equipment to communicate, via the internet or wireless connection, about its status or condition. For example, a remote generator that is low on fuel “tells” headquarters it needs a refill. A high-rise building’s lights and HVAC are monitored remotely by a property management firm, who can manage power and maximize efficiencies, A security company can monitor all the doors and windows on a secure facility, with alerts sent immediately to the command center in the event of a breach and millions of other applications.

What does all of this have to do with Antenna Concealment? Well, I’m getting there! With all of the Broadband phones, tablets, GPS devices and M2M equipment out there (not to mention Government and Emergency services), the need for millions of cellular antennae to handle the volume of transmitted voice and data is overwhelming. Depending upon the type of antenna, GSM or CDMA, the volume of data per antenna varies, but when the limit is reached, you get dropped connections. This results in millions and millions in lost revenue for the cellular carriers, so they don’t like that to happen, which is why they want more and more cell sites. It’s also more convenient for the rest of us, who depend on “3 bars” or more when we want the convenience of making a call. The carriers with the fewest dropped calls and strongest signal use that to attract subscribers. I don’t know about you, but I will gladly pay an extra $30 a month to have a better connection when and where I want to make a call. “Cockroach Cellular” may offer a plan with unlimited voice and texting for around $30 bucks, but if you have no signal, who cares how cheap it is?

So, Cellular Carriers desire the best signal in the broadest area and consumers want to have a strong signal wherever they go and each antenna has a limit of how many calls they can handle at once. What is the solution? Obviously, it’s more cell sites! So what is wrong with more cell sites? Without getting into the groundswell of opposition to cell sites because of imagined health risks, etc., there is a genuine concern about the unsightly appearance of antennas hanging off of every-other building all over town. As a result of this, city and county building departments have established rules & regulations for new permits for either new or upgraded cellsites. These rules, called “siting rules”, restrict how a cellsite is installed to minimize the appearance of it. In short, they say “you can put a new one in, but we don’t want to see it”. That’s not a bad thing, because antennas bolted to a building, or sticking up off of a roof, or bolted to a huge tower in the local park really detracts from the beauty of our communities. Some companies decided that if they “disguise” the towers to look like a Palm Tree or a Pine Tree, that would solve the problem; It doesn’t. The “Fake” trees normally are very unconvincing replicas of the real thing and stick out like a sore thumb. To compound the problem, The “branches” deteriorate from the UV rays of the sun and in about 3 years, they are discolored and falling off. The other “easy” answer is the fat flagpoles, where they hide the antennas in front of a fire station or high school on what looks like a 36″ diameter flagpole. Those aren’t bad, as long as there aren’t “too many” of them in a small geographic area, but there are only so many fire stations, schools and libraries. There is a greater need for cellsites than the available flagpole locations.

What is the answer? It’s simple; Install Architectural facades to buildings that already exist. These “facades” completely hide the cellsites behind materials that are “transparent” to the radio waves that transmit our voice and data (RF Transparent Concealment or RFTC, sometimes called “stealthing”) and if done correctly, they can be fabricated to either match or enhance the appearance of the building, thus beautifying the community where they are installed. This sounds simple, but there is an art to making an RFTC enclosure that is undetectable to the passive observer. There are many many examples of a “Bad Stealthing”, where it is obvious that someone cut a chunk out of a building and field erected an enclosure on site. These types of enclosures detract from the building like a bad plastic surgeon messes up the face of a pop star. The good ones are either undetectable or appear to be an improvement to a building, like a new steeple on a church, a clock tower in the middle of campus at a junior college or a new trim on the parapet of an industrial building.

The key to a good RFTC Concealment system is the way it’s manufactured. The entire enclosure should be fabricated and pre-assembled at the manufacturer’s facility in as few pieces as possible, so when it’s delivered and installed, it can be simply bolted together from behind (in the part that is not seen by the public) and bolted onto a building. The system should be engineered for structural integrity, seismic and wind resistance and built with the same color and texture of the building. If it’s going on a brick building, it should look just like the bricks on the building. If stucco, it should match the stucco, if wood, then wood. A good, qualified contractor experienced in cellsite concealment is critical. A bad contractor can make a good structure look bad. Ask the manufacturer of the RFTC concealment for recommendations of qualified installers. Many RFTC concealment providers ship their systems in piles on pallets with dozens or hundreds of pieces and it takes the contractor a week or more to assemble it on the building. As you can imagine, this type of system yields variable results. The preferred solution is the type of system that is made in large, pre-fabricated pieces with the structural members bonded to the back of the panels. This type of system provides a return flange on the back of each panel so they can be bolted together exactly like they were designed, providing a seamless and predictable installation.

Another critical component to a successful installation is capturing all of the correct information prior to fabrication. A sitewalk by an experienced fabricator is very important to capture precise dimensions, color, texture, installation conditions and environmental considerations. Afterwards, a CAD drawing should be provided to the project manager for confirmation of dimensions and all details, including a 3D rendering of the final design appearance for review. An experienced manufacturer should have all RF transparent materials so as not to impede the signal transmission at the frequency of the antennas being concealed. You should ask for performance data on the manufacturer’s materials performed by a licensed third-party independent testing facility and insure that the manufacturer is approved by the telecom company whose antennas are being installed. Not following these steps could lead to less than desirable results.

When considering the cost of an RFTC enclosure, you need to look beyond the base price of the structure. If the enclosure is not pre-fabrictaed in one or a few large pieces, field installation could be very expensive. Consider the cost of labor for a contractor’s crew in the field per hour. An average for field labor is $50-$75 per man-hour (supervisors are higher), so a 5-man crew is $250-$375 per hour or more. If you buy your concealment structure in many pieces shipped on pallets, it could take a week or more to assemble and install. If we assume one week at $250 an hour, it will cost you around $10,000 for installation. The same project, if purchased from a manufacturer who prefabricates the enclosure in 4 or 6 large pieces provides a system that can be installed in a half day or less, saving you 80% on installation costs. The silver lining is that the installed project is consistent with your original design with little margin for contractor error in installation. The latter unit will also have an excellent appearance for many many years, without the risk of UV degradation and deterioration over a couple of years as experienced with the faux trees.

If you do it right, city and county building departments, building owners and managers alike will be very happy with the results of your RFTC concealment project, paving the way to easier acceptance of your next project and the ten after that.

For more information and a photo gallery of beautiful RFTC concealment projects, go to http://www.peabodyconcealment.com.

Gemini² Dual Containment Tanks

Gemini Square Double Wall Containment Tanks are an excellent solution to any situation where chemical processing needs to be done in a safe and secure way. Often times this means that a secondary containment tank system is required. It will safely store your chemicals protecting you from the risk of hazardous material spills, exposure of you and or your workers to dangerous chemicals and you’re also being responsible environmentally.

These Gemini Square Tanks have 22% more storage space compared to the Gemini Round Tanks, which will allow for more chemical stored in a smaller area. They meet or exceed the EPA and UFC regulations in relation to secondary containment (including 40CFR).

Colors available are in blue and natural, and sizes available are 10, 20, 40, 70, 110 gallons. If you would like more information on these tanks to see if they might be a fit for your needs you can give us a call at 951-734-7711. You can also see more information on our website at http://www.etanks.com/products/default.aspx?cat=1&subcat=305.

Gemini Square Dual Containment Tanks

Gemini² Dual Containment Tanks

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