Telephone networks are most easily understood when they are broken down into their component parts. The essential base for each cell unit on a mobile network is the telecom tower (these are often referred to as antenna towers).
An Overview of a Mobile Network
A mobile network is broken down into individual cells, known as base stations (or more properly as Base Transceiver Stations or BTS). These cells are joined by the use of antennae to a central control unit, known as a base station controller (or BSC). This BSC is then linked, via cable or antenna, to a mobile switching center (or MSC). The MSC is then finally joined with the public switched telephone network (or PSTN) and the network location registers.
The cell itself enables a direct link with a subscriber’s mobile device, and it is in the cell that you find the telecom tower. All of the physical communications equipment that is required for a BTS will be placed on this tower.
In the case of a standard mobile network, this will usually consist of the GPS electronics package, and possibly a microwave link back to the BSC for redundancy and efficient communications within the line of sight of the BTS.
Equipment on the BTS
At the base of the tower, you’ll find an electronics package designed to support the communication with user’s mobile phones, data cards, etc. Inside the package you’ll find signal boosting equipment (or amplifiers), control mechanisms, software links to the BSC, transceivers, devices for combining frequencies and often a backup power supply or supplies.
The antenna itself is placed on the tower and connected directly to this electronics package. This is achieved by the use of a “feeder”. You will also find a specific interface that stands between the network controller and this BTS. In general terms this is a cable connection which is supported by a software interface.
The BTS is positioned carefully within a cell to maximize network performance. In order to do this BTS towers and masts may differ in height, shape or style. The idea is to ensure that signal is provided inside the cell boundaries without overlap with other cells.
Antenna towers are a key part of the network. Without a telecom tower there would be no mobile telephony at all. When you’re designing your network, you need to pay close attention to the towers you choose.