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Site Selection

Abstract This paper provides a discussion on the proper

site selection for microwave communications systems,
including some parameters such as station design and
tower design. Other considerations will also be discussed
such as no-break power system, antenna pressurization and
installation, and various path losses.

Keywords microwave communications system, tower design,

pressurization, path losses
Microwave communication is the transmission of signals via
radio using a series of microwave towers. Microwave
communication is known as a form of "line of sight"
communication, because there must be nothing obstructing the
transmission of data between these towers for signals to be
properly sent and received [1]. This communication system
operates at microwave frequencies, which are high frequency
radio waves (> 1GHz) and propagate much like any other
electromagnetic phenomenon in free space [2].
Microwaves are widely used for point-to-point
communications because their small wavelength allows
conveniently-sized antennas to direct them in narrow beams,
which can be pointed directly at the receiving antenna. This
allows nearby microwave equipment to use the same
frequencies without interfering with each other, as lower
frequency radio waves do. Another advantage is that the high
frequency of microwaves gives the microwave band a very large
information-carrying capacity; the microwave band has a
bandwidth 30 times that of all the rest of the radio spectrum
below it. A disadvantage is that microwaves are limited to line
of sight propagation; they cannot pass around hills or mountains
as lower frequency radio waves can. [3]
With the continually increasing demand for wireless
communication, more antenna towers are needed. Proper site
selection is considered because communication may become
interrupted at times due to misalignment and/or atmospheric
conditions [4]. Other considerations include antenna and
repeaters, antenna sub-system, pressurization, antenna tower and
mast, sub-station design, no-break power system, and channel
and frequency assignments.


It is necessary to have a clear line-of-sight between

transmitting and receiving antennas to obtain satisfactory
microwave transmission. The microwave transmission path
survey allows the selection of suitable station sites antenna
heights. The survey consists of gathering and analysing
elevation data and other information on the possible sites and
the intervening terrain.
Cellular tower locations are the result of an engineering field
called Radio Frequency Engineering or RF, for short. RF
engineers at the various wireless companies. Mobile work
closely with their marketing departments to determine areas
where the placement of a new tower will accomplish one (or
more) of three goals:
A. Expansion: The tower site provides coverage over areas
that do not currently have coverage.
B. Capacity: The tower site provides additional capacity for
the carrier to handle more calls in areas where existing towers
are overloaded.
C. Quality: The tower fills in a hole or an area where
customer calls are frequently dropped or call service is poor.
In either case, the tower must serve a specific purpose. The
majority of the times, that purpose is to increase the number of
minutes that people talk or receive/send data on their phones.
The industry refers to this as Minutes of Use or MOUs. The
main way of increasing MOUs is by placing cell towers or sites
in locations that have high daytime working populations. Most
carriers have wireless plans that provide cheap or free "off time"
rates, so the emphasis is daytime calling minutes which are
typically the most expensive.
When wireless carriers determine that a new cell tower or
antenna site is needed in a given area, the Radio Frequency (RF)
engineering department (RF) issues what is commonly known as
a "Search Ring." A Search Ring is a circle or other shape drawn
on a map that indicates where a site could be located to meet the
RF engineering requirements. The size of this search ring varies
depending upon the topography (hilliness or flatness of the
area), the demographics (where and what type of customer base)
and other factors including whether the area is urban, suburban
or rural in nature [5].

Figure 1. Search Ring

One thing to note is that, contrary to public belief, the ground

elevation is not the most important factor. Just because you live
on the tallest or second tallest hill in the area or county does not
mean that your location is preferred from a wireless perspective,
unless the location is in a "Search Ring."
Typical systems, operating at frequencies currently in use, use
high-gain directional antennas, not normally exceeding 15 feet
in diameter, low power transmitters, and sensitive receivers
which, through the use of suitable isolation units, share the
antennas with the transmitters. Active repeaters of various types
and passive repeaters are used to meet particular system
requirements. Where no access to the baseband is necessary,
heterodyne type (LF) repeaters are used. Where insertion of
traffic at repeater is called for, remodulating repeaters are used.
Passive repeaters, consisting of plane reflectors or back-to-back
parabolas, are used to change direction of transmission to avoid
obstacles or conflicts with other services. Plane reflectors are
also frequently used in lieu of transmission lines or waveguides
when tower heights and frequencies are such that transmission
losses and costs would be excessive [6].
In a communication system, there are also relay station in
between the path end point. A relay station is a broadcast
transmitter which repeats or transponds the signal of another
radio station or television station, usually to an area not covered
by the signal of the originating station. They may serve, for
example, to expand the broadcast range of a television or radio
station beyond the primary signal's coverage area, or to improve
service in a part of the main coverage area which receives a poor
signal due to geographic constraints [7].

Figure 2. Relay Station

Another consideration would be antenna pressurization.

Elliptical waveguide, air dielectric coaxial and rigid line should
be pressurized with dry air or dry inert gas in order to prevent
moisture condensation and the resultant degradation in electrical
performance and possible damage to the transmission line [8].
Corrosion caused by accumulated moisture and voltage
breakdown (arcing) can be eliminated through positive pressure
on the transmission lines.

Figure 3. Negative Effects of Unpressurized Antenna

Figure 4. Dehydrator for Pressurization

Another parameter that should be taken into consideration is

the path losses. Path loss (or path attenuation) is the reduction in
power density (attenuation) of an electromagnetic wave as it
propagates through space. Path loss is a major component in the
analysis and design of the link budget of a telecommunication
system. Path loss may be due to many effects, such as free-space
loss, refraction, diffraction, reflection, aperture-medium
coupling loss, and absorption. Path loss is also influenced by
terrain contours, environment (urban or rural, vegetation and
foliage), propagation medium (dry or moist air), the distance
between the transmitter and the receiver, and the height and
location of antennas [9].
Path loss normally includes propagation losses caused by the
natural expansion of the radio wave front in free space (which
usually takes the shape of an ever-increasing sphere), absorption
losses (sometimes called penetration losses), when the signal
passes through media not transparent to electromagnetic waves,
diffraction losses when part of the radiowave front is obstructed
by an opaque obstacle, and losses caused by other phenomena.
The signal radiated by a transmitter may also travel along
many and different paths to a receiver simultaneously; this effect

is called multipath. Multipath waves combine at the receiver

antenna, resulting in a received signal that may vary widely,
depending on the distribution of the intensity and relative
propagation time of the waves and bandwidth of the transmitted
signal. The total power of interfering waves in a Rayleigh fading
scenario vary quickly as a function of space (which is known as
small scale fading). Small-scale fading refers to the rapid
changes in radio signal amplitude in a short period of time or
travel distance.
A communication system should be able to operate non-stop,
therefore, it should be continually powered up. Because of this,
No-break "uninterrupted" power supply system is needed. A nobreak power supply is designed to provide uninterrupted
electrical power by automatic takeover should the normal supply
fail or momentarily deteriorate beyond the system demands. Nobreak power supplies are provided for communication systems,
computers navigational equipment, automated propulsion
systems, and related equipment where a momentary loss of
power would cause a permanent loss of information resulting in
the need to recycle or reprogram the equipment. Since
equipment requiring no-break power normally requires closely
regulated power, no-break power supplies are designed not only
to provide uninterrupted power, but also to provide power that is
regulated to meet the needs of the equipment it serves. The nobreak "uninterrupted" power supply system consists of two
major assemblies plus the storage batteries. The control cabinet
and motor-generator set are shown in figure 5.








Figure 5. No-break "Uninterrupted" Power Supply System Component


DPS Telecom website. A

explanation of microwave
communication in telecom

Microwave Transmission
Communication Systems.
How Specific Cell Tower
Sites are Chosen. [Online].
Communications Manual.
navy/manuals/01011xx/0101_112-05 .pdf