Telecommunication Tower Maintenance in Australia
And Innovation That Makes It Easier
From a report in 2017, there were 21472 mobile phone base stations in Australia, most of which (7772) were owned by Telstra. These towers serve to cover most of the country for wireless (data) internet and mobile phone calling. And this network is rapidly expanding.
As the age range for mobile phone ownership broadens in Australia, and with a boom in eCommerce interactions being carried out on mobile, the existing telco infrastructure has been challenged for robustness.
With this, an Australian government and private sector coalition has been rolling out critical upgrades to existing infrastructure since 2015 in order to keep up with increasing demand by both private internet users and businesses.
This has meant a lucrative time for existing and new subcontractor companies like Comstar, Westcom and Pacific Towers, who erect and maintain towers and base stations for clients such as Telstra, NBN Co, Optus, Ericsson, Nokia, Vodafone and more.
And with an uplift in installations also comes the need for componentry and spares. Most mobile bases stations can be broken into four key features — the antennas, the supporting structure (the tower itself), the hardware (the technology that supports wireless communication between user equipment—UE, or a mobile phone, for example—and a network) and a link to the exchange.
A Unique Challenge
When telcos upgrade network capabilities, it generates the need to upgrade antennae hardware and other similar products. By the very nature of a base station’s pole structure, there are big challenges for maintenance workers who carry out these tasks: access for fastening.
Of course, with an enclosed component like a vertical pole—especially one that tapers towards the top—access for installing fasteners to secure hardware is one-sided. That is, any fastener that requires a nut is impossible to work with without sending it through the entire width of the pole. To keep drilling to a minimum, a blind bolt must be used.
Fastening Blind, Securing Well
In the tower maintenance industry in the USA, an innovative product has been helping technicians not only carry out blind bolting but also achieve loading performance of a system that would be installed in more traditional ways. Developed by Ohio-based company Allfasteners USA, the NexGen2 blind bolting system utilises a folding split washer through a drilled hole which then “unfolds” to secure the bolt from the ‘blind side’ (inside the pole).
Then, the system can be secured to the correct tension via a powered shear wrench. A control spline automatically breaks off to indicate that correct tension has been achieved.
After many years of success, the system is now being formally introduced to the Australian market via Allfasteners’ Australian entity, in anticipation of growth in the maintenance market.
Growth and Maintenance Efficiency
As of 2020, there are approximately 18.44 million mobile phone users in Australia, but forecasts show that the nation is heading towards an expansion that will total 19.27 million users in 2022. This is another 4 million users since 2015. With this upward trajectory looking like continuing at the same rate beyond 2020, maintenance firms will be looking for greater efficiencies with their processes.
As part of this expansion, everything from height access, tools used and fastening techniques will be a part of their success.