Due to the ever-increasing demand for data along with reliable connections, telecom owners are increasingly trying to digitize their workflow to accurately understand available spaces, estimate tower ratings for proposed loading, understand defects and more importantly updating their inventory with as-built information. The current process is manual, labor intensive, and expensive.
As telecom infrastructure is now shared by multiple mobile network operators and as tower owners are adopting to 5G evolution, one major telecom company in India looked to its geospatial partner, Genesys International Corporation Ltd (Genesys) for help with digitizing their workflow through tower inspection automation.
Nikhil Jani, Vice President, Telecom and Utilities at Genesys is responsible for all telecom and utilities business, states, “Tower inspections are typically manually intensive processes. Few telecom operators have current (as-built) data about all the equipment on their towers.”
Therefore, when it comes to maintenance, installations or modifications of tower to support, for instance, a 5G infrastructure, the data necessary to make decisions is simply not available. As a consequence, operators send teams into the field to gather the information, take some pictures and perform some rudimentary analysis. That data is then used by tower engineers to determine structural load bearing, capacity utilization, tower health, etc.
“At the same time, as drawings are often not current, the design data versus the as-built conditions are almost never aligned,” adds Nozer Turel, Assistant Vice President, Geotechnology, at Genesys. “Many companies have sold towers within their portfolio or share towers with other telecom service providers. Over time, it becomes very difficult to maintain and upkeep these towers, a problem that is compounded as operators upgrade from 3G to 4G and now to 5G.”
Turel and Jani believed the answer for their customer might be found by leveraging digital twin technology which can enable smart inventory management along with BIM and the reality model to go with it.
Established in 1995, Genesys is a mapping, survey and geospatial services company that provides remote sensing, LiDAR, aerial survey, photogrammetry and ICT based e-governance solutions. Headquartered in Mumbai, India, the company operates several geospatial production and application development centers in India and is one of the largest LiDAR acquisition companies with expertise in processing capabilities, delivering some of the world's most challenging projects.
Genesys understood its telecom client’s problem and reached out to technology partners who might be able to help. “Bentley offers a digital twin solution called OpenTower iQ that looked like it might help,” says Turel. “This technology brings transparency by capturing the reality from the ground and bringing it to the desktop, essentially a true digital twin that marries reality data with the BIM model. We believe this to be the first true attempt to capture the entire lifecycle management of telecom towers. The reality model along with machine learning and AI for added intelligence, is where the value lies for our customer.”
Designed for engineers and owner operators, OpenTower iQ includes features and functionality to capture the entire lifecycle of telecom tower management, including analysis, planning, visualization, and collaboration.
Image: OpenTower iQ reality model
With one source of truth and innovative AI, engineers can leverage next generation software to visualize and model towers with precision while owners can use the same data to manage assets, monitor tower health, make informed decisions with predictive analytics and develop plans for future development directions. The platform is purpose-built for tower design, modification, management and maintenance. Features and functionality include the ability to make tower modifications, precisely position equipment, conduct multiple scenario evaluations and perform foundation checks and connection designs.
Genesys worked closely with the Bentley team and used Bentley recommended flight path to incorporate tower data gathered from drones into the OpenTower iQ platform.
Turel says, “Within a couple of days, we had a high-quality reality model available with the reports and other aspects of the projects. Now all the tower data is available in digital form—and it’s accurate and current.
Since implementation this summer, the telecom owner has already realized benefits in the ability to measure capacity and tower utilization. “They greatly appreciate the quality of the data that is available within the system. They are no longer dependent on someone traveling to the towers to gather data, which can be laborious and dangerous,” confirms Turel.
Already, operators in India and around the world are seeing considerable demand on existing towers and operators are continually removing and adding more equipment, which has to be done without jeopardizing structural integrity. The demand on these towers will only increase with the move to 5G, which requires more and larger antennas, depending on which frequency is selected.
Jani concludes, “It’s imperative that operators make sure the cell towers are in good shape and optimized for space and effectiveness. Down the road, our client will be able to combine the day-to-day management of existing towers with forecasts for new tower construction. Bottom line, a purpose-built solution, OpenTower iQ for tower planning and management is a game changer for the telecom market segment.”
For more information on the software used, please visit OpenTower.