Mount Engineering Matters

As the infrastructure industry chases growth, value, and better margins, ETS supports its customers with engineering excellence, experience, and fast turnarounds.  

It only takes some unexpected, expensive, and strikingly similar equipment failures to get an industry’s attention. So, when a number of tower owners and their customers experienced antenna mount failures during the initial stages of the 4G roll-out, the industry immediately looked for answers. 

“There was some resistance within the industry to the idea that tower mounts needed to be rigorously analyzed and engineered until we saw failures under increasing antenna loads,” said Doug Kosiba, head of mount engineering at Engineered Tower Solutions. “Antenna size and weight had increased markedly over wireless generations, but the load capacity of mounting structures had not.”

Those early failures led owners and carriers to look more closely at mount engineering proactively, and in 2017 the TIA published Revision H of the ANSI/TIA-222, which formally guided antenna mount load requirements and design criteria. 

“Although Rev H forced the industry into undertaking more mount analysis, it was already doing a lot more engineering work to ensure that infrastructure could support the proposed loads,” adds Kosiba.

As a professional engineer and a 9-year veteran of ETS, Kosiba leads a mount engineering team that has seen volumes grow substantially in recent years as the 5G build-out has progressed. Today, mount engineering is a critical design element for any new or upgraded tower carrying the latest antenna systems. Although modern technology has begun to lead to smaller physical sizes, modern antennas can still be significantly heavier than their predecessors. But mount engineering isn’t just about structural design considerations.

“We also have to consider RF design requirements and formulate solutions that help optimize the performance of the installation for the customer, minimizing any signal interference,” says Kosiba. “And it’s not uncommon to discover that a previous antenna installation was not installed per industry best practices, requiring additional consideration to ensure the carrier ends up with the best possible solution from both a structural and RF performance perspective.” 

Some owners in the industry are pushing for the pre-certification of mounts for standardized loading cases. Kosiba sees the attraction but points to the sheer number of existing tower mounts in the market today and the variations in how these mounts are commonly installed in the field. 

“It is typically a lot less expensive to modify an existing mount than replace it altogether,” he adds. “New mounts are engineered to carry greater antenna loads but replacing legacy mounts with modern alternatives has been a slow process that will persist for years.”