It’s quite common for people to look at the cellular industry as a bunch of phones from different companies competing on features and functions but the reality is the towers are often the glue that connects these devices when they aren’t near WiFi hotspots. Towers are rife with innovation and in order for consumers to get better service they need to be upgraded with better radio frequency equipment, antennas and backhaul bandwidth.
3M Communications Markets Division is one company which focuses on perfecting the base station by making them easier to work on while ensuring they need less ongoing maintenance. I spent a good deal of time with the company recently speaking with Omar Flores, Steve King and others at the company to learn about how they are applying many of their innovations directly to the towers and other equipment responsible for interconnecting our tablets and other devices.
This is more of a commercial on what this division of 3M does but it’s still instructive
By leveraging their massive R&D spending they are producing a number of products used by ILECS and MSOs. Recently they announced The Slim Lock Mini and the Slim Lock Nano which join the Slim Lock Classic creating a family of varying sizes for wireless weatherproofing needs. The newest releases support the wireless industry’s move toward using Mini-DIN and N-Type connectors on Multiple In and Multiple Out (MIMO) antennas and radios for LTE deployments which of course are responding to the macro site densification trend.
The new closures free up valuable tower space and offer a re-enterable weatherproofing solution that installs in less than a minute using just one hand. They showed me how easy it is to close these enclosures and how tower workers won’t need to use tape. They also offer cold-shrink tubing/gel which can be applied to enclosure to ensure the connections are waterproofed.
Another interesting item they have is a camouflaged base station for small cell deployments. As the trend towards small cells continues, think about the fact that carriers don’t share these today. This means in the US you may have four base stations every few blocks in some cities.
The company also makes a cleaver which is designed to cleave about 120 times before locking and getting thrown away. In fact there is little user training needed and a carrier may save $800 cleaver they no longer have to purchase. These new cleavers lock up after 120 cleaves and come free with specific connectors sold by the company. Most interestingly, the technology they use is diamond-wire instead of a blade.