The highly dynamic nature of today’s telecom industry — underscored by ever-evolving data transmission formats, continuous technological advances and extreme competition among vendors — has made ‘power quality’ a buzzword that every service provider must assign to the top of its call list.
Even a few of seconds of downtime can result in major revenue losses, and even worse, irreparably damage customer satisfaction. With so many telecom companies vying for patrons’ business, unhappy customers are finding it easier than ever to simply dial up a replacement. To ensure continuous uptime and avoid losing subscribers, telecom providers must place a high priority on deploying an effective power protection strategy.
The 4-1-1 on power challenges in the telecom sector
Traditional telecommunications equipment requires -48VDC input power. DC Plant systems consist of multiple parallel-redundant rectifiers that convert AC power to -48VDC power, charge lead-acid batteries, and supply power to critical-load equipment. Converters or inverters are used to derive other required voltages from the -48VDC power plant. These DC Power systems have also become popular in data center environments.
When it comes to power quality, the industry faces some significant challenges. To begin with, the sharp rise in the use of AC powered equipment by service providers has made these devices vulnerable to a broad range of power anomalies. Because utilities often fail to supply power within the normal 110 to 128V range, the AC-powered equipment associated with telecom networks is susceptible to many threats.
Indeed, a wide variety of power problems — not just complete blackouts — pose a major threat to continuous uptime with the telecom industry. Research suggests that a typical location will experience anywhere from four to 15 outages per year, resulting in, among other things: data loss, damaged hardware, system lockup and component stress.
Although difficult to detect, power anomalies such as frequency variation, switching transients and harmonic distortion can wreak havoc with network performance. In fact, harmonic distortion is considered the No. 1 threat in the industry, in large part due to its undetectable nature.
Dialing up your level of protection
A proactive and often multi-faceted approach is needed to ensure that the quality and efficiency of telecom services remain up to par at all times. While there are numerous devices that will safeguard equipment against specific threats, uninterruptible power systems (UPS) are an essential gatekeeper to provide optimal protection and uptime for AC-powered equipment in telecom applications.
For -48VDC systems, long battery support times are necessary to support the equipment during AC power or rectifier failures. Generator systems can be used during sustained system failure. Battery support times range from a minimum of 1 hr to more than 24 hr, with typical ones lasting between 3 hr and 8 hr.
In addition, the industry is benefiting from transient voltage surge suppressors (TVSS) to help eliminate transient voltages, as well as harmonic filters, which protect telecom services from unnecessary disturbances and effectively reduce harmonics. Furthermore, power conditioners provide coverage against damaging surges and spikes, while inverters and static transfer switches (STS) are also becoming more widespread within the industry. A growing number of telecom providers are also relying on power monitoring as a method of keeping a constant pulse on the health of their network and equipment. Highly advanced software that performs continuous monitoring of all the key aspects of utility power is beneficial to perform predictive analysis of potential troubles lurking on the network, often enabling telecom providers to resolve issues before they cause downtime.
Avoid close calls by engaging in routine service
Preventive maintenance (PM) is the final — yet crucial — aspect of an effective power protection strategy, and key to maintaining a highly reliable telecom network. DC Plant -48VDC systems as well as UPS systems should have proper and routine maintenance performed to ensure the system (including batteries) are reliable. With regularly scheduled PM performed by a professionally trained service technician, telecom providers can detect potential problems before they emerge, while ensuring optimal operation of critical equipment.
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