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SCADA system reduces operating costs of telecommunication base stations in Lebanon

As more and more people rely on wired and wireless communication in their daily lives, the pressure on telecommunication infrastructure is increased. Telecommunication base stations should achieve higher performance while decreasing operational costs. This can be a real challenge, especially in rural and scarcely populated areas where we might lack a well-developed power grid and the nearest service technician is miles away. There are many actions that can be taken to improve operations and reduce costs, for example using newer energy-efficient equipment and integrated power management systems to use power more efficiently. These actions may work well when a new site is being built, but the investment may be harder to justify on existing sites as it requires replacing existing, well-functioning equipment with new, more efficient equipment.

The project rely totally on the SCADA system SIMATIC WinCC Open Architecture while taking benefit of the existing telecommunication infrastructure to connect the exchanges spread over the Lebanese territory to the headquarter in central Beirut. The system improves operations and reduces operating costs on existing sites. This is achieved by understanding when, how and if the equipment is in operation. Due to this solution it is possible to make better decisions regarding site maintenance and take actions when necessary. There are some examples how access to information helps to make better decisions and reduce operating cost:

Energy metering - the key to make the right decision
By adding intelligent energy meters at strategic locations on your site, you will get a detailed overview of how much energy each part of your BTS is consuming. For example, with an AC meter installed directly after the mains, and DC meters which measure the consumption of the telecom load, you can easily calculate the site’s Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER). Additionally, energy meters can be added to individual equipment, the air-conditioning for example, to see how it is performing and when it is time for maintenance.

Perform service when needed
A lot of the equipment used within a telecommunication site (for example air-conditioning units, diesel power generators, etc.) requires regular service to operate reliably. Telecommunication sites are often serviced according to a pre-determined service schedule. As site visits are costly, you may be able to reduce the service costs if you only send the service team to sites that actually need service. The challenge is to know when service is needed at each individual site. By analyzing the operation of equipment remotely, you are able to understand equipment health and more efficiently schedule service visits in the field.

Increase lifetime of batteries
Batteries have a limited lifetime which depends greatly on how they are operated as well as the surrounding temperature. With a temperature that is just a couple of degrees higher or lower than the optimal operating temperature, the lifetime of batteries is significantly reduced. And since batteries are expensive, this can generate substantial savings. Normally, an FCU in combination with an air-conditioning unit is installed to regulate the temperature on site. Outdoor temperature fluctuations, equipment failure or even a door that has not been properly shut, will affect the temperature at the site and thereby generate unnecessary energy consumption. By recording the temperature at each site and monitor and configure temperature set-points remotely, you can assure an optimal climate inside the BTS and extend the battery lifetime.

Improve reliability and operation of diesel power generators
Diesel power generators are often used for back-up power at telecom sites. In rural areas, the luxury of a reliable power grid might not be present, and in such cases the diesel power generator acts as the main source of power, occasionally combined with renewable energy sources, such as wind- or solar-power. A great percentage of generator failures can be avoided by simply analyzing the basic operational parameters, such as fuel levels, battery levels, oil-pressure and coolant temperatures. Service of a power generator is normally carried out at certain intervals, for example after operating the generator for a certain number of hours. By being able to see the operating hours remotely, you are able to make a decision of when to send a service engineer to the site. A well-maintained generator operates better and with lower costs as unplanned operating disturbances often means substantial expenses.

Minimize fuel theft
Fuel theft can be a significant problem and reports have suggested that in certain regions, as much as 42% of the fuel disappear before it is used. Avoiding fuel theft completely might be difficult since it is often stolen a bit at a time; during transportation, at fill-up, or at the telecom base station. However, a remote monitoring system that connects to a fuel sensor can be used to ensure that the right amount of fuel is delivered at a refill. By using an intelligent level sensor, it is possible to track the fuel level of the tank. The fuel sensor can be calibrated to sense a full tank and by knowing this you can verify that the tank is properly refilled. A good fuel level sensor is able to detect variations down to 3-5 liters. An abnormal decrease in content may be detected and indicate that the fuel is being stolen. With a remote monitoring system that supports alarms, a notification is sent immediately as the theft occurs.