How Fb’s Undertaking SEISMIC helps deliver greener telecom infrastructure

All photos of the locations in Peru were taken by our partners at Mayu Telecomunicaciones and are used here with permission. To request permission to use the photos, contact [email protected].

Facebook Connectivity’s mission is to enable better and wider global connectivity to bring more people online to faster internet. This mission has grown in importance as data consumption and reporting needs continue to grow. We work with others in the industry – including telecom operators, community leaders, technology developers, and researchers – to find scalable and sustainable solutions. One of our most recent collaborations is the SEISMIC project: Intelligent Energy Infrastructure for Mobile Internet Connections. In this project, we are developing a solution to intelligently manage the performance and functionality of telecommunications locations. For example, we can reduce the capacity and transmission performance of the site in less busy times. In this way, we want to plan and operate off-grid locations better in order to reduce costs and improve their sustainability.

Coverage and capacity are still lacking in many parts of the world, especially in rural areas. To fill this gap, telecommunications providers need to establish new telecommunications locations and connections. However, many rural areas do not have access to an electricity grid. This is a major challenge as telecommunications sites and networks consume a significant amount of electricity and that consumption is expected to continue to grow.

In places where there is no reliable power grid, we have to rely on solar power, diesel power or hydropower. Everyone has their own requirements: for solar-powered locations, solar panels and batteries must be brought on-site, for diesel-powered locations, diesel must be topped up regularly, and for hydropower locations, hydropower generators must be built. All of this creates significant challenges in terms of cost, logistics and transportation, and presents an obstacle to providing connectivity in remote areas. To remove these obstacles and improve access to rural connectivity, Facebook is exploring innovations such as Project SEISMIC, with which we can build and operate telecommunications sites more efficiently.

More sustainable connectivity

The SEISMIC project offers intelligent energy management for telecommunications locations and uses dynamic energy management to better design and operate off-grid locations.

A major challenge that we face in the SEISMIC project is to ensure a high level of reliability and availability over time, as the power supply is different. For example, the output power of solar panels depends on the amount of sunlight, which changes depending on many factors including weather conditions, time of day, and day of the year. This means that more solar panels and batteries must be provided to meet availability requirements in areas with longer periods of rain and cloud cover, as well as in areas with less sunlight. The performance of a hydropower generator also depends on its water supply.

The sizing of a solar powered site by a traditional telecommunications network is based on (1) the worst historical irradiance at the installation site, which can be much worse than the average irradiance, and (2) the average power consumption of the telecommunications system, which usually remains static and unchanging regardless of how the weather is and even when most people are asleep and traffic is close to zero.

After all, many off-grid locations also lack barrier-free transport, and in many cases the equipment has to be brought to the site by pack animals, boats or even on foot. Bad weather, floods and inaccessible routes pose incredible logistical challenges. All of this leads to high costs for telecommunication sites and can make connectivity impossible.

Mayutel engineers and local workers load a solar panel onto a boat to be taken to our test sites in rural Peru. This photo was taken by our partners at Mayu Telecomunicaciones and is used here with permission. To request permission to use the photos, contact [email protected].

As the PSU’s performance changes over time, the pattern of use will also change. For this reason, we considered the potential of intelligent, dynamic energy management of a telecommunications site. What if we could adjust performance parameters like transmit power, bandwidth, number of channels, and bit rates to better accommodate power supply fluctuations while maintaining the right connectivity performance at the right time? This is the inspiration for the SEISMIC project.

Traditional telecommunications sites are designed and operated with little to no adjustments during operation. This means that the availability requirements are derived from the peak power consumption. We believe that with SEISMIC we can better design greener telecom locations that require fewer solar panels, batteries and other elements of the power system to reduce costs, improve sustainability and address cost issues.

SEISMIC uses Predictive Analytics, Smart Telecom Site Management, Smart Telecom Site Elements and Cloud Services to improve the energy efficiency of a telecommunications site while maintaining the right level of performance to meet availability requirements.

Evidence of more sustainable connectivity

To prove our research approach, we have established partnerships with several key players. Mayu Telecomunicaciones, the first rural mobile infrastructure operator in Peru, agreed to become an operator partner and work with us to provide SEISMIC test sites. They are working with the local communities in rural Peru to set up the telecommunications sites, provide 4G radio systems and, for the first time in the community, provide broadband connections for many.

Clear Blue Technologies, an intelligent power management solutions and services company, provided a power management module, software, and cloud service to enable dynamic power management. Aviat Networks provided wireless microwave technology to enable backhaul connectivity to the test sites. BaiCells made radio networks available.

Mayutel’s engineers take a boat to our test sites in rural Peru. These photos were taken by our partners at Mayu Telecomunicaciones and are used here with permission. To request permission to use the photos, contact [email protected].

To get the best data set, we put two active telecom locations in Peru into operation. One of these is the base site, which uses traditional telecommunication size and operation methods. The other is a smartly designed site that uses less solar panels and batteries. By running these two locations side by side, we can compare their performance over time and track relevant telecommunications performance indicators like number of connections, bandwidth and reliability. We believe that significant savings in electricity costs – on the order of 40 to 60 percent – are possible while maintaining relevant telecommunications performance.

Our Smart Power test locations are under construction in dry and rainy seasons. These photos were taken by our partners at Mayu Telecomunicaciones and are used here with permission. To request permission to use the photos, contact [email protected].

Since two locations we commissioned are now available on Mayutel’s network, we have started collecting data while testing the functionality of both locations. As we collect data over time, we will improve our analysis and update the performance, availability, and power reliability of our telecommunications locations.

A call to action

Power management is the key to connectivity and network infrastructure to achieve performance, economic and sustainability benefits. To find out more about our Smart Power Management solution in the Telecom Infra project, please join the Network as a Service Solutions project group. More information on the Telecom Infra project can be found on the website. You can also find more initiatives on the Facebook Connectivity website.

In addition to the current focus on rural and rural applications, we believe this idea is applicable to a variety of other telecommunications deployment use cases, including urban small cell sites and edge computing nodes. In the case of urban small cells, for example, the ability to efficiently power small cells without the need for a grid connection can offer a significant cost advantage, provided the solar battery system can be made reasonably small. We welcome interested parties to explore these and other use cases with us.

In addition to the current project focus on solar battery solutions, the concept can be easily applied to various other power supply architectures such as diesel batteries, wind batteries and other application scenarios.

Many thanks to our partners

This project would not be possible without the tireless commitment and help of our partners. We thank Mayu Telecomunicaciones for agreeing to become our operator partner and providing their expertise, access to their locations, engineering and support.

We also thank our technology partners for their technical support: Clear Blue Technologies, Aviat Networks, Parallel Wireless, and BaiCells. We are grateful for the excellent cooperation and teamwork that led to a successful implementation of this demonstration.

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