Cell Tower and Rooftop Antenna Network Sharing

October 17, 2017

Did you know that, as a landlord, you can have multiple cell site leases with different wireless carriers? Network sharing has many benefits for wireless carriers, including, reducing costs and providing or expanding coverage in congested areas where space for cell towers or rooftop antennas may be limited. Network sharing can even have a positive impact on the environment, thanks to the optimization of scarce resources.

There are many types of cell site network sharing, but the following are the most common forms of infrastructure sharing:

1. Site sharing
Site sharing is easily the most common type of network sharing. It refers to two or more wireless carriers sharing the same location but each carrier installing their own tower, antennas and cabinets. The compound may even be fenced off according to the area each carrier is leasing. In some cases, carriers may choose to share supporting equipment like shelters, power supplies and air conditioning. Carriers benefit from site sharing by reducing the time it takes to build new sites and increasing their chances of obtaining planning approval, as the acquisition of sites can be a lengthy process.

2. Cell site sharing
Cell site sharing involves carriers sharing the same cell tower, antenna frame or rooftop. In this case, carriers will install their own access infrastructure, but it will be attached to a shared physical tower. Generally, cell sites will need to be reinforced to sustain the added sets of antennas. Supporting equipment may also be shared in this scenario, but carrier coverage remains totally separate. As building the cell tower makes up a significant percentage of the overall construction costs, sharing it between wireless carriers can reduce the investment by a large margin.

3. Network roaming
For network roaming to take place, there must be a roaming agreement between two wireless carriers. While there is no shared investment in infrastructure, network roaming can be considered a type of sharing because traffic from one carrier’s subscriber is routed on another carrier’s network. Once an agreement ends, it can either be renegotiated with the current host network or a new one.

4. Radio Access Network (RAN) sharing
This type of sharing is the most comprehensive, as it involves sharing all access equipment, from antennas and towers, to radio and backhaul equipment. It’s gaining traction among carriers, as it is an effective way for them to increase their coverage. To ensure that the agreement is beneficial to both carriers, there needs to be an equal exchange of performance, not just of similar assets.

5. Core network sharing
If a wireless carrier has spare capacity on its core ring network, it may choose to share it with another carrier who may lack the time or resources to build its own ring. This often takes the form of leasing lines from more established carriers. Multiple carriers may seek to share one core network in order to divide the network capital costs between them this way.

The type of infrastructure sharing agreements varies between countries and is dependent on how “mature” a given market is. For example, site sharing and roaming are more popular in the early stages of network development. As networks develop, carriers may seek to reduce costs by joining forces even more.

Rest assured that APWireless makes a conscious effort to add as many wireless carriers to each cell site location as possible. Our deep market knowledge can help bring new wireless carriers to your property, and ensure that each site is managed to its full potential. Reach out to learn how you can financially benefit from a long-term partnership with us.

Cell Tower and Rooftop Antenna Network Sharing was last updated October 17th, 2017 by APWireless
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