Selecting, Maintaining and Upgrading your Radio Hardware

connection-blog-posts-tougher-commsThe equipment your workers use, how it is maintained, and when it is upgraded will determine the degree of communications resilience your organization has, as well as the return on your communications investment.

Buying new gear? Here’s a guide to what you need to think about to keep it working reliably, no matter what.

1) CHOOSING THE RIGHT HARDWARE
Considering high-level failure scenarios will help you determine how durable your hardware needs to be. Common hardware solutions that increase the strength of your system include back-up power sources, duplication of site equipment so that no single site failure has significant impact on your coverage or capacity, and seamless switchover during failure.

Remember that remote sites need the best equipment you can purchase, to reduce failure and minimize callouts during winter.

2) PRIORITIZING
The majority of attention and funding often gets put into low-risk system equipment, leaving crucial gear overlooked. When purchasing equipment, it’s important to keep in mind what breaks most often. These components are power, antenna systems, and backhaul.

mascot-holding-to-do-list-behind3) REPAIRS, UPGRADES, AND CHECKS
The complex systems now in use have changed the role of system technicians. The key skills for techs are now troubleshooting, diagnosing and resolving system failure – antenna system problems, power problems, backbone issues and system configuration errors.

Repairs
Due to increasing complexity, field repairs of electronic circuit boards are largely limited to replacing basic components such as antennas, switches, and display boards. For all other issues, radios need to be returned for factory-based repairs. At system level, field repair is now limited to swapping faulty boards or even entire devices.

Upgrading hardware and software
Software affects every aspect of your system, so when it comes to upgrading (or not upgrading), it is vital to consider things such as interoperability, compatibility with system components, and the impact of operating system obsolescence on your upgrade plans.

To avoid leaving your communications vulnerable or having to roll back, test software on a dummy system first. Even when all runs well, it’s wise to have a rollback plan for worst-case scenarios.

4) ROUTINE MAINTENANCE
Responsibility for day-to-day maintenance must be clearly defined and adhered to. More thorough, annual maintenance checks should be scheduled more frequently as your system ages.

Microwave system checks should be done regularly. Links can be checked on site, or, alternatively, MiMo (multiple input and multiple output) linking can save on site visit costs.

Base station maintenance should include thorough examination of the receiver, transmitter and, above all, antenna system.

To test switchover functions for backhaul networks, failure conditions should be periodically simulated for backhaul networks designed for automatic switchover. Systems with appropriate environmental control can manage with annual checks, but systems working at high capacity or in difficult environments should be checked more often.

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5) SCHEDULED SITE MAINTENANCE
For sites in regions with challenging weather or geography, site inspections should be scheduled more frequently. Inspections should include components such as generators, cameras, security measures and on-site spares. Back-up power is often overlooked. UPS and DC-bank batteries should be maintained to manufacturer recommendations and backup generators should be exercised periodically to ensure they start easily and run properly.

6) SUBSCRIBER EQUIPMENT
With the increase in digital radio reliability, routine tune-ups have become less common, and radios should instead be tested whenever they come in for reprogramming or repair. Remote monitoring can supplement this.

Asset management software makes it simple and quick to keep track of when radios are returned to base for regular checks. While it is more difficult to check on your mobile fleet, you can implement a program of radio maintenance alongside the vehicle maintenance schedule.


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This article is taken from Connection Magazine, Issue 7. Connection is a collection of educational and thought-leading articles focusing on critical communications, wireless and radio technology.

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Tait Communications

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