All deployment site photos from Peru were taken by our partners at Mayu Telecomunicaciones and are used here with permission. To request permission to use the photos, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Connectivity is an integral part of Facebook’s mission to bring people closer together. This mission has become more important, with ever-increasing data consumption and need for coverage. We collaborate with others in the industry — including telecom operators, community leaders, technology developers, and researchers — in order to find solutions that are scalable and sustainable. One of our most recent collaborations is Project SEISMIC: Smart Energy Infrastructure for Mobile Internet Connectivity. In this project, we are developing a solution to smartly manage the power and functionality of telecom sites. For example, we can reduce the capacity and transmission power of the site during less busy periods. By doing so, we want to better design and operate off-grid sites in order to reduce cost and improve their sustainability.
Many parts of the world still lack coverage and capacity, especially in rural areas. To help close this gap, telecommunications providers need to build new telecom sites and links. However, many rural areas lack access to an electrical grid. This presents a major challenge, as telecom sites and networks consume a significant amount of power, and this consumption is expected to rise even further.
In places where there is no reliable electricity grid, we have to rely on solar power, diesel power, or hydropower. Each has its own set of requirements: Solar-powered sites require solar panels and batteries to be brought on-site, diesel-powered sites need periodic resupply of diesel, and hydropowered sites require the construction of hydro generators. All this leads to significant challenges in cost, logistics, and transportation, presenting a barrier to providing connectivity in remote areas. To help remove these barriers and help make rural connectivity more accessible, Facebook is exploring innovations like Project SEISMIC that enable us to build and operate telecom sites more efficiently.
Bringing a more sustainable connectivity
Project SEISMIC offers smart power management of telecom sites, using dynamic power management to better design and operate off-grid sites.
A major challenge that we are addressing in Project SEISMIC is how to provide high reliability and availability over time, as the supply of power varies. For example, the output power from solar panels depends on the amount of sunlight, which changes depending on many factors including weather conditions, the time of the day, and the day of the year. This means that more solar panels and batteries have to be provisioned in order to meet availability requirements in areas that are subjected to longer rainy and cloudy periods, as well as in areas that receive less sunlight. Similarly, the output of a hydropower generator depends on its water supply.
Conventional telecom power system sizing of a solar-powered site is based on (1) the worst-case historic irradiance in the installation site, which can be much worse than the average irradiance, and (2) the average power consumption of the telecom system, which typically remains static and invariable over the time, no matter how the weather is and even when most of the people are sleeping and the traffic is close to zero.
Finally, many off-grid sites also lack accessible transportation, and in many cases, the equipment must be brought on-site by pack animals, boat, or even on foot. Inclement weather, floods, and inaccessible tracks all present incredible logistical challenges. All this leads to high telecom site costs and can make connectivity unfeasible.
Mayutel engineers and local workers load a solar panel onto a boat to take it to our test sites in rural Peru. This photo was taken by our partners at Mayu Telecomunicaciones and are used here with permission. To request permission to use the photos, contact email@example.com.
However, as power supply performance varies over time, so does usage pattern. Taking inspiration from this, we considered the potential of smart, dynamic power management of a telecom site. What if we could adjust performance parameters — such as transmit power, bandwidth, number of channels, bit rates — to better meet power supply variations while maintaining the right level of connectivity performance at the right time? This is the inspiration behind Project SEISMIC.
Conventional telecom sites are designed and operated with few to no adjustments done during operation. This means that availability requirements are derived from peak power consumption. With SEISMIC, we believe that we can better design telecom sites that are greener — requiring fewer solar panels, batteries, and other power system elements — to drive down cost, improve sustainability, and overcome cost challenges.
SEISMIC uses predictive analytics, smart telecom site management, smart telecom site elements, and cloud services to improve the power efficiency of a telecom site while maintaining the right level of performance to meet availability requirements.
Proving a more sustainable connectivity
In order to prove our research concept, we developed partnerships with several key players. Mayu Telecomunicaciones, the first rural mobile infrastructure operator in Peru, agreed to become an operator partner and collaborate with us to deploy SEISMIC test sites. They work with the local communities in rural Peru to build the telecom sites, deploy 4G radio systems, and provide broadband connectivity for the first time to many in the community.
Clear Blue Technologies, a smart 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 provided radio access network units.
Mayutel engineers ride on a boat to take them 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
To obtain the best set of data, we commissioned two active telecom sites in Peru. One is the baseline site that uses conventional telecom sizing and operational methodology. The other is a smartly designed site that uses fewer solar panels and batteries. By commissioning these two sites side by side, we can compare their performance over time and track relevant telecom performance indicators, such as number of connections, bandwidth, and reliability. We believe that significant savings in power costs — on the order of 40 percent to 60 percent — are possible while maintaining relevant telecom performance.
Our smart power test sites under construction during dry and rainy periods. 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@example.com.
As two sites we commissioned are now live in Mayutel’s network, we have started collecting data as we test the functionality of both sites. As we collect data over time, we will improve our analysis and give an update on the performance, availability, and power reliability of our telecom sites.
A call to action
Power management is key to connectivity and networking infrastructure, to bring performance, economic, and sustainability benefits. To learn about our smart power management solution in the Telecom Infra Project, please join the Network as a Service Solutions project group. For more about the Telecom Infra Project, visit their website. You can also learn about other initiatives on the Facebook Connectivity website.
In addition to the current focus on rural and deep rural applications, we believe that this idea can be applicable to a wide range of other telecom deployment use cases, including urban small cell sites and edge computing nodes. In the case of urban small cells, for example, being able to efficiently power small cells without the need for grid connection may provide a significant cost benefit, provided that the solar battery system sizing can be made suitably small. We welcome interested parties to explore these and other use cases with us.
Further, besides the current project focus on solar battery powering solutions, the concept can be readily applied to benefit various other powering architectures such as diesel battery, wind battery, and other deployment scenarios.
Thanks to our partners
This project would not be possible without the indefatigable commitment and help from our partners. We thank Mayu Telecomunicaciones for agreeing to become our operator partner, providing their expertise, access to their sites, engineering, and support.
We also thank our technology partners for their engineering support: Clear Blue Technologies, Aviat Networks, Parallel Wireless, and BaiCells. We are grateful for the excellent collaboration and teamwork that has resulted in successful deployment of this demonstration.