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Wooden structured telecommunications tower for the complete mobile network coverage

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Wooden tower concept offers eco-friendly 5G roll-out

Replacing steel towers with recyclable wooden support structures could help telecom providers to reduce their carbon footprint as they roll out 4G and 5G network services.

Digital Economy

Telecom towers – the support structures for antenna and radio equipment that facilitate wireless communication – are being erected at an incredible rate. There are currently around 300 000 towers across Europe, and this number is set to grow as mobile broadband speeds accelerate and data volumes increase. Huge amounts of steel are required to build these support structures, which must be strong enough to carry all the equipment necessary for 4G and forthcoming 5G network technology. “The more towers that are constructed, the faster wireless broadband can be rolled out,” explains Wooden Tower project coordinator Gyöngyi Mátray, CEO of Ecotelligent in Finland. “This infrastructure has been developing so fast however that there hasn’t been much time to think about the environmental or aesthetic impact.”

Eco-friendly infrastructure

Ecotelligent saw an opportunity to provide an ecologically friendly and more aesthetically pleasing alternative to current steel structures. Built out of recyclable wood, their Ecopol tower has a carbon footprint of less than half of an equivalent steel tower. The material is reusable after its use as a support structure. The Wooden Tower project was launched in August 2019 in order to strengthen Ecotelligent’s knowledge about the present and future demands of the telecom infrastructure sector. The firm aims to become the first wooden tower provider on the European market by 2023. The concept of constructing wooden telecom towers was introduced in three European countries: Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. Contacts with telecom stakeholders were established, enabling the firm to gain some first impressions of market players and potential clients. “A huge number of towers will need to be built in these countries in order to roll out both 4G and 5G coverage,” Mátray points out. “The reaction we got from industry players was really positive, as they were happy to see that there will soon be a novel alternative on the market.” In fact, between 60 000 and 80 000 large telecom towers (between 20 and 40 metres high) will need to be built in Europe over the next 5 years, notes Mátray. She estimates that if just 1 % of these are constructed from wood, over 17 000 tons of CO2 emissions will have been saved.

Market opportunities identified

The 6-month project confirmed industry interest in the Ecopol tower, as well as growing awareness of the potential environmental benefits of replacing steel towers with wooden structures. Prototypes for 3G and 4G technologies are currently being tested in Hungary. “We are now looking to develop the Ecopol production line, to double capacity and shorten the time it takes to produce our wooden telecom towers,” says Mátray. “This will enable us to reduce our costs, and to deliver a price-competitive product onto the market with a much smaller carbon footprint.” The first targeted customers are operators and tower companies. Other customers are mobile network infrastructure providers and other owners of passive infrastructure where mobile network devices are installed. Mátray also noted the growing need for smart city wireless communication concepts that are aesthetically pleasing to citizens. While Ecotelligent’s current focus is on delivering large wooden towers, the roll-out of 5G in urban areas will also open up opportunities to construct smaller wooden support structures to fit on rooftops.

Keywords

Wooden Tower, Ecotelligent, telecom, 4G, 5G, broadband, wooden, recyclable

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