Getting the most out of your tower climbs

Getting the most out of your tower climbs

I have wanted to write this article for a while. When the topic is fresh in my mind, I am usually too tired from a day of climbing. By the time things get around, the lessons learned have escaped me. So, after a day of being in the sun on a 150-foot monopole, I figured I would share some best practices. These are aimed toward the WISP who wants to maximize their climbs.


1. Tighten sector brackets on the ground and other bolts.  If it is holding it to the sector, tighten it. The idea is the climber wants to be able to position the antenna against the mounting pole as easily as possible without needing extra hands.  Sometimes, having both hands free is a challenge.  If you want to adjust the downhill on the ground, the following links can help speed up the process. This is not necessary, nor is it a requirement.  It just is one less thing to do in the air. Some helpful Links:

I am planning on another blog article about down-tilt calculations and my thoughts. We will go into this in a future post.

2. For Wireless backhaul shots in the 0-7 mile range, use Google Earth.  Draw a line between the two points and use two reference points to get in the neighborhood.  By looking at the below screenshot I know to align my path over the edge of the building almost at the base of the tower.  This helped me determine the mounting location and get a pretty close aim. You can get fancy with compasses, GPS alignment devices, and other high-tech toys, but people are typically visual.  Having a reference point is easier on the mind than having a number like 121 degrees off north.  Microwave shots are different, so don’t lump tight beamwidth licensed links into the statement.


3. Don’t get too hung up on labels.  Instead, I like to color-code things.  If I am putting up 3 sectors, I will get some colored tape and label them with a blue, red, and green piece.   This way, if the client wants to have a sector facing north, We have the software labeled blue.  I can identify the color and tell the ground crew I faced the blue sector north. It makes things easier in the high-stress environment of hundreds of feet in the air. The cellular companies have some standardized labeling of their sectors:

Alpha is the North FACING vertical antenna on the cell tower
Beta is the Southeast FACING vertical antenna on the cell tower
Gamma is the Southwest FACING vertical antenna on the cell tower

I suggest developing a standard for all your tower deployments but be flexible. Due to the various mounting locations, it’s not always prudent to cookie-cutter a WISP deployment like the cellular folks do. I have installed gear on towers where you have a small corner of a rooftop or grain facility. Other things being up there, the fact that you are trading service or paying very little, and your mounting options may be limited.


4. On a related note, color-code everything. If you use colored tape, make sure to match the ethernet cables going to the sectors. This way, it is easier to identify the cable going to the sector. It also helps in easier identification of where things are plugged in.

5. There are six phases of the WISP deployment.
Stage one- assembly and staging
Stage two – Mounting radio equipment and antennas
Stage three – Connecting power and connectivity.
Stage four – Physical adjustment and tuning
Stage five – Testing and tweaking
Stage six – cleanup and zip up

Think about each of these.  This will be another future blog post.

6. Have a plan of action. Have a flexible order of doing things. Be able to adjust this on the fly due to various factors. Sometimes, it makes sense to mount the sectors, backhauls, and any other boxes at the top. Once you have them mounted, make the connections. Other times, it may make sense to run the cable when you mount the device.

7. Have a loadout of specific tools in a bucket or pouch.  I like to include the following:
Knife – Automatic or assisted opening
Crescent wrench
Super-88 Tape
Zip ties
Phillips Screwdriver
Flat Screwdriver
Slip Joint pliers
Other tools, such as ratchet wrenches, different-sized tools, power tools, etc., are handy and can make life easier. However, the above tools will allow you to 90% of what you need to do to install or remove most WISP equipment.  The flat screwdriver can be used to pry things loose or for leverage.

8. If you can do it on the ground, do it.  Terminating and testing cat-5 is easier on the ground than 150 feet in the air.


9. Train the ground crew to think about how this affects someone on the tower.  Most of the time, folks don’t have the luxury of platforms. So they are hanging off the tower in awkward positions.  Doing a pull with 3 sectors attached to a load line might seem like saving time, but it might complicate things for the climber.  Sometimes, 3 pulls might make their life easier.  They only have to deal with one thing at a time.  They aren’t fighting, trying to unhook multiple antennas or figuring out what is what.  This is where straps come in very handy. A strap allows a climber extra flexibility to move things around and position them better.

10. Have a checklist of sorts.  This can be a running thing as you go along.  I routinely tell the ground crew to remind me to do this.  If you have someone writing this stuff down, they can read it back to you before you come down.

There are many tools, tricks, and ways of putting stuff on the tower.  Many people have their own ways of doing things.  These are just some of the best practices I have developed through experience. We could debate tape vs zip ties and other things for hours.  Please leave comments and some tips that make your life easier.

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