Mobile networks are built around a fine-tuned grid of towers that host base stations. These serve the basic mobile voice and data service needs of society. However, now and then the demands on the network peak temporarily and the current network capacity is inadequate. Since the need is temporary, a permanent densification solution would be an overkill.
The solution is to make the mobile network itself mobile!
A Cell on Wheels, a “COW” is a complete mobile base station including radio antennas and backhaul placed on a truck. They are used to support major events requiring a temporary mobile solution. Multiple COWs can be deployed to boost network capacity extensively. COW’s are today primarily deployed in the events of natural disasters and at premium sports events, both of which require quick and temporary high network capacity.
NASCAR is one example of a sporting event requiring COW’s. In order to support the 39 annual NASCAR events, 10 COWs are on tour with the race teams. Without these COWs and crews, the mobile screens of fans would be dark for both tailgating and possibly the race event itself. Check out this NASCAR video to get a hint of the benefits.
Another alternative solution to COW’s are the installation of a permanent antenna solution at the venue, known as a Distributed Antenna System (DAS). DOW’s or “DAS on Wheels” systems are marvels as they eliminate the engineering needs for antenna design and deployment – the solution complexity is now reduced to radio and transmission equipment.
There is an emerging third tier for even smaller configurations. These are COLT’s or “Cell on Light Trucks” which enable even faster capacity augmentation at sporting venues and disaster recovery support. Because they can be deployed in larger volumes and much closer to potential disaster zones, they are extremely economical as well.
My predictions of the future are: * Mobile units are becoming an integrated part of the densification strategy for a mobile network. * The evolution and diversification of the original COW into DOWs and COLTs make it possible to support a variety of deployment scenarios. * As Sandy recently proved, Mobile units play a key role in disaster recovery situations given the primary need to bring up mobile communications first. * Future concert and sports venues without voice and data coverage will struggle to attract fans as the future of live events is about the integration and access of live and multimedia coverage