Updated: Jan 17
Indoor telecommunications systems like network equipment, data centres and server rooms and servers alongside outdoor and remote off-grid base stations, towers and mast stations, etc. require backup either power to run the DC equipment or an uninterrupted back up power supply in the absence of grid power or during brief outages.
Power outages are one of telecom companies’ worst nightmares, as they lead to loss of revenue, customers, reputation, etc. In response, all internet and telephone providers as a rule, require a power backup system. Telecom equipment suppliers, operation and maintenance (O&M) firms also require backup systems to be able to provide their services to the telecom companies that need them.
Generator or Batteries?
Telecom power systems are responsible for daily-need communication services like internet, high-speed data, telephony and data storage services. The need for reliable wireless battery backup equipment rises with the demand for these services. In situations where grid-power is steady, then a backup system serves to power UPS systems during brief outages. Where grid-power is absent in the case of very remote installations, a power storage system is needed.
Telecom companies have a considerably wide range of choice of backup or power storage systems: they include diesel and natural gas generators, fuel cells and storage batteries. In the case of batteries, with the help of an inverter system, batteries convert chemical energy (or solar panels if they are part of the system) directly into electrical energy for direct use by the equipment or to store them for when they are needed.
If they are remote, these batteries would have to be charged with hybrid sources like solar panels or diesel generators or with either of the two only. Sometimes, especially if the facility is managed by an O&M company, extra batteries can be charged off-site and then moved to the site and replaced.
If the choice for storage or backup power is stationary batteries, then these have to be taken into consideration:
Rugged Environmental Conditions
Telecom batteries, especially those to be installed at remote locations, have to be able to endure some of the most extreme environmental conditions of any place on the planet. This means that they must be capable of operating under a wide operating temperature range as well as high temperature sustainability. Also, their cells have to be explosion-proof and able to operate at very low internal pressure.
The storage space for the battery bank, otherwise called Battery Rooms or Battery Cabinet or Dorm, is a significant part of the infrastructural considerations during the construction of the site. If they are outdoor, they have to be water-proof, sealed and protected from direct sunlight and wind. They also have to be protected from theft. Most telecom companies in Nigeria use barbed wires or metal fences to secure their tower and mast stations.
Front Access Terminal
Batteries supplied for these applications have to be front access terminal types. By the way, telecom batteries are sold as 'Front Access Batteries' or 'Front Terminal Batteries' or just FT batteries by some manufacturers. In contrast, conventional batteries are called 'top terminal' batteries.
As the name 'front access' directly implies, all the terminals are placed where they can be reached easily for both during installation and maintenance. They are built to be connected in a row using just a small solid interconnecting bar, rather than varying lengths of cable or the long solid bar connectors required for top terminal batteries. (The Fiamm FIT range of front terminal batteries each come supplied with an inter-connection link and 'clip on cover' as shown in this image below.)
Installation of front terminal batteries into cabinets or racks tends to be very simple when compared to top terminal battery products due to the battery terminals facing the front of the battery rack or cabinet. Specific layout designs for top terminal batteries can be quite complicated depending on the type of installation required. With front terminal batteries where inter-battery connection requires just one common link type on most occasions, this is less the case.
Relay Rack Systems
Battery racking systems are designed according to a standard configuration that all front terminal battery manufacturers have to adhere to when designing their batteries.
These relay racks often come in either 19- and 23-inch rack configurations. They are constructed with steel which can be coated. They can be adjustable from six to eight rack units. They come with restraining brackets to hold the batteries in. Also, in some cases, the racks can be slid in and out to reach the batteries. Some manufacturers offer pre-wired relay racks.
Ease of Maintenance
The layout that is provided by the front terminal access of telecom batteries and the modular sliding racking systems, makes it easy to reach a failed battery or its terminals without having to dismantle the entire bank. The opposite is often the case with top terminal batteries; several batteries may have to be removed to reach any failed battery in the battery bank should it be locate at the rear of a cabinet.
The ideal battery type for these applications is often the sealed-maintenance free battery types. They are sealed, leak-proof and can be operated in any position. The sealed-maintenance free design is to reduce or entirely remove additional operation and maintenance costs and to remove the attending hazards, like spills, that might occur during transportation, handling or installation. These type of SMF batteries, mostly those of the valve-regulated type, are the staple for telecom power systems.
Li-ion batteries are a better option. They have definite technical advantages in terms of power to weight to volume ratio, absence of pollutants like acid and lead. They also have more than double life than of traditional lead-acid batteries and thus help to cut cost. They are however costlier.
Telecom battery systems have to be designed to be easily scaled up with a new load requirement by the addition of a new battery or new batteries.
Generally, manufacturers design their FT batteries to last for up to ten years.
Almost all top manufacturers of battery storage systems offer front access terminal batteries. Ritar, Victron, MK/Deka, SBS, NorthStar, Shoto, Agission, EnerSys, Saft, Monbat, Canbat, Ever Exceed, all offer FT batteries.
As always, SolarKobo helps its clients in Lagos and throughout Nigeria make the best choice of storage batteries. We are a stockist and retailer of telecom batteries. We also have university-trained engineers that provide high-grade installation services on order.