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Basics of smart poles and base station masts


Orbis Oy is developing new cabling and connectivity solutions for the 5G mobile network and smart cities. The ongoing pilot projects focus on smart poles that are significantly different from the traditional base station masts.

In this article, we try to summarize the most important things to remember when talking about smart poles.

Terminology and fundamentals

For this comparison, we have simplified the mobile network operations. Some variations have been deliberately omitted to make the presentation clearer.

Mobile networks and base stations – currently before 5G

Tukiaseman asennus

  • The mobile network frequency bands are 2G, 3G, 4G (and 5G)
  • Within each frequency band, each telecom operator has its own band
  • In Finland, each operator usually builds its own base station network
  • A base station is equipment for one frequency band of one telecom operator for transmitting wireless signals to its environment
  • A single mast/pole can have multiple base stations for different frequencies for different telecom operators
  • The base station has a radio and antennas that are located at the top of the mast/pole
  • Other base station hardware is located on the ground level in a nearby building or cabinet
  • The base station is connected to the operator’s network by fiber optic cable or alternatively to an adjacent base station via radio links
  • The range of the signal depends on several things, e.g. output power of the radio, frequency, mast height, and buildings and other factors in the environment

Smart poles

Tampereen Hiedanrannan älypylväs

  • Orbis smart pole always has devices other than lights, and it may not have a base station
  • Smart poles will complement the base station network. For example, 5G services for road users require base stations at shorter distances from each other due to the shorter range of the higher frequency signal
  • The 5G network will not be a similar cellular network for phone calls like its predecessors, because in the 5G network the data transmission plays a major role and phone calls as such are not transferred at all.
  • With the Orbis’ cabling solution, new functions can be added and upgraded to the smart pole later, utilizing the existing cabling

Comparison of features

  Conventional mobile network base station in the mast Smart pole with a 5G mobile network base station
DEFINITION a mast or pole
(The base station can also be located in the building in which case the radios and antennas are on the roof or wall of the building.)
a lighting pole along the road, on the street, or in the park
(In addition to the lighting pole, the connection point can be integrated to the urban environment, such as bus stops, traffic signs, or the wall of the building.)
HEIGHT 30-150m same as the streetlamp, 6-10m
SIGNAL RANGE kilometers from tens of meters to hundreds of meters

in the mast/pole

radios, antennas, radio links the size of the pole limits the number of devices, but also other than mobile network devices can be added, e.g. smart lights, sensors, screens, charging points, surveillance cameras, weather stations
(data transfer and power supply)
each device has its own for all devices a common cabling solution that is integrated into the pole and hidden in the environment
(to backbone network and the devices)
from devices to radio and radio to antennas multiple different interfaces, due to the number of devices
DATA TRANSMISSION TEKNOLOGIES optical fiber and RF (for antennas) optical fiber and RF (for antennas), fiber optics can be converted to Cat cabling
direct current (battery backup) is converted from alternating current to direct current, which is also required by the base station
cabinet at the bottom of the mast or room in a nearby building hidden in the pole structure or a common cabinet that serves multiple poles
OPERATED BY the mast owner rents space to (other) operators

the pole is a platform for devices and connections, as a part of smart city infrastructure and services


Illustration of a base station

Orbis Mobile network base station

Illustration of a smart pole

Orbis Smart pole



Text: Paula Meuronen, Orbis Oy

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