One of the great technological ironies of our time, in my opinion, is the fact that nearly every person in the world now owns a cell phone and desires good cell phone coverage when they want to make a call, send a text or connect to the Internet. Yet when it comes to the location of telecom cell towers, “NIMBYISM” couldn’t be more rampant. No one wants their telecom company to install a cell tower anywhere near them! This makes little sense, of course, because your really can’t have one without the other. But because of the tremendous importance of wireless networks there are now wireless cell towers everywhere. Because there are so many and contain expensive technology as well, they represent critical infrastructure to telecom companies and their customers worldwide. This has as a result placed an increased emphasis on telecom cell tower security, both the cyber and physical forms of security protection.

Cell Tower Security and Automation for Maximum Protection Consists of Many Important Layers and Components

Cell Tower Security and Automation Consists of Many Important Layers and Components

Because of the ubiquity of cellular communication, it is necessary for cellphone towers to be ubiquitous as well.  For example, while estimates seem to vary, there appears to be in excess of 7 million cell towers or wireless base stations worldwide. All of these sites require electrical communication equipment which create the mesh or cell that enables cellular telephones and other connected devices  to communicate with central office equipment, which then connects the calls to the rest of the world. Since cell towers are so numerous as well as often necessarily located in remote locations, there is constant danger that they will be targeted by thieves and vandals. In many emerging markets as well as rural areas of developed markets, cell towers are not even connected to the electrical grid, so they must be powered by generators, often diesel. The threat of diesel theft in emerging markets is widespread. Other cell tower security threats are also a risk to these cellular base stations,  including fires, other natural disasters and also various equipment failures which can also disrupt cellular service.

Since cell towers are appealing targets to thieves and vandals, cutting-edge technology should be used to monitor for attempted intrusions and generate real-time alerts triggered by these events. There are a variety of reasons that cell tower security must include layers of stringent physical security measures. In emerging markets in particular, there are many instances of diesel pilferage, vandalism,copper wire theft and battery larceny. So it is important to protect wireless base stations and cell towers with remote cellular security cameras as well as remote security guards and other measures. Intelligent detection software can be used to monitor and stop Cyber attacks.

Recommended Cell Tower Security Steps

Camera Surveillance: All cell towers should be monitored remotely by camera; intelligent software and and backup live personnel should be used.

Building Automation: Since most cell towers are unattended, liberal use of building automation is recommended for such things as controlling lights and other critical and theft deterrent activities.

Generator and Fuel Level Monitoring: As stated above, some cell towers are off the electrical grid completely, while others in emerging markets have very unreliable electrical grids. But at the very least, critical infrastructure such as a cell tower should have a back up generator of some type to enable cell connectivity to continue during inevitable blackouts, which occur even in developed markets.

Power and Battery Monitoring: Similar to the situation with generators above, cell towers are critical infrastructure which also require battery backup in the case of a power outage. These backup batteries and power to the cell station itself should be monitored remotely to ensure continuous operation of the cell tower.

Perimeter Defense and Access Control: Last but not least, it is very important to include several layers of physical security to monitor and protect these important assets. A general perimeter intrusion system is required, as well as additional measures which monitor and secure the most attractive and vulnerable assets such as the batteries, fuel supplies and generators. A high tech padlock solution such as the OpticalLock Opti-100 series can add significant confidence that your most important assets are accessed only by authorized personnel, as well as adding the capability of tracking and reporting on such access on a long term basis; additionally the Opti-100 software can generate real-time alerts in the case of anomalous events.

Take a closer look at the OpticalLock website for more information on the Opti-100 series. You can Contact us if you have specific questions or are interested in purchasing. We’d also appreciate it if you could post a comment below, or share this article with your telecom industry and security management colleagues to further this discussion.