Click to watch Don Bishop and Trey Nemeth of Raycap discuss antenna concealment, small cell poles.
Concealed antennas on the side of a granite-faced building that Raycap installed in the AT&T Discovery Center in Dallas use the company’s InvisiWave 5G millimeter-wave (mmWave) RF-friendly technology. Additionally, Raycap installed artistic-looking poles for small cells near the district.
“These types of projects we consider to be a feather in our cap, especially when we’re doing work that’s on the building that belongs to one of the wireless operators,” said Trey Nemeth, the company’s senior vice president of small cell and research and development, and general manager. “This is a very interesting and challenging project that we worked on and completed over the course of the past year.”
Mounted on the side of the building above the stairway landing, a box made of InvisiWave 5G millimeter-wave (mmWave) RF-friendly technology conceals wireless communications antennas.
For the building, Raycap had to develop concealment boxes that not only do not degrade 5G millimeter-wave signals using InvisiWave technology, the company had to manufacture the boxes in a way that precisely matched the appearance of existing building, which Nemeth said was a challenge. For the poles, Raycap incorporated a Pegasus symbol that represents Mobil, an American oil company that for many years had its headquarters in the district.
“The finished result is an artistic-looking pole that does a great job of fitting in with the downtown area,” Nemeth said. “The pole applications are definitely interesting and have some really neat nuances. I invite anyone in the Dallas area to check them out. Look for the Pegasus logos, and you’ll see the poles that I’m talking about.”
Hiding antennas behind panels that match architectural appearances is something Raycap has been doing for decades, Nemeth said, and the installation in Dallas is an extension of that work. He said that as technologies increased, Raycap has improved its products, coming up with different ways to closely match appearances.
“The material had to be tested for durability and for RF performance,” Nemeth said. “We look at the effect the material has on the strength of the signal that passes through — how much dB loss we see. More importantly, and perhaps a more challenging test to quantify, is what effect does the material have on the antenna pattern. These are among several tests we performed to gain approvals and start using this material. We have successfully deployed it on many sites over the past two years, since we got it approved.”
Speaking of the expertise required for the testing, Nemeth said, “There’s no playbook that’s written for this. These types of testing programs require negotiations with carriers to find out what’s going to satisfy their RF engineering departments.”
In addition, Nemeth said, Raycap first has to make sure the concealment material suits manufacturing requirements.
“You can you can put a lot of different materials in front of an antenna or in front of a radio and have reasonable performance from an RF perspective, but the question is does the material perform for the purpose that it’s intended?” he asked. “Can you manufacture it into the different shapes that are required? Does it have the structural capacity? We have to go through many materials that don’t pass those initial tests before we arrive at maybe a handful that we like. Then, we proceed with the more stringent RF testing and the other tests that are involved.”
The antenna concealment panels from Raycap are made to match the appearance of the granite-like siding on the Whitacre Building in the AT&T Discovery District in Dallas.
Another concealment mounted on the side of the building near a window allows the RF energy from the antennas inside to pass through virtually unaffected.
Raycap’s artist technology team applied the finished surface appearance to the InvisiWave concealment material to allow it to blend with the building façade.
Although Raycap can conduct projects like the AT&T Discovery District as fast as six to eight weeks, Nemeth said others could take longer than that. He said the reason they can take more time has nothing to do with the manufacturing or engineering process or the development of the solution, which Raycap can accomplish quickly. He said it has more to do with obtaining approvals.
“The AT&T Discovery District project fell into that category,” Nemeth said. “It took a long time from inception to generation of concept drawings and photo simulations, and all of the things required to obtain approvals from the powers that be, which are substantial. You have representatives from the carrier; you have representatives from the building owner or landlord and representatives of the city or municipality in order to get permitting. Those steps sometimes take months or years. However, if all of those things are in line, for us to do our job effectively is just a matter of a few weeks, typically. There’s a lot of waiting and starts and stops before we get to that point, however.” Raycap has hundreds of such projects going on simultaneously, Nemeth said.
Many people at Raycap, working in various segments of its business, have to touch and be involved with a project, Nemeth said, starting with the sales department and estimating trying to figure out how to build it and coming to understand what the customer needs. Next, a project works its way through the engineering department and fabrication drawing process, he said. Then, from a manufacturing and production standpoint, the project draws upon everyone from steel workers to technicians who are manufacturing composite parts, such as the concealment boxes. Nemeth said that then, the artist technology team takes the project to applying the finished surface appearance to the boxes. “It’s a substantial number of people, by the time we get it from start to finish,” he said.
Most of Raycap’s customers for antenna concealment and small cell poles are the wireless carriers, Nemeth said, although sometimes the company works directly with proprietors and building owners, especially large commercial operators. He said that when Raycap performs work with those types of customers, it has been a good situation because Raycap is able to understand directly what their needs are. However, he said, bridging the gap with putting a viable antenna concealment on a building, for example, and attracting a tenant, like one of the wireless operators — that is a different story.
The small cell pole holds not only an antenna canister on top and an equipment housing at the base, it holds a light for the street and another for the pedestrian walkway.
As a result, he said, the vast majority projects come directly through the wireless operators, after they have negotiated at least on paper or in a verbal agreement, in general how the result should look. “Then, they turn to us to turn that into reality and help support them with their negotiations through the generation of concept drawings and photo simulations to help support the process through,” Nemeth said.
The FCC’s release of C-band spectrum for commercial wireless communications holds promise for additional business for Raycap, Nemeth said.
In the AT&T Discovery District, a Raycap small cell pole helps to densify 5G wireless communications in Dallas.
On a Raycap small cell pole, a Pegasus symbol echoes a past when American oil company Mobil had its headquarters in the AT&T Discovery District area.
“Upcoming C-band installations are a hot topic, and it’s important to note that the materials that we use for these rooftop and pole concealment applications are approved for C-band deployments,” he said. “They are forward-thinking in that way, and they’re future-proof, in a way, to be able to accept these new technologies as they come out.
“We’re starting to see a lot of action already,” Nemeth said. “It’s definitely the buzz. I think there’ll be a lot of deployment and a lot of reliance on the C-band frequencies to support the larger propagation of 5G technology.”
Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher.