Location, location, location.
Towers and other parts of the network provide cellular service to the surrounding area. Tower structures are often equipped with GPS, helping carriers and Industry Canada to pinpoint the location of towers.
Industry Canada provides tools on their website that allows individuals to access non-protected Canadian radio frequency data from Industry Canada’s Assignment and Licensing System (ALS) database. Loxcel Cell Tower & Map Consulting, a company that provides tools and reports for industry, government, academia, and not-for-profit organizations, combines the Industry Canada data and Google Maps. Curious about cell towers in your neighbourhood? Check it out.
Components for the Radio Access Network can be found on a number of freestanding structures. (L) Placing them on hydro towers can take advantage of existing infrastructure, though requires negotiating with utility companies. (M) An example of an older, freestanding tower. The “Pinwheel” arms can support both antennas and radios. This tower also has a microwave dish about halfway, likely to provide backhaul support to or from this cell site. (R) A freestanding tower with equipment from several different carriers, supporting a variety of cellular technologies. A bay remains near the top for either additional equipment by a carrier or equipment from an additional carrier. Once the RAN equipment is in place, the tower will be covered in sheathing to make it more aesthetically pleasing.
Freestanding and building top.
(L) A tall, free standing structure. This particular tower provides narrowband coverage for emergency response services, not cellphone service. (R) A rooftop mast, with 360° omni directional antennas. Like their name suggests, omni directional antennas sound out and receive signals 360 degrees. This makes them less configurable and carriers cannot as easily split the cell to increase coverage capacity.
Building roofs may host several types of equipment, from directional to omni-directional antennas for communicating with mobile handsets, to radios that make decisions on where to send data into the core network, and microwave dishes for backhaul connectivity. (R) This rooftop also has an antenna mast to create a slightly bigger footprint, while having a cabinet that will contain the accompanying radios.
Hidden in plain sight.
While some buildings have quite noticeable infrastructure, some equipment can be harder to distinguish. This series of photos starts with a broad streetscape view and then zooms in to show rooftop equipment that is less visibly noticeable then the above rooftops.