The PFM Enables Small Cellular Base Stations

March 9, 2016

Consumers and businesses expect cellular network coverage to be ubiquitous. In offices, shopping centers and other busy locations, they are no longer prepared to accept dropped calls or even slow data rates. To fill in gaps in coverage, mobile operators – and increasingly businesses themselves – are installing small cells.

These devices need to be compact to allow them to be concealed when deployed: if used indoors they should not take up significant space, and when deployed outdoors they are often hidden: for example, some small cellular base stations (small cells) are installed on top of lampposts! Away from the urban environment they are often deployed to fill gaps in coverage in more remote areas: some small cells are even deployed at the top of mountains.

Small cells demand extreme reliability. Not only are they part of the telecommunications infrastructure, but the cost of servicing systems that are installed in difficult-to-access locations can be very high. Anything that can impact reliability is a major concern for designers of these systems.

Typically, these systems are powered from AC mains. Conventional AC-DC power supplies, however, present several problems for the power system designer: they are large, inefficient and often require forced-air cooling.

The size of the power supply can be a significant part of the overall volume of the system, while the heat it dissipates increases the temperature inside the equipment, reducing the reliability of not just the power system, but all components within the cell. The biggest challenge, however, is the need for fans to cool these power supplies: typically, fans are by far the least reliable component in the system, and so eliminating them offers huge potential benefits.

Many engineers have already chosen to use our PFM in their small cell systems. This AC-DC Front End power component offers light weight and an ultra-low profile that is five times thinner than traditional power supplies, giving engineers unprecedented flexibility and ease of use. The high efficiency of the PFM and the outstanding thermal performance of its VIA packaging technology means that fans are generally not required, dramatically improving system reliability.

small cellular basestation power chain

Example Small Cell Power System (click to enlarge)

When used with the AIM (AC Input Front-End Module), the PFM can meet worldwide standards for EMI, meaning that engineers can design one small cell system for use around the globe.

When combined with Vicor’s broad set of PoL regulators, the AIM & PFM VIA can create a low profile power architecture capable of a variety of output voltages.  In the small cell market this flexibility of possible outputs is used to power a wide range of RF and digital stages, with consideration of future wireless standards, for a complete power architecture solution.

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