Powerwave Technologies has announced the availability of its RapidFlex rapid mobile deployment unit, designed for wireless network operators wanting the ability to deploy a 100-foot tower in less than 30 minutes with one person.

Mobile cells on wheels (COWs) are commonplace in the wireless industry to provide additional capacity or coverage, particularly during events that generate heavy user traffic. But the RapidFlex operates “like a Transformer” to greatly simplify the deployment process, said Jake MacLeod, Powerwave’s executive vice president of government solutions.

“Normally, it takes four people to set up a COW, and it takes a whole day to get it going,” MacLeod said. “With this thing, if you have one man, one truck and he can push one button, this thing basically sets itself up.”

When the button is pushed, a 50-kw, 125-gallon diesel generator is started. Hydraulic-powered legs are extended and balance the unit on the terrain, and a 100-foot tower — capable of hoisting a 650-pound payload of equipment 30 meters into the air with no guy wires — can be deployed, MacLeod said.

“In 24 minutes, you can have a 650-pound payload up in the air, with everything lit up and operational — and one man does it,” he said. “It’s a force multiplier. Instead of sending four guys out for a day, you can send one guy out with a pickup truck. He pushes a button and is back home in half a day.”

“When our guys told me they had a new tower they wanted me to look at, I said, ‘OK, I’ve seen about 2,000 of these.’ But then I looked at this and went, ‘Wow.’”

The RapidFlex tower is designed to withstand 60-mph winds without guy wires, and the tower can handle stronger winds with guy wires, which take an extra 30 to 40 minutes to deploy, MacLeod said. The RapidFlex also includes a wind gauge that sends a message to technicians — at the site or remote — to warn them when winds approach a threshold limit, so the tower can be lowered.

Inside the unit, nine racks of equipment — for instance, base stations for myriad wireless technologies or servers supporting video surveillance or sensor gear — can be house, MacLeod said. Because the generator is integrated with the unit, there is no need for a separate generator vehicle to be deployed to the site, he said.

“The public-safety people who have looked at this have immediately clinged to it,” MacLeod said. “They are trying to figure out which contract vehicles they can use to purchase this.”

With prices starting at $150,000, Powerwave offers five models of RapidFlex units, ranging in ruggedness from standard commercial units to off-road units to military tactical units that included armored exteriors, MacLeod said.