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Telecommunications equipment is always on. It simply has to work every time without fail. While that’s always been true for legacy wired infrastructure, the rise of 5G and Wi-Fi 6 will put more demand on wireless bandwidth. Those new wireless technologies call for a lot more access points that are distributed over wide areas. And those access points may not be readily accessible for maintenance or replacement.
Reliability is not just an economic issue; in telecom, it can even pose a threat to human life because equipment is often placed in dangerous or hard-to-reach environments. There are many possible points of failure in telecom infrastructure, so it pays to examine any steps in the manufacturing process where reliability can be improved.
From 5G wireless towers to microwave relays, telecom devices operate in outdoor environments than can be hostile to hardware. These devices have constant exposure to variable temperatures, humidity, and wind vibration alongside limited cooling options and fast processing speeds. Thermal management in telecom electronic components represents a unique challenge. Repairing telecom equipment can be especially difficult and expensive due to remote locations, hard-to-access structures, and the critical need for frequent immediate attention.
The snowballing costs of network downtime can be significant. There’s a big payoff in mitigating these factors’ impacts, not least of which is ensuring the maximum reliability and durability of electronic components.
Advanced materials that physically stabilize telecom circuit boards and protect them from the elements can help the boards achieve their required lifespan of 10 to 15 years per device. Materials such as thermal adhesives to control the temperature of circuitry can lengthen the life of electronics. Underfill can control the expansion and contraction of circuit boards exposed to extreme hot and cold that can cause electronics to fail. Advanced solders can withstand those same physical stresses; and sealants can help keep moisture out of enclosures and away from delicate electronics.
But the advantages go beyond reliability. Advanced materials allow telecom circuits to be smaller, with greater bandwidth density per device. That, in turn, allows for smaller antennas, reducing hardware weight and construction costs.
In telecom infrastructure, performance depends on looking small to go big. Reliability and performance present unique challenges in telecom, and advanced materials used in electronic components represent small changes that deliver the next level of innovative performance.
Material changes such as thermal adhesives, stable underfill, advanced solders, and encapsulation materials will save money on replacement, repair, and maintenance for many years to come.