Cell On Wheels

Cell On Wheels

A Cell on Wheels, usually referred to as a "COW", is a mobile cell site that consists of a cellular antenna tower and electronic radio equipment on a truck or trailer, designed to be part of a cellular network.

COWs are used to provide expanded cellular network coverage and/or capacity at: special events such as major sporting events (Super Bowl, World Series, Rose Bowl, etc.), major conventions, etc.; or in disaster areas where cellular coverage either was never present (e.g. in a wilderness area where firefighters have set up a command center during a major forest fire) or was knocked out by the disaster (e.g. in the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina).Many telecommunications companies will also use COWs for long term placement when financing or infrastructure considerations prevent building a permanent site at the location. For instance, a carrier may have approved the placement of a cell site for coverage reasons, but the remaining budget is inadequate to fund the construction for a fiscal quarter or even longer. An engineering team may be able to place a COW on location to provide immediate coverage with few costs other than leasing, electricity, and backhaul. The decision to use a COW for an extended period of time may also be driven by the property owner. Installations on government or military facilities may be granted only on a temporary basis and may require the use of non-permanent facilities.

COWS may also be referred to as Site-on-Wheels (SOWS) or Mobile Tower Units (MTU). Not all portable communication centers are created equally. Many are nothing more than cargo trailer or box that has been modified to hold communication equipment and have a tower to affix antennas to. Differences from one manufacturer to another can be found in the type of tower; guyed vs. unguyed, methods of deploying the tower, whether it meets TIA/EIA specifications. Many COWS offer no protection for the sensitive equipment they hold from the effects of lightning or electrical surges.

Related to a COW is a CIAB (Cell-in-a-Box). Like COWs, CIABs provide temporary service with temporary equipment. The main difference is that a CIAB is typically placed for a longer period of time than a COW.COWs may also be known as COLTs by some companies, standing for "Cell On Light Trailer". These are in most respects the same as a COW but may have a taller tower that collapses in a nested fashion, tilting to ride perpendicular to the trailer.

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