Controllis Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Why was Controllis founded?
A. Controllis was founded to help operators provide cleaner, more efficient, cost-effective, and reliable power solutions to the vast numbers of off-grid and bad-grid telecoms towers.
Q. How long has Controllis been in business?
A. Controllis has been in business for over 10 years.
Q. What is the Controllis ownership structure?
A. Controllis is a UK Private limited company with shareholders including the management team, angel investors, a multi-billion pound UK aviation and automotive company and venture capitalists.
Q. What sort of people work at Controllis?
A. The Controllis workforce has design and development engineers, software programmers, manufacturing technicians and support staff.
Q. Where do you design and manufacture your products?
A. The Controllis DC power generation and monitoring products are designed and manufactured in the UK. Other products such as the Lithium Ion batteries and rectifiers are designed and developed in China. Some of the renewable products are manufactured in the US and some in Europe.
Q. Who are your customers?
A. Controllis has customers ranging from large operators with tens of millions of subscribers to smaller operators. We pride ourselves on being big enough to satisfy our larger customers and small enough to care about our smaller customers. If you are an operator or tower company interested in engaging with us we are happy to provide customer references relevant to you.
Q. What are the Controllis USP’s?
A. The main Controllis unique selling points are highly efficient low carbon and zero carbon clean DC power, and the deep integration of our control and monitoring systems which lower operating costs.
Q. You seem to be a very telecom focused company do you have non-telecom customers?
A. We have non-telecom customers in the defence, agricultural, mining and other sectors but over 90% of our revenue currently comes from the telecoms market.
Q. How much experience does your management team have in the telecoms sector?
A. The company management team has over 100 years of combined experience in the telecoms sector; from working directly with operators, working for and running radio and power equipment manufacturing companies and designing advanced communications equipment.
Q. What is your warranty?
A. The standard warranty on all of our equipment is 5 years. For engine warranty the period depends on the annual usage in a hybrid renewable system this is often also 5 years.
Q. How widespread are your customers?
A. We currently have customers on 5 Continents.
Q. I am interested in becoming a partner what are your typical criteria?
A. Telecom partners need to have a minimum of USD10M turnover with CXO level contacts within operators. If you meet these criteria and are interested in starting a discussion contact us at sales “at” controllis.com
Q. What is your lead time?
A. For smaller quantity requirements we carry some systems in stock, for greater quantities our standard lead time is typically 8-10 weeks.
Q. Why did you develop your solution around DC generators?
A. Telecoms equipment runs on DC so that if the mains power fails the site can be run off batteries. AC generators have been used in the past which require rectifiers to convert the AC into DC, which presents additional cost and reliability issues. AC generators are not as efficient as DC generators and use much more fuel. Having mains AC at site may also encourage people to tap in and steal the mains supply. DC generators solve all these issues.
Q. DC Generators have brushes that wear out don’t they?
A. Not with Controllis. In the past all DC generators did indeed have brushes that needed replacing and did wear out. The Controllis DC generator architecture is brushless, there is only one moving part and it has no physical contact with the stationary parts. The voltage and current in the coils is induced by the magnets on the rotor moving past them.
Q. But the magnets must wear out?
A. Yes, all magnets eventually wear out, but the loss of magnetism is surprisingly slow in the case of the magnets Controllis uses – the loss is about 1% for every 100,000 hours of operation. As our systems are mostly used in hybrid applications this amounts to many years. Any loss of magnetism is automatically compensated for by the system with no loss of efficiency.
Q. Why do you make such a big deal out of low ripple?
A. A battery experiences ripple as a micro cycle. When a power supply charging a battery generates a high ripple, this fluctuating voltage can cause the growth of destructive dendrites within the battery, and this is the case with both Lead Acid and Lithium Ion batteries. The lower the ripple the lower the growth of dendrites and the longer the battery life.
Q. How do you achieve such a low ripple level with your architecture?
A. Our unique 37 phase architecture results in a significant reduction in ripple compared to a more traditional rectified 3 phase DC architecture.
Q. Doesn’t having such a large number of phases make the system more complicated?
A. No, it is quite the opposite, the phases are all aggregated and individually and redundantly rectified on a single heavy duty PCB inside the PMG. This architecture is extremely reliable with an MTBF of over 1 million hours.
Q. What fuels can your DC generators run on?
A. Our DC generators have versions that run on Diesel, Bio Diesel, LPG, Natural Gas, Bio Gas and E100 bioethanol.
Q. Why does hybrid power save fuel on mobile phone sites?
A . A great number of mobile phone sites consume a low power levels, often around 1.5kW to 3kW. Unfortunately generators running at this low power output are not very efficient. This is due to a number of factors – the most important of which are parasitic losses. Parasitic losses are the energy consumed by the engine to run its water pump, oil pump, radiator fans etc. and also the friction from its bearings. Parasitic loses are not constant but they have a significant impact at low output power. For example if the losses are 2kW at a net output of 2kW and 3kW at a net output of 12kW then the losses are 50% at the 2kW net output and 20% at the 12kW net output. The impact of this is a much higher fuel consumption per net kW at the lower power level. Hybrid systems overcome this by charging up a battery bank with the generator running at higher power level then running the site solely on the batteries. When the batteries reach the chosen depth of discharge the generator runs again and charges up the batteries. The benefit of this hybrid approach is that the fuel consumption overall is lower as the engine is operating more efficiently.
Q. Are there other benefits of hybrid power?
A. Yes, there are several other benefits of hybrid power. Firstly, because the engine run time is lower it lasts longer, this means fewer overhauls and a longer life. Secondly, diesel engines in particular, do not run well at low load, phenomena such as wet stacking and sooting are problems that affect performance and longevity. Thirdly, in adopting a hybrid system the incremental cost of adding a renewable element (such as solar panels) is very low.
Q. Are DC generators well suited to running in hybrid systems?
A. DC generators are very well suited to running in hybrid mode. This is because the whole purpose of the generator part of the hybrid system is to charge the battery up using a DC output. Controllis DC Generators provide a native DC output and are inherently more reliable and more efficient than an AC generator plus rectifier solution.
Q. Is battery choice important in hybrid systems?
A. Battery choice and specification is critical in hybrid systems. Different batteries and different chemistries behave very differently when used in a hybrid cycling mode. When looking at the economics of a hybrid system there are a number of factors to consider, these include, total cost of the battery bank, the round trip efficiency of the battery bank and expected cycle life of the battery bank. Lead acid based systems often have an initial lower cost but need to be replaced earlier because of much shorter cycle life than lithium Ion systems. Also the round trip efficiency of lead acid battery systems is poorer than that of lithium ion systems.
Q. Aren’t Lithium Ion systems expensive?
A. We believe that the only sensible way to consider the economics of one battery versus another in a hybrid system is to look at the cost per kWhr cycle. About 2 years ago the cost for lithium ion systems dropped below that of lead acid systems using this metric.
Q. Do Lithium Ion batteries have other benefits
A. Yes, lithium ion batteries are a fraction of the weight and volume of lead acid batteries of the same capacity. Also lead theft is a problem that plagues operators around the world. Thieves frequently break into cell sites and steal the lead acid batteries and melt down the lead for resale on the scrap market.
Q. Anything else?
A. Yes a number of lithium ion batteries (including the Controllis IonLiFe battery) are optimised for telecoms applications this includes form factors designed to slide into existing 19” or 23” telecoms racks. We also benefit from built-in remote monitoring and battery management systems (BMS).
Q. What does a BMS do?
A. The battery management system controls and balances the charge to the individual cells within a lithium ion battery bank and between batteries. The BMS also communicates with other systems on the site including the generator and the remote management system.
Q. How do Controllis systems communicate with the BMS and what do they do?
A. The Controllis Remote System Controller Hybrid Management Unit (RSC-HMU) communicates directly with the battery bank BMS via a RS485 interface. This is to start and stop the generator at the correct state of charge of the battery and to make adjustments when the battery needs more or less charging power. This close working between battery and DC generator ensures a long battery life. In addition the battery alarms, state of charge and state of health are monitored by the system.
Q. What benefits does integrating renewable power into a hybrid system provide?
A. Integrating renewable power into a hybrid system has three main benefits. Firstly, a renewable integration will reduce the generator running time and reduce fuel costs, often dramatically. Secondly, a renewable system will reduce the operator’s carbon footprint. Finally, a renewable addition to a hybrid system will increase the operating life of the hybrid system.
Q. What is the payback of a renewable installation?
A. The payback of an incremental renewable system added to a hybrid system is often less than a year.
Q. Can Controllis provide the MPPT charge controllers, solar panels, mounts and wiring system?
A. Yes, we prefer to provide the complete solution so it can be fully integrated into our site and remote management system.
Q. What about solar power on grid connected sites?
A. Putting solar on grid connected sites will reduce the operators carbon footprint. The payback will depend on the cost of the electricity and whether any feed in tariff for excess solar power exists.
Q. I am a fixed network operator do you have any renewable solutions for my exchanges, DSLAMs and local points of presence?
A. Yes, we have a grid connected solar rectifier product that would enable you to prioritise solar power over mains power.
Q. What is your remote management solution?
A. Controllis provides a map based ‘drill-down’ dashboard GUI for monitoring and control of the complete system. A key benefit of this is the ability to also provide detailed data analytics.
Q. What are the elements of your remote management solution?
A. The Controllis remote monitoring solution consists of the Controllis RSC-HMU on site and the Controllis Remote Management Server (RMS) hosted on a cloud based platform. The remote sites and the RMS are connected via a data connection over the mobile network.
Q. Does this use third party equipment?
A. The RSC-HMU is designed, developed and manufactured by Controllis in the UK. The RMS software is developed and coded by the Controllis Software team. We are agnostic about which cloud hosting service to use.
Q. Is it secure?
A. The system is very secure with the link between each RSC-HMU and the RMS carried in an encrypted tunnel and any remote software upgrade requiring mutual authentication.
Q. Can we monitor other equipment on site?
A. Yes, the RSC-HMU has a number of interfaces for third party equipment, in theory hundreds of different devices on site could be simultaneously monitored and controlled.
Q. Does the system support LTE?
A. Yes, the standard modem inside the RSC-HMU supports LTE, with UMTS and GPRS also supported where LTE is not available on site.
Q. Who pays for the SIM?
A. Generally the operator customer pays for the SIM, for non-operator customers Controllis can provide SIMs on a contract basis.
Support and services
Q. Can you design the system for us?
A. Yes, our in-house experts can design a system to suit your requirements to provide a long trouble-free life.
Q. Can you provide installation training in our country?
A. Yes, Controllis prefers to send an engineering team out for the first installation for a new customer to ensure it is done correctly and to provide hands on training for the customer’s technicians.
Q. Can you provide remote support?
A. Yes, our remote support team is there to help our customers on a contractual basis.
Q. Can I provide my own E100 bio ethanol?
A. Yes, provided it is certified to the right quality standards, this is perfectly fine.
Q. Can I arrange my own ethical offsetting directly?
A. Yes, we can also provide introductions to the companies we use should this be required. We can also help you with calculations if you wish to use other companies local to you. You may choose to do the offsetting directly yourselves with in-country projects. These projects can be very beneficial to both your local communities and also to the market perception of your brand.
Q. Can I offset the capital equipment as well as the ongoing E100 fuel?
A. Yes, this is an option we will provide the calculations for you including the shipping.
Q. Where can I mount the solar panels?
A. Controllis has options for ground mounting the panels, mounting them on a canopy over the generator and mounting them on a lattice tower.
Q. Is the E100 fuel level monitored?
A. Yes, the fuel is remotely monitored and reported back to your NOC via the Controllis Remote Management Server.
Q. Will people steal the E100 fuel and make Alcoholic drinks?
A. The E100 Ethanol is denatured. Trace quantities of denaturing substances are added to the fuel, these are harmless to the environment but make humans drinking the fuel violently sick. We provide warning labels in multiple languages to discourage attempted theft. The tank is securely hidden in the steel bund of the generator and access is only through the main secure locking system.
Q. If I have a site where solar is not possible can I still use the E100 DC Generator?
A. Yes, at some sites where solar is not possible for example because of landlord permissions or planning reasons then the E100 DC generator can be used in a hybrid generator mode where it charges up the Lithium batteries and the site runs on those until they need recharging