How to Secure Outdoor Telecom Cabinet

Richard Wang Mar/31/2024

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on email
Share on print

1. Background of Outdoor Telecom Cabinet Security

   Outdoor Telecom Cabinet plays a very important role in the construction of communication networks. The core equipment of the communication network is often installed in the Outdoor Telecom Cabinet. However, in many unsafe areas around the world, it often happens that Outdoor Telecom Cabinets are forcibly opened and internal devices and batteries are stolen. This has brought serious problems to telecom operators as follows:


(1) The Outdoor Telecom Cabinet site is offline, affecting the KPIs of the entire network maintenance


(2) A large number of operators’ customers are out of services, which has a very negative impact on the reputation of telecom operators.


(3) If the battery is stolen, you need to purchase a new battery.


  However, How to secure outdoor telecom cabinet is not a simple reinforcement work that can solve the problem. It is a systematic project that needs to take into account the outdoor environment and deal with it comprehensively by combining detectors and equipment defend.

2. Single Method Can’t Provide Solution

2.1 Background

  Edgeware has received suggestions and implemented some solutions through contact and communication with a large number of operator customers. However, we found that to secure outdoor telecom cabinet is a systematic project and cannot rely on just one method. Here are some examples of common ideas and analyze their pros and cons.

2.2 Adding GPS in Battery

Battery with GPS Tracking

  Some customers suggested that since the main target of thieves who open outdoor telecom cabinets is the battery, we will design a defense method for the battery. GPS is built into the battery BMS to enable battery traceability. details as follows:


(1) Lithium batteries have GPS built into the BMS.

(2) For lead-acid batteries, there is one group of four batteries, and the GPS is placed in one group of batteries.


The above method seems feasible on the surface, but actually ignores several major issues:

(1) GPS tracking requires an antenna. The outdoor telecom cabinet itself is a wrapped metal body. If the GPS antenna is built into the outdoor telecom cabinet, the GPS will not work. However, if the GPS is placed outside the cabinet, it will be easily discovered by thieves. On another level, if the thief really took away the battery, the GPS antenna would probably be cut off.

(2) Even if the battery is stolen, the GPS still works and the battery can be tracked. But the problem is that tracking the batteries and catching the thieves require the cooperation of the police and government agencies. In many developing countries, the police system is very corrupt, and it will take a very long time to properly resolve such cases after they occur. But we must understand that telecom carrier is a company, not a government agency. The important thing is to secure the outdoor telecom cabinet. Instead of catching the thief. Being forced into prolonged administrative infighting does nothing to help the company’s operations.

(3) We have found in many cases where telecom carrier outdoor telecom cabinets were stolen that many times there are telecom carrier insiders involved in these thefts. They provide information to the group of thieves in order to benefit from it. So you have to believe that the thief team already knows how to disassemble the GPS in many cases.

  In summary, adding GPS to lithium batteries may be able to catch thieves in some cases. However, there are too many telecom carrier websites, and this method cannot fundamentally secure the outdoor telecom cabinet.

2.3 Adding Vibration Sensor or Handshaking with MCU in Battery

Battery with Vibration Sensor or MCU Handshaking

  Some customers have proposed adding handshaking or adding vibration sensor to the MCU (Control system of outdoor telecom cabinet) in the battery. When the system detects abnormalities in vibration or handshaking, the BMS will lock the battery and cannot be used again. This idea ignores the following points:


1) Lead-acid batteries are difficult to lock. Due to the structure of lead-acid batteries, it is difficult to lock the battery using this method. What we can see is that lead-acid batteries, GEL batteries, etc. are also widely used in telecom carrier sites in developing countries.


2) Even if the lithium battery is locked, it is easy to disassemble and assemble. The locking of BMS will not affect the use of thieves in the end.
  To sum up, this method still cannot solve the outdoor telecom cabinet security problem.

2.4 Enhance the Cabinet Structure

    During the project operation of Edgeware, some customers also proposed to secure the outdoor telecom cabinet by strengthening the structural design of the outdoor telecom cabinet. The more common methods are as follows:


(1) Enhance the mechanical lock


   It is an idea to improve outdoor telecom cabinet based on the method of enhancing mechanical lock. But as we mentioned before, in many cases where outdoor telecom cabinets were stolen in developing countries, telecom carrier insiders were involved. Therefore, even if we use special mechanical locks and other methods, as long as there is corruption inside the telecom carrier, it is easy for thieves to obtain the key.

   On the other hand, outdoor telecom cabinets are often deployed in more remote areas. If the overall site defense is poor, thieves will have enough time to open the door of outdoor telecom cabinets even if they do not have the key.



(2) Enhance the Cabinet Structure


Strengthen the structure of the cabinet, such as adding additional metal parts to lock the cabinet door, etc. This method can only work to a certain extent. When the cabinet is located in a remote location, a thief will have enough time to open the cabinet.

      So just improving the cabinet cannot fundamentally secure the outdoor telecom cabinet.

2.5 CCTV Camera and IR Intrusion Sensor

CCTV Camera and IR Sensor for Outdoor Telecom Cabinet Defend

  Some customers have deployed CCTV cameras and IR Sensors to secure the outdoor Telecom Cabinet. This method is relatively effective, but there are many factors to consider. It does not mean that everything will be solved after deploying this system. There are several key factors to consider:


(1) Outdoor Telecom Cabinet is located in a remote location. Even if an intrusion is discovered, can the Security team arrive in time?
You need to know that many outdoor telecom cabinet sites are relatively remote. When CCTV and IR Sensor reported an intrusion incident, it was reported to the OAM center. It takes a certain amount of time for the OAM center to mobilize the security team to the site. However, many times, because the thief is familiar with the structure of the outdoor telecom cabinet, he quickly opens the cabinet door and escapes before the security team arrives. Or perhaps because of the corruption within the telecom carrier we mentioned earlier, the thief team obtained the key to the outdoor telecom cabinet. The entire theft process was very fast, leaving no time for the security team to respond.


(2) False alarms of IR Sensor

IR Sensor often generates false alarms for small animals. If false alarms are not well managed and filtered, it will greatly increase the cost and difficulty of management.


  To sum up, using CCTV camera and IR sensor to secure outdoor telecom cabinet is effective to a certain extent, but it needs to be considered together with other solutions to achieve the greatest effect.

3.Edgeware System Methodology to Secure Outdoor Telecom Cabinet

3.1 Methodology

Edgeware Outdoor Telecom Cabinet Defend Methodology

As mentioned above, we must think about the entire system to secure the outdoor telecom cabinet. The following aspects should be considered:


(1) Prevent  Internal Corruption


As we mentioned before, because many telecom carriers in developing countries have internal corruption, methods such as strengthening mechanical locks and adding GPS cannot actually effectively deal with theft incidents when this factor exists. We believe that the action of opening the cabinet needs to be controlled, and the cabinet door cannot be locked only through mechanical lock. That is the following strategy:

(A) Cabinet has two types of locks: mechanical lock and remote control lock. All need to be opened to actually open the cabinet door. The remote control lock is controlled through the software platform. Any opening action will record the time and operator who performed the opening action.

(B) Telecom carriers with more budgets can consider deploying fingerprint mechanical locks to further control the mechanical locks.
In short, all strategies are to leave a log for the action of unlocking so as to establish accountability and avoid internal corruption.


(2) Security Team or Outsourcing Security Company


The decision needs to be made taking into account the circumstances of different countries, but usually without a security team, it is difficult to solve this problem in a closed loop. Because no system in the world is 100% safe. Even if we deploy systems such as CCTV cameras and IR Sensors for outdoor telecom cabinets, we eventually detect a problem. If there is no security team to solve the problem in a closed loop, it will eventually become meaningless.

Also consider that the outdoor telecom cabinet is part of the telecom carrier network after all. The entire network needs to be profitable, so it is necessary to obtain security benefits with an appropriate Capex investment. It is impossible to obtain a 100% secure system with unlimited investment.


(3) Delay the time when the outdoor telecom cabinet is opened as much as possible


As we have introduced before, many outdoor telecom cabinets are deployed in rural areas, which are relatively remote. Even if we deploy various defense systems and security teams, if the cabinet door is opened soon, all this will become useless. significance.

Edgeware can deploy vibration sensors in outdoor cabinets to provide early warning when the cabinet is threatened.

At the same time, when we deploy a remote control lock, Edgeware’s design is to hide the remote control lock inside the cabinet door, making it inaccessible from the outside. This will greatly extend the time it takes for a thief to open the cabinet door, thus buying the security team more time.


(4) Cabinet Defend


Based on the above factors, in terms of cabinet defense, we recommend deploying systems such as CCTV camera, IR sensor and vibration sensor to detect threats to the outdoor telecom cabinet early, and coordinate with the aforementioned aspects for comprehensive management to achieve secure outdoor telecom cabinet.

3.2 Remote Control Door Lock for Outdoor Telecom Cabinet

3.2.1 Remote Control Door Lock Overview

Remote Control Lock for Outdoor Telecom Cabinet

The picture above shows Edgeware’s remote control door lock of outdoor telecom cabinet. Essentially, it is a remote control access control system. When the software platform executes the lock command, the cabinet door is locked. When the software platform executes the unlock command, the cabinet door is unlocked. In the software platform, all operation records will be stored, so that all actions can be easily traced.
This technology itself is not difficult to implement, but we need to consider that the outdoor telecom cabinet is an outdoor device, and because it is often a core site, its reliability requirements are very high. Just imagine, the door locks at home have different reliability requirements than those of Telecom cabinet door locks. If there is a problem with the control logic design of the outdoor telecom cabinet remote control door lock, it will cause the entire site to be locked and cannot be opened, which will cause major problems. Therefore, remote control locks for outdoor telecom cabinets need to be specially designed to improve reliability under extreme conditions.

3.2.2 Abnormal State Remote Control Lock Control Logic

Edgeware encounters many special situations when deploying outdoors, and has made special optimizations and treatments for the remote control lock for these situations. Regardless of whether customers use Edgeware’s products, if considering the use of remote control lock, special consideration must be given to the following situations, otherwise, the entire system will be locked and cannot be unlocked.

(1) Cabinet Lost Power

Cabinet Lost Power from AC and Battery

In the case that the cabinet loses AC Power and the battery is also depleted, the remote control lock will be in a permanently locked state. Please do not underestimate this situation, as it is possible for scenarios such as the AC wire to the internal system of the cabinet being cut, while the battery is also exhausted. 

Then you will never be able to open the cabinet door unless the door lock is broken. However, the remote control lock is on the inside of the door, making it difficult for thieves to break in. The same goes for you as the administrator. To make matters worse, as we have said many times before, these outdoor telecom cabinets are often located in remote areas, and you do not have enough tools, so engineers have to travel to and from the site multiple times, which will inevitably affect the recovery time of the site and thus the entire network. KPI. The extra time engineers spend on site repairs also greatly increases OPEX.

(2) Cabinet Lost Connection to the Centralized Sever

When Remote Control Lock is Locked ,MCU lost Connection from Sever

Because the remote control lock needs to be unlocked by server software, in rural areas, it is possible for the cabinet to lose contact with the central software due to malfunctions or poor signal. In such cases, the remote control lock will remain locked indefinitely. Assuming the network is difficult to recover, such as if the uplink router inside the cabinet is damaged, then the cabinet will never be able to be opened. 

(3) The Gateway or Controller Control the Lock is Broken 

When Remote Control Lock is Locked ,Control Unit is Broken

As shown in the figure above, another abnormal state occurs when the Edge Control Unit stops working due to an abnormal reason, such as a crash, Power Off, or damage. This will also cause the remote control lock to be permanently locked.

In response to the abnormal state mentioned above, Edgeware has optimized the design logic for the outdoor telecom cabinet security scenario to avoid the problems caused by the above scenarios. Based on Edgeware’s experience in cooperating with major Telecom Carriers around the world, OAM team designers can indeed think of remote control locks to secure outdoor telecom cabinets, but they often fail to think deeply about these abnormal states, which ultimately results in the project being unable to be deployed on a large scale.

If you want to know the specific details, you can consult our technical experts : Richard Wang

3.3 Finger Print and Bluetooth Key and Lock

3.3.1 Challenges of Applying Finger Print and Bluetooth Key and Lock to Outdoor Telecom Cabinet Scenario

When new technologies are applied to outdoor telecom cabinet security scenarios, we all need to pay special attention to the particularity of this scenario. Simply adapting new technologies to outdoor telecom cabinets often brings additional problems and requires special optimization. For example, when a general bluetooth or finger print lock is applied to this scenario, it will bring the following obvious issues:


(1) Bluetooth or Finger Print Lock Lost Power


The design logic of general Bluetooth or Finger print lock requires the system to provide power for it. However, when the outdoor telecom cabinet is used outdoors, the entire system Power Off may occur. Generally, outdoor telecom cabinets are designed with batteries to provide system autonomy when the power grid is offline. However, if the power grid is offline for a particularly long time, it may drain the battery. At this time, bluetooth or finger print lock will lose power. This causes the system to remain locked. This situation is not the worst, because you only need to wait for the power grid to come online, and then you can turn on the lock.


The worst situation is often that the power system of the outdoor telecom cabinet is broken. At this time, the power of the entire system is offline, and engineers need to come to the station for maintenance. However, the cabinet door cannot be opened because the bluetooth or finger print lock has no power. This causes major problems and can only be opened by force. Again, because the outdoor telecom cabinet is in a remote area, it is not easy, and repairing the cabinet itself after forcibly opening it will cost a lot of money.


(2) Bluetooth or Finger Print Lock Broken


General Bluetooth and Finger Print Lock are generally active devices, not ordinary mechanical devices. Its reliability is far inferior to purely mechanical parts. You cannot expect a high MTBF from the bluetooth or fiber print locks on the market designed for general applications. When its circuit is damaged or there are bugs in the software, it will not cause major problems in general indoor application scenarios, but it will become a nightmare in outdoor telecom cabinet security scenarios. You will not be able to open your cabinet.


In response to the above problems, Edgeware believed that special optimization was needed, so it designed a lock suitable for outdoor telecom cabinet use.

3.3.2 Edgeware Optimized Finger Print and Bluetooth Key and Lock

In response to the issues raised in the previous chapter, Edgeware has made special optimizations for fiber print and bluetooth lock and key. Our optimization direction mainly focuses on the following two aspects:


(1) Design the Lock itself as a passive device to improve system reliability


We mentioned in the previous discussion that because the bluetooth or finger print lock is an active device, it requires the system to power it, so its reliability is affected by the power supply of the cabinet system and the reliability of its own circuit. So can the lock itself be designed as a passive device? When it needs power, its power does not come from the cabinet system. Then it can achieve decoupling between itself and the cabinet power system, thereby improving reliability.


(2) Design the key as a system that authenticates and supplies power to the lock


We know that no matter how it is designed, to achieve operations such as finger print authentication, the underlying software and circuits cannot be avoided. Then our idea is to design the Key itself as an authentication and battery device. The authentication is completed by finger print and the pairing of key and lock. The Key itself supplies power to the lock when the authentication is passed, thus completing the opening and closing of the entire lock.

Edgeware Full Series Smart Key

Edgeware Finger Print Key with Bluetooth

3.3 Cabinet Defending System and Sensors

Edgeware Telecom Cabinet Defend System

Edgeware can provide customers with a complete solution to defend the entire system on the periphery of the cabinet. IR sensors and Alarmer can be connected to the outdoor telecom cabinet, and it is possible to consider configuring cameras, connecting the intrusion detection alarm line of the cameras to the Edge Control unit, thereby achieving linkage and alarm of the entire system. 

As we explained earlier, this system alone cannot stop thieves. But when this system is combined with the remote control door lock, finger print lock, security team and our software system we developed, a closed-loop defense system can be systematically formed to achieve the ultimate goal of scure outdoor telecom cabinet.

Edgeware Cabinet Defend Working Flow

4. Summary

How to secure outdoor telecom cabinet is not a problem that can be solved by strengthening one aspect. It is a systematic and comprehensive problem. It needs to be designed in detail according to the customer’s scenario and implemented through comprehensive consideration of multiple technologies. And according to the particularity of outdoor scenes, customized and systematic design is required. Edgeware designed and developed an overall solution based on some telecom carrier scenarios and experiences. However, we are still willing to continue discussions and research and development with our customers to improve outdoor telecom cabinet security to help customers from various countries deploy outdoor telecom cabinets more safely.