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SPECIAL REPORT: 5G in Jeopardy Without Fiber Fronthaul Investment

By Brett Chester, Vice President of Marketing at Sitetracker

There Isn’t Enough Fiber to Support 5G


The telecommunications industry has reached a tipping point. Network densification is a requirement for increased and more ubiquitous connectivity. Up to this point, the telecommunications industry has been able to utilize existing fiber and build new fiber in an ad hoc, as needed, manner. This is no longer enough as the demand for small cells and DAS is increasing exponentially in the race to 5G. There’s simply not enough fiber to support 5G and network densification. Whether or not we, the telecommunications industry, deploy 5G successfully largely rests in the ability to lay enough fiber fronthaul — the fiber that connects homes, businesses, and small cell sites.

We interviewed three experts and veteran telecommunications leadersto better understand what it will take to succeed and deploy the fiber necessary for network densification and optimization. Through our conversations, we addressed solutions for the telecommunications industry fiber fronthaul problem, which is at the core of 5G deployment. In order to successfully roll out 5G, carriers and their service providers must build more now to prepare for exponentially increasing demand for connectivity.

We sat down with Ray LaChance, co-founder and CEO at ZenFi Networks, Chuck Norris, director of Project Operations at ISCO International, and George Pitsoulakis, vice president of Product Management and Business Development at ISCO International, to glean key insight into how technology transformations in the industry have succeeded in the past, and how we, as an industry, can apply those lessons to network densification and 5G, today.

ZenFi Networks is one of the leading fiber providers in the New York and New Jersey metro region working towards mobile network densification. To date, ZenFi Networks fiber connects over 2,000 wireless sites of the nearly 6,000 it currently has under contract, a number that’s growing every month, making them industry frontrunners for fronthaul innovation and deployment.

ISCO International knows a thing or two about juggling diverse projects, managing upwards of 100 projects at a time with Norris at the helm. With ISCO International’s standard of excellence, it’s difficult to manage these types of projects as volume increases due to 5G rollout and network densification. Norris explained how ISCO International is handling this volume and what he sees as the future for the telecommunications industry in 2019 and beyond.

With over 25 years of telecommunications industry experience, Pitsoulakis is an expert in the evolution of connectivity and what it takes to bring new waves of technology innovation to life. Prior to ISCO International, Pitsoulakis served as Director of Operations and Product Management at Call One and Director Systems Planning and Implementation at U.S. Cellular. He has led teams focused on planning and roll out of services in the network including 4G LTE, so is particularly poised to provide key insight into the rollout of 5G and the necessary network densification to support it.

Through our conversations, we addressed solutions for the telecommunications industry fiber fronthaul problem, which is at the core of 5G deployment. In order to successfully roll out 5G, carriers and their service providers must build more now to prepare for exponentially increasing demand for connectivity.

Fiber has reached a tipping point

What we learned from these interviews is we’ve reached a tipping point. To support 5G and network densification, we need to build more fiber. Whether or not the telecommunications industry deploys 5G successfully depends on its ability to lay enough fiber fronthaul. Now, you should understand what it will take to succeed and deploy the fiber necessary for network optimization. Fiber fronthaul is central to 5G deployment and whether or not we build enough now will have impactful consequences on 5G and future telecommunications technology.

Fiber’s irreplaceable role in making 5G a reality cannot be overstated. 5G won’t be successful without an expansive fiber network to handle the traffic generated through 5G connections.

Some regions are pulling ahead in the race because they’re already investing or have invested in the fiber infrastructure necessary for 5G. Some regions are falling behind because they lack fiber infrastructure necessary. In order to change course, regions that are falling behind will need to build the fiber infrastructure needed to support 5G.

This article is an excerpt from a 12-page special report produced by Sitetracker, call “2019: Telecom’s Tipping Point —  Promise of 5G in jeopardy without fiber fronthaul investment.”
Download the report to learn how industry leaders are taking a new approach.

Sitetracker Raises $24M to Advance SaaS

By J. Sharpe Smith, Senior Editor

Sitetracker, maker of software for managing high-volume infrastructure projects, has landed $24 million in Series B funding. The new investment round, led by existing investor New Enterprise Associates (NEA), brings six-year-old Sitetracker’s total funding to $35 million. Other investors include Wells Fargo Strategic Capital, Salesforce Ventures. The financing will be used to develop Sitetracker’s product and global expansion.

In the wireless infrastructure industry, Sitetracker provides a software platform for designing, deploying and maintaining macrotowers, small cells and fiber plant. Sitetracker’s platform, known as software as a service (SaaS), is used by Verizon, SAC Wireless, Tower Engineering Professionals and Advantage Engineers among others.

“Instead of providing an Excel spreadsheet with things to do on a project, we enhanced their workflow, so they can deliver projects on time and under budget,” said Brett Chester, Sitetracker’s VP marketing. “To do that, we automated the process. A project manager can set up alerts and triggers. Why can’t we empower our managers with the latest technology? In some instances, we have seen speed to turnkey increase 300 percent.”

Project management is becoming more and more of a challenge as the wireless industry shifts into high gear building out the hundreds of thousands of small cells that are estimated in the 5G future.

“We think about everything from the project or asset manager’s viewpoint in this ever-growing world of growing project volume, where we are moving from a three hundred thousand macrotowers to a projected nine hundred thousand small cells,” said Chester. “It’s roughly the same number of steps to complete a small cell. If we are going to get to that volume of small cells for 5G, then we need to find some efficiencies to allow for those high-volume projects to be completed.”

SaaS, which negates the need for on-premise software, has been growing rapidly for the last five years into a $181 billion industry, according to Sebastian Lambert, CEO of FinancesOnline. Chiefly because of global trends in cloud computer hosting, Cisco’s Global Cloud Index projects that 73 percent of all workflows will be delivered as SaaS by 2020.

“There are all manner of benefits that come with SaaS for different professionals,” Chester said. “Compared with on-premise software, SaaS allows more to be accessed anywhere at any time. It is updated more frequently so users are on the cutting edge of the latest technology.”

For mobile workers, such as the tower technicians, SaaS can be accessed easily and seamlessly by virtue of the fact that the software platform is hosted in an online datacenter, allowing workers to make live updates that can be seen in the home office almost instantaneously.

“The efficiencies are unparalleled. No one can keep up to date if there is a lag of three or four days, which is the way most on-premise software works,” Chester said. “One of the only issues that gets in the way of SaaS adoption is complacency. Workers are used to doing things the same way over and over for many years. SaaS has disrupted that paradigm.”

SaaS is evolving, as well. According to Lambert, 2017 was the year when software developers stopped producing systems that serve a single operation or single industry in favor of horizontal platforms that apply to multiple ecosystems.

“What does this mean? SaaS applications are targeted but not industry specific; and they are built to integrate with a large number of third-party solutions,” Lambert wrote.

SaaS products adopt Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning solutions in 2018, according to Lambert, becoming a “disrupting influence not only on the SaaS market but on the way we do business in general.”

J. Sharpe Smith
Senior Editor/eDigest
J. Sharpe Smith joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 29 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with  Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence.