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SCE Launches Division to Deploy DAS

By J. Sharpe Smith

April 14, 2016 — SCE Site Development has launched a DAS division to serve the in-building wireless market. The turnkey wireless construction and professional services provider, which specializes in site acquisition services, as well as power plant installation, was drawn by the promise of increasing opportunities in providing coverage and capacity in buildings, according to Sam Sacco, director of professional and construction services at SCE.

“With the new building designs and window coatings that block RF, there are capacity and coverage issues that can’t be addressed by macrocells,” Sacco said. “Building owners are beginning to realize they need the additional coverage and capacity to keep their tenants from a carrier perspective. In retail, commercial and even residential space, people are walking out if they check their phones and see they don’t have coverage.”

DAS deployment complements the turnkey wireless project management skills, from site acquisition to integration, of SCE. The DAS in-house team will handle the DAS project lifecycle from site survey, design, installation, commissioning and maintenance, according to Sacco.

“We have the people with the skillsets and the tools to do this type of work,” he said. “We made the investments in hardware and software to give us even more capability in DAS. We recently added iBwave software, so we can do all the design in-house. PCTEL test hardware allows us to benchmark, troubleshoot and analyze existing coverage. It just made sense from a services standpoint. We were already doing that type of work. We are leveraging our capabilities.”

SCE brought in Marie Quizon to lead the DAS Division as project manager. She came to SCE from Communication Technology Services, a communications infrastructure service company that serves building owners and managers, enterprise customers and service providers. She has six years of experience working with DAS integrators. Before that she worked with Micros, now owned Oracle, project managing the deployment of point of sale systems in the hospitality industry.

In particular, SCE’s DAS Division plans to take advantage of opportunities in new building construction and building retrofits. Additionally, municipal building codes are requiring new construction to have certain levels of public safety coverage will provide more deployments, according to Quizon.

“Public safety and DAS go hand-in-hand,” Quizon said. “DAS allows strong cellular and Wi-Fi coverage in structures where crowded conditions and heavy demand for signals have created troublesome connections in the past. Think about firefighters needing to be able to communicate in a stairwell or, if an emergency happens, underground on the New York subway. Having a DAS in place ensures first responders can do their job.”

Acquisition By S&N, Diversification Help Tower 16 Weather Tough Year

By J. Sharpe Smith —

September 3, 2015 — It has been almost a year since Tower 16, which provides construction management services for wireless companies and its sister company SCE, which provides professional services to the wireless industry, were purchased by S&N Communications. The acquisition has helped the two companies weather this year’s wireless industry slowdown and come out stronger and ready for an uptick in wireless capital expenditures in 2016.

“When the slowdown occurred, it was difficult to achieve the revenue stream that we had enjoyed in the previous six years,” Ed Humes, president of Tower 16 and SCE, told AGL Link in a phone interview. “[Thanks to the S&N transaction] we have been able to stay relatively steady on our side of the house. Relative to the industry, we have been pretty successful this year.”

Tower 16 and SCE are good complements for S&N, which is a provider of infrastructure construction and utility locating services, with 52 field offices in 35 states, according to Humes. “We saw real value in S&N’s similar construction activities — some real synergies,” he said. “We thought we could take advantage of those relationships and grow our businesses jointly.”

S&N, which has several large fiber optic contracts, has installed more than 60 million feet of fiber optic cable and connected more than 1 million homes and businesses with telecom, cable and gas service. “We have been able to keep some of our key employees busy deploying fiber optics for S&N customers, while the wireless side was slow,” Humes said.

Another area where Tower 16 has seen growth is increasing the load-carrying capacity of towers. In the last year, it has added personnel, such as welders, to its structural modification division. The need for strengthening towers that are overloaded from LTE equipment deployment will be strong for the next few years, according the Humes.

Expansion in Chicago Market a Highlight

One of the major factors in the sale of the  business to S&N was to gain the ability to grow employee-wise and geographically, Humes said. As a matter of course, in July, Tower 16 was able to open an office in Plainfield, Illinois (a Chicago suburb, which is headed by Fred Teichman, Tower 16 central region director.

“We wanted to establish a presence in the Chicago area and provide the equipment and manpower needed to service the region more effectively,” Humes said. “Without S&N, we would not have been able to capture revenues in Chicago, which made up for other areas. Chicago is the one growth opportunity that we have been able to capitalize on this year.”

DAS Deployment Provides Growth

This year has been good for DAS deployment, and it has helped balance the workload for SCE, which has a DAS team that is focused on DAS deployment and testing.

“Fortunately we were a little bit diversified, and we quickly shifted gears to take care of our DAS customers. ExteNet has been s a great partner, and we have picked up some substantial DAS revenues in places that we didn’t expect it,” Humes said. “Macrocells are still the source of a majority of our revenues, but the DAS environment is definitely growing.”

In the future, Humes expects to find work with local DAS developers, such as real estate entrepreneurs, as they invest into expanding in broadband, along with other large deployments.

“There will be a ton of development in the broadband spectrum, providing ancillary opportunities beyond the big four carriers. In the next few years we expect to see an increase in local market DAS players,” Humes said.

Optimism for the Near Future

Tower 16 has tentative plans to grow into other markets in the future and is cultivating relationships at this point. But committing to a new region can pose something of a chicken and egg dilemma.

“We try to have two solid, committed clients in a region before we open an office there. But these days, the clients tend to want you to have a physical presence in a region before they will award you a construction contract,” Humes said.

Humes agrees with the general consensus that carrier capex is set to increase markedly in 2016, and he believes Tower 16 and SCE will be well positioned to take advantage of it.