June 22, 2017 —
At the Wireless Infrastructure Show (WIS) in Orlando last month, Jonathan Adelstein said he places a high priority on fixing legislation that calls for the marking of many rural telecommunications towers as aviation hazards. Adelstein heads the Wireless Industry Association (WIA), a membership organization that owns WIS.
FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, who spoke at WIS as well, cited research indicating it could cost as much as $750 million to paint the many thousands of towers affected by the legislation, with repainting every seven years or so. The legislation addresses the hazard to pilots of aircraft used for crop dusting posed by temporary meteorological testing towers, but that perhaps inadvertently applies to telecom towers, too.
Although no one wants to put pilots at risk, another factor involved is the risk placed upon workers who would have to climb the towers to paint them.
O’Rielly said, “It is without question that there have been accidents involving crop dusters. But, it doesn’t appear that communications towers are to blame one iota.”
The commissioner also pointed to a possible unintended consequence that the added cost of painting towers could discourage broadband network construction in rural areas, limiting rural economic development and stymieing smart agriculture.
At the table where I sat, listening to the commissioner, two managers with one of the three public tower companies nodded their heads in agreement when O’Rielly said the escalating costs of the tribal approval process for towers represents a problem the FCC should address.
“One provider reports that, in 2011, they were paying an average of $439 in tribal review fees per site, and now they pay on average $6,754,” O’Rielly said. “That’s almost a 1,500 percent increase. And, more tribes have been expressing interest. For instance, 19 tribes responded to an application to add an antenna to a building in Cleveland and 39 tribes, of which 27 demanded fees, wanted to review sites in suburban Chicago. This is not economically sustainable. Further, tribes are receiving the payments, but then never respond as to whether there is actual concern, causing endless delays.”
I asked the commissioner how much power the FCC has to reduce tribal approval costs. He said the FCC has some authority and has a role to play. He said the FCC also has an obligation to inform Congress of the need for changes to the statute. O’Rielly said he has testified before Congress about it.
Relief may not come soon, but we hope that one day it will come.
May 24, 2017
It is always interesting to see the evolution of technology at the Wireless Infrastructure Show from year to year and do a recap of the day’s events. But that is too easy and that is what the other publications in our space usually do. I believe our readers would better be served with some insight and detail on what will move and shake the industry.
One thing of note is that in the past few years, DAS and small cells had a relatively high profile. This year, not so much. What that tells me is that DAS and small cells have moved from the edge of technology to the mainstream.
I have commented about that from time to time, that they are now a tool in the various players (carriers, integrators, etc.) toolbox. However, this editor’s opinion, that is actually a good thing because it takes one speed bump off the road to 5G. With small cells and DAS being easily integrated, we are one step closer to 5G.
But what is hot is 5G, and there was a strong presence of the next generation of wireless. Ratcheted up from last year, both in the program and with vendors, 5G was discussed in speeches by FCC Comm. O’Reilly and others, and in panels from industry experts from companies like Nokia, Cisco, Boingo and others. Discussions included how operators will pivot from 4G to 4.5G and 5G, and their relationships with spectrum, the sharing of the 3.5 GHz spectrum, and working with both licensed and unlicensed spectrum.
Another interesting vector was the IoT or the Internet of Everything and Everyone (IoX) as I like to call it. There was a lot of discussion around how 5G and the IoX will play out. And, how the infrastructure will fit into the equation. There is a lot of confidence in the value of towers in this future ecosystem but the infrastructure is still trying to figure out how it’s going to fit in. The challenge here is in millimeter waves. As frequencies move beyond 3 GHz to 4 GHz, up to 20-30 GHz, all the way up to 60 GHz and beyond, they start exhibiting some interesting propagation phenomenon that isn’t friendly to the macro cell tower ecosystem. Although there were some interesting discussions as to solutions, there is a lot for everybody to wrap their arms around in these new platforms.
There was also some discussion on M2M. Something I haven’t seen at previous shows. Much of the discussion was around low-power, wide area networks (LPWANs) and the opportunities for carriers in this segment. LPWAN is an up and coming critical component of the next-generation of both infrastructure and technology. It will be critical to understand how they will integrate with both the IoX and 5G. This will be a game changer that infrastructure players will have to be up on.
One interesting vector that seems to be gaining traction is FirstNet. While FirstNet has been on people’s lips for years, at this show, there seems to be an air of confidence that it will be a significant cog in the expansion of the tower infrastructure in the near future. Many of those in the know are seeing FirstNet and the associated infrastructure as a countable resource in the tower infrastructure starting in the next year.
The rest of what goes on here is the usual progress in typical subjects such as FCC updates, municipality issues, building codes, location and building challenges, etc. BTW, Commissioner O’Rielly is a genuine and personable individual who sincerely seems to have the best interests of our industry at heart. I liked what he had to say. It seems a good time to be in the wireless infrastructure business.
April 30, 2015 — Wireless networks are expanding at an amazing rate, and the critical information needs of the United States are being met like never before, FCC Comm. Mignon Clyburn told an audience at the Wireless Infrastructure Show in Hollywood, Florida, yesterday. Yet she said that we must never lose sight of those who build those networks and the dangers that they face. To that end, she spoke of the need to bring the tower worker fatality rate down to zero and the possible regulation to make that happen.
The commissioner said bringing the rate to zero will require 100 per cent of the effort from 100 percent of wireless industry participants to build the necessary safety systems. “From wireless companies, service providers and tower companies, we need 100 percent of the power and 100 percent of the tools to achieve 100 percent safety,” she said. “New and innovative tools for identifying specific risks need to be further developed.”
The commissioner said the workers often are young people, sometimes relatively inexperienced. Others may not be represented by unions, she said, “so collectively, we have a special responsibility when it comes to their safety. According to some reports, the fatality rate for tower climbers is as high as 10 times the rate of the general construction industry.”
Clyburn said she is aware of the toll tower work has taken, particularly in her home state of South Carolina. In June 2007, a 30-year-old tower technician fell 140 feet from a tower in Bluffton. In the same month, a technician fell 170 feet from a tower in Summerville. “One tower worker fatality is one too many,” she said. “Our goal should be that no more families should have to suffer.”
One possible remedy, according to Clyburn, is a sign-before-you-climb approach that assesses climber-specific and job-specific risks at each job site in advance and on the day of the job before any worker even climbs a tower. She said it may be necessary to rethink the safety provision in the contracts between wireless companies and service vendors.
“All regulatory options should be on the table,” she said. “Let us continue to have conversations about how these and other initiatives can further our common objectives of building, deploying and continuing to provide the critical infrastructure our nation needs.”
Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher of AGL Magazine.
With carriers making progress by leaps and bounds in LTE deployment, are the good times are about to come to an end? That was one of the questions Jonathan Adelstein, president and CEO, PCIA-The Wireless Infrastructure Association, posed to the tower executive panel at the association’s annual conference, Oct. 9 in Hollywood, Fla.
“We have seen the coverage maps … and you see them getting filled out and people are kind of wondering where are we in the 4G build out?” Adelstein asked The View From the Top – A Tower CEO Roundtable panel.
SBA Communications is busy and expects to be for some time, according to Jeff Stoops, president and CEO, because it is early in the LTE deployment.
“We’re still getting to full coverage. We’re not there yet. And we’re just beginning to crack the capacity stage and the ultimate full build out and tweaking of the networks,” Stoops said. “So, I’m very optimistic that the strong trends that we’re currently involved with will continue for some period of time.”
Ben Moreland, president and CEO, Crown Castle International, said his company is seeing a return to collocations this year as Verizon Wireless and AT&T get further along into their LTE builds.
Amendments peaked in the fourth quarter of 2012 at historically high levels at SBA Communications and now the trend is moving toward collocations, according to Stoops.
“When you think about how carriers deploy their networks, it is all about speed and efficiency, which is the amendment process,” he said. “And then what has followed in past cycles and I don’t see this one as any different is the in-fill stage where they test the holes and the demand. And that’s really satisfied by brand new tenancies.”
Steven Marshall, executive vice president, American Tower, said the company is seeing somewhat of a swing back to collocations but is still experiencing a great deal of amendment activity.
The tower CEOs discussed what might be the next carrier to enter the wireless industry and which spectrum it might use. Dish Network was held by to be the most likely to get into the ring by Moreland and Stoops
“Dish Network is very public about their need and desire to have a wireless product. They’ve been obviously very aggressive in acquiring spectrum and have made no bones about their interest in either acquiring or partnering with a wireless carrier to get out and build a wireless product,” Moreland said.
DISH controls enough spectrum and has a plan to deploy on a network-sharing basis, according to Stoops.
While Marshall had no prediction on the next carrier entrant, he said that the Dish spectrum will ultimately get deployed and drive additional demand for infrastructure.
“Maybe other people, maybe Charlie Ergen [Dish chairman of the board], will ultimately land on a particular strategy that drives a lot more infrastructure investment for us. But one thing’s for sure, this is a fantastic industry that’s got fantastic runway and great growth potential. Other carriers will continue to invest in their platforms and other people will come in to provide that need.”