June 2020

Scroll To Read Magazine

In This Issue


FirstNet Authority Highlights “Connectin...

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) annual report to Congress for F...

COVID-19 Pandemic Changes Norms for Work...

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is radically changing the way people do ...

Five Ways a Safe Contact Tool Protects W...

Critical infrastructure projects must keep moving, but the safety of our work crews comes ...
Lightning Protection

Raising Awareness for Ground Potential R...

Traditional telecommunications network infrastructure has been housed in buildings, shelte...
Lightning Protection Small Cells

Why Effective Surge Protection, Flexible...

5G wireless communications is here and is growing fast. In the United States, for example,...

The Cold, Hard Truth About 5G Conformanc...

Of all the challenges mobile device and base station manufacturers are up against in the 5...
Tower Climbers

Take Care of What Matters Most

As an element for preparing for the catastrophic event of the death of a loved one, life i...
Edge Fiber

Empowering the Hyperscale Edge: The Vita...

As data centers shift closer to the edge of the network, many throughout the industry pres...
Joshua Broder, CEO of Tilson Technology Management -

Joshua Broder Uses Military Leadership S...

First Lieutenant Joshua Broder was on duty in the Network Operations Center in Bagram Air ...
 - Source: Professional Drone Service

From Drones to Details: Making Virtual 3...

Precision-Fly Drone Mapping used imagery captured by drones to develop accurate schematics...

FirstNet Authority Highlights “Connecting Communities” in Annual Report to Congress

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) annual report to Congress for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 highlights the FirstNet Authority’s operations, activities, financial condition and accomplishments over the past fiscal year. Released on April 27, the report recaps a year of continued progress under the theme of “Connecting Communities” as we highlight how FirstNet, the nationwide public safety wireless broadband network, continues to be built and designed with public safety input in mind.

The report also shows how FirstNet is helping our nation’s first responders save lives by keeping communities connected and protected. We are seeing more public safety agencies and individual first responders adopt FirstNet every day. In this year’s report, we are proud to highlight FirstNet in Action — a compilation of use cases from across the country showing how first responders are using the network. From everyday use in Signal Mountain, Tennessee, and Riviera Beach, Florida, to the most critical situations, staying connected before and after Hurricane Dorian along the East Coast of the United States, FirstNet supports those on the frontlines of emergency response.

Throughout FY 2019, the FirstNet Authority made significant progress fulfilling its mission and influencing the future of public safety broadband communications by achieving key accomplishments:

Oversight of the FirstNet Contract: The FirstNet Authority provided oversight to our contract partner, AT&T, as we saw major progress in the deployment and adoption of the FirstNet network. One of our major milestones to date, in December 2019, AT&T announced that the network made its one-millionth network connection with more than 10,000 public safety agencies and organizations — indicating that first responders are gaining unprecedented access to FirstNet’s reliable LTE coverage and increased capacity to support emergency response. By the end of FY 2019, Band 14 had launched in 650 markets across the country. The FirstNet Authority verifies and validates AT&T’s progress on the network buildout, including the achievement of rural milestones. The FirstNet ecosystem of devices and apps also continued to flourish with more than 100 devices approved and certified for use on the FirstNet network along with more than 100 applications identified in the FirstNet App Catalog by September 2019.

FirstNet Roadmap: In August 2019, we released the FirstNet Roadmap to document the top priorities for the network’s future innovation and investment. The Roadmap, developed with public safety, industry, government and AT&T input, outlines public safety’s operational needs and technology trends for mobile broadband communications during the next five years. The Roadmap is structured around six domains, representing network capabilities that are vital to public safety operations. These domains will help the FirstNet Authority prioritize its programs, resources, investments and partnership activities. Combined with our ongoing consultation with public safety stakeholders, the Roadmap has provided a clear vision for our network investment strategy.

FirstNet Investment Strategy: In FY 2019, the FirstNet Authority’s investment plan started to take shape, and in September 2019, the FirstNet Board approved two investments opportunities to enhance FirstNet: 1) expand FirstNet’s dedicated deployable network assets during emergencies and planned events; and 2) initiate upgrades to the FirstNet core to enable 5G network capabilities. Both investment opportunities align with the Roadmap and reflect public safety’s most critical network and mobile broadband technology needs. We continue to work towards completing these investments for public safety’s network in 2020.

Nationwide Public Safety Engagement: In 2019, the FirstNet Authority conducted more than 1,100 engagements with public safety agencies, reaching nearly 33,000 public safety stakeholders across the country. These engagements continued to raise awareness of the FirstNet program and helped us gain valuable feedback on first responder’s needs for the network, which is then used to develop and build the network with public safety in mind. Our work with first responders and the feedback we received on the FirstNet network is invaluable. It helps FirstNet grow in a manner that best reflects public safety’s specific communication needs, and this engagement will continue to be the foundation of our work.

As we move forward, we will continue to work closely with public safety to improve their network. Through our public-private partnership with AT&T, the FirstNet Authority Roadmap, and our continued consultation with public safety and other stakeholders, we have the tools to transform the future of public safety communications.

We look forward to our continued work and collaboration with the public safety community and all interested stakeholders to continue to advance FirstNet for America’s first responders and continue our work to connect communities in 2020.

Tom Shull is director of government affairs at the First Responder Network Authority.


COVID-19 Pandemic Changes Norms for Working

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is radically changing the way people do business, leading them to make more use of broadband wireless technology for Zoom calls and to access company databases while working at home. As a result, some employers’ attitudes about when and where they allow employees to work may have permanently changed. That was one of the revelations from panelists who spoke during “The Tower Hour,” the first of three sessions of the online conference dubbed Wireless West Virtual, which took place on April 29.

Moderated by Clayton Funk, a managing partner at MVP Capital, the panel included Alex Gellman, CEO and cofounder of Vertical Bridge; and Danny Agresta, president and CEO of APC Towers.

Beyond 2020, the lasting effects on changes in social and business-related behaviors motivated by COVID-19 mitigation should lead to more investment in telecommunications infrastructure broadly, because it shows the importance of connectivity and bridging the digital divide, Gellman said.

Steps people take to isolate themselves when they are well and to quarantine themselves when they are ill will fundamentally change the way they work, according to Gellman, because the experience has proven that employees don’t necessarily need to be in the office five days a week. It will lead to changes in where employees are allowed to work and the hours at which they work. He said if he could “reduce the size of the company’s offices tomorrow,” he would. As a result, Gellman predicted that, in general, there will be less use of office space.

“Walking around the office to see who is in their chair and working is an old-fashioned concept,” he said. “I now have metrics that show me activity. I am super-proud of my team. We are all working hard. Overall metrics of activity have gone up, not down, since [work at home] started.”

Most of APC Towers’ employees are working at home, Agresta said. “We are trying to be flexible and make sure our employees have the tools to do their jobs, making sure they have enough computer bandwidth and access to the company’s platforms and databases,” he said. APC Towers came up with the concept of mobile notaries to get a ground lease signed in a rural area, where there was no local notary, to move the process forward.

How’s Business?

All of the speakers reported that their companies are busy with work. The second quarter of 2020, however, marked the transition to working at home, a change that they said some of their customers have executed more efficiently than others.

According to Gellman, Vertical Bridge’s business remains strong with the exception of small radio broadcasters, whose ad revenue has dropped 60 percent to 80 percent. “It is a sudden punch in the gut for them,” he said. “They are the only ones that are asking for help, which we had never seen before.”

Vertical Bridge has seen leasing activity slow because it is process-driven, and some customers have had a challenge reworking their processes while working at home. Developing new processes has been especially challenging for large, hierarchical companies. “Many who still depended on paper, and multiple approvals, have just adopted DocuSign because of the pandemic,” Gellman said. “State, county and local zoning approvals have slowed down in some areas and not in others.”

Agresta is looking forward to more activity in July and August, but mostly, he appears to be looking forward to 2021. “We have to get through this strong headwind in 2020,” he said.

Gellman is optimistic about the rest of the year. He said that the tower industry will be playing catch-up ball in the second half of 2020. “The timing of when things open back up will be key,” he said. “2020 will look a lot like 2019, but it will be backloaded.”

Sprint/T-Mobile Merger

Agresta said the new T-Mobile will unleash $11 billion in capital-expense spending, which will represent a big opportunity for construction contracts and leasing for wireless infrastructure providers.

According to Gellman, even though the merger of Sprint and T-Mobile USA reduces the number of national cellular wireless communications carriers down to three, the Sprint/T-Mobile merger will be good for the tower industry. “It will force AT&T and Verizon to spend more money on wireless, because as soon as T-Mobile gets cranking, watch out,” he said.

There will be more focus on macrotowers in the next few years to bridge the digital divide, Gellman said, because of promises for rural coverage made by T-Mobile during the merger negotiations and AT&T’s commitment to deliver additional rural coverage for the FirstNet public safety broadband wireless network. AT&T has the contract from the First Responder Network Authority to build the network.

When the business case for 5G becomes clearer, the small cell buildout will increase, Gellman said. “5G will provide a bigger bump for macrotowers in the beginning, with a pronounced shift to small cells later,” he said.

The Dish Network Bump

The FCC license for Dish Network’s nationwide 5G network requires the network to cover 70 percent of the nation’s population [POPs], another reason for more towers to be built and leased during the next three years, the speakers noted. T-Mobile is required to offer to Dish any site that T-Mobile plans to decommission.

According to Agresta, the initial Dish deployment will not account for many new builds. “They are going to collocate on 50,000 towers,” Agresta said. “If they are public tower-centric, with the scale they have, they will be able to deploy the antennas quickly, and then you include the private tower operators — the assets are all there. The speed to market will be there.”

The one downside that Dish could face is the possibility of supply chain disruption caused by the shutdowns in the economy, from equipment to contractors, general contractors and permitting on some sites.

“Dish has a timeline to meet and POPs they need to cover between 2022 and 2023, and I think they will be held accountable,” Agresta said. “We should be busy with them in 2020 and 2021.” Gellman said he agreed with Agresta’s opinion that the FCC may not offer Dish any construction extensions in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Five Ways a Safe Contact Tool Protects Workers From COVID-19

Critical infrastructure projects must keep moving, but the safety of our work crews comes first. Black & Veatch (BV) developed the cloud-native BV Safe Contact tool to combine live health and safety data with project management data for a truly holistic view of work and safety.

The BV Safe Contact Tool geospatially tracks confirmed COVID-19 cases and overlays that data with active client project locations. It identifies potentially unsafe sites and recommends safer work places at the county level, with coverage across the counties of New York. It monitors exposure potential versus population density and the spread of the virus over time; the addition of wider public data sets is ongoing.

The tool traces the interactions of employees on the job site to record potential exposures. It helps leaders make informed decisions about construction and field workers.

These capabilities will be available soon: person-to-person tracking; employee-to-public tracking and exposure/threat prediction; and advanced visualizations and analytics for employee exposure alerts.

Source: Black & Veatch

Lightning Protection

Raising Awareness for Ground Potential Rise in Populated Areas

As telecommunications network densification increases, more equipment will be housed in enclosures on city streets. Telecom providers should think about how to power and ground this modern infrastructure.

Traditional telecommunications network infrastructure has been housed in buildings, shelters and cabinets, often in well-gated enclosures located far from heavily populated areas. Today, however, network densification is bringing small cells, macro cells, fiber cabinets and other deployments to the public domain, placing critical infrastructure in closer proximity to people. In most metropolitan areas, these installations will be powered via AC mains from the local power supply network, thus requiring a local telecommunications ground electrode and perhaps an AC protective ground electrode to achieve proper grounding.

This presents telecommunications service providers with a new set of public safety considerations. Ground potential rise (GPR) occurs when a large amount of electricity enters the ground at a given point, creating damaging voltages that dissipate with distance from the source. GPR events can occur at or near a telecommunications facility that is located near power utility assets, posing a risk to structures, sensitive equipment and sometimes even people many hundreds of yards away.

Where grounding system design is inadequate or absent, GPR events can cause major disruptions resulting in costly repairs, monetary compensations, dissatisfaction about the carrier having nearby equipment and mounting concerns about personal injury.

Two New Considerations

GPR caused by lightning striking towers in densely populated areas and GPR caused by faults at electrical substations and transformers need to be given special consideration. It may be necessary to design or redesign an appropriate ground and surge protection system to mitigate the risk associated with these scenarios.

GPR caused by lightning: Where there is a high population density close to macro cell sites and a telecommunications pole or tower is in use, significant back-fed surge and GPR problems can occur when lightning strikes on or near the pole or tower.

Lightning protection and ground system design for telecommunications radio sites is largely focused on protecting the facility and the equipment itself, which works well in most locations. However, in cities where the population is extremely dense, dwellings and commercial properties may be directly adjacent to the tower. Existing standards and design methods do not adequately cover the effects that a lightning strike to the tower may have on nearby structures. Problems can be caused by three main effects.

First, lightning that strikes the tower can cause induced and direct-coupled currents in the incoming power lines, which are connected to nearby dwellings through the main power reticulation. These currents can travel in both directions in the power line, reaching homes and buildings with insufficient or no surge protection.

Second, the large amount of lightning current dissipated in the ground near the tower can cause severe GPR that can drastically increase voltage gradients in the ground, allowing current to find its way through the neutral and the ground electrodes into nearby structures.

Third, in the case of a near strike event, the rapid rise and fall of the magnetic field caused by lightning can cut through electrical wires and result in electrical surges entering nearby structures.

GPR caused by faults at nearby electrical transformers: When the telecom service ground electrode or the AC protective ground electrode is inadvertently located in a high-GPR zone near power utility assets, large and sometimes prolonged electrical currents from power system faults can migrate across to the telecom service ground electrode and seek ground via unwanted paths. This can be a potential public hazard, a fire risk or a threat to the telecommunications equipment.

When telecommunications facilities are placed in the public domain close to transformers, extra-high-voltage (EHV) towers and electrical substations, extreme care must be taken concerning both the location and the grounding system design. Such scenarios include but are not limited to situations in which:

  • Equipment like small cells are installed on a power utility pole that also has a low voltage transformer installed
  • Telecommunications equipment is mounted on a power utility pole with the transformer on an adjacent pole
  • A pad-mounted transformer is installed near a telecommunications street cabinet or near pole-mounted telecommunications equipment
  • A telecommunications shelter or cabinet is placed near the base of an EHV transmission tower
  • A telecommunications shelter is placed next to a large EHV switchyard

It will soon be imperative for telecommunications service providers to implement new practices in grounding, bonding and surge protection at sites in the public domain where GPR risks are anticipated. Telecom providers are encouraged to start a conversation with a trusted expert about the challenge and possible solutions.

Rohit Narayan is global director for telecom at nVent Erico, a manufacturer of grounding, bonding, lightning and surge protection solutions.


June 2020

Site Name: St. Andrews Annex

Tower Owner: St. Charles Tower

Height: 125 feet

Year Constructed: 2005

Location: St. Charles, Missouri

Photography by Don Bishop

Lightning Protection Small Cells

Why Effective Surge Protection, Flexible Power Distribution Options Are Vital for Small Cells

5G small cells are critical to wireless network operation and usually contain densely packed, high-cost and sensitive electronic systems that can be vulnerable to overvoltages and surges.

5G wireless communications is here and is growing fast. In the United States, for example, all four wireless carriers have 5G networks up and running, and the carriers are expanding their reach quickly.

To achieve sufficient coverage, 5G networks may need to use both sub-6-GHz and millimeter-wave (mmWave) frequencies. The mmWave network equipment uses previously unassigned radio-frequency spectrum, and because of the high frequencies, its signals do not propagate as far as signals transmitted by lower frequencies used by earlier generations of equipment. This means carriers must deploy a large number of small cell nodes that manufacturers and installers often integrate with existing street furniture, such as lighting or utility poles.

Raycap Stealth small cell light polePhoto 1. A Raycap Stealth small cell light pole featuring InvisiWave 5G mmWave concealment installed in an urban setting.The new small cell light poles may consist of existing poles with attached, concealed radio equipment and antennas, or more-integrated poles packed with expensive electronic hardware. The hardware can include multiple 5G and 4G radios, along with other systems, such as smart-city hubs with sensors, cameras and atmospheric sensors. The poles may also provide street lighting and electric vehicle charging, and therefore, they require multiple power units, power converters, meters and distribution panels, together with support systems, such as intrusion alarms and ventilation. With the addition of sophisticated electronics, small cell poles become increasingly susceptible to damage from overvoltage surges and transients — and more small cell sites mean more points of potential failure in the network (see Photo 1).

The trade association CTIA, which represents the wireless communications industry in the United States, has said it expects more than 700,000 new small cells to be rolled out by 2026 in this country alone. Rather than just filling gaps in radio coverage and increasing network capacity, small cells in 5G networks form the primary nodes that provide critical, high-speed services where outages are unacceptable. With so many new sites to pay for and run, reliability must be high and operating costs must be low. This is why carriers and tower companies must install AC power distribution devices equipped with surge protective devices (SPDs) at small cell sites to provide both core functionality and maximum application flexibility to ensure quick and easy site installation and reliable long-term operation.

Other Considerations

High-performance, maintenance-free surge protection is important, but other power distribution considerations include further simplifying engineering, installation and maintenance. For example, Raycap has incorporated single-enclosure service-entrance functionality and conduit/cable access from the top, bottom, sides and rear of enclosures into its broad lineup of AC disconnect and distribution products. These designs accommodate multiple 120-VAC or 240-VAC loads (as many as 16 or 8, respectively) and operate in harsh environments with challenging requirements ranging from sprinkler-directed water or temporary submersion to the need for external on/off power disconnects and 42-kAIC (kilo-ampere interrupting capacity) ratings. There are also options for color-matched exteriors for optimum concealment (see Photo 2).

5G small cell pole assemblyPhoto 2. AC power and equipment compartments in an integrated 5G small cell pole assembly.

Overvoltage Risks

There are two main types of overvoltages that small cells need to be able to handle: those caused by conducted electrical disturbances, and those caused by radiated atmospheric disturbances.

The first class of overvoltage is conducted disturbances. These enter the pole most often via conductive cables. Conducted disturbances include utility power conductors and signal lines, which can couple the internal electronic systems contained within the pole to the external environment. The small cell will typically have a direct connection to a nearby transformer, which could involve currents of 10,000 amperes or more. If the surge protector fails, it must do so safely — with no risk of follow-on current arcing over to potentially create a risk of fire or even an explosion.

To reuse existing street lighting infrastructure and keep costs down, small cells often rely on existing power distribution wiring. In most of the United States, this wiring is aerial rather than buried, which means it is vulnerable to overvoltages and is a primary conduit for surge energy to enter the pole and damage the internal electronics.

AC-to-DC Conversion

Additionally, traditional macro cell sites go from the utility AC power service to a rectification component (AC-to-DC converter) that also typically has battery backup, before power is fed to the downline radios. This AC-to-DC conversion provides some degree of isolation, or a buffer, to limit damage to some of those radios. Conversely, configuring a small cell site with AC circuit breakers that feed radios directly, without the AC-to-DC buffer, strips away some of the protection inherent with AC-to-DC separation, making the small cells inherently more susceptible to costly damage and downtime.

The second class of disturbances, called radiated disturbances, are usually caused by airborne events, such as nearby lightning discharges that create rapid changes in both electromagnetic and electrostatic fields around the structure. Although they are relatively low in height compared with macro cell sites, small cell sites are still vulnerable to lightning strikes, which do not always hit the tallest building in an area. Even without a direct strike, large currents induced in power lines by lightning can cause damage (see Photo 3). Grid-switching and power-factor correction from utility companies, which happens in all locations, can cause longer-term degradation.

Photo 3. Lightning doesn’t always hit the tallest structure.

These rapidly varying electric and magnetic fields can couple with the electrical and electronic systems within the pole to produce damaging surges of current and voltage. Although lightning occurs much more commonly in some areas, such as Florida, some strikes occur nearly everywhere, so protection is still required wherever a small cell is located. Unfortunately, the sensitive antenna systems of small cells are mostly tuned to the frequencies at which much of the energy in the lightning discharge is centralized. This means they can act as conduits for this energy to enter the pole, damaging both the radio front-ends and other systems within the pole. The Faraday shielding of a metal pole helps to reduce this effect somewhat, but it cannot fully mitigate the problem.

Overvoltage Protection (OVP)

Standards such as IEC 61643 describe the use of SPDs to mitigate the effects of these types of overvoltages. SPDs are classified by test class for the electrical environment within which they are intended to operate. For example, a Class I SPD is one that has been tested to withstand — using International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) terminology — “a direct or partial direct lightning discharge.” This means that the SPD has been tested to withstand the energy and waveform associated with the discharge most likely to enter a structure in an exposed location.

The SPDs selected to protect the primary service entrance utility feed must be suitably rated for an outdoor electrical environment and meet Class I testing. They should also have an impulse withstand level (Iimp) of 12.5 kA, in order to safely withstand the threat level of such locations.

Choosing an SPD capable of withstanding the associated threat level is not in itself enough to protect the equipment. The SPD must also limit the incident conducted surge to a voltage protection level (Up) lower than the withstand level (Uw) of the electronic equipment within the pole. IEC recommends that Up < 0.8 Uw.

Raycap’s line of AC disconnects features its patented Strikesorb SPD technology that provides the required voltage protection level to protect sensitive, mission-critical electronic equipment in small cell sites, and specifically, it provides the required Iimp and Up.

Metal Oxide Varistor

The Strikesorb SPD incorporates a heavy-duty, distribution-grade metal oxide varistor (MOV) disk, assembled under pressure in an environmentally sealed aluminum casing. This means a Strikesorb SPD has extremely low internal contact resistance and excellent thermal management, and the surge current is distributed uniformly over the total area of the protection element. This results in an extremely high energy-handling capability combined with especially low let-through voltage.

Raycap AC disconnect productsPhoto 4. Raycap AC disconnect products and Strikesorb CHV2 overvoltage protection. The Strikesorb technology is maintenance-free and can withstand thousands of repetitive surge events without failure or degradation. This performance has been essential for Tier-one carriers, which have deployed Strikesorb SPDs on the tops of their towers — the cost of rolling a truck or having someone climb that tower to replace the SPD is hugely expensive. With millions of modules deployed on the tops of towers, Raycap’s experience proves it can provide a safe and reliable solution in small cell networks as well. Based on years of field performance, a Strikesorb SPD’s expected lifetime is more than 20 years, and all modules come with a 10-year limited lifetime warranty (see Photo 4).

The products are tested according to international safety standards (UL and IEC), offer unparalleled performance against lightning and power surges and eliminate the use of materials that could burn, smoke or explode.


5G small cells are critical to wireless network operation and usually contain densely packed, high-cost and sensitive electronic systems that can be vulnerable to overvoltages and surges.

By selecting high-performance and highly flexible AC power distribution and protection devices (using Strikesorb technology from Raycap), engineers can ensure their small cell designs provide the robustness needed for continuous operation, regardless of lightning strikes or other disturbances while taking advantage of the core features required for power distribution at even the most challenging sites. Further, by working with an experienced, customer-centric solution provider such as Raycap, they can choose a complete product that will work in any small cell node, optimizing installation and power delivery — whether it is on a utility pole, or in a different enclosure — and provide maintenance-free protection for years.

Chris Constance is a product manager at Raycap.


The Cold, Hard Truth About 5G Conformance Testing

Here are four tips for 5G conformance testing.

Of all the challenges mobile device and base station manufacturers are up against in the 5G wireless communications network rollout, passing conformance and device acceptance tests is among the most daunting. A conformance test proves whether a product adheres to rules and standards. A device acceptance test determines whether a product warrants acceptance as-is, acceptance pending modifications or adjustments, or rejection.

Ten years ago, during the transition from 3G to 4G, handset and base station makers had to overcome significant hurdles. However, the changes between 3G and 4G were small, compared with the rollout of 5G. The transition from 4G to 5G is considerably more disruptive, involving many more changes and the incorporation of far more innovative and complex technologies.

For starters, 5G devices operate at higher frequencies with wider transmission bandwidths, and connections require entirely new access technologies. Mobile devices must be able to handle dual connectivity, receiving both 4G LTE and 5G signals, and then aggregate the streams to create a seamless, harmonious user experience.

For a conformance test, that is just the beginning of the complexity involved. One of the most frequently cited benefits of 5G is a surge in the number of expected use cases, resulting in a corresponding exponential increase in the number of test cases. 5G’s Frequency Range 2 (FR 2), spanning from 24.25 GHz to 52.6 GHz, brings a significant increase in test complexity. To top it all off, 5G remains a moving target — conformance test requirements and methods are not yet complete, and the standards continue to evolve.

Here are four tips for manufacturers to take to prepare for 5G conformance and acceptance tests:

Use minimum requirements as a guide: In order to understand the 5G specifications, it is important to look back at the process that generates them. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) radio access network (RAN) working committees define the conformance goals (see Table 1).

3GPP RAN working groups generate technical reportsTable 1. 3GPP RAN working groups generate technical reports and technical specifications.

5G NR originates with a vision of pervasive connectivity, extreme data rates and low latency with highly reliable networks. The IMT-2020 vision, created by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) working with International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT, the generic term used by the ITU community to designate broadband mobile systems), has three primary use cases for 5G NR: enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC) and massive machine-type communications (mMTC).

The 3GPP study item technical report (TR) 38.913 describes the key performance indicators (KPIs) for the different deployment scenarios, as well as vehicle-to-everything (V2X) requirements. KPIs include targets for peak data rates, spectral efficiency, latency, reliability and user equipment (UE) battery life.

The RAN working groups develop the 5G NR specifications based on the IMT-2020 goals. 5G NR documents are available in the 38.xxx series documents located on the 3GPP website.

Conformance tests ensure a minimum level of performance in UEs and base stations. Table 2 lists the 3GPP requirements documents. Conformance tests validate transmitter characteristics, receiver characteristics and their performance.

3GPP conformance tests for base stationsTable 2. 3GPP conformance tests for base stations and devices.

Additional tests for devices include radio resource management (RRM) and protocol testing. Base station tests are structured around radio frequency (RF) parameters. UEs have a much longer list of conformance requirements that add radio access, signaling and demodulation tests. UEs must also undergo validation by certification organizations, such as the Global Certification Forum (GCF) and PCS Type Certification Review Board (PTCRB), to ensure 5G commercial devices comply with the latest 3GPP specifications.

To ensure UE devices operate as expected on a specific network, they must pass acceptance tests by mobile network operators.

Conformance test specifications originate from the minimum requirements specified in the 3GPP RAN2 and RAN4 documents. The conformance specifications take into consideration the test measurement uncertainty and test tolerance.

Operators and device and base station original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) specify the test requirements for each test. The minimum requirement specification is more stringent than the conformance specification. Designers can use the minimum requirement as a guide to test their 5G NR products until 5G NR conformance test requirements are complete. The minimum test requirements ensure that 5G products pass the final conformance test cases.

Address test system complexity with high-performance instruments: The lower-frequency tests in 5G NR Frequency Range 1 (FR1) are similar to 4G LTE tests, but FR2 testing stresses the test solution in many new ways. The test equipment required to test the FR2 range needs to cover wider frequencies and bandwidths. The requirements are up to 60 GHz for measuring spurious emissions, and up to 1.6 GHz bandwidth to support interband carrier aggregation.

Conformance requirements state that all FR2 device and base station tests — as well as some FR1 base station tests — are radiated tests. This requires over-the-air (OTA) testing, which introduces additional test challenges, including greater path loss and higher measurement uncertainties that make it challenging to achieve measurement accuracy.

Pre-conformance and conformance tests require a calibrated OTA test solution that covers all the requirements outlined in the 3GPP conformance documents listed in Table 2. Example tests include transmitted power, signal quality, intermodulation, spurious emissions and blocking tests.

A test solution for millimeter-wave (mmWave) designs needs to accommodate higher frequencies with wider channel bandwidths. The solution must also have an adequate signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) to detect and demodulate 5G signals accurately. When testing transmitters, for example, SNR is critical in the signal analyzer to ensure accurate error vector magnitude (EVM) and adjacent channel leakage ratio (ACLR) measurements.

In an OTA test setup where path loss is an issue, a vector signal generator (VSG) with high output power and low EVM will ensure adequate SNR for testing 5G receivers.

A selectivity and block test setup requires multiple mmWave signal generators to provide the fixed reference channel, a modulated interfering signal and a continuous wave (CW) signal. High output power is also important to overcome higher path losses at mmWave frequencies. When specifying a 5G test solution, it is also important to select test equipment that has adequate range to cover the requirements from sub-6 GHz to the different mmWave operating bands. Since many tests require multiple sources for receiver tests and multiple analyzers for transmitter tests, a modular platform will reduce the test footprint and simplify the test setup (see Figure 1).

Base station receiver intermodulation conducted test setupFigure 1. Base station receiver intermodulation conducted test setup for Part 1 (Part 2 is OTA).

Ensure test case coverage with standard platforms: 5G NR aims to support many different use cases and deployment scenarios over FR1 and FR2 operating bands. The test combinations create a vast matrix of test cases (see Figure 2).

5G NR deployment optionsFigure 2. 5G NR deployment options.

For example, 5G NR can operate in standalone (SA) or non-standalone (NSA) mode. In standalone mode, the 5G NR connects directly with the 5G next-generation core (NGC) network and operates independently of 4G. However, it will take time to roll out 5G networks, and 5G NR will rely heavily on the 4G infrastructure to maintain connectivity as 5G devices travel through the network.

Devices need validation for one or multiple deployment options. Evolved Universal Terrestrial Radio Access (E-UTRA) and 5G NR dual connectivity (EN-DC) also require testing. With the addition of multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) and multiple-carrier aggregation combinations across various operating bands, this equates to more than 1,000 UE test cases. A common hardware platform that scales across frequency ranges and UE conformance tests — including RF, RRM, and protocol — provides the scalability needed to maximize 5G test case validation coverage.

Standardization on a common platform provides additional benefits. Making use of test platforms across the workflow enables 5G designers to resolve and validate issues early in the design phase. Using the same test platform in pre-conformance and conformance testing will reduce issues and speed up test times (see Figure 3).

same test platform across a device workflowFigure 3. Using the same test platform across a device workflow.

Stay current on 5G NR standards: Preparing for the next phase of 5G NR is critical. Although Release 15 was approved back in June 2018, conformance testing for various use cases and network deployment options are still works in progress. Carrier aggregation, FR2 and RRM test cases are far from 100 percent complete.

Release 16, which was due in March 2020, continues with 5G NR optimization and new use cases, and identifies new types of services, devices, deployment models and spectrum bands. There is an emphasis on URLLC enhancements for industrial IoT, use of unlicensed bands, cellular V2X, UE positioning and power efficiency. As the standard continues to evolve, test solutions need to support higher frequencies, wider bandwidths and new physical layer features.

You should future-proof investments in test equipment that can evolve as the standards change. Consider how quickly the test vendor can provide software releases to update to the latest test cases.

As standards evolve to higher frequencies and wider bandwidths, scaling the test hardware is a physical limitation. One strategy is to purchase or lease test equipment that has broader coverage initially. Another approach is to use test equipment that easily scales as the requirements change.


These four tips for 5G conformance testing can help to ensure 5G products are deployed successfully and on time. Although testing to minimum requirements will ensure that products pass conformance testing, test solutions and methods will need to continue to evolve as the standards do. Therefore, careful selection of test equipment is essential, and an emphasis on flexible and common test platforms with enough performance and capabilities to address 5G’s most challenging test scenarios is foundational to success in the 5G era.

Dylan McGrath is a veteran technology journalist and former editor-in-chief of EE Times. He is now a senior industry solutions manager at Keysight Technologies.

Tower Climbers

Take Care of What Matters Most

Here’s how vital it is for technicians who climb towers to have life insurance, even though their premiums are higher.

As an element for preparing for the catastrophic event of the death of a loved one, life insurance is essential. I harp on it at every opportunity. I have been gentle in my delivery thus far, but I think a little moxy is called for after the last few deaths of technicians who climb telecommunications towers as part of their work. First, I want to talk to the technicians, and then move to a secondary topic, specifically targeted at the women and men married to our technicians.


If you work, especially in this industry, you should absolutely have life insurance, or at a bare minimum, an accidental death and dismemberment policy.

If you have a wife, husband or children, it is irresponsible not to have insurance. It is vital to have coverage so that your family isn’t wondering how to ship your body home after you have passed away on the job, how to properly bury you or have you cremated. All too often, families of technicians whom I have assisted have left their families with nothing because they did not prepare for the possibility of their deaths.

No, wait that’s not true — they have left them with something: unsecured debt, a house they can’t pay for, not enough money to buy food, car payments, car insurance, doctor’s bills and childcare expense. Their families may be left without reasonable transportation. Moreover, they are left without a way to pay for long-term expenses, such as college expenses, or to accumulate necessary savings.

I understand that life insurance is complicated, but I will help you figure it out. For you, as someone who climbs towers, your insurance premium will be a somewhat higher because of what you do for a living. Add to that, if you smoke or drink alcohol. I get it: Insurance is not cheap. However, paying now so your family doesn’t pay for it later is worth it. Look at your wife or husband and kids, and then tell me it is not.

Let’s take a technician who is 35 years old, a smoker, drinks an average of seven drinks a week, works a dangerous job, and spends quite a bit of time behind the windshield, and one who is in reasonably good health. Let’s call him John.


John’s monthly premium for a $500,000 life insurance policy is $325.00 per month. (I told you it wasn’t cheap in your line of work). Three hundred-twenty-five dollars per month equates to about $10.83 per day. I am quite certain that if you eliminate one beer at the bar after work, and can manage to cut back a half a pack a day and maybe skip at least one Red Bull or Monsters a day, you have the premium more than covered. I know you all work like dogs. I know you deserve a nice meal and to be as comfortable as possible while you are on the road. I get that; I really do. However, if you aren’t willing to make some modifications to ensure your family’s welfare, then I don’t know what else to say to you.

As a side note, disability insurance is also a wise investment. Life insurance is important, but most workers are more likely to become disabled rather than pass away by age 65. For instance, more than 375,000 Americans become totally disabled every year, and approximately 110 million Americans do not have long-term disability coverage. Approximately 8 million adults have some disability that limits or prevents them from working, so it is also important that if you are not going to purchase life insurance, that you seriously consider disability insurance options. Disability insurance can ensure you have some income to help support your family while you create a “new normal.”

Wives and Husbands

What follows generally is directed to wives of technicians. I understand that there are female technicians who climb towers. We have some seriously hard-core females who work in this industry as effectively as, or more effectively than, some men. However, the reason I aim this discussion at the wives is two-fold.

  1. Almost exclusively, it has been men who have died in this line of work.
  2. I assume that the women who work as technicians are married to men who work outside the home, either as a fellow technician or in another industry.

Most of the widows (and wives of active technicians) I have encountered while running the Hubble Foundation are stay-at-home moms or homemakers. Taking on the role of a stay-at-home mom or homemaker is commendable. I consider both jobs to be an actual calling, although not ones I was called to personally. I preface the following information with that statement, because I surely do not want you to think that I am insinuating that stay-at-home moms or homemakers are in any way inferior. That having been established, I want you to hear me, please.

Skill Set, Part-time Employment

If you fall into the category as a stay-at-home mom or homemaker, I am encouraging you to at a minimum to do one thing, once the kids are in school, or once you can do so. I am encouraging you to build a skill set and engage in at least part-time employment. Often when a technician has passed away, and the widow is in the throes of grief, many things go to the wayside. Often between friends, family, the Hubble Foundation and the Tower Family Foundation, widows receive the help they need initially, but none of these avenues of assistance is long-term and will not sustain your family for years. I love to help the families, and I try to maintain contact and help as needed for a long period. However, the Hubble Foundation only raises so much money, and it is not feasible to provide extensive help for years.

New Normal

As a widow, you must find a new normal, and you must be able to provide for your family if your spouse dies while performing his job. You will be forced to make choices. You can go back to work, become destitute or seek government assistance. I have nothing against government assistance — it is a valuable tool, but relying on it for the rest of your life for yourself and your children is not optimal. Building and maintaining a skill set with part-time or full-time employment will help you much more in the event of the unthinkable. Not only does having a job enable you to provide, it can also provide a sense of purpose and distraction while grieving.

Many women, recently widowed, tell me they haven’t worked outside of the home in decades. Often, these are the widows who have the most difficult time finding employment after the death of their husbands. Even volunteering can provide you with a skill set you can use and will often open doors for you later should that need arise. Even if your husband makes enough to sustain the household, just working part-time could provide the avenue you need to make sure you are both covered by life insurance.

Plainly, we don’t know what’s coming. Not ever. Our lives are but a vapor on this earth. I surely wasn’t expecting a call telling me that someone had backed a bucket-truck up into the guy wires on the tower on which my husband was working. I wasn’t expecting to have to take care of what I had to take care of. Praise the Lord that Jonce thought about that, because I surely did not. He took out an additional policy above what his company offered, and he had an AFLAC policy I knew absolutely nothing about.

His preparation and responsibility enabled me to pay off vehicles, pay off unsecured debt, put something away for savings and retirement, pay for his funeral and provide for necessities to sustain us as a family. I worked full time, and that was a blessing. However, had he not had those insurance policies, chances are I would have lost my house and I would have been swimming in unsecured debt. It would have wiped me completely out. I was not the financially responsible person then that I am now — the death of a spouse will make you change your perspective, and I don’t recommend living through that kind of life event to get to a sense of sound financial responsibility.

Responsibility of Helpmates

As partners to our spouses, we must also take responsibility and be their helpmates. We must help prepare our families for the possibilities, no matter how unpleasant or how scary. If there are wives of technicians who haven’t worked in a while but want to, I am more than willing to help you get a resume put together and get prepped to look for work. All you have to do is ask me.

Bridgette Hester, Ph.D., is the founder and president of the Hubble Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting the safety of tower workers, site crews and green energy turbine climbers. The Hubble Foundation website is at www.hubblefoundation.org.

Edge Fiber

Empowering the Hyperscale Edge: The Vital Role of Fiber

As the edge develops into a more robust ecosystem with many players all seeking the same benefits, the network industry is seeking new ways to deliver value to the industry’s largest entities.

As data centers shift closer to the edge of the network, many throughout the industry presume that facilities are trending smaller and smaller to be able to remain as close to the end user as possible. There is no doubt that increasingly intense demands for low latency, reliability and bandwidth are creating a more distributed data center topology with more compact elements. However, as the edge trend continues to dominate in the world of data centers, it is becoming clear that the edge isn’t just for small deployments.

Just as smaller enterprise facilities seek to store and process data as close to the point of consumption as possible to reap the benefits of proximity, larger entities that are scaling their capacity and computing power more massively want to give their applications the same advantage. However, in the case of developing this 5G-capable hyperscale edge, diverse fiber is becoming a key infrastructural component.

Fiber’s Growing Importance

To support growth trajectories, contemporary hyperscalers are focusing on building infrastructure in advance of when they actually will need it. This preemptive method allows for quick and easy turn-up as demands grow, and it diverges from the way businesses grew in the era before 5G wireless communications, the internet of things and next-generation applications. Having that ready availability and accessibility is now the greatest way to win market share in a time when end users demand always-on content, and it means that hyperscale investments are now reaching out to the edge.

However, to effectively capitalize on the advantages of the edge, these hyperscale entities need to have the most efficient, resilient frameworks and state-of-the-art fiber strategies in place. To achieve this, they are looking to foster partnerships with diverse fiber infrastructure providers so that they can make use of custom networks and unique routes — as opposed to past strategies that relied on traditional lit carriers’ fiber-optic cable routes for capacity. To achieve the best reliability, efficiency and availability, these businesses need to establish high-capacity, diverse fiber solutions that can deliver optimized strategies for edge enablement.

By focusing on a fiber strategy, the hyperscale model can eliminate a number of barriers between facilities across expanding footprints while reducing latency and costs. Furthermore, establishing robust fiber connectivity ensures the reliability for empowering client needs from a cloud or content perspective. Diverse routes also offer optimized protection for critical data by delivering better reliability and redundancy, safeguarding against costly unforeseen service interruptions, whether natural or man-made. By creating a diversified network that features a number of unique connections, hyperscalers can significantly reduce their vulnerability in the event that conduits are compromised. Fiber holds the key to unlocking widespread efficiencies and protections to the edge — including cost — by delivering more reliability and more capacity than can often be gained from legacy routes. Subsequently, when it comes to the hyperscale vision of being prepared, future-proofed and ready for exploding demands, fiber is a foundational facet of establishing that capable ecosystem.

Delivering Hyperscale Strategies

To meet these edge-centric needs and deliver on the promise of robust fiber networks, providers are seeking new and improved ways of optimizing networking with advanced construction, customizing routes and networks to drive deployment efficiencies and beyond. Every deployment from a trusted fiber partner should begin with thorough research, engineering and planning. An often massive undertaking, deployment may face numerous roadblocks that can crop up at any point in the build process, including permitting, rights of way, easements, municipal challenges and material availability — all of which can delay implementation and operation. To avoid this, hyperscalers need providers that offer detailed knowledge of and experience with every project phase, as well as a commitment to moving projects forward past any obstacles.

Foundational necessities of a capable fiber network include density, diversity and depth — all of which serve to enable future-proof capacity and reliability. Beyond that, providers must offer customization to make use of the advantages of creating and deploying a network that does not have to fit into preconceived designs. The ideal provider will enable a hyperscaler to establish high-count fiber deep in the ground that has the flexibility to remain completely diverse from other routes.

Finally, many hyperscalers are looking to partner with providers that can deliver not only the build element, but also route monitoring, maintenance and operation. As hyperscale entities look to optimize and reinvent their fiber approach, many realize that it may not be what they know best, and choose to leave it in the hands of an expert rather than reallocate their own critical resources. As a result, some fiber providers will better support hyperscale needs not only by providing the construction DNA and the comprehensive project management, but by offering operational expertise and monitoring services as well.

Provisioning Enduring Success

As the edge develops into a more robust ecosystem with multiple players all seeking the same benefits, the network industry is seeking new ways to deliver value to the industry’s largest entities. In order to meet their goals for growth, hyperscalers do not need merely a network build partner that can optimize their physical network topology. They need an expert that can ensure success all the way from design and troubleshooting through operations and maintenance. Partnering with the right fiber ally and establishing a future-proofed, diverse network will ensure that every hyperscale entity can make use of optimized reliability, scalability and density.

Mark Fortier, vice president of technology infrastructure at FiberLight, is an expert in the fiber industry.

Joshua Broder, CEO of Tilson Technology Management -
Joshua Broder, CEO of Tilson Technology Management

Joshua Broder Uses Military Leadership Skills to Excel in Network Building

An Army veteran himself, Broder likes hiring veterans to work at Tilson Technology Management, because they understand the concept of a mission-driven culture.

First Lieutenant Joshua Broder was on duty in the Network Operations Center in Bagram Air Force Base, in Afghanistan, Oct. 8, 2005, when the flypaper began to swing from the ceiling and the lights on the monitors signaling the health of the networks that stretched across Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan went from green to red. A 7.6 magnitude earthquake had struck in the mountains of the Hindu Kush in Pakistan. By the time it was over, it had cost 73,000 lives and caused $5 billion in damage.

Within hours, the task force to which Broder’s signal unit was attached changed its focus from the war to providing humanitarian aid for the people in shattered villages trapped behind rockslides in mountain passes. Broder and his team became responsible for setting up the communications to coordinate the airlift of the wounded, the rebuilding of the villages and the telemedicine links to doctors back in Germany.

“We took people right in the middle of a war zone and, all of a sudden, shifted them to a completely different mission,” Broder said. “It took clarity through communication, careful technical planning and painstaking coordination through the implementation in difficult circumstances.”

Pole-mount small cell cabinetFirst Lieutenant Joshua Broder in Afghanistan.In other words, it took all the leadership skills that the military had instilled in him.

Today, Broder is the CEO of Portland, Maine-based Tilson Technology Management, which provides consulting, design, build services and maintenance services for cellular, wireline, utility and government clients. A 600-employee firm, Tilson has divisions for infrastructure consulting; mergers and acquisition due diligence; tower services; professional engineering; and small cell, in-building owners. The company offers additional services for broadband providers, neutral host providers, wireless internet service providers, venue and campus coverage and fiber-outside plant.

A Taste for Leadership

From a young age, Broder knew he wanted to be a leader. That desire led him to join the cadet program of the Civil Air Patrol in high school and apply for a Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship in his junior year. He decided on Middlebury College, a liberal arts college in Middlebury, Vermont, and participated in ROTC at nearby University of Vermont.

Broder graduated from college with a history degree and the rank of second lieutenant. Although Broder’s career in military leadership was intentional, his life as technologist was, actually, quite accidental. He was heading for a career in military intelligence when, during the tragic terrorist events of Sept. 11, 2001, a passenger airplane crashed into the Pentagon, killing members of the team tasked with sending new officers their assignments and incinerating his file. Six months later, the Army placed Broder into the Signal Corps and gave him an assignment with the 44th Signal Battalion in Germany.

The Army placed Broder in charge of communications teams attached to various units, such as aviation, armor, military intelligence and artillery. The number of soldiers that he led grew from 45 to 300 by the end of his service.

“For a relatively young guy, it was an immersive leadership experience,” Broder said. “It wasn’t until 2018 that the numbers I was leading at Tilson were bigger than I had led in the Army.”

During his deployment, Broder found that he had a great affinity for building and developing networks. His team’s missions were to provide telecom services and data services for U.S. troops and for coalition partners, along with other government agencies. Broder’s teams were responsible for deploying end-to-end mobile communications networks in areas with varying degrees of austerity.

Sometimes, the day after a position was taken, Broder and his team would be deploying data centers housed in tents. They installed fiber and copper cabling and microwave hookups to backhaul portable towers. They set up satellite uplinks and downlinks to connect the area of operations with Germany, England and Virginia.

“We would show up in a war zone in the Middle East or central Asia and provide our customers with everything to access the internet, the secret internet, streaming video from predator drones, email, file storage — everything a business would use plus the tools of war,” Broder said. “One time, at an airbase that was just occupied the day before, our network consisted merely of a mobile data center in a transit case on the tailgate of a Humvee with an air conditioner blowing on it, connected to a satellite dish.”

Throughout his military career, Broder traveled to 22 countries in Europe, the Middle East and central Asia. His longest deployment came when his unit was attached to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team based in Vincenza, Italy, and his unit was sent to Afghanistan. His last assignment was to design and build a large tactical communications network in Afghanistan for the U.S. and coalition forces deployed there and in the surrounding countries.

“We had a network that covered Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where there were 36 bases, each of which had hundreds of thousands of personnel,” Broder said. “The level of complexity of the applications was staggering — an IP-enabled artillery targeting system, drone feeds, secret networks, IP-phones. We also had to provide the power and air conditioning wherever we went.”

The central Asian network would become the centerpiece of his military career. It was a big project, involving three months of planning in Germany and 13 months in the field. The achievement earned him the Bronze Star for meritorious service.

“Building the network in Afghanistan gave me a sense of what it means to have your hands in the guts and the viscera of the network,” Broder said. “It was a very technical experience and a good leadership experience.”

Civilian Life

The military honorably discharged Broder 2006 at the rank of captain, steeped in the knowledge of structural and institutional leadership. There were the army way of communicating and the army way of planning, which were drilled into him in challenging environments.

Pole-mount small cell cabinetJoshua Broder at the AGL Local Summit in Seattle in January.Photo by Don Bishop“That type of structural habituation is very valuable, because it gives you muscle memory to act in certain situations where others are paralyzed,” Broder said. “Military leadership is, by definition, crisis leadership. It is taking action in situations that are fast, dangerous and dynamic. It takes place under conditions that are not normal, familiar or comfortable.”

More broadly, the military gave Broder the chance to work with people from around the world, and to learn about cultural differences and commonalities. This included people from all over the United States.

Since joining Tilson, Broder’s leadership education has not ended. As the company has grown, Broder’s role as a hands-on leader had to change. He had to adopt a more executive style of leadership.

“I am now a strategy maker and culture leader, as opposed to a tactical operational leader,” he said. “That has required me to build a world-class senior management team that has both the operational aptitude and the specific domain expertise to lead effectively.” Broder likes hiring veterans, because they understand the concept of a mission-driven culture. Externally, Tilson’s mission is to build America’s information infrastructure. Internally, the shared struggle of building those networks creates loyalty among co-workers. The mission within the company is to build up fellow employees.

“For veterans who want to serve again in a mission that is bigger than themselves, not just a crass commercial pursuit — that mission resonates,” he said. “Especially right now, networks are allowing society to move forward as we participate in social distancing, allowing kids to go to school on line and doctors to perform telemedicine.”

Building During a Pandemic

Broder’s time in the military continues to inform his approach to leadership. The landing page of his website states “TILSON – ON A MISSION.” In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic is just another mission for the firm.

“Tilson completed its transition to social distance fairly quickly, and it remains fully mission-capable,” according to the website. “Tilson remains committed to building and maintaining America’s information infrastructure, which we know is critical to the ongoing functioning of the economy during and after the pandemic, as well as emergency response.” The company has 630 employees either working at home on its cloud systems or working in the field in small groups.

“Before the pandemic, Tilson’s operations were already paperless and 100 percent on the cloud, so our transition to social distance has been relatively smooth,” Broder said. “Being a community in lockdown feels a little like a deployment in the Army where your trips are inherently dangerous and planned, and you are confined to an area for long stretches at a time.”

Broder and his team are able to move with confidence in the face of an emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Composure in the face of chaos is one of the core values that Broder stresses to his team.

“We have a belief that we will get through any challenge,” Broder said. “I think that composure value comes from my military leadership experience. It resonates at a time like this. I don’t always have all the answers about how we will navigate the current environment as a company. But I am confident we will. Ultimately, we give ourselves the time and space necessary to take deliberate, not emotional, action. We do have a bias for action. We don’t need all the answers to move forward, which is something called ‘start necessary movements’ in the military’s planning system.”

 - Source: Professional Drone Service
Source: Professional Drone Service

From Drones to Details: Making Virtual 3-D Models of Cell Towers

Imagery from drones can be used to develop detailed models of cell towers. The models can be used to inventory antennas and their locations. This helps cell service providers and tower managers plan for additional capacity.

Precision-Fly Drone Mapping used imagery captured by drones to develop accurate schematics of cell towers in Nevada. The customer wanted to know what antennas were on several towers and the spacing between the antennas. The customer wanted to learn whether antennas could be added to increase service capacity. Precision-Fly recommended building information using drone imagery and offered to create a virtual detailed 3 D-model of the towers. The model would be a starting point for documenting the configuration of the tower (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Drone imagery creates a virtual, detailed 3-D model of the towers.

The first step was to collect the imagery of the cell towers using unmanned aircraft. It required an experienced drone pilot and observer with appropriate training and FAA certification about two hours to collect more than 800 photos of these 200-foot towers, sometimes at sites with more than one tower and with guy wires, buildings and other obstacles. The towers were on mountaintops in remote locations (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. (Left) Images from a drone at about 800 feet. (Right) A 3-D photogrammetric point cloud from images.

As a second step, Precision-Fly created 3-D point cloud models from the individual images collected of each tower. These virtual models can be rotated and examined from any perspective. Any of the high-resolution images used to make the model can be inspected further for detail with a simple click and the software used to create the models can also be used to measure distances between key points of interest.

As a third step, with the point cloud model complete, Precision-Fly developed graphics for detailed measurements and graphics. This can be done using several methods, depending on the customer’s requirements. The simplest and least expensive is to make measurements directly on the point cloud model and report them to the customer with a true-perspective schematic (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. An example spreadsheet and schematic from the west face of a tower.

Spreadsheets and graphics are very portable and can be included in work orders sent to field technicians and tower climbers via smart phone.

Another method, and perhaps the most useful, is to convert the point cloud model into a 3-D parametric model that can be displayed and edited by computer-aided design (CAD) programs. This requires more processing and expense, but perhaps is the most useful product for a tower company. The parametric model can be used as an engineering design baseline for tower modification, the design of antenna mounts and analysis of tower capacity. In addition, antenna type and direction can be determined. The parametric model can be imported into CAD programs, and used for any number of essential tasks (see Figure 4).

Figure 4. A computer-aided design (CAD) model of a tower, developed from a drone survey.

Drone surveys have fundamental benefits. First, tower companies do not need to put climbers on a tower to obtain important measurements. Precision-Fly compared costs with those of an experienced tower crew and found that our work cost about 60 percent of what a crew would have charged for the same surveys. Drones also present much less risk of injury and property damage than climbing crews

Second, drones can be used at sites where space is tight, even when wind speeds are challenging (up to 15 mph) and access to the site is limited.

Third, the surveys produce detailed, accurate records that can be edited and manipulated with state-of-the-art tools to support efficient tower management. We compared measurements from on-site measurements of tower elements and found that those from our models were within 7 percent.

Last, the products from CAD and Precision-fly’s True Precision graphics provide configuration records and support capacity assessments, work order graphics, engineering design and mount developments.

The total process can be accomplished in about two weeks or less depending on customer requirements. The cost is less than what a team of climbers might cost, and yet it produces an actual model of a tower that supports highly detailed and accurate measurements.

Mark Walker and Joe Sanford are the CEO and CTO, respectively, of Precision-Fly Drone Mapping. Visit pfdronemapping.com.


Product Showcase

Lightning Protection, Surge Suppression & Grounding


Bond Washer

Our 2 hole lug washer line now includes the NEW BLOCKWASHER. Like the famous 2 hole Bondwasher, our new washer is used for the installation of a ground lug to the buss bar. The only difference is Blockwasher has 2 tabs one on each end and is installed on the bolt head side of the buss bar opposite of the Bondwasher, the "Tabs" keep the bolt from turning just as the lock washer keeps the nut from turning. Using both the Bondwasher and Blockwasher as a system ensures the integrity of the ground lug to buss bar connection. 

An additional bonus of using the Bondwasher System is easier and faster installation, as the Blockwasher Tabs act as a tool to hold the bolt head while tightening the nut with a wrench.


Micro Radio Sites

Pioneer Energy Products, LLC

Pepro’s Micro Radio Sites have been proven and independently verified to protect equipment from lightning, electromagnetic interference, radio frequency interference, and other threats to mission-critical communications. The Micro Radio Site provides highly mobile protection for communications equipment in any setting where there is a need for radio access. The Micro Radio Site does not require any excavation or permanent foundation, eliminating the need for geotechnical, environmental impact, and archeological studies. Pepro has provided shielded enclosures and shelters based on its patented Faraday cage technology for over 20 years without a single loss of protected equipment.


Surge Protection Device


Raycap develops innovative connectivity, industrial surge protection devices, surge monitoring, and wireless concealment solutions that support and protect the world’s telecommunications, energy & transportation infrastructure. Our latest products offer various AC and combination AC/DC Power disconnect solutions that provide unparalleled versatility for small cell power demarcation, protection, and distribution. They feature the patented Strikesorb® 30‐A‐2CHV surge protection modules capable of withstanding direct lightning‐type events (surge currents up to 5kA 10/350 μs) and induced surge currents up to 60 kA (8/20 μs) to ensure maximum uptime for critical wireless networks.


Coaxial Cable, Connectors, and Cable Assemblies

Times Microwave Systems

Times Microwave Systems designs and manufactures high-performance coaxial cable, connectors, and cable assemblies for use in wireless systems. Products include flexible, low loss 50 Ohm LMR® coaxial cables, low PIM SPP™ jumpers for DAS, EZ connectors, installation tools, and accessories. Times LMR® coaxial cable is considered the standard for flexible low loss coax cable.

Other products cover military‐aerospace, shipboard high‐performance flexible, semi‐flexible and rigid coaxial cable assemblies, connectors, and delay lines.

Times Microwave Systems is the leader in the design and manufacture of coaxial cables for RF and microwave applications.


Structural Engineering Service

Tower Engineering Company

TEC has been helping owners realize their valuable vertical real estate for decades. Changing technologies open new opportunities by adding equipment that adds significant long‐term value. Antenna or appurtenances additions, beyond those contemplated in the original tower design, must be evaluated by a structural engineer. Changes to the structural components must also consider the types and compatibility of materials, wind, ice, and seismic loading that might add to asset risks. TEC’s Structural Engineering Service can make recommendations and modifications that will economically extend tower life and reduce maintenance. Call us today to pursue new revenue opportunities for your towers tomorrow.


Ground Lungs and Terminals

WANHO Manufacturing & Logistics

WANHO Manufacturing & Logistics is excited to announce the availability of a full line of UL & CSA listed ground lungs and terminals that are Top 4 Carrier approved as part of our “Options, Choices and Solutions” portfolio. These lugs include specific CEQ assigned numbers for AT&T and are readily available for shipments. One call to WANHO and you can consider it done! Call 866‐926‐4686; Email sales@wanho.com


Company Showcase

Compliance, Testing & Monitoring Companies

Flash Technology

Since 1970, Flash Technology has designed and manufactured industry‐leading obstruction lights and navigational aids. Compliant with FAA and FCC regulations, our tower light monitoring systems and 24/7/365 monitoring and call center services continuously check your system’s operational status and update you the second something changes, giving you peace of mind.

SBA Communications

For more than 30 years, SBA has been proud to be an independent owner and operator of wireless communications infrastructure including towers, buildings, rooftops, distributed antenna systems, and small cells — with operations in 14 markets globally.

In This Issue  

FirstNet Authority Highlights “Connectin...

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) annual report to Congress for F...

COVID-19 Pandemic Changes Norms for Work...

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is radically changing the way people do ...

Five Ways a Safe Contact Tool Protects W...

Critical infrastructure projects must keep moving, but the safety of our work crews comes ...
Lightning Protection

Raising Awareness for Ground Potential R...

Traditional telecommunications network infrastructure has been housed in buildings, shelte...
Lightning Protection Small Cells

Why Effective Surge Protection, Flexible...

5G wireless communications is here and is growing fast. In the United States, for example,...

The Cold, Hard Truth About 5G Conformanc...

Of all the challenges mobile device and base station manufacturers are up against in the 5...
Tower Climbers

Take Care of What Matters Most

As an element for preparing for the catastrophic event of the death of a loved one, life i...
Edge Fiber

Empowering the Hyperscale Edge: The Vita...

As data centers shift closer to the edge of the network, many throughout the industry pres...
Joshua Broder, CEO of Tilson Technology Management -

Joshua Broder Uses Military Leadership S...

First Lieutenant Joshua Broder was on duty in the Network Operations Center in Bagram Air ...
 - Source: Professional Drone Service

From Drones to Details: Making Virtual 3...

Precision-Fly Drone Mapping used imagery captured by drones to develop accurate schematics...