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November 2020

Scroll To Read Magazine

In This Issue

 - Source: HTTPS://WWW.DEFENSE.GOV
From The Editor

Defense Department 5G Wireless Network

It is a challenge to write an editorial comment on October 14 that will be relevant on Nov...
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FirstNet

FirstNet Launches New Sites, Advances Osterthaler to Chairman

The First Responder Network (FirstNet) Authority has launched cell sites in Easton, Conn.,...
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5G

Open RANs Appeal to Policymakers, Operators, OEMs

Today, monolithic vendors dominate as suppliers of radio access networks (RANs) that provi...
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Maintenance

Modular Design Offers the Building Blocks of Successful Rooftop Mounts

Scott Stekr has a background in structural engineering, tower modifications, mounts and st...
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Business Safety

Keep Out: How to Stop Drugs and Alcohol from Entering in the Workplace

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, drugs and alcohol remain a significant occupational safety ...
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Maintenance

Small Cell and Wireless Bracket Considerations

At the end of the 19th century, Marconi Wireless Telegraph, the German company Telefunken,...
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5G

Infrastructure Essential for 5G Wireless Communications

When it comes to 5G wireless communications, we all understand that infrastructure will be...
 - Source: HTTPS://WWW.TIRAP.ORG/
Safety

Screening, Training, Safety Shape T-Mobile’s Tower Operations

According to Heather Gastelum, T-Mobile’s senior manager whose primary role is national si...
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Edge

Market Disparities: Building a Strategy for Digital Edge Empowerment

Whether for business, interpersonal communication, education, health care, precision agric...
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5G

High-quality Mobile Connectivity for Rural America

According to a 2019 report by Pew Research Center titled “Digital Gap Between Rural and No...
 - Source: HTTPS://WWW.DEFENSE.GOV
Source: HTTPS://WWW.DEFENSE.GOV
From The Editor

Defense Department 5G Wireless Network

It is a challenge to write an editorial comment on October 14 that will be relevant on November 2, which is when the November issue of AGL Magazine is set to become available for you to see online. November 2 is the day before the national election. So many things that seem possible now may not be possible after the election, and vice versa.

Something under consideration now that may continue to be pursued whichever way the election goes is the possibility that the U.S. Department of Defense could own and operate 5G wireless communications networks for its domestic operations. In other words, the U.S. government would issue a contract for building separate 5G wireless networks, in addition to those owned and operated by commercial carriers.

The Defense Department is gathering information from possible contractors at the time of this writing, with responses due on October 19. Some of the questions the Defense Department is asking are:

How could the Defense Department own and operate 5G networks for its domestic operations? What are the potential issues with the Defense Department owning and operating independent networks for its 5G operations? Do you foresee any national security concerns or issues with the Defense Department sharing with commercial 5G?

More than two years ago, the Trump administration raised the idea of the government constructing a 5G wireless network to help the United States compete with China and protect against Chinese cyberattacks. Since then, the administration has taken a number of initiatives and set a number of policies intended to forestall perceived malign activities undertaken by the Chinese Communist Party in connection with 5G wireless communications networks. AGL Magazine covered those steps in its September and October issues and has another article about it by Undersecretary of State Keith Krach elsewhere in this issue.

With the pending reallocation of radio-frequency spectrum from military assignment to commercial use, the Defense Department has raised the subject of government owned and operated 5G wireless communications networks once again, possibly involving dynamic spectrum sharing. With dynamic spectrum sharing, a spectrum assignment retained by the government could be shared by commercial users. It seems to be sort of a partial or on-demand reallocation, instead of a wholesale reallocation.

Here’s what Eric Schmidt, the former CEO and chairman of Google and cofounder of Schmidt Futures, has to say about a Defense Department 5G wireless system. He spoke by video on September 17 at the 2020 Incompas Show.

“Where it becomes really important is in the area of autonomy,” Schmidt said. “5G allows for a synchronous and very tightly coupled communication using some new technologies. And the important point here is that you really can’t build the kind of anticipated defense systems that allow for autonomy plus essentially peer-level communications and control without advances in 5G. At the moment, all of those advances are occurring primarily in China. Not good.”

Schmidt said he served a four-year term, that ended in September, as chairman of the Defense Innovation Board. A previous secretary of defense, Ash Carter, set up the board, which Schmidt said three subsequent secretaries of defense supported. He said the board was set up to figure out how to apply Silicon Valley innovation to the Defense Department.

Schmidt dismissed using the Chinese 5G equipment made by Huawei: “Huawei you don’t want to use because — you just don’t want to use it — trust me,” he said. “At least, not at the infrastructure level. It’s important for national security that that part of our chain be under U.S. control, U.S. laws, U.S. security — that sort of thing.”

The review of technology started during the Obama administration. The Trump administration raised the notion of Defense Department 5G wireless networks to a higher level. It seems probable that the U.S. government will continue to pursue having its own 5G wireless networks for national security purposes regardless of the election outcome. What follows seems most likely to be an effort to reestablish U.S. manufacturing of critical 5G wireless communications network components at the infrastructure level, including semiconductor equipment.

Don Bishop, Executive Editor and Associate Publisher of AGL Magazine

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FirstNet

FirstNet Launches New Sites, Advances Osterthaler to Chairman

The First Responder Network (FirstNet) Authority has launched cell sites in Easton, Conn., and Stonington, Maine, to support safety communications on its nationwide, broadband public safety wireless network. The new wireless infrastructure will help to advance public safety and improve connectivity for area residents and visitors.

The purpose-built cell site in Easton is part of the FirstNet network expansion taking place in Connecticut, which is bringing increased coverage, capacity and capability to first responders across the state. The addition of the site is in line with public sentiment, as revealed in a poll taken in Fairfield County, Conn., in July.

The poll showed that in Fairfield County, 73 percent support infrastructure improvements, such as a new tower, that was dedicated to improving service for public safety and first responders, while only 6 percent said no. And 95 percent believe it is important for public safety and first responders to take advantage of high-speed wireless connectivity.

FirstNet is the nationwide, wireless communications platform dedicated to America’s first responders and public safety community. Mandated by Congress, it is designed to strengthen and modernize public safety communications, helping first responders connect to the critical information they need – every day and in every emergency. FirstNet is built with AT&T in a public-private partnership with the FirstNet Authority, an independent agency within the federal government.

This is the second new FirstNet site to be publicly announced in Connecticut following the state’s decision to advance its public safety broadband communications with FirstNet. The site is constructed using the Band 14 spectrum, as well as AT&T commercial spectrum. Band 14 is nationwide, high-quality spectrum set aside by the government specifically for FirstNet. We look at Band 14 as public safety’s VIP lane. In an emergency, this band – or lane – can be cleared and locked just for FirstNet subscribers. Band 14 has also been added to existing sites across Connecticut.

“FirstNet is a dedicated broadband platform for public safety, by public safety,” said FirstNet Authority CEO Edward Parkinson. “We worked hand-in-hand with Connecticut’s public safety community to understand their needs for the network. This cell site is a prime example of how that input and feedback is becoming reality. We look forward to supporting Easton’s first responders’ use of FirstNet to help them save lives and protect communities.”

 Robert Horowitz,
FirstNet Authority
board member
Edward Parkinson,
FirstNet Authority CEO
Tip Osterthaler,
FirstNet Authority chairman
Wilbur Ross,
U.S. secretary of commerce

In addition to further elevating public safety’s connected experience in support of their emergency response, the new site will also help improve the overall coverage experience for AT&T wireless customers in the area. Residents, visitors and businesses can take advantage of the AT&T spectrum bands, as well as Band 14 when additional capacity is available.

“Easton’s first responders deserve reliable coverage across the state to help them effectively and efficiently address incidents,” said John Emra, president of AT&T New England, a statement echoed by Owen Smith, president of AT&T Maine, about the Stonington site. “We couldn’t be more pleased to support the public safety mission and bring the state’s first responders and residents greater access to the connectivity they need,” Emra said.

Osterthaler Becomes Chairman

Meanwhile, FirstNet Authority board member Robert T. Osterthaler moved up to become chairman. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross appointed him to succeed Robert D. Horowitz, who completed a two-year term as chairman on Aug. 19. Horowitz plans to remain on the board until his term expires in August 2021.

Robert T OsterthalerRobert T. Osterthaler at FirstNet Authority board meeting.

Osterthaler is a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general and private sector CEO who was appointed to the board in 2018. He has served as chairman of the Finance Committee and as a member of the Governance and Personnel Committee.

“Tip Osterthaler has been an instrumental FirstNet Board member who will bring exceptional leadership to the organization during the next phase of FirstNet implementation,” Ross said. “FirstNet’s mission has proved even more critical during the COVID-19 pandemic, and I am confident Tip will excel in his new role as he ensures first responders have the connectivity they need to support the American people.”

Osterthaler said that now, more than ever, FirstNet is critical to U.S. safety and security as it empowers public safety agencies to carry out lifesaving missions.

Source: First Responder Network Authority.

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5G

Open RANs Appeal to Policymakers, Operators, OEMs

Today, monolithic vendors dominate as suppliers of radio access networks (RANs) that provide end-to-end networks. Because of a movement known as open RAN, however, their dominance may diminish, and more original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) may be able to serve the market.

During the session, “Opening the RAN to Opportunity,” conducted on Sept. 23 during an AGL Virtual Summit, speakers addressed the benefits of opening up the RAN to additional OEMs,. The president of Rysavy Research, Peter Rysavy, served as the session moderator.

Diane Rinaldo,
executive director,
Open RAN Policy Coalition
Morgan Kurk,
chief technology officer,
CommScope
Peter Rysavy,
president,
Rysavy Research

Diane Rinaldo, executive director of the Open RAN Policy Coalition, said that policymakers have been discussing how to create a more robust supply chain in which component parts may be interchanged. “That is very appealing,” she said “The heart of the issue is, what if we wake up one day and there is only one player in the market?” Launched in May, the Open RAN Policy Coalition, has more than 50 member companies. It promotes policies intended to advance the adoption of open and interoperable solutions in the RAN.

Various groups are working to create open RANs. The Telecom Infra Project is attempting to apply white-box testing to hardware components in the RAN so the software will run on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) servers. The Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) takes steps to maintain interoperability among handsets.

Morgan Kurk, CommScope’s chief technology officer, noted that the key to opening the RAN is to define and standardize interfaces among component parts and ensure that they are true interfaces and not pseudo-proprietary. “This monolithic architecture must be divided into small cases and enable one party to make one component and another party to make another component,” Kurk said. “Others are working within that basic framework to commoditize certain things and, in other cases, to make it easier to build them.”

The result is more competition. An open RAN allows companies to compete and add value where they could not do so before, providing opportunities for systems integrators, small equipment providers and software providers.

“If you can, imagine having one ringmaster who could allow people or not allow them into the ring,” Kurk said. “By breaking this down into small parts, you create an ecosystem that goes far beyond the current five or six RAN providers. The result will be hundreds of providers, all lending their best skills to help build the network.” Another benefit of increased competition is the probability that companies in the United States will get to play in the RAN space. Although the United States does not have a RAN manufacturer, it has respected software providers.

“With software-defined networks evolving into virtualized networks, there are major companies in the United States that would be in a prime position to help build out that aspect of the RAN,” Rinaldo said. “To be successful, we need scale, and we won’t achieve it in the United States alone.”

Open RANs also will allow an operator to customize a network to the market. “You don’t have to think only in terms of the entire system,” Rinaldo said. “If you want to change out the radios to a different OEM that is better for you, you can. The network that is being built out in New York City will look a lot different from my hometown of 5,000 in Maine.”

Where are the initial opportunities for Open RAN? First, open RANs are most likely to be deployed in greenfield situations because there would be no requirement to migrate from legacy equipment, which is expensive and time-consuming, Kurk said. Other possible candidates are smaller 2G networks and rural carriers dissatisfied with the major OEMs and willing to take the risk. Enterprises deploying private 5G networks using frequencies the Citizens Broadband Radio Service might also be candidates for open RAN.

Open RAN: It’s Happening

On Sept. 30 in Japan, a week after the AGL Virtual Conference, Rakuten rolled out an open RAN that it jointly developed with NEC. The network offers 5G wireless service to users for no additional cost. According to Rakuten, in its 5G network, excluding the core network, all 5G network functions, such as the virtualized OpenRAN, cloud and OSS, run on the Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP), a telco platform based on containers for more flexible and stable development. Rakuten Mobile’s telecommunications platform uses equipment and software from trusted partners, information from the company says.

On the same day, Japanese mobile operator NTT DoCoMo and NEC announced that they have expanded multi vendor interoperability by interconnecting a new 5G base station baseband unit (5G-CU/DU), developed by NEC and Samsung Electronics, that complies with O-RAN Alliance specifications. Moreover, it is compatible with 5G base station remote radio units (5G-RUs) of other vendors on DoCoMo’s commercial network.

Dish Network is planning a nationwide network with Nokia using Open RAN standards. India also has such a network. “Right now, it is occurring in the green space, and eventually it will move to existing networks in the brown space,” Rinaldo said.

FutureCast

The session panelists expressed confidence that open RANs are the way of the future. Rinaldo said she believes the industry is moving in this direction, and Kurk went further to say the rules will require it.

“Over time, large OEMs will become Open RAN-compliant,” Kurk said. “During the next five years, I believe it will become a requirement. By the time we get to 6G, every RAN will be open.”

In the future, COTS servers will dominate hardware, including baseband units, and OEMs will concentrate on software, according to Kurk.

“If you can make something in software, you will,” Kurk said. “A good deal of the hardware that you had in the past, goes away, except for the remote units on the towers. Many companies, including Nokia, CommScope, Ericsson, are spending more of their resources on software.”

AGL Virtual Summits are a production of AGL Media Group. The next Summit takes place on Nov. 12, 2020.

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November 2020

Site Name: Day Hill

Site Owner: Cascade Utilities

Height: 170 feet

Location: Estacada, Oregon

Year Constructed: 1997

Photography by Jeff Kastner, Photo courtesy of Day Wireless Systems

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Maintenance

Modular Design Offers the Building Blocks of Successful Rooftop Mounts

Modular mounting technology eliminates the need for an engineer to design a roof mount that is highly customized.

Scott Stekr has a background in structural engineering, tower modifications, mounts and steel product engineering. His experience includes three years with PerfectVision, where he is vice president of U.S. engineering. However, the most important part of his training may have come from playing with Lego building toys and brick sets as a kid, and he still plays with them with his son.

Scott StekrScott Stekr, vice president of U.S. engineering at PerfectVisionHe brings the modular simplicity of the Lego interlocking plastic bricks to the design of rooftop antenna mounts. Much like Lego toys, which can be assembled to resemble everything from houses, cars and ships to planes, scary creatures and more, rooftop mounts have to be infinitely flexible to integrate with the environment of each building.

“With our solution, you can pick off-the-shelf components, create a bill of materials and get those materials to the site fairly rapidly,” Stekr said. “That was another driver for this modular design. If we created a solution where you have a minimum number of parts in your inventory, you can have infinite configurations available at any given time.”

Modular mounting technology eliminates the need for an engineer to design a roof mount that is highly customized and that must be designed, fabricated and galvanized, which requires more money as well as more lead time. Physical constraints, such as vents and mechanical equipment, may force the mount to be built around them. Whether the roof is flat or sloped plays into the design. “We have run across several scenarios where the typical out-of-the-box frame was not sufficient for a variety of reasons,” Stekr said. “With modular design components, multiple sector mounts — whether it is a single-sector, three-sector triangle, three-sector rectangle or a four-sector square — can be achieved all using the same base components.”

A modular mounting system also provides options concerning how the antenna connected, including whether it is tethered, directed bolted or ballasted.

“When we looked at mounting antennas on rooftops, we figured that every building is not built the same, with variables such as wind loading, the height of the building and the structure of the roof,” Stekr said. “It culminated in our decision to create a modular solution for rooftops, which can be easily customized to meet the needs of each individual building setting.”

Rooftops are home to restrictions, such as the height of the parapet, which dictates how high an antenna has to be elevated from the roof. As the antenna extends higher, it creates a higher wind force and bending moment stress at the base of the mount.

“With a modular design, you can spread out the ballast placement to accommodate the higher antenna elevations,” Stekr said. “The ballast is designed just like Lego toy bricks, because you can connect them multiple different ways. You can stack them side by side or lengthwise, spreading it out. We want to disperse the ballast as much as we can. It allows the engineer to design a product that suits their application and also considers the footprint of their working space.”

The structural framework of the building, including the spacing of the joist and the main girders, is a big factor when the mount is to be direct bolted. “Another advantage of modularity is if you have a framing structure on the roof itself, you can customize the spacing of the connection points to match the spacing of the roof joists,” Stekr said. “You can get a highly customized solution with off-the-shelf parts.”

Line of Rooftop Antennas Launched

In February of this year, PerfectVision launched the Roofcraft roof frame system, which is not so much a rooftop antenna mount, but instead is a modular, component-based system that allows architectural and engineering (A&E) companies to design rooftop solutions using a handful of components to create tens of thousands of configurations.

Roofcraft Modular Antenna FrameThe Roofcraft modular rooftop antenna frame uses only a handful of components for customizing virtually any configuration. Source: PerfectVisionRoofcraft’s name is inspired by the video game Minecraft, in which players use digital building blocks to build a multitude of things.

The Roofcraft system uses four main components for a single-sector configuration. The building blocks for ballast consist of universal trays that allow as many as nine 4-inch x 8-inch x 16-inch solid concrete masonry units per tray, weighing as much as 300 pounds. Ballast trays can be added nearly anywhere to spread ballast as needed to meet roof requirements. The company’s patented hybrid, dual-cross vertical piece supports the horizontal base pipes. The other items required are simply pipe and dual-cross kits. Introducing a fifth component, a horizontal support rail corner bracket, connects each sector together. The system also can be designed to support multisector setups.

J. Sharpe Smith, senior editor of the AGL eDigest

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Business Safety

Keep Out: How to Stop Drugs and Alcohol from Entering in the Workplace

Drug and alcohol impairments can hinder employee judgment and motor skills. These effects can result in near misses, accidents, injuries and property damage. Accidents may injure employees, coworkers, contractors and members of the public.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, drugs and alcohol remain a significant occupational safety issue for employers across the country. The legal environment is rapidly changing for many drugs, and additional drug use, drug impairments or both have found their way into the workplace. Although the height of the opioid epidemic has receded, media reports high levels of overdoses caused by synthetic opioids (e.g., fentanyl). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overdose deaths at work from non-medical use of drugs or alcohol increased by at least 25 percent annually between 2013 and 2017. The 272 workplace overdose deaths reported in 2017 accounted for 5.3 percent of occupational injury deaths.

Marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act, meaning that its possession is unlawful under federal law. Yet on Jan. 1, 2020, Illinois became the 11th state to legalize adult use of recreational cannabis. Twenty-eight states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico permit residents to use medical marijuana, while at least 17 other states allow the use of products of certain products with lower levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. Employment-based drug testing services have reported widespread increases in positivity rates for marijuana in those states that have legalized marijuana. Additional legalizations of recreational marijuana most likely will create additional workplace impairments across the county.

Challenges Posed by Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace

Drug and alcohol impairments can hinder employee judgment and motor skills. These effects can result in near misses, accidents, injuries and property damage. Accidents may injure employees, coworkers, contractors and members of the public. In our practice, we have seen significant employee injuries where impaired employees have errantly turned a powered industrial truck, removed a guard on an operational machine, detached a personal fall arrest system while working on a platform 80 feet in the air and walked in front of a piece of heavy machinery.

Safety hazards are just the tip of the iceberg. Drug and alcohol impairments can result in poor performance, workplace mistakes, reduced output and poor morale. Employees may be more likely to engage in theft or shift workloads to other employees. Impairment increases the likelihood of sexual harassment in the workplace, in all of its forms, including sexual assault. Impairments are correlated with workplace violence incidents, including physical assaults on employees.

Employers would be wise to recognize the risks posed by drugs and alcohol to the workplace and take action to address the hazard through a comprehensive program and testing regime.

Prevalence of Drug Addiction

As you know, many Americans use drugs and alcohol in a casual, recreational setting. However, it is well understood that individuals can form physical, chemical addictions to virtually all forms of drugs, legal and illegal. After nicotine, alcoholism is the most common chemical addiction among Americans. According to the National Safety Council, approximately one in 13 working adults has an alcohol use disorder. Among working adults, nearly 2 percent were addicted to marijuana. Workers in construction and extraction experience the highest rates of substance use disorders, with 15.6 percent of employees on average living with a substance use disorder. The highest rate of prescription pain medication disorders was among people in the services sector.

Under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5), the criteria for drug addiction emphasizes continued use of the drug despite the user’s knowledge of adverse consequences. Perhaps on account of this phenomena, physical addiction is the major driver of workplace drug use and impairment. Yet one of the least understood components of workplace drug and alcohol programs is how to deal with employee addiction.

Crafting Drug and Alcohol Policies

Safety-sensitive employees are those individuals for whom a drug or alcohol impairment could significantly endanger their safety or the safety of others. Safety-sensitive employees typically perform functions like driving trucks, operating heavy equipment or mixing caustic chemicals (this list is non-exhaustive). Safety professionals recommend zero-tolerance policies for impairing drugs for those in safety-sensitive positions. Zero tolerance means that employers would not tolerate drug use or impairment at any level for those employees. Employers may lawfully implement zero-tolerance policies and prohibit possession, use, impairment or distribution in the workplace.

Zero tolerance policies will have numerous components. One of the most overlooked components of a policy is the definition of prohibited drugs. We recommend that clients proscribe controlled substances, synthetic drugs, analogs and popular non-psychoactive cannabinoids like CBD. Managers should be trained on how to spot someone impaired by drugs and alcohol. Impairment can be assessed or confirmed through drug testing.

Drug testing can also be a helpful tool in a post-incident context, to help determine the root cause of an incident.

Alleged violations of a drug and alcohol policy should be subject to comprehensive investigation. We recommend appropriate disciplinary policies, to be applied consistently across the workforce. As explained previously, safety professionals recommend that employers use zero tolerance policies to reduce the likelihood of accidents or injuries. However, zero tolerance does not mean that every employee who violates the policy must immediately be discharged. Rather, many employers may use Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and other resources to help employees with addiction issues take a break from the workplace, treat their addiction, and return to work.

Employees are valuable human capital with knowledge, experience and training. Substance abuse can be a temporary condition overcome with treatment, psychological counseling or both. Accordingly, as mental health issues have been increasingly destigmatized, many employers are using EAP as a lawful and helpful solution to addiction and substance abuse.

Disability Protections

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) specifically permits employers to ensure that the workplace is free from the illegal use of drugs and the use of alcohol. Generally speaking, the ADA does not prevent employers from prohibiting the use, impairment, possession of alcohol and drugs and paraphernalia in the workplace under federal and state law. An employer may discharge or deny employment to persons who currently engaged in the illegal use of drugs, or are under the influence of alcohol.

However, the ADA protects employees with mental and physical disabilities, including mental health disabilities, depression, alcoholism and drug addiction. Current users of illegal drugs are not protected under the ADA. Casual users of illegal drugs and alcohol are not protected under the ADA, because they are not “substantially limited” in a major life activity from drug use. The ADA creates a limited protection from discrimination for (1) employees who are recovering drug abusers and for alcoholics, (2) employees who have been successfully rehabilitated and who are no longer engaged in the illegal use of drugs or inappropriate use of legal drugs or alcohol, (3) employees who are currently participating in a rehabilitation program and are no longer engaging in the illegal use of drugs or the inappropriate use of legal drugs or alcohol, and (4) employees who are erroneously regarded as illegally using drugs or abusing alcohol.

These employees are protected from discrimination by their employer on the basis of a history of drug addiction, attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings, or similar meetings. Employers may not hold drug addicts or alcoholics to a higher standard of performance or attendance. Employers cannot subject employees to medical inquiries (unless they are job-related and consistent with business necessity), such as inquiries about a personal history of mental illness or alcoholism. However, an employer does not violate the ADA when it engages in reasonable suspicion, post-accident or return-to-duty drug testing.

The ADA creates a duty to engage in an “interactive process” with employees who raise a disability and find a “reasonable accommodation” where possible, to accommodate their disability. If a recovering drug addict is not currently illegally using drugs (or abusing legal drugs or alcohol), then he or she may be entitled to reasonable accommodation.

Reasonable accommodations may include a modified work schedule so the employee could attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings or a leave of absence so the employee could seek treatment. However, it goes without saying that there is no duty to accommodate an employee by permitting drug or alcohol impairment at work. Nor does the employer have to forgive misconduct because the misconduct resulted from alcoholism or drug addiction.

Takeaways

Drugs and alcohol create unique challenges in the work environment. In the post-COVID pandemic world with many employees working from home, it may be harder to ensure to that employees comply and do not engage in drug use or impairment while at work. To minimize liabilities, employers should develop robust drug and alcohol policies. Many employers work with outside counsel to create lawful policies and drug testing programs. If faced with drug-related accidents, employers should consider promptly contacting counsel to prepare a response and properly assert their defenses.

Mark A. Lies II is a partner, and Adam R. Young is an associate at Seyfarth Shaw, a Chicago-based law firm that provides advisory, litigation and transactional legal services to clients worldwide. Lies’ email address is at mlies@seyfarth.com. Young’s email address is ayoung@seyfarth.com.

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Maintenance

Small Cell and Wireless Bracket Considerations

The market for custom-fabricated brackets is expanding. Integrators face all different types of pole materials and designs, even within the same jurisdictions.

At the end of the 19th century, Marconi Wireless Telegraph, the German company Telefunken, United Wireless Telegraph and other smaller companies were engaged in competition to deploy ship-to-shore radio communications systems. The high-powered radios systems required massive tower structures with numerous wood poles tied together with hundreds of yards of wires acting as antennas connected to the pole with brackets and mounts. Although much has changed in the wireless communications world, much has remained the same, including the need to attach antennas to tower structures with brackets and mounts. New technology, government funding, regulations intended to accelerate wireless deployment and the meteoric rise in wireless customers’ thirst for mobile data require that wireless operators engage in a perpetual scramble to keep the customers supplied with the capacity and transmission speeds that they have come to expect. Traditional macro tower sites combined with more targeted small cell deployments will provide improved latency and provide the pinpoint capacity relief required for increased bandwidth for the fifth generation of wireless deployment. Small cells are typically attached to buildings, wooden utility poles, metal streetlights, concrete poles and even new modern composite poles. There are some typical methods of attachment and some considerations to be made when selecting the right mounts and bracketry.

In mechanical engineering terminology, a bracket is any intermediary component for fixing one part to another, usually larger support. With small cell deployments and MIMO upgrades, there will be many antennas and associated mounting fixtures required, and a wireless operator must carefully consider what type and form of brackets are required.

First and foremost is knowing what industry code is used and what is allowed by the pole owner, the local jurisdiction and the utility commission. In 49 of the 50 states, the National Electric Safety Code (NESC) has been adopted as the code for the construction and maintenance of electric and telecommunications systems. In California, the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) has a collection of regulations known as the General Order. Within the order, General Order 95 deals with overhead power and telecommunications pole attachments. Rule 94 of the order addresses wireless facilities. Knowing the correct rules and codes is critical when designing a small cell and any fiber or power attachments. These codes and regulations are intended to ensure the safety of workers and the public and enhance reliability of networks and services. The codes and rules adopted by the NESC and other agencies ensure that poles are not overloaded, systems are properly grounded and attachments are affixed to poles with the proper clearances ensuring a communications worker safety space exists and communications lines are not placed too close to power lines that could cause arcing leading to a fire or put a lineman in danger.

 A canister with small cell
radio heads
GO-95 approved,
stand-off bracket
Metal banding on a fluted,
metal streetlight
San Diego DAS/Small Cell
node with stand-off conduits

Local cities and counties may have their own, unique regulations regarding how wireless sites are deployed in the right of way, and it saves time, money and hassle when you abide by their rules as well. In some cities, the additional regulations state that all vertical communication cables (coaxial and fiber) must be on stand-off brackets and installed in conduit, 6 inches off the pole. Choosing the right brackets and mounting types should always begin with knowing the applicable codes and regulations. For small cell radio gear, the most common methods of attachment are machined through-bolts, as you would do with a wood or composite pole, and metal banding when drilling through a pole is not possible. Drilling through a wooden pole comes with structural considerations and needs proper spacing and the right angle of penetration. The NESC and GO-95 again come into play, and GO-95 goes as far as stating a stand-off bracket is required so most equipment is typically mounted to a “sled.” A sled is basically a long, metal channel, with all radio gear, power meter enclosure, disconnect switches and other gear mounted to it. It is a carrier of all gear.

For most non-wooden poles, banding is the preferred method. Stainless steel straps are used to secure the equipment brackets all around the pole and properly tensioned and fastened, using specialized tools. Banding is a great option when drilling or coring a pole may compromise its structural integrity — a serious consideration with some older poles and poles that can be brittle, such as concrete.

Antenna mounting is a bit trickier. Some utilities and agencies allow the use of pole-top extensions (PTEs) when mounting above power conductors. Due to worker safety, reliability and community aesthetic concerns, PTEs may not be allowed by the pole owner. Larger stand-off brackets are common, because with them, the distance from the pole housing the gear is optimal for RF signal propagation. When choosing a bracket for the antenna, ensure it has the requisite distance from the pole to provide clearance from other facilities and climbing space for a lineman accessing the pole. Some antenna brackets come with a host of antenna-pointing options for azimuth and antenna tilts. These give the carrier the option of making adjustments to properly optimize the site performance and hit the target coverage.

Corrosion Considerations

Although physical integrity and safety are primary considerations of the authorities, the type of metal used in small cell Brackets can affect RF system performance, thus degrading the end user experience. With the roll out of 4G LTE, passive intermodulation (PIM) interference started to hurt system performance and affect key performance indicators. As the industry started to test for PIM, we found that corroded metals, dissimilar metal junctions and reflective surfaces all contributed to overall system degradation. Choosing materials that are matched and resist corrosion, such as fully galvanized metals and powder-coated brackets really helped to reduce the incidents of PIM and preserve optimum system performance. One utility in the West required that a composite bracket that insulated the antennas from the steel tube transmission structure be used in combination with an extensive grounding grid to minimize step and touch potential problems near the base of the pole. With the shift from voice to data nearly complete on cellular networks and with PIM being a primary concern for performance on a data network, material selection is key when designing and building small cell networks. 5G will be held to the same standards, as it rolls out in the coming years.

With so many combinations of radios, antennas, passive RF gear and ancillary items like power meters and fuse blocks, the market for custom-fabricated brackets is expanding. Integrators face all different types of pole materials and designs, even within the same jurisdictions. Thus, an off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all solution rarely exists. Planning departments and public works departments are becoming more and more savvy when it comes to wireless installations. They push for aesthetically pleasing attachments, and rightfully so. There is no reason why small cells cannot follow both form and function. Custom solutions can solve challenging deployments.

Ron Bilodeau is a senior solution consultant with Osmose Utilities Services. Ron provides solutions to the utility and broadband industries on wide-ranging topics including joint use and wireless collocation programs and processes. Ron has more than 35 years of management experience in the telecom and electric space. He has an MBA from Western Governors University and a BA from the University of Las Vegas, Nevada, and is a certified project management professional. Martin Hevezi is chief technical officer for PSR Consultants. He has 20 years of experience in telecommunications, with nine years of managerial and supervisory experience in the DAS, small cell and fiber industry. Martin is a certified RF engineer and earned a certificate of professional series in wireless communications from the University of California at Berkeley. He also is a certified fiber technician and an iBwave certified engineer.

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5G

Infrastructure Essential for 5G Wireless Communications

On the surface, towers and infrastructure may not sound exciting. However, the reality is that the digital revolution is about work crews climbing towers to install antennas and build the networks of tomorrow.

When it comes to 5G wireless communications, we all understand that infrastructure will be essential. That is because 5G requires much more densified networks. For example, the United States will need to install hundreds of thousands of small cells — an exponential increase in the number of antenna locations for our current networks.

At the FCC, we have taken many actions to streamline our rules and make it easier for the infrastructure industry to build, maintain and expand America’s wireless networks.

To make it easier to install wireless infrastructure like small cells, we set a reasonable deadline for cities to rule on siting applications. We also set reasonable limits on siting fees — limits that still allow localities to cover their costs.

We also clarified the Commission’s rules for when wireless infrastructure companies want to upgrade the equipment on existing structures, such as replacing antennas on a macro tower or adding antennas to a building. These clarifications will accelerate the build out of 5G infrastructure by avoiding misunderstandings and reducing the number of disputes between local governments and wireless infrastructure builders — disputes that lead to delays and lawsuits.

We also convened a panel of outside experts from industry, state and local government, and the non-profit community. We call it the Broadband Deployment Advisory Council. A key focus of the committee was easing access to utility poles, and one of its recommendations was what became the one-touch make-ready reform — making it much quicker and cheaper to enable new attachments to poles.

Many poles already have electric utility, telephone and cable lines attached. Instead of having multiple parties sequentially preparing poles for a new attacher, as was the practice, the process can be much quicker if a single construction crew does all the make-ready work at once. Hence the “one-touch-make-ready” policy. It is now much easier for broadband providers to attach fiber to utility poles. This not only speeds up network buildout, it also opens the door to new entrants who can increase broadband competition. In addition, by promoting fiber network buildout, we are supporting the expansion of wireless intermediate networks, too.

Some local governments challenged the one-touch-make-ready rules in court, but just last month, a federal court rejected these appeals and affirmed the Commission’s policy.

We have modernized rules to make it easier for carriers to transition from maintaining yesterday’s copper networks to building tomorrow’s fiber networks. Moreover, we scrapped utility-style broadband regulation inspired by rules from the 1930s.

These reforms have helped to spur record-breaking capital investments in infrastructure essential for 5G, including fiber-optic cables and small cells. For example, in the four years before I became FCC chairman, the number of cell sites in the United States increased by fewer than 7,000. However, in my three years in this role, the United States has gained over 87,000 cell sites, with over 46,000 added last year alone.

We not only want to promote the deployment of cutting-edge networks, we also want to make sure that they are available to all. We recognize that there will always be sparsely populated, difficult-to-serve areas where there is no good business case for private companies to deploy networks. For those areas, the FCC has started public-private partnerships in which we subsidize broadband providers to connect places where the economics do not work. Our newest and biggest initiative to close the digital divide in our hardest-to-serve communities is our upcoming, $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. This initiative will connect millions of unserved homes and businesses through a two-phase reverse auction that encourages deployment of the best-performing networks for the lowest cost possible.

On the surface, towers and infrastructure may not sound exciting. However, the reality is that the digital revolution is not just about inventors tinkering in their garage or dorm room. It is about work crews climbing towers to install antennas and build the networks of tomorrow.

Ajit Pai is the chairman of the FCC. Edited for length and style, this article was derived from remarks Pai made by video on Sept. 21, 2020 at the 10th anniversary celebration of the Tower Providers and Infrastructure Association.

 - Source: HTTPS://WWW.TIRAP.ORG/
Source: HTTPS://WWW.TIRAP.ORG/
Safety

Screening, Training, Safety Shape T-Mobile’s Tower Operations

Management participation in workforce training and testing organizations boosts T-Mobile’s tower construction and operation capability.

According to Heather Gastelum, T-Mobile’s senior manager whose primary role is national site safety, the wireless carrier has spent $8 billion to acquire radio-frequency spectrum in the 600-MHz band and has launched 17,000 antenna sites in 5,000 cities to cover 200 million people with 5G wireless communications coverage.

Heather GastelumCompetent, capable, safe crews are the backbone of our success. We cannot allow ourselves to be unduly exposed to firms with a poor track record.— Heather Gastelum, senior manager for national tower safety and operations, T-MobileSpeaking during the session “Tower Services: Evolving to Meet Today’s Carrier Needs” on Jan. 30 at the AGL Local Summit in Seattle, Gastelum said that T-Mobile has a team for clearing incumbents from the spectrum and works with companies such as Portland, Oregon-based Tilson Technology Management and Gig Harbor, Washington-based Legacy Telecommunications to ensure timely site construction. She shared the stage with representatives of those two companies.

Onboarding Screening

The session moderator, Todd Schlekeway, executive director of NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association, asked Gastelum about T-Mobile’s intensive on-boarding screening processes for its contractors. “Are there any changes in store with how you onboard your vendors and contractors in 2020?” he asked.

T-Mobile’s onboarding process is intense with substantial and detailed paperwork involved, Gastelum said. The carrier uses contractor management services company Avetta to research contractors’ safety records. Included are contractors’ total recordable incident rates (TRIR), known as a safety grade for employee illnesses and accidents, and their experience modification rate (EMR), a rating or factor used to price workers’ compensation insurance premiums.

“We are realistic in how we review the EMR, taking into consideration whether it was affected by a no-fault injury, such as a rear-end car accident, that spiked the EMR number,” Gastelum said.

“Competent, capable, safe crews are the backbone of our success,” she said. “We cannot allow ourselves to be unduly exposed to firms with a poor track record, because history sometimes leads to future outcomes.”

Workforce Training

Gastelum said she is a new member of the board of directors for the Telecommunication Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP). TIRAP works with the U.S. Department of Labor to create job functions and categories for use in trade schools, community colleges and military organizations to give workers credentialed classifications they can use to build a resume to give prospective employers, she said.

T-Mobile also raises funds for Warriors4Wireless, a nonprofit organization formed to bridge the gap between the demand for trained and deployable wireless technicians and thousands of qualified servicemen and women eager to transfer skills they learned in the military. Gastelum mentioned one individual who was homeless and, through Warriors4Wireless, was able to obtain not only a job but also a career.

Warriors4Wireless has an initiative working with diverse and minority-owned businesses that may never have worked in telecommunications, Gastelum said. With T-Mobile’s focus on rural broadband coverage with its 600-MHz spectrum, she said, she noted that the majority of Warriors4Wireless veterans with whom she has spoken are from rural communities.

Trade Schools

With the collaboration of the Department of Labor, TIRAP is getting into small local trade schools and community colleges with legitimate-classified, certified programs to offer students, Gastelum said.

While with T-Mobile, Gastelum said, she has spoken to groups of school-aged girls about careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). She mentioned Ignite Worldwide, an organization that she said works with junior high and high school girls, as a focus of her efforts, “because statistically, girls lose interest in science and math in third and fourth grade because it’s not socially acceptable. What better way to maintain their interest in these fields than having them talk with women who have been successful in their careers in STEM-related industries?”

Many careers in wireless communications do not require a college degree and pay just as well as those which do, Gastelum said. “We need people who drive trucks, pour concrete and stack steel,” she said. “Guess what? You don’t have to have a college degree to operate a crane.”

Workforce Safety

Gastelum also is serving a second term as a member of the board of governors of the National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA), a national worker credentialing agency. She said NWSA includes subject matter experts from every wireless carrier, tower owners and representatives from a broad cross-section of the industry. The list includes general contractors large and small, broadcasters, utilities and government agencies, she said.

“NWSA is the department of motor vehicles (DMV) for telecom,” Gastelum said. “Applicants for NWSA credentials must pass a written and practical exam to receive an NWSA credential good for five years.” The subject matter experts, she said, ensured that the tests were just right: “Not too hard; not too easy.”

With NWSA having practical examiners in all but 10 states and hundreds of electronic testing centers for administering written exams, contractors have many opportunities to send workers for testing, Gastelum said. She said that the majority of wireless carriers and tower owners either specify NWSA credentials in contracts or are adding this requirement to their contracts.

“They see the value of ensuring competent, capable crews are doing the work on our behalf and are not exposing us to undue liability and, God forbid, not coming home at the end of the day,” Gastelum said. “Ensuring that is my key goal in the role and function I serve for T-Mobile.”

Local Regulation

Session moderator Schlekeway said T-Mobile is building cell sites to use its 600-MHz spectrum in places where previously it was not as active. He mentioned the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming, for example. He asked Gastelum to discuss the regulatory hurdles T-Mobile wants to knock down.

“There is frustration across the industry, not just for us,” Gastelum said. “We need consistent time frames and consistent fees based on real costs, especially for small cells, because jurisdictions seem to be all over the map with what they’re asking for.”

She said it is difficult for carriers to plan and manage construction when some jurisdictions set time frames at 15 days and others at 150 days. “A consistent 90-day duration as an example would be great,” she said. “Otherwise, the construction is difficult to plan, manage and budget.”

Flexibility Appreciated

Small cell construction regulation, Gastelum said, requires some flexibility because not all carriers use the same equipment. She said to require uniformity from all carriers works against T-Mobile’s ability to innovate. “For jurisdictions to assume that we can all fit our equipment into the same footprint with one option for stealthing limits our ability to serve our customers,” she said, “so providing the industry some flexibility within reason would be greatly appreciated.”

With the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, also known as drones), Gastelum said, T-Mobile can collect data to use for a number of uses; a Telecommunications Industry Association/ (TIA) inspection checklist. Although she said that drones will never replace the ability of tower hands to check whether a nut and bolt are torqued properly as just one example, however drones can perform many parts of an inspection. Gastelum said that wireless carriers are concerned about insurance and liability with drones because of their ability to photograph or map indiscriminately. “But today’s software keeps drones from looking at anything that they’re not allowed to be looking at,” she said. “That can be programmed before the flight.”

One-person Audits

T-Mobile sometimes acquired towers that didn’t come with drawings, Gastelum said, and the old way of performing structural mapping with tower climbers was expensive and used climber resources that were needed elsewhere. Now, she said, T-Mobile can perform audits and mappings with one trained pilot using high-tech imagery via a UAV. Drones boost climber safety, too. “If every crew in the field could fly a four-pound drone up to do their pre-climb safety check, they could check the top terminator before they attach their life to that safety cable system,” she said. “You can’t see the top terminator from the ground. I don’t care how much money you spent on a set of binoculars, you cannot look at the top terminator.”

It is important to have drone pilots who know what they are looking at on towers, Gastelum said. Piloting drones can then be a good job for those who used to climb towers and stopped because of age or injury because they understand the structure that they are reviewing. She contrasted that with using a drone pilot who simply decided one day to start a drone company yet doesn’t know our industry or structures at all. “They don’t know what they’re looking at,” she said. “The ideal is to have someone with a trained eye as your pilot, someone who understands the structure and what type of data the customer needs documenting.”

Don Bishop, executive editor and associate publisher of AGL Magazine

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Edge

Market Disparities: Building a Strategy for Digital Edge Empowerment

With today’s technology clearly requiring a more distributed model to the edge, attention on bridging the digital divide is growing. Solutions are being developed, but this challenge needs more work (and financial resources) to make up for lost time.

Whether for business, interpersonal communication, education, health care, precision agriculture or otherwise, technology and connectivity continue to define and redefine our world. Robust, reliable and efficient access to the internet — and to the content and resources to which it plays host — is key for maintaining a competitive edge and ensuring opportunities to thrive for local economic growth and overall quality of life. Today, however, notable inconsistencies in the distribution of digital capabilities affect businesses and individuals everywhere. As technology continues to evolve rapidly, the digital divide grows larger, wreaking havoc on industries and individuals’ ability to learn, grow and prosper across the United States.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues its onslaught, shifting the way individuals and businesses interact and pushing the world toward a more digital reality, the need for more robust and reliable communications infrastructure has been heightened. The demands on networks have grown, and the requirements for distance learning, remote workforce enablement, telehealth and beyond have all grown exponentially — meaning that those without high-speed internet access are put at a severe disadvantage. As the gap in communications infrastructure broadens between metropolitan and rural or underserved markets, it is clear that the time to bridge this rift is now. The only question that remains is how to build a strategy that can overcome this challenge and keep these locations on track for stable, continued growth — in a way that makes sense for local businesses.

Understanding the Digital Divide

Since its debut, the internet has continued to evolve, becoming an increasingly central facet of life. The Statista Research Department’s 2020 IoT Connected Devices report forecasts that by 2030, the global number of connected devices will amount to 50 billion. Those devices will be used — and are being used today — to access online banking, distance learning and remote work, to host virtual appointments with doctors, to pay bills, contact emergency services, manage agricultural crops and more. It is difficult to ignore the fundamental importance of connectivity and the key role that access to digital capabilities plays in overall success. Continued digital transformation is accelerating this dependence on technology, making equal, efficient and robust access even more important.

The pandemic heightened the reliance on digital infrastructure because of the implementation of social distancing. This motivated educational institutions to implement remote learning solutions — some for the first time in their histories — while major corporations have extended work-from-home (WFH) policies into the year 2021. These online solutions require trust that individuals can obtain access to the files and perform work tasks over public and private connections. Meanwhile, health care workers, still faced with frontline pandemic responses, are adjusting their practices to support telehealth solutions, diagnosing and treating patients from virtually anywhere. Traditional businesses from restaurants to retail have all pivoted, driving more sales online with no-touch service capabilities, ensuring the safety and welfare of everyone as we keep our economy running.

Unfortunately, while demand for online capabilities has become universal, the natural spread of underlying technology and infrastructure that supports this access has grown more skewed toward central hubs. Although the infrastructural support for metropolitan areas has come naturally because of increasing demand by a more consolidated population, it comes at a cost. That cost is that rural, underserved and lower-income communities increasingly are left behind, despite the fact that their demand is just as important to their lives as it is for those in more central business destinations.

One indication of this systemic issue is that, as of early 2019, Pew Research Center reported that 26 percent of adults living in households earning less than $30,000 a year are “smartphone-dependent” internet users. This means that they own a smartphone but do not have broadband internet at home and, as a result, they employ their smartphone for traditional online tasks. In an era of social distancing and quarantine, when 53 percent of Americans are reporting internet use as essential, being unable to access these online tasks reliably or efficiently represents a critical issue.

With the need for ubiquitous digital infrastructure, the level of latency and performance that is now required by adjacent, rural and underserved markets for streaming, mobile demands and content consumption — a level that on par with major markets — is still going largely unconsidered. To address this disparity, many markets still have their local content and applications backhauled to major market hubs. This negatively affects performance, increases costs and drives end-users’ frustrations higher.

Why is the Gap Growing?

The digital divide continues to grow because of a number of factors. To start, large cities and metropolitan areas have high population densities — they’re where the most customers are, where businesses reside and do much of their work and where most infrastructure providers assume the return on investment is the highest. This means that infrastructure providers often see diminished incentives for deploying in these areas and fear they won’t be able to justify the costs for building the necessary foundations. When the initial internet infrastructure was developed, it focused on these core regions to get the most people connected. With the U.S. population becoming increasingly dispersed, these major markets remain the most populated, but the adjacent and rural markets now have populations that rival those of the first internet-connected locations.

Nevertheless, challenges do not arise solely from factors external to the rural market; they also come from the markets themselves. In more remote and underserved areas, it is not uncommon for existing businesses to resist new market entrants. Innovation often looks like disruption, and disruption can cause fear that businesses in the area will not be able to pivot or will be outpaced by new developments. Although understanding the value of enhanced digital capability is not the issue, understanding how that innovation occurs and creating a method that works alongside existing market entities to ease any reservations is key.

In order to continue advancing the digital transformation, traditional transport solutions that rely on major markets must evolve to support a more robust and decentralized IT architecture, meeting the evolving content and application use of a highly distributed user base.

Creating a New Model

With today’s technology clearly requiring a more distributed model to the edge, attention on bridging the digital divide is growing. Solutions are being developed, but this challenge needs more work (and financial resources) to make up for lost time. Furthermore, the approach to addressing these needs in rural and underserved markets cannot be the same approach that has been taken in metropolitan locations — this is a different use case altogether that requires an individualized approach, building the right infrastructure with the right strategy to cultivate long-term growth and success.

To solve content and application latency, efficiency, cost, performance and access challenges, local content and applications need to be kept local. This means that a neutral approach to aggregating networks and driving interconnection at a single strategic location is needed. In metro-adjacent, rural or currently underserved locations especially, access to large data streams must be provisioned in a way that empowers markets through a more widespread distribution model designed to build trust while maintaining critical density for cost and performance efficiency. This model of interconnecting networks to enhance quality and performance is not new — it is just not yet happening at scale in a way that is made for the rural and remote areas where it is needed most.

These new market interconnection points require high levels of flexibility to overcome any deployment challenges — they must be able to be built in a host of different types of locations that suit what is available or what is needed in each market, remaining neutral in every way. They must be designed specifically for local compatibility, remaining free to make use of any real estate type or equipment while enabling any carrier, cloud or content provider to be empowered by reaching the most endpoints through a robust interconnection strategy. At the core of this model is cooperation. Cooperation with and between local entities when building out this infrastructure means the existing businesses and providers are supported, not disrupted, which is key for ensuring full adoption and enduring success in these areas.

Not only will these points keep content and application traffic local (and offer the associated speed, cost reliability and performance benefits), they will create a symbiotic ecosystem for local businesses that goes beyond aggregating existing providers to attract a growing amount of content and applications as the edge point progresses. If cultivated correctly, these interconnection points will only continue to attract more providers and create a host of benefits not only for themselves but also for the wider digital ecosystem, creating self-sufficient, ongoing growth that will level the digital playing field while creating a more robust foundation for the needs of today and tomorrow.

Scott Willis is president and CEO of DartPoints. As a communications industry global technology leader, he has a record of accomplishment of building successful businesses for both large and small organizations to a significant scale. He has extensive leadership experience transforming organizations, setting strategic direction, overseeing complex operations and confecting corporate alliances while delivering growth and profitability to the business.

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5G

High-quality Mobile Connectivity for Rural America

A cost-effective approach to rapid expansion of mobile broadband offers tower companies a way to offer new services to rural mobile operators: a fully managed cellular backhaul service over satellite.

According to a 2019 report by Pew Research Center titled “Digital Gap Between Rural and Nonrural America,” more than 60 percent of rural Americans surveyed say they connect at home using a broadband internet connection. Although this is a significant improvement over the last 10 years, it is clear many rural Americans are still not connecting where they live and do not even own a smartphone. For these unconnected rural Americans, it is about more than connecting to high-speed internet at home, because broadband is simply not available where they live.

State and local governments with constituents living in largely rural areas have been working to address the connectivity crisis, especially during the pandemic. However, the various initiatives, including providing mobile hotspot devices, have fallen way short of bridging the gap. These initiatives only work if quality broadband internet infrastructure is installed to rural homes and establishments. To address this problem, these government entities have been pressuring Congress to act quickly and invest in the deployment of high-speed fixed broadband infrastructure in these areas to ensure every rural home and establishment has high-quality access to the internet, regardless of the device being used.

Connectivity on mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and cellular-enabled laptops is insufficient in many of these rural areas because mobile broadband coverage is not available or spotty at best. Across the United States, 97 percent of the land area is considered rural, much of which remains without mobile broadband coverage, including roughly 11 percent of the nation’s road miles. It simply has not been economically viable for mobile operators to deploy miles of terrestrial-backhauled networks into rural unpopulated or sparsely populated areas, much of which is mountainous terrain and dense forests.

Subsidizing the installation cost of telecommunications infrastructure, whether fixed or mobile, is vital to enabling service providers to profitably build out their networks in rural America. This is especially true when relying only on terrestrial backhaul solutions, such as fiber-optic cable. According to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce and National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the cost of fiber and conduit material alone for a 10-mile installation runs on average $186,000. This does not even consider trenching or other costs.

Government initiatives are underway to subsidize both fixed and mobile network buildouts in unconnected rural areas of America. For example, the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund was approved by the FCC to allocate $20 billion during the next 10 years to broadband providers, which ensures residents in rural areas have access to quality broadband internet connections. In addition to fixed broadband funding, the FCC also approved what it dubbed the 5G Fund for Rural America, which provides $9 billion for the deployment of 5G mobile broadband in rural areas over a 10-year period (see the AGL article, “5G Fund Proposed for Remote Rural America” for more information).

However, timing is a major issue for these government initiatives aimed at closing the digital divide. The 5G Fund for Rural America auction is not slated to begin until 2021, and that plan is based on using the former Mobility Fund II map. An additional plan was proposed by the FCC that includes updating the coverage maps, further extending the auction date until 2023. Both plans were met with resistance from the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), which represents rural operators, because of concerns about timing. Both the network build-out and the auction need to happen in a timely manner to close the digital divide as soon as possible. Because it can take six months to a year or more to deploy mobile broadband networks in rural areas using terrestrial backhaul, the timing could extend to 2025 before many of these areas have access to coverage.

There is a viable solution that addresses the challenges of cost, timing and the complexity associated with connecting unconnected areas of rural America: satellite backhaul. By using high-quality satellite backhaul in place of terrestrial backhaul (or even as an interim solution), mobile operators, and even tower companies interested in new business models, can quickly and cost-effectively deploy 4G or 5G coverage in any place and for any purpose it is needed, no matter how rural or remote the area.

Although satellite backhaul alone, in the form of capacity, is suitable for larger mobile operators with dedicated satellite teams in their organizations, most rural operators do not have this luxury. For rural operators and tower companies looking for ways to offer new services to mobile operators, a fully managed cellular backhaul service over satellite is ideal. For this reason, Intelsat, the world’s largest satellite operator, recently launched a complete high-performing satellite backhaul managed service in the United States.

There are many advantages to using an end-to-end satellite managed service to backhaul cell sites in rural areas for 4G or 5G coverage. These include:

  • The ubiquitous nature of satellite for rapid deployment of mobile broadband coverage in any rural area, no matter how remote — backhaul in weeks instead of months.
  • Advances in satellite technology that provide connectivity to a network of rural cell sites in a cost-efficient manner by dynamically distributing bandwidth based on per-site traffic demand.
  • Technological advances, including forward error correction and acceleration, to ensure strict quality of service (QoS) requirements are met and fiber-like connectivity is delivered for optimal quality of experience (QoE).
  • Low-cost, very small satellite antennas that can be quickly installed, helping providers achieve cost and time efficiencies.
  • A variety of service plans and professional services that include access to a global space and terrestrial network, required satellite capacity and equipment, expert engineering services for network design and 24x7 support, last-mile connectivity solutions, and installation and maintenance.

We must connect rural America. Time is of the essence. By incorporating a complete satellite backhaul managed service, we can quickly and cost-effectively expand 4G or 5G mobile broadband coverage across rural America.

Todd Cotts is a senior principal product marketing manager for mobile network operators at Intelsat.

About Intelsat: As the foundational architects of satellite technology, Intelsat operates the world’s largest and most advanced satellite fleet and connectivity infrastructure. We apply our unparalleled expertise and global scale to connect people, businesses and communities, no matter how difficult the challenge. Intelsat is uniquely positioned to help our customers turn possibilities into reality — transformation happens when businesses, governments and communities use Intelsat’s next-generation global network and managed services to build their connected future. Imagine here, with us, at www.Intelsat.com. For more information on how Intelsat works with mobile operators and tower companies in the United States to quickly and cost-effectively build out mobile broadband infrastructure across rural America, visit www.Intelsat.com/AGL-2020.

 

Product Showcase

Brackets & Mounts

Wireless Tower Components

allG Fabrication (formerly ALT)

Carriers, owners and contractors benefit from allG Fabrication's quality wireless components (Ex. 2123* image shown) as well as grounding components and all necessary accessories. Off the shelf, or highly and minimally customized, they are designed and built to withstand the harshest environments and relentless hard use. Tower component work isn’t 4G or 5G; it’s allG. We evolve. From day one, it’s always been all God. And, to work with the people on our team and the good customers we’ve served for years, decades, generations even, it's ALL GOOD. That’s our mindset. Tower component work isn’t 4G or 5G; it’s allG. We evolve. From day one, it’s always been all God. And, to work with the people on our team and the good customers we’ve served for years, decades, generations even, it's ALL GOOD. That’s our mindset.

www.allgfab.com

Two-Hole Washer for Ground Lug to Buss Bar

Bondwasher

New from Bondwasher: 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 two 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.

www.bondwasher.com

Antenna Mounts

CommScope

Newly redesigned antenna mounts (BSAMNT-3 and BSAMNT-4) minimize areas of intermittent metal-to-metal contact between various components to improve PIM performance. These mounts are included with numerous CommScope base station antennas – another example of how CommScope assists operators with improved PIM management to provide better network performance.

www.commscope.com

The HUB™️

L70 Technologies

Ready for IoT? The HUB™️ from L70 Technologies is your cost-effective way to future-proof light poles for smart technologies while upgrading to LED lighting. It is a universal light pole mounting platform to convert your pole into a smart pole while (1) being adjustable to fit 3-inch to 6-inch round, square or hexagon poles, and (2) reducing installation times for LED fixtures, cameras, 5G, wi-fi, environmental monitors, and other smart technologies by up to 50%. See our case studies on the website for retailers, airports, and difficult installations.

www.L70Technologies.com

Guardian Antenna Lifting Device

PerfectVision

PerfectVision’s NEW Guardian Antenna Lifting Device (PV-LPP-GS-ACC6) is a Class A lifting device, designed for lifting antennas and equipment to a mount location. Included sleeves allow for installation in 2-3/8”, 2-7/8”, 3-1/2”, & 4-1/2” OD Antenna Pipes. Rather than an integrated rooster head, the design provides an attachment location for a top block, allowing riggers and qualified engineers to specify their preferred rigging components. Load charts included with this lifting device include both straight tag and trolley tag configurations. Use of this device should be considered a Class 4 lift. Contact PerfectVision to find out more on Guardian Series Products.

www.perfect-vision.com

Brackets & Mounts

Raycap

Raycap is a global leader in infrastructure for wireless and wireline networks, supplying the largest telecom operators and OEM’s with equipment and components that protect, connect, and conceal mission-critical equipment across several industries. The company offers specialized mounts, brackets, and enclosures through its Apelio product line. These equipment mounts include 4G+5G Top and Side Mount solutions suitable for either universal wood pole or custom metal poles, as well as equipment brackets that can be easily mounted to any common radio location. Raycap can handle significant major projects and high-volume manufacturing, while also making unique custom products, cost-effectively and dependably.

www.raycap.com

Adaptive Pole Top Kits (APT)

Valmont Site Pro 1

A seamless transition to 5G. Valmont Site Pro 1’s new line of Adaptive Pole Top (APT) Small Cell mounts, pole-mounted enclosures and accessories are now available. This revolutionary new line of products enables you to transform existing lighting, traffic or utility poles into 4G and 5G nodes. They are designed for use with wood, metal, concrete or composite poles. We have options available for 4G, 5G or combination 4G/5G applications. To learn more, visit SitePro1.com/APT.

www.sitepro1.com

Universal Monopole Corner Bracket

Vancomm LLC

Vancomm’s Universal Monopole Corner Bracket can be used to reinforce handrails on three-sided and four-sided monopole platforms. “This will save numerous designs and hours drilling and cutting”, says Michael Moskowitz, Vancomm’s Managing Partner. “It ultimately gives the owner, carrier, EOR, and installer one product that works across multiple applications.” The bracket is adjustable for spacing from the corner of the platform and fits pipe from 2-3/8” OD to 3-1/2” OD. Vancomm, the nation’s premier custom fabricator of antenna mounts and components. “Anything you want – Any Way You Want It. Build not destroy.”

www.vancommsteel.com
 

Company Showcase

Brackets & Mounts

Comptek Technologies

Comptek Technologies, an Aero Wireless Group company and developer of CityPole®, designs and manufactures innovative aesthetically‐pleasing 4G/5G concealment poles, shrouds, and mounts. Comptek solutions integrate smart infrastructure systems engineered to the technical and aesthetic standards of wireless operators, utility providers and municipalities.

Valmont Site Pro 1

Valmont Site Pro 1 is the premier manufacturer of wireless site components. Visit our website to learn about our new  Small Cell Adaptive Pole Top (APT) Kits. A revolutionary new line of small cell mounts, enclosures and accessories - easily transform existing lighting, traffic and utility poles into 4G/5G nodes.

Vancomm LLC

Fabricating the Future of Wireless Infrastructure

Vancomm LLC manufactures and distributes communication components including antenna mounts, site hardware, ice bridge, and accessories.

Specializing in custom fabricated steel platforms and antenna mounting systems for all types of communication structures and configurations - even the most unique and difficult sites

Wireless Supply

Wireless Supply was founded by industry veterans focused in the in‐building, DAS and Small‐cell markets. In today's market, it is imperative that the highest quality of equipment is being installed! Higher Standards. Superior Quality. 

In This Issue  
 - Source: HTTPS://WWW.DEFENSE.GOV
From The Editor

Defense Department 5G Wireless Network

It is a challenge to write an editorial comment on October 14 that will be relevant on Nov...
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FirstNet

FirstNet Launches New Sites, Advances Osterthaler to Chairman

The First Responder Network (FirstNet) Authority has launched cell sites in Easton, Conn.,...
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5G

Open RANs Appeal to Policymakers, Operators, OEMs

Today, monolithic vendors dominate as suppliers of radio access networks (RANs) that provi...
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Maintenance

Modular Design Offers the Building Blocks of Successful Rooftop Mounts

Scott Stekr has a background in structural engineering, tower modifications, mounts and st...
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Business Safety

Keep Out: How to Stop Drugs and Alcohol from Entering in the Workplace

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, drugs and alcohol remain a significant occupational safety ...
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Maintenance

Small Cell and Wireless Bracket Considerations

At the end of the 19th century, Marconi Wireless Telegraph, the German company Telefunken,...
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5G

Infrastructure Essential for 5G Wireless Communications

When it comes to 5G wireless communications, we all understand that infrastructure will be...
 - Source: HTTPS://WWW.TIRAP.ORG/
Safety

Screening, Training, Safety Shape T-Mobile’s Tower Operations

According to Heather Gastelum, T-Mobile’s senior manager whose primary role is national si...
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Edge

Market Disparities: Building a Strategy for Digital Edge Empowerment

Whether for business, interpersonal communication, education, health care, precision agric...
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5G

High-quality Mobile Connectivity for Rural America

According to a 2019 report by Pew Research Center titled “Digital Gap Between Rural and No...