-

December 2021

Scroll To Read Magazine

In This Issue

 -
From The Editor

Where Is the Money for Carriers?

Oracle Communications, a company that offers cloud-native applications and secure network ...
 -
Site Hardware

Modular Design Offers the Building Blocks of Successful Rooftop Mounts

Scott Stekr has a background in structural engineering, tower modifications, mounts and st...
 -
Horizons

5G Blueprint for the Next New York City Mayor

Looking to the future, a group of business, technology and telecommunications leaders took...
 -
Horizons

One or More Directions for 5G and Wireless Infrastructure

Andrew Van Roekel The wireless infrastructure business is ready for yet another takeoff...
 -
Small Cells Sponsored Article

RF Solutions for Small Cell Network Density: Three Steps to Miniaturization

As the demand for wireless bandwidth continues to explode, operators are adding network de...
 -
Horizons

To Win With 5G C-Band, Carriers Look to Macro Sites

Now that carriers have purchased C-band spectrum, these new frequencies will drive the bui...
 -
Horizons

Uniti Group Taps Greenfield Builds for Lease-up

High margins and recurring revenue represent the goals Uniti Group sets for its lease-up a...
 -
Horizons

Nurturing the Next Generation: Life Cycle Services and the 5G Buildout

The development of telecom networks often is seen as a continuous progression of generatio...
 -
Horizons

Will Telecom’s 5G Build-out Answer America’s Call for Meaningful Work?

Jeff Muto As many out-of-work Americans look for jobs under the shadow of an unemploymen...
 -
From The Editor

Where Is the Money for Carriers?

Oracle Communications, a company that offers cloud-native applications and secure network infrastructure products, shed light on prospects for wireless communications service providers (CSPs), such as AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. The company published a survey titled, “5G Readiness Report: CSP Perceptions on Charging and Monetization for the 5G Era.”

According to the survey, 73 percent of communications service providers intend to launch 5G wireless communications networks by 2022. Notwithstanding, the survey found, 94 percent have problems that stem from the way they charge customers for services.

As communications service providers prepare to make a profit with streaming videos, network slicing, eHealth and virtual gaming, they worry their outdated charging systems will hinder customer experience, performance and the ability to get new offerings to market quickly, according to Oracle Communications.

“Communications service providers are making significant investments in their 5G networks and need to be able to quickly and effectively monetize new services to get a return, as well as deliver on customer expectations,” said Jason Rutherford, senior vice president and general manager for applications at Oracle Communications. “The survey shows that communications service providers recognize they need to rethink current charging systems to fully capitalize on the revenue potential of 5G.”

Meanwhile, U.S.-based consumer research company JD Power surveyed phone customers in December 2020 and found that more than half said that they were unwilling to pay extra for 5G (see Figure 1).

Bar graph showing people's how much more people are willing to pay for 5G service. 53% of people said $0. 19% said $5. 16% said $10. 7% said $20. And 5% said $25 or more.Figure 1. Willingness to pay for 5G service.Source: JD Power, Dec. 21, 2020

It is one thing to figure out ways to charge customers for something. It is another matter to convince them that what they receive is worth paying for. Wireless carriers have a habit of bundling the cost of smartphones with service contracts in such a way that tells customers the smartphones are free. Maybe the wireless carriers have trained their customers to expect that whatever new features 5G wireless service will offer should be free, too, meaning that there should be no increase in their monthly bills.

You can imagine carrier planners asking themselves, “How do we charge for this?” and maybe balancing the answers between how to hide the charges so customers do not notice or how to trumpet the value of the additional service so customers are willing to, and maybe even want to, pay for 5G wireless service.

Customers worry about how to charge the batteries. Carriers worry about how to charge the customers. It’s a beautiful world.

Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher.

 -
Site Hardware

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, previous senior editor of the AGL eDigest

 -
Horizons

5G Blueprint for the Next New York City Mayor

Looking to the future, a group of business, technology and telecommunications leaders took steps to outline a road map for New York’s next mayor to bring next-generation connectivity, 5G, to all corners of New York City in what they considered a crucial step toward maintaining economic competitiveness and ensuring a full and fair post-pandemic recovery.

Transit Wireless, a telecommunications company based in New York, took a leading role in publicizing the road map with a statement the company issued in July.

“In recent years, New York City has fallen behind in the deployment of infrastructure necessary to establish a robust 5G network,” the statement reads, “which will allow an unprecedented amount of data to be transmitted by mobile devices at speeds up to 100 times faster than the current 4G standard and will impact every aspect of modern life — from health care, remote work, and education to transportation, commerce, and public safety.”

The COVID-19 crisis highlighted and exacerbated the digital divide, underscoring that all New Yorkers require robust, reliable and fast connectivity to succeed in an increasingly digital world, according to Transit Wireless.

“With millions of dollars earmarked by Washington for improved connectivity, the next mayor must maximize this unique opportunity to deliver the next-generation online access that ensures the success of city residents, organizations and businesses for years to come,” the statement reads. “According to a recent poll by Siena College Research Institute, more than half (57 percent) of New York City business leaders say that if 5G does not soon become available, the city’s reputation as a global hub of innovation, creativity and media would suffer, and one-in-five say they would consider leaving the city.”

According to Transit Wireless, the 5G blueprint recommends industry and government alignment on a comprehensive 5G-rollout plan, consolidation of all city technology policy under a single deputy mayor and collaboration with industry to expedite universal 5G service. It recommends that the city make more municipal-owned infrastructure available for small cell deployment and that it alleviates wireless congestion, approves multicarrier small cell design, and enhances rooftop antenna and equipment size.

The Promise of 5G

According to the 5G blueprint, 5G is the next generation of wireless connectivity, and a 5G network would allow an unprecedented amount of data to be transmitted to and from mobile devices at speeds as much as 100 times faster than the 4G standard, with the ability to connect 100 times the number of devices.

The Promise of 5GThe Promise of 5G

“More broadly,” the blueprint reads, “5G will play a pivotal role in all our lives. It will make the device in your hand even more effective, expand access to public health and medical services, ensure that students can effectively learn online, strengthen public safety tools for first responders and keep New York’s economy competitive.”

In recent years, New York has fallen behind other cities in deployment of 5G, threatening its competitive position in a rapidly digitizing economy, according to the blueprint. It said that expanding 5G infrastructure is critical to New York’s economic recovery from the pandemic. Effectively deploying 5G could add as many as 291,000 jobs within 10 years and add billions of dollars to the city’s gross domestic product, the blueprint said. It said the industry is committed to making this happen, but can only succeed in partnership with a supportive local government.

Issues Delaying Deployment of 5G in New York City

“Closing the digital divide and expanding connectivity for all New Yorkers requires that industry and government agencies synchronize their efforts, with a common understanding of the obstacles and a shared commitment to overcome them,” the blueprint reads. “The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated that reliable and fast online access is not a privilege, but a necessity. It is imperative that we act now to ensure residents, businesses and organizations across the five boroughs don’t get left behind.”

The blueprint said that wireless carriers are prepared to spend billions of dollars on the 5G rollout and are anxious to begin deploying 5G technology. It said that the spending and deployment require acceleration and central coordination of lengthy review and approval periods by multiple city agencies. Over the past year, according to the blueprint, the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) has promoted 5G deployment efforts and has expedited the approval process, but other agencies also need to get support this effort.

According to the blueprint, local government needs to develop a comprehensive 5G rollout plan, consolidate management of information technology (IT) functions and collaborate with industry to achieve universal 5G service quickly.

“Industry and local government need to align on a comprehensive plan to build out 5G across New York City,” the blueprint reads. “This plan must establish goals and timeframes and explain to New Yorkers what fully implemented 5G service will mean to them, their families and their businesses.”

In consolidating IT functions, the blueprint said that at present, a half-dozen city agencies are required to review and approve 5G infrastructure. It said that the mayor should empower the DoITT Commissioner to work across agencies and manage the relationships with private sector partners to efficiently roll out enhanced connectivity in New York City. According to the blueprint, the next city administration should consolidate the city’s entire technology policy under a deputy mayor charged with ensuring that New York is at the forefront of broadband and telecommunications infrastructure, information systems development and procurement, and the use of data to manage city services.

The city government should collaborate with industry to achieve universal 5G service quickly, the blueprint said, by making more pole and strategic locations available, alleviating wireless congestion in 5G small cell and rooftop networks and maximizing federal funding.

With poles and strategic locations, the city already announced a new process for carriers to reserve municipal-owned traffic infrastructure where small cells can be installed, but the quantity and quality of those locations falls short of what is needed, according to the blueprint. For example, the blueprint said, street intersections provide the most efficient and effective locations for 5G small cells, but carriers are unable to reserve street poles at intersections with traffic signals, which is where network capacity is critical.

“The city significantly limited 5G small cell construction in the jobs and economic centers of the region where there is the greatest network congestion,” the blueprint reads. “It also imposes restrictive and outdated rules for rooftop networks. Allowing the wireless industry to identify where demand is greatest will realize the greatest economic impact as the city struggles to recover from the pandemic, while ensuring equitable access to services in disadvantaged communities. In addition, the city has not approved a design for small cells that would allow more than one carrier to share a street pole, nor has it modernized its rules for rooftop wireless facilities. These approvals should be expedited, since they are necessary to accelerate the rollout of 5G. For example, carriers are unable to reserve street poles at intersections with traffic signals, which are where network capacity is most needed.”

On the subject of federal funding, the blue print said that the Biden administration is committing substantial federal funding to help states and localities meet the broadband and connectivity needs as part of COVID-19 recovery. It said the commitment represents an opportunity for the city and industry to combine resources to secure and make use of federal aid in providing equipment and services to those who are unable to afford it.

Leader Viewpoints

Ten industry, economic development and technology leaders expressed their views in connection with the 5G blueprint.

 Kathryn WyldeKathryn Wylde Clayton Banks Thomas J. Grech Melva M. Miller

Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of Partnership for New York City, said that achieving universal, high-speed digital access is a top priority for the city’s recovery and continued growth. “This can only be accomplished through a strong partnership between industry and local government — a relationship that has been launched under the de Blasio administration, but must be embraced by our next mayor.”

Clayton Banks, co-founder and CEO of Silicon Harlem, said that New York City is at a crossroads. “It is incumbent on the next mayor to take us down the road of equity, success and affordability for all,” Banks said. “That simply cannot occur without widespread access to next-generation connectivity. We must close the digital divide of today while laying the groundwork to avoid recreating the technological inequalities of tomorrow.”

Thomas J. Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said that it is well past time for the city to recognize the immediate need to improve connectivity for New York residents and businesses, particularly small businesses that are still struggling to survive in the wake of the pandemic. “New York must lay the groundwork for the citywide implementation of 5G as soon as possible,” Grech said. “In doing so, we will be looking forward, helping small businesses avoid service gaps — and all the problems that come with them — in the future.”

Melva M. Miller, CEO of Association for a Better New York, said that the past year demonstrated how deeply the people of New York are interconnected. “We can do business across neighborhoods, borders and even oceans — as long as we have the appropriate technology in place and equitable access to it,” Miller said. “This blueprint provides the foundation to enable the next mayor to fast-track the city’s recovery effort and position it for long-term economic success that benefits all New Yorkers.”

 Kathryn WyldeRandy Peers Ana Rua Andy Saldana

Randy Peers, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, said that small businesses across New York City have been hit particularly hard during COVID, yet many have managed to pivot their business model and adopt better technology to stay in business. “All these changes will be for naught, however, if our digital infrastructure continues to significantly lag behind what is needed for today’s economic realities,” Peers said. “We need 5G now, and we would urge the new administration to make this one of their key economic development priorities.”

Ana Rua, government affairs manager for New York City and state at Crown Castle International, said that the industry is anxious to collaborate with the incoming administration to deliver on the significant and widespread benefits of next-generation technology for all New Yorkers. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Rua said, “and it is mission-critical that we get it right. We stand ready to assist the next mayor in this transformational effort and have outlined a clear path forward to achieve that success.”

Andy Saldaña, executive director of NY Tech Alliance, said that to remain a global leader of innovation and industry, it is imperative that New York City’s technology infrastructure advance with the needs of its citizens and businesses. “From helping students complete their homework to a startup developing products and services,” Saldana said, “equal access to this next-gen connectivity will both impact our ability to remain at the cutting-edge and the future economic success of our city.”

 Kathryn WyldePatricia Jacobs Kristin Steiner James Whelan

Patricia Jacobs, president of AT&T’s Northern Region, said that the wireless broadband sector is ready to accelerate efforts to bring next-generation connectivity to New York City with significant capital investments. “We are proud to work with this diverse group of industry, economic development, and technology leaders to put forward a comprehensive plan to bring 5G to every corner of the five boroughs,” Jacobs said. “We hope our next mayor will support and embrace our efforts.”

Kristin Steiner, senior vice president of sales and strategic partnerships for Transit Wireless, said that the company looks forward to collaborating with the diverse group of 5G road map stakeholders to deliver industry-leading 5G technology in New York City. “Next-generation connectivity will be at the forefront as we partner to close the digital divide, ensure the City’s recovery and help facilitate its future growth,” Steiner said.

James Whelan, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, said that ensuring widespread access to next-generation connectivity would play an important role in strengthening New York City’s economy as the city continues on the path to long-term recovery. “REBNY is pleased to work with this broad coalition of stakeholders to advocate for sensible strategies focused on ending the digital divide and promoting an equitable recovery for all New Yorkers,” Whelan said.

Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher.

 -
Horizons

One or More Directions for 5G and Wireless Infrastructure

Tower technician wages, federal spending and antenna site regulation figure into the future of 5G wireless communications and infrastructure. So does the nature of 5G technology itself.

Andrew Van Roekel HeadshotAndrew Van Roekel

The wireless infrastructure business is ready for yet another takeoff with the development of 5G wireless communications. The possibilities of smart cities, with devices communicating seamlessly, autonomous vehicles and constant communication, are starting to look like today’s reality. However, a lot of network development has to happen before society can enjoy the latest technology developed because of 5G.

It seems far-fetched to think that the City of Orlando, Florida, is in the process of developing a plan to build a vertiport for flying taxis by 2025. It’s true. Orlando is a city of the future, for certain. The city’s vertiport will be the first of its kind in the United States.

With all the possibilities that 5G brings, challenges remain that smaller businesses in the wireless infrastructure contracting world must face. The challenges are real. All wireless contractors have had to deal downward price pressure and fixed matrix pricing.

Large wireless communications carriers that participated in the spectrum auctions of 2020 and 2021 stand to make record profits from 5G. They have been investing billions in anticipation. With multiple devices now communicating device-to-device instead of device-to-user, each customer will have five or more devices, always moving data. This reality only stands to place record profits in the hands of the major carriers. Dish Network, an up-and-coming carrier, is coming fast. The added competition that Dish Network represents is exactly what the carrier market needs.

It is great to see FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr touring the country, visiting wireless infrastructure contractors’ facilities and attending industry events. This type of cooperation between the public sector and the private sector is necessary to continue positive progress in deploying 5G. The United States absolutely must be the first in the world to have this technology nationwide. The tower industry is key to making that happen. Every major cell carrier now highlights the tower climber in their commercials.

Nevertheless, even in the future, macro sites still will be required. In an industry that employs tens of thousands of tower technicians, a large percentage of them have never stacked a tower before. Stacking towers has become a lost trade, and contractors that can do it well are in high demand. What’s also in high demand is more tower technicians. NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association recently completed and released a study in which it estimate more than 10,000 tower technicians are needed to keep pace with bringing the 5G networks into reality. TIRAP and community college program development is the long-term way to make the tower technician job into a career position. These apprenticeship programs bring stability to an industry that is in high demand. They guarantee adequate training through NWSA. Men and women willing to put in the work will be rewarded handsomely.

5G Technology Question

Although the workforce seems to be growing, 5G wireless communications technology itself can come into question. Which technology is going to stick? Millimeter-wave (mmWave) communications is great technology, but it has reach limitations. In rural America, it will take years, if not decades, to install a site every 5 miles or less to saturate the area with mmWave coverage. C-band communications could be better, or perhaps the better potential lies in some spectrum to that will be auctioned in the future.

Federal funding is an important consideration. Do we want the federal government to invest in communications infrastructure, just as it invests in bridges and roads? Do we want more prevailing-wage jobs for the tower technicians? If federal money is used to develop this highly needed infrastructure, then, yes, our tower technicians will see a hefty pay raise, thanks to the Davis Bacon Act.

States in the central United States and in the South should immediately revisit the ironworker wages. In some cases, these wage determinations are less than what a tower technician would make, on a typical day. Legislators in those states should be pushing for adequate wages in their states to match the difficult inflation and cost-of-living increases that have occurred since January 2021.

Federal Spending

We cannot expect Washington to throw billions of dollars of spending at wireless infrastructure and expect it to take off on its own. All state and local jurisdictions need to be on board. For that, public policy generally should favor the development of wireless infrastructure. This partiality includes limiting local jurisdictions from assessing fees or dragging out progress with extensive negotiation with network developers.

Broadband spending has been a buzz topic in Washington during the past several months. However, what money has been spent mostly is going to fiber underground, not wireless. There must be significant investment in lower-population states in wireless broadband infrastructure. It simply is not feasible to bring fiber underground to every house in mountainous areas.

Another direction wireless infrastructure is heading is to a place of more structured regulation. Let’s face it, climbing and working on towers is dangerous work. OSHA knows it. What they might not yet fully realize is that it requires a lot of training and expense to employ and to retain good tower technicians. With the best practices document A10.48 now in public view, wireless infrastructure contractors have a go-to document to raise the bar, and OSHA has a way to see that the tower industry isn’t just a bunch of cowboys wearing tree-climber belts.

With OSHA considering a proposed rule for work on communication towers, a separate OSHA standard or law would upset the work that has been put into the A10.48 document, an industry-consensus, best-practices document. A new OSHA rule would severely complicate the way our tower technicians now are trained. The NWSA has provided a great way for companies to standardize training. NWSA closely follows the A10.48 standard, as it rightly should. What if all that goes away? This would not get us to having smart cities any faster.

Power Use, Data Origination

Energy consumption should be considered, when looking at which direction 5G wireless infrastructure will take in the future. We are all looking for ways to conserve, to lessen our ecological footprint. It seems as though we may not be looking as closely at the energy needs of 5G equipment. Some studies have indicated that 5G is more efficient than 4G per data unit. Nevertheless, the number of data units to be moved is far and away more, with 5G.

At the AGL Virtual Summit in September, a panel discussion mentioned that one autonomous vehicle produces 3,000 times the data of all the users of Twitter in a single day. When thinking of data transfer of 5G and energy consumption, this relates to the muscle car era of the 1970s. Auto engineers figured out how to make cars faster, and gas consumption wasn’t a problem — until it was. Let’s not repeat that mistake with this technology. 5G network developers should consider implementing clean energy at tower sites, by using solar or wind energy, at least to put back as much power to the grid as a tower site uses. Let’s see a race to net metering, as well as the race to

Andrew Van Roekel is a sales executive with Tower Systems, a tower construction and maintenance company with locations in Watertown, South Dakota; Winter Park, Florida; and Angle Inslet, Minnesota. His email address is [email protected].

 -

Tower of the Month December

Site Name: Chehalem Mountain

Site Location: Newberg, Oregon

Manufacturer: Microflect

Site Owner: Price Towers (Day Wireless Systems)

Height: 50 feet

Year Constructed: 2009

Photography by Jeff Kastner

 -
Small Cells Sponsored Article

RF Solutions for Small Cell Network Density: Three Steps to Miniaturization

Sponsored by Times Microwave Systems

As the demand for wireless bandwidth continues to explode, operators are adding network density and spectrum efficiency to deploy innovative new 5G networks that will deliver increased peak data speeds, ultra-low latency, enhanced reliability, enormous network capacity, and increased availability. Small-cell sites are most practical for adding capacity without the costs and challenges of macro-cell site development. They are discreet and easier to deploy in densely populated areas. However, adding or expanding small-cell sites requires minimizing RF losses and passive intermodulation (PIM) effects, especially as more equipment and connections are densely packed into limited physical space.

Small-cell antennas are also shrinking in size as higher-frequency bands are used to accommodate larger bandwidth requirements, translating into more antennas in smaller spaces. These small cells are also packed much closer together than traditional, macro-telecom towers were years ago; at times, they are only 100 yards or so apart. Most 5G small-cell applications are outdoors, installed around lamp poles, rooftops, telephone poles, etc.

These new installation demands create numerous challenges. The corrugated cables used within many traditional telecom infrastructures are often heavy and stiff, with bulky interfaces optimized for ruggedness, power handling and PIM performance, and are not suitable for the tight bending required in space-constrained environments.

The key to small cell success is miniaturization—the downsizing of RF interconnect components in a flexible package—without sacrificing performance. There are three key component specifications for successful miniaturization while retaining optimal performance, including:

  1. Low-PIM coaxial cables
  2. Flexible, high-performance coaxial cables
  3. Smaller connector designs

The Importance of Low PIM

Short for passive intermodulation, PIM is a distortion that can occur in RF components or interconnects which exhibit non-linear junctions or connections. Essentially, when two or more frequencies exist on the same coaxial cable, there is a chance of a third frequency forming. Cables and connectors play a large role in PIM, which may occur because of something resistive in the interconnect, flawed junctions between different types of passive components such as the connector and cable, ferrous materials, inadequate tolerance, poor torquing, and other factors.

While PIM is an issue for almost every wireless system, it is more noticeable in cellular applications such as 5G because the frequency bands are very close to each other. PIM can create interference that limits receiver sensitivity and lowers the reliability, data rate, and capacity of the cellular system, potentially resulting in dropped calls.

What Type of Testing is Performed to Ensure Solid Performance?

Low PIM is essentially a type of quality measurement for an RF cable assembly. For testing, it is relatively standard to place two 20-watt signals on the RF interconnect to look at the third-order harmonic, typically the harmonic of the largest magnitude. Most testing requirements are looking for -153 dBc or better.

There are two types of tests. The first is a static bench test. If the proper materials and platings are used and the connectors are properly tightened, this is a relatively low bar to meet. The second test, a dynamic test, is much more difficult.

Times Microwave Systems performs 100% static and dynamic testing on all RF interconnects. Dynamic testing replicates IEC-recommended tests to ensure jumpers meet or exceed PIM standards. Each jumper is individually tested under these dynamic conditions, and test results are available 24/7 on the Times Microwave website, as well as individually barcoded on each cable for easy reference.

Flexibility and Reliability are Critical in Small-Cell Applications

As noted, today’s small-cell deployments require a lot more equipment than traditional telecom installations with a smaller internal package and physical space. These small cells are deployed in areas where people live, work and congregate, so aesthetics are also prioritized.

Therefore, coaxial cable assemblies that can accommodate a very tight bend radius are needed. However, flexibility does not often go hand-in-hand with PIM performance. Many of the best low-PIM cables available are corrugated copper rigid or semi-rigid cables; they are fragile for bending in very tight spaces, limiting their usefulness in most small-cell applications.

A low-PIM corrugated copper cable can be easily damaged if the maximum bend radius is exceeded. Once a kink in the cable occurs, it needs to be replaced. Furthermore, kinking can happen in the corrugated copper underneath the cable’s outer jacket, so the damage may not be immediately evident until the system fails, and the troubleshooting process begins— potentially creating delays, cost overruns, and more headaches.

New low-PIM cable assemblies are emerging that use a tinned, copper, flat-braid outer conductor construction to create an ultra-flexible cable. This quarter-inch, smaller-diameter cable is designed for tight places and smaller runs. It delivers the same VSWR and PIM performance in a rugged design while providing the flexibility required for tight bends and densely packed applications.

Evolving Connector Designs

The connector forms a critical part of the RF coaxial cable assembly. As cables get smaller, connectors need to do the same. As a result, the industry is moving to more miniature connectors, including the NEX 10 or 1.0-2.3 configurations. These connectors are all designed for low PIM performance and are available with a threaded coupling. Snap-on designs are emerging as well.

TMQ4™ and TMQ5™

Times Microwave TFT™ Assemblies

Times Microwave’s TFT™-5G flexible, low-PIM, plenum-rated jumper cable assemblies are well suited for the needs of small-cell applications. It uses a tinned copper, flat-braid outer conductor construction to create an ultra-flexible cable with a durable FEP outer jacket suitable for indoor and outdoor use. The TFT-5G delivers the same VSWR and PIM performance as Times Microwave Systems’ helically corrugated SPO, SPF, and SPP low-PIM designs in a more flexible and rugged cable.

The UL-listed type CMP (plenum)-rated cable is available in 401 and 402 versions. The 402 is a smaller-diameter cable designed for compact spaces and smaller runs. TFT assemblies are available in many required connector configurations and lengths. They are 100% tested for static and dynamic PIM, VSWR and insertion loss with a serial marker band that includes test data.

Small-cell cable assembly architectures must withstand weather and other elements. The TFT-401 (¼”) with WPB weather seal boots, terminated with the latest low-PIM interfaces including 4.3/10.0, NEX 10 or 2.2-5, makes a powerful workhorse, small-cell jumper cable assembly.

TMQ4™ and TMQ5™

Bundled, Multiport Cable Assemblies

The high-coverage MIMO antennas used in 5G applications also substantially increase the number of RF ports needed. Densification creates numerous challenges related to installation, torquing, proper weather sealing and more.

These concerns can be addressed by using bundled cables such as the new TMQ4™ and TMQ5™ assemblies for 5G, available from Times Microwave. These rugged solutions combine industry-standard four- and five-conductor MQ4/MQ5 connectors with Times Microwave’s high-end coaxial cables to significantly reduce the number of individual connections needed. It checks off all the boxes in terms of antenna port densification, saving a lot of labor with quick and easy fool-proof installation. The entire TMQ4/TMQ5 bundle is sealed to IP-67 specification and features excellent UV resistance, adding to the assembly’s durability for long-term performance.

The most common bundled cable constructions are built with inner cables that are ¼” and smaller. Constructions are available to address low-PIM bundled harnesses, including corrugated copper outer sheaths and ultra-flexible flat braid constructions.

Conclusion

The use of small cells is booming to create the densification needed for 5G networks. However, the sheer amount of smaller equipment needed in extremely tight spaces creates numerous challenges for the low-PIM corrugated copper cable assemblies used within many traditional telecom infrastructures. They are not suitable for making the tight bends required in space-constrained environments.

The key is to miniaturize RF interconnect components in a flexible package—without sacrificing performance— using a low-PIM, flexible, high-performance coaxial cable with one of today’s evolving, smaller connector designs.

 -
Horizons

To Win With 5G C-Band, Carriers Look to Macro Sites

Seeking an efficient rollout of C-band services, carriers are looking to locate new 5G radios within the macro cell sites they already use. C-band signal quality and reliability need to be as high as possible for 5G to meet its potential.

Now that carriers have purchased C-band spectrum, these new frequencies will drive the build-out of 5G networks. Macro sites will be the best location for C-band radios and antennas, being already sited and built. Unfortunately, this will not be nearly as easy as one may think.

C-band Now Central to 5G Deployment

Why is the C-band so exciting for the expansion of 5G services and coverage? Although it is not the part of the 5G spectrum that promises to deliver the highest data communication rates, C-band will help wireless telecommunication carriers to achieve the optimal balance between speed and geographical coverage, allowing them to offer data rates as fast as 1Gbps over distances as great as several miles — the best combination for serving densely populated metropolitan and urban areas (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. C-band fills the gap between mmWave and low FR1 5G.Figure 1. C-band fills the gap between mmWave and low FR1 5G.

This explains why Forbes magazine states that “the future of 5G in the United States (as it is in other countries) is in mid-band[1]” and why carriers have collectively spent over $80 billion to gain access to the first block of the C-band frequency spectrum (3.7-3.98GHz) which was recently auctioned off by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on behalf of the U.S. government. The first 100MHz (A-block) will become available for use late in 2021 with the remaining two blocks of 80 and 100MHz becoming available over the next two years. Having invested such large sums, carriers are now understandably eager to quickly deploy the new 5G radios and supporting infrastructure required to capitalize on their newly acquired bandwidth.

The nature of the demand for 5G services is evolving alongside the introduction of C-band frequencies. 5G is becoming the platform for a wide range of industrial and mission-critical business applications built on the internet of things (IoT) as well as real-time consumer applications such as gaming and autonomous driving. These applications are highly sensitive to any interruption in connectivity or responsiveness. It’s not all about bandwidth anymore: According to Forbes magazine, as C-band rolls out, “operators will be pressing to demonstrate they not only have the lowest latency network but provide the best network quality and jitter characteristics[2]”.

C-band signal quality and reliability need to be as high as possible for 5G to meet its potential.

Existing Macro Sites Are Excellent Candidates — With a Catch

Seeking an efficient rollout of C-band services, carriers are looking to locate new 5G radios within the macro cell sites that they use to provide existing services, such as 3G and 4G LTE. Most of these are located on towers and the rooftops of buildings that were chosen because they provide a desired level of signal coverage. Apart from being already well served by electrical and wired communications facilities, reusing them to support the rollout of C-band would also remove the inevitable costs and delays associated with applying to local government authorities for permission to locate cells at new locations.

The catch is that simply adding C-band radios to existing macro cells is not as straightforward as it may seem.

There are some obvious considerations, of course. The new radios and support equipment will take up more room and add weight to the structure. They will require more power — in fact, with their high bandwidth, 5G radios require more power than earlier generations, even though the power used per byte is much lower.

A challenging aspect concerns concealment materials used to hide radios and antennas (see Figure 1) and blend the macro site into the local architecture. With earlier generations of wireless service operating at frequencies below 1 GHz, most available concealment materials did not degrade the signals. Carriers could focus instead on matching the surrounding structure in terms of format, finish and color. C-band signals operating at GHz frequencies, on the other hand, can be affected by the commodity fiberglass panels that have been routinely used across the industry to conceal macro sites.

Photo 1. Concealed macro site designed to blend with existing building construction.Photo 1. Concealed macro site designed to blend with existing building construction.

Extensive testing by Raycap has shown that the insertion loss caused by fiberglass FRP and molded fiberglass on C-band transmissions far exceeds the 0.5dB limit (see Photo 1) that most carrier engineers consider reasonable. This is because C-band signals have smaller wavelengths that make them more susceptible to interference than sub-GHz signals. With losses as large as 2.5 dB, molded fiberglass, in particular, has significant potential to affect C-band signals and increase the likelihood of latency and jitter issues.

Figure 2. InvisiWave Figure 2. InvisiWaveFigure2. C-band signal losses caused by commonly used concealment materials.

Advanced Materials Exhibit Minimal C-band Signal Loss

Raycap turned the tests on its own Stealthskin (SSV, ESSV) range of concealment products that have been used for years by the company in macro site concealments including towers, screen walls and side-mounted boxes. Over the C-band frequency range, these materials performed extremely well, exhibiting an insertion loss of less than 0.5 dB. For a wide range of C-band retrofits, Raycap can create custom shapes, textures and can paint rigid panels based on these materials to closely match existing architectures for aesthetic purposes.

Carriers looking even farther ahead to the future deployment of mmWave 5G, which offers even higher speeds over shorter distances, may also consider Raycap’s InvisiWave material, which, during our tests, was also shown to cause only minimal signal loss for frequencies from 700 MHz to 20 GHz. Indeed, at C-band signal frequencies, the level of insertion loss that it causes is almost imperceptible (see Figure 3). InvisiWave panels can also be sized and finished to blend in with almost any surface and material.

Figure 3. Insertion Loss of Raycap's InvisiWave material.Figure 3. Insertion Loss of Raycap's InvisiWave material.

To Win the C-band Race, Partner With Experts

Wireless carriers are racing to quickly make use of their substantial investments in C-band 5G spectrum. Although retrofitting existing macro cell infrastructure is a logical approach, it is not trivial. Carriers need to look at any concealment materials used in those sites to be sure they do not cause unacceptable signal losses at C-band signal frequencies. Companies like Raycap that have considerable expertise in the design and development of materials for macro site concealment can provide guidance when retrofitting existing and designing new macro sites to take advantage of the C-band.

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/bobodonnell/2021/01/27/c-band-auction-points-to-dramatic-shift-in-5g

[2] https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2021/07/06/new-obstacles-and-opportunities-in-5g-technology-following-c-band-spectrum-auction

Apostolis Sotiriou is assistant vice president of sales at Raycap.
 -
Horizons

Uniti Group Taps Greenfield Builds for Lease-up

In building and owning communications infrastructure, Uniti Group focuses on three business segments: leasing, fiber and towers.

High margins and recurring revenue represent the goals Uniti Group sets for its lease-up and greenfield builds, according to the company’s vice president of finance and investor relations, Bill DiTullio. Lease-up is the act of finding or acquiring tenants. Greenfield construction is the process of developing a new building or structure on a piece of land never previously developed, according to online training company Plan Academy.

 Bill DiTullio, Uniti Group vice president of finance and investor relations. Anthony Klarman, managing director and global head of fixed income research at Deutsche Bank. Paul Bullington, Uniti Group senior vice president and chief financial officer.

During the past few years, Uniti Group had in progress as many as 15 or 16 greenfield builds, DiTullio said. The executive spoke about Uniti Group’s business with Anthony Klarman, managing director and global head of fixed income research at Deutsche Bank during the bank’s 29th annual Leveraged Finance Conference on Oct. 5. A real estate investment trust, Uniti Group provides wireless infrastructure in the form of optical fiber routes and telecommunications towers.

According to the company, it owns hundreds of wireless towers, rooftops or land for wireless tower builds. Among other wireless service providers that use Uniti Group’s infrastructure, mobile network operators use Uniti’s fiber to backhaul network traffic from towers and small cells.

“The margins on those on those initial anchor builds — they were for small cells and dark fiber to towers, mostly — the margins were 80 percent, on average,” DiTullio said. “We targeted initial cash yields of 5 to 7 percent.”

Leasing up Greenfield Builds

Unity Group is in the early stages of using the greenfield builds to support incremental lease-up, DiTullio said. He said the lease-up could come from adding additional wireless tenants, but most of the lease-up comes from adding on non-wireless customers, which he identified as enterprise, healthcare, government, financial institutions and schools to the federally funded ERA program.

“The lease-up comes on with margins from 70 to 90 percent, so again, 80 percent, on average, with initial yields from 5 to 7 percent,” DiTullio said. “When you layer on the lease-up, you go into cumulative yields that are in the double digits, the low- to mid-teens. If you look at the leases that we have derived over the last several years, we’ve doubled our initial yield from 7 percent to 14 to 15 percent today. That’s just Uniti Fiber,” he said, referring to the company’s fiber network that reaches more than 250,000 on-net and near-net buildings, according to company statistics.

“Then you start to add on the lease-up that we’re doing at Uniti Leasing, where we’re just primarily leasing the fiber that we have the rights to, to other parties,” DiTullio said.

Uniti Leasing makes up about two-thirds of Uniti Group’s revenue and consists mostly of Uniti Group’s master lease agreement with Windstream, according to a statement the company filed with the Securities Exchange Commission. Uniti Group was spun out of voice and data network services provider Windstream in 2015 with a substantial portion of Windstream’s network assets, and it immediately leased the entire portfolio back for Windstream’s exclusive use, the statement reads. Other leasing revenue stems from sale-leaseback transactions with other fiber holders, according to Unity Group.

“Absent that initial capital expense required to acquire that fiber, there is no incremental capex required to lease that fiber to other parties,” DiTullio said. “You’re also talking about margins that are generally 90 to 95 percent costs. When you layer on that lease-up — again, early stages there, as well — you start getting into the high teens. We’ve almost tripled our initial yield over the last five years through these lease-up initiatives. We continue to drive lease-up in our Southeast footprint, primarily Uniti Fiber, by adding tenants — non-wireless customers — as well as driving incremental lease-up.”

T-Mobile/Sprint Merger, Dish Wireless

Turning to the business that Uniti Group does with mobile network operators, Klarman asked Paul Bullington, the company’s senior vice president and chief financial officer about the effect of the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint, and the effect of network construction by newcomer Dish Wireless.

“The consolidation of Sprint and T-Mobile is an evolving thing,” Bullington said. “They’re one of our large wireless customers. There will be some consolidation and some erosion of some of that business as they consolidate.”

Uniti Group is seeing active demand from all of the wireless industry, Bullington said. He said it has been prevalent for the past few quarters, with much of it supporting network densification, deploying backhaul towers, adding new towers and deploying C-band spectrum, and some small cell activity. He said the growth in the wireless communications market helps Uniti Group fill some of that gap that otherwise might be left by business erosion caused by the consolidation of T-Mobile and Sprint.

“Dish provides a really bright spot for us,” Bullington said. “As we lose one provider in the marketplace to consolidation, we have a new one coming. There’s a large opportunity with Dish as a new fourth provider. Dish announced that Uniti is one of its preferred fiber providers. We’ve had initial orders from Dish.”

Most of Uniti Group’s revenue from Dish will come in 2022 as the company executes the orders and delivers services, which Bullington said mostly consist of backhaul-type tower services and some market-to market-type backhaul services.

Southeast Appeal

“If you’re a wireless player, and you want to turn up services quickly, then Uniti is a natural place to turn, because we have a large installed base,” Bullington said. “With towers, we have broad market coverage, especially in the Southeast, where we have a lot of our thick Uniti Fiber metro markets. The installed base of towers can enable a wireless provider to quickly cover a market without waiting months or years for greenfield fiber to be put in the ground. That makes us attractive not only to Dish, but to any wireless player looking to quickly cover an area, if it’s one of the areas that we serve.”

Bullington said that Uniti Group remains interested in greenfield builds. He said that wireless customers make great anchor tenants.

“Although we’re more focused on lease-up today than maybe we have been in the past, with some of a larger number of anchor greenfield builds that we completed mostly last year, we still have some of those that are active,” Bullington said. “We’re interested in doing more, if the numbers and the returns are there. However, I expect most of that activity to be in the Southeast.”

Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher.

 -
Horizons

Nurturing the Next Generation: Life Cycle Services and the 5G Buildout

Emphasizing a holistic, end-to-end life cycle services approach will help ensure that 4G and 5G can continue serving the world for years and further scale for future network generations.

The development of telecom networks often is seen as a continuous progression of generations, with trials and deployments of the latest generation — 5G — taking place today in hundreds of cities across the globe.

To provide 5G services on a large scale, telecom providers are both upgrading traditional cell towers and further developing new cell sites to accommodate heightened user demand and deliver on the anticipated speed benefits promised at the inception of the fifth generation. In fact, it is anticipated that the total number of deployments of small cells in North America alone will reach nearly 800,000 by 2025, 50 percent more than the number of small cells deployed in 2020.

However, with 5G not expected to become widely available until at least 2024, many customers will continue to rely on 4G technology and the cell tower infrastructure that enables it during the buildout and transition. This confluence of upgrading existing infrastructure while deploying new infrastructure to successfully build and scale up for 5G networks will require telecom operators to reassess their approaches to life cycle services. At this critical stage in the 5G deployment, implementing a holistic approach to services — including engineering, furnishing and installation (EF&I) — will help enhance safe operation, optimize asset performance, increase uptime and boost return on 5G infrastructure investments.

If You Build It, the Gs Will Come

Telecom networks have a history of building upon preceding networks’ capabilities and infrastructures. Wireless network generations initially kicked off by using analog technology for 1G. It evolved into 2G digital networks with the adoption of IP — a more popular datacom protocol — in telecom networks. When 3G and 4G were deployed in the 2000s, they used these preexisting technologies to broadcast signals over wide radii, allowing each generation to increase data speeds incrementally from 64 kbps (2G) to 8 mbps (3G) to 50 mbps (4G).

Similarly, early deployments of 5G also are using existing 4G network infrastructures, building software-upgradable versions of their cell tower equipment that can be transitioned easily from 4G LTE to 5G non-standalone (NSA) infrastructures at first. Under the 5G NSA model, 5G radio networks will reduce latency and support 4G infrastructures already in place, allowing operators to transition seamlessly into 5G SA (standalone) infrastructures.

5G, however, is unlike any telecom network generation before it — 5G’s low latency, faster speeds and extended capacity are made possible because it operates on higher frequency bands compared with previous generations. The shorter wavelength it uses means 5G can transmit more information in less time, but in much shorter ranges and without the ability to penetrate through infrastructure, such as buildings. As a result, a significant buildout of small cells and beamforming repeaters — installed virtually everywhere — is necessary to deliver a reliable 5G signal at the ultrafast speeds this next generation promises.

Although small cell deployment is well underway, the transition from 4G to 5G will be incremental. Because predictions have been made that 4G LTE will coexist with the 5G core for at least the next 10 years, not only will customers continue to rely on existing 4G networks for the foreseeable future, but small cells also are poised to rely on that technology.

Getting Your Money’s Worth

Ensuring that both existing and newly deployed cell sites will stand the test of time and provide maximum value depends on investments made today into the infrastructures and service protocols that will enable the future of 5G.

For existing macro cell sites, such an approach will involve prioritizing regular servicing and updates so that they can be reused for telecom generations to come. Operators can take the initial steps by scheduling regular inspections and structural assessments, such as comprehensive reviews of system evaluations and alarm histories per original equipment manager (OEM) recommendations. From there, operators can implement infrastructure upgrades, including OEM-recommended firmware upgrades, as well as inspections and preventive maintenance on all critical components to help boost performance and maximize infrastructure lifespans.

For new small cell sites, a holistic, end-to-end life cycle services approach can be implemented even before the site is developed. During the pre-development phase, detailed site audits can provide operators with a complete roadmap of deployment recommendations. From there, completing periodic maintenance during installation, provisioning, network integration, testing and commissioning can extend the infrastructure’s lifespan, helping to ensuring service delivery never is interrupted, from pre-launch to launch to commercial operation.

Because 5G infrastructure equipment consumes much more power than 4G infrastructure equipment does, discernible maintenance status, ongoing technical support, regular repairs and a well-trained team of field engineers will be essential to assist operators as they deploy and maintain their 5G infrastructures.

Let Technology Do Your Work for You

Properly addressing 5G infrastructure needs with life cycle services goes beyond extending the infrastructure’s life to fueling the future of the G’s as a whole. By streamlining and simplifying life cycle services, operators can reduce deployment complexity and help improve productivity for network generations to come.

Telecom operators do not have to assume the entire life cycle services lift by themselves, however. Integrating automation and digitization can help make 5G infrastructure smarter to allow operators to generate, collect and analyze valuable operational data related to their infrastructure. Site monitoring controllers and smart power technologies, for example, can send site information directly back to the network operating center with minimal-to-no human intervention. This, in turn, will allow operators to enable prescriptive inferences for preventive maintenance, automating manual tasks associated with daily 4G operations so they can focus on deploying 5G faster.

Today’s technological innovation is transforming how humans communicate and stay connected, making this an interesting time for telecom providers across the globe. After all, operators must continue improving operations for the 4G technology of our past and present, while also investing in the 5G infrastructure of our future. Emphasizing a holistic, end-to-end life cycle services approach will help ensure that 4G and 5G can continue serving the world for years and further scale for future network generations.

Raj Radjassamy is the 5G and wireless segment leader for ABB Power Conversion.

 -
Horizons

Will Telecom’s 5G Build-out Answer America’s Call for Meaningful Work?

Workers have an opportunity to contribute their talents to the 5G rollout. Building the next generation of connectivity promises to close the divide between rural and urban communities, reshaping many of the ways Americans live, work and play.

 Jeff Muto

As many out-of-work Americans look for jobs under the shadow of an unemployment rate that was still a high 5.9 percent in August, far more are in the market for a change. As many as 95 percent of working Americans are considering moving on to a new job or new industry, according to a Monster.com report released this summer, in a trend that news organizations dubbed as the Great Resignation.

At the same time, the telecommunications industry is poised for a massive round of job creation to build fifth-generation (5G) broadband wireless infrastructure nationwide. The coincidence of these trends could set the stage for a match made in heaven, or at least high above ground level. However, for telecom employers, contractor firms and the thousands of skilled workers they will need to make the 5G rollout succeed, the devil will be in the details of recruiting, training, credentialling and managing new labor for the challenge ahead.

To better understand how the industry can tap this national resource of workers who are ready to chart a new course, it helps to understand how many employed adults grew dissatisfied with their employment during the pandemic and what they seek in the way of career development. We can then examine requirements for positions opening up for telecommunications professionals in 5G. Meanwhile, we can better understand how leading organizations are ensuring new recruits get the training and opportunities they need to perform their new jobs while maintaining jobsite safety, efficiency and productivity.

Unhappily Employed

The pandemic experience has brought many people to reevaluate their priorities and life choices, including work. Labor experts have attributed growing job dissatisfaction to several factors related to the pandemic, including, for many workers, burnout from screen fatigue while working remotely. Having experienced the autonomy and flexibility that can come with remote work, many are loathe to give up those privileges by returning to the workplace. In addition, having also enjoyed more time and contact with family and other non-work aspects of their lives, Americans are more intent on pursuing happiness through meaningful activities, including how they choose to earn a living.

Feelings of frustration with current employment positions held are common. In its July survey, Monster.com found that 86 percent of respondents felt their careers had stalled during the pandemic, while 79 percent felt a need to push their careers as the pandemic ends. Whether they felt prepared to make that change was a different matter, however, with more than half of respondents expressing fear that they lacked the skills to succeed in the new normal.

The 5G Opportunity

Seekers of meaningful work, and young workers in particular, have an opportunity to change the world by contributing their talents to the 5G rollout. Building the next generation of connectivity is a momentous undertaking that promises to close the divide between rural and urban communities, reshaping many of the ways Americans live, work and play. 

Building and servicing 5G towers and equipment offers a welcome contrast to the screen fatigue that has tired so many students and remote workers. The industry's skilled technicians play a material role in establishing and maintaining the nation's prowess as a technology leader, even as they develop their own careers in a vital industry.

Moreover, it is a field of opportunity. The telecom industry will need to hire as many as 20,000 skilled workers to complete the 5G rollout, according to the FCC. Growing this new labor force calls for individuals who can think on their feet or suspended from a harness hundreds of feet in the air. If handling heights is not in their innate skill set, there are still places and opportunities in 5G, which require the installation of radio equipment and antennas on streetlights and traffic signals to blanket areas with coverage. There is a need for equipment specifiers, infrastructure designers and technicians trained in distributed antenna systems and fiber.

A 5G Challenge: Training and Credentialling

Although the pool of available and employed-but-swayable labor may be sufficient to fill the telecom industry's hiring needs, most new hires will need to be trained before they can safely and effectively go to work in their new career path. Before they can be equipped and deployed, they must demonstrate their knowledge and prove their skills in practical field testing and earning necessary accreditation – including National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA) professional trade certification.

Several organizations are already developing and adapting training programs to prepare the next generation of technology workers, from the FCC, NWSA and private industry to NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association. The latter is developing a 10-week, turnkey curriculum to train tower technicians.

The NATE tower technician program will give community colleges and technical schools the course content to offer their own training. The system, which is part of NATE's workforce development strategic initiative, will include certifications embedded in the training. That means graduates will be ready to take the NWSA test and, having earned NWSA credentials, can enter employment as a professional tower technician.

NATE is working with community colleges and technology institutes around the country to deliver its in-person telecom training. This will enable many workers to upskill or prepare for a telecommunications career, even if they currently work outside the industry.

The ability to verify a worker's credentials will be crucial in the 5G rollout. The telecom industry relies largely on contractor firms that in turn hire and employ skilled workers from their local area. Teams of technicians and individuals within a team may shift from worksite to worksite daily. Workers may leave one contractor to work for another. Add in a continual influx of new hires, and managers have almost no way of knowing the skillsets and experience of the workers on their jobsite, unless they use credential tracking technology.

Credential-tracking software enables a worker to prove their qualifications for a given job or procedure, such as operating specialized equipment. Sometimes called worker passports, some systems assign and track credentials for tens of thousands of workers worldwide. When an employee changes jobs or moves to a new area, they take their digital credentials with them.

America's 5G network will revolutionize communications, bringing digital whiteboards, 3D projection and other data-intensive technologies into the realm of practical tools for day-to-day business. Building the infrastructure to deliver this next-generation broadband to users throughout the country is akin to the construction of the interstate highway system, or of bridges and other public works projects by the Greatest Generation following World War II.

If the telecom industry can convey this similarity to Americans seeking meaningful work, it will be well on the way to solving its labor challenges. Then it is up to those employers and their allies in education to prepare candidates and track their credentials for careers in the design, construction, operation and maintenance of 5G systems.

Jeff Muto is chief marketing and strategy officer at Veriforce. Visit www.veriforce.com.

 

Product Showcase

Bracket, Mounts, Cables, & Connector

PIM ShieldTM Multi-Function Mounting System

ConcealFab

ConcealFab’s PIM ShieldTM Multi-Function Mounting System provides a low cost, low PIM method to secure cables to round or angle members at cell sites. These unique, patent pending designs include molded-in features for secure attachment to pipes or angle member flanges, eliminating the need for multiple parts. Multi-Function mounts are available for snap-in cable hangers, 3/8-inch threaded rod and a combination mount able to support both snap-ins and threaded rod in a single mount.

concealfab.com

Site Hardware Suite

PerfectVision

PerfectVision is the industry-leading manufacturer and distributor of wireless site components supplying carriers, users, and contractors. We carry over 10,000 products including steel antenna mounts, structural upgrades, cable accessories, category cables, customizable fiber and cable applications, RF jumpers, and so much more. Same-day shipping is available from our 6 warehouses nationwide along with customer pickup.

www.perfect-vision.com

Radio Mounts, Brackets and Accessories

Raycap

Raycap is a global leader in infrastructure for wireless and wireline networks, supplying the largest telecom operators and OEMs with equipment and components that protect, connect and conceal mission-critical equipment. The company offers quality equipment mounts and brackets specially engineered for the wireless infrastructure markets and designed to last. Our in-house design and manufacturing facilities on the East and West coasts have the capacity to produce and deliver product quickly and on-time. 4G / 4G+5G antenna/radio mount and shroud solutions are available for metal or wood poles and can accommodate all radio types and other active equipment. Many customizations are available.

www.raycap.com
 

Company Showcase

Bracket, Mounts, Cables, & Connector

Raycap

Raycap is a leader in wireless infrastructure, supplying the largest telecom operators with systems that protect, connect and conceal mission-critical equipment. The company offers specialized hardware including mounts, brackets and enclosures including 4G+5G top and side mount shrouds suitable for any pole type, and brackets to support any radio equipment.

Western Utility Telecom

Western Utility Telecom, Inc. is an AISC certified fabricator that offers a wide range of solutions to allow utility and cellular carriers to combine power transmission and telecommunication applications. Located in Salem, Oregon, Western Utility Telecom, Inc. is a leader in quality engineered steel structures and Small Cell/DAS applications ranging from in-house design to strict build-to-print solutions.

In This Issue  
 -
From The Editor

Where Is the Money for Carriers?

Oracle Communications, a company that offers cloud-native applications and secure network ...
 -
Site Hardware

Modular Design Offers the Building Blocks of Successful Rooftop Mounts

Scott Stekr has a background in structural engineering, tower modifications, mounts and st...
 -
Horizons

5G Blueprint for the Next New York City Mayor

Looking to the future, a group of business, technology and telecommunications leaders took...
 -
Horizons

One or More Directions for 5G and Wireless Infrastructure

Andrew Van Roekel The wireless infrastructure business is ready for yet another takeoff...
 -
Small Cells Sponsored Article

RF Solutions for Small Cell Network Density: Three Steps to Miniaturization

As the demand for wireless bandwidth continues to explode, operators are adding network de...
 -
Horizons

To Win With 5G C-Band, Carriers Look to Macro Sites

Now that carriers have purchased C-band spectrum, these new frequencies will drive the bui...
 -
Horizons

Uniti Group Taps Greenfield Builds for Lease-up

High margins and recurring revenue represent the goals Uniti Group sets for its lease-up a...
 -
Horizons

Nurturing the Next Generation: Life Cycle Services and the 5G Buildout

The development of telecom networks often is seen as a continuous progression of generatio...
 -
Horizons

Will Telecom’s 5G Build-out Answer America’s Call for Meaningful Work?

Jeff Muto As many out-of-work Americans look for jobs under the shadow of an unemploymen...