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March 2021

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In This Issue

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From The Editor

Cell Towers on the Moon

Um. Wait a minute. According to Trent Martin, vice president of space services at Intuitiv...
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AGL Virtual Summit

A Tower Company View of Mergers and Acquisitions: Paige

At the February AGL Virtual Summit, Bob Paige, senior vice president of mergers and acquis...
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AGL Virtual Summit

An Investor View of Tower Company Mergers and Acquisitions: Apostolides

An investment partner at Melody Investment Advisors, John Apostolides, characterized 2020 ...
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In-building Technology

A Massive Market Opportunity: Expanding Cellular Coverage Inside Middleprise Buildings with Fiber

Large system integrators have historically focused on contracts to install large-scale dis...
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5G

5G Will Make Little Difference to Long-Term Trends

“Wireless Network Data Traffic: Worldwide Trends and Forecasts 2020–2025” is Analysys Maso...
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Modernizing the Internet

Pioneering Open Access Broadband

The American Customer Satisfaction Index has been collecting data on the happiness of cons...
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Antennas

Reducing Multipath Interference with Multi-polarized Technology

The world runs on the backbone of wireless communications. Every consumer, government, bus...
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Business

Prospects for Tower Lease-up, Fiber Deals Improve

Tower company executive Alex Gellman said he expects T-Mobile US and Dish Network to predo...
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5G Future

Ericsson Estimates $31 Trillion 5G Consumer Market by 2030

The 5G consumer market could be worth $31 trillion by 2030 globally, according to the “Har...
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Internet

2020 Network Traffic, Internet Consumption Trends

Manish Gulyani, general manager and head of Nokia Deepfield Nokia Deepfield’s Netwo...
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Employment

NATE Survey: Tower Industry Plans 12,000 Hires

Gemma Frock, Ph.D The communications contractor industry is set to hire at least 12,000 ad...
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From The Editor

Cell Towers on the Moon

Putting cell towers on the Moon. That’s crazy talk.

Um. Wait a minute. According to Trent Martin, vice president of space services at Intuitive Machines, if you were to build a base on the Moon and you wanted to use towers, you could have relay towers for communicating with an astronaut or robotic piece of equipment driving away from the base and talking back to a tower, then back to the main base, and then back to Earth.

NASA has awarded Nokia $17 million to provide a 4G LTE cell system on the Moon. Figure 1 shows an artist’s rendering of a Moon robot rover communicating with a lunar landing module using Nokia Bell Lab’s self-configuring cellular network. According to Nokia, The first un-crewed mission, targeted for late 2022, will validate its technology by integrating and deploying standalone 4G LTE technology on an Intuitive Machines Nova-C lander. The first mission will confirm the readiness of cellular technologies as the communication standard for future space missions and pave the way to a sustainable human presence on the Moon by the end of the decade.

An artist’s rendition of a robotic rover communicating with a lunar lander using Nokia 4G LTE self-configuring cell system technology.Figure 1. An artist’s rendition of a robotic rover communicating with a lunar lander using Nokia 4G LTE self-configuring cell system technology. Courtesy of Nokia Bell Labs and Intuitive Machines

President John F. Kennedy set the U.S. government on a path to the Moon in his State of the Union speech in 1961, when he said, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

Communications development played a role, with Echo I, the first communications satellite that also probably was the first inflatable used in space, followed by Telstar, which helped TV network video span the Atlantic. The need for improved Moon video is one of the reasons NASA selected Nokia’s cell system. As Thierry Klein, the lab leader for enterprise and industrial automation at Nokia Bell Labs, explained, “They have greater needs for video; they have greater needs for robotic control; they have more sensors, more devices, more things that get connected in the networks. Also, the demands from the applications are just greater.”

What appeals to NASA the most, Klein said, are the improved throughput and improved latency provided by Nokia’s 4G LTE cell system. He said NASA could benefit from the investment already made in by the telecom industry as hardened for use in space.

When it comes to video, previous Moon-mission video was inspirational, but it lacked the high resolution of modern-day video. Compare Photo 1, which shows a frame from video taken during the Apollo 16 mission in 1972, with Photo 2, which shows an image captured at the same by a still camera. Video carried by 4G LTE can deliver clarity along the lines of the 1972 photography that the older video technology could not.

Astronauts John Young (left) and Charlie Duke, photographed with low-resolution videoPhoto 1. Astronauts John Young (left) and Charlie Duke, photographed with low-resolution video. Courtesy of NASA

Astronaut John Young, photographed by Astronaut Charlie Duke with a still camera capable of high resolution.Photo 2. Astronaut John Young, photographed by Astronaut Charlie Duke with a still camera capable of high resolution. Courtesy of NASA

Martin explained that the systems typically used in aerospace have a very low amount of data that can be sent back and forth between spacecraft and the Earth or spacecraft and other spacecraft. He said LTE offers a different technology that did not exist in the aerospace marketplace. The test of LTE equipment allows the planned 2022 Moon mission to achieve a much higher bandwidth of data, he said. LTE provides a way to create a network on the Moon, and to use the same kinds of technologies in space between satellites — satellite-to-satellite communications, Martin remarked.

“The mission in 2022 includes a science experiment in which NASA will drill down into the surface of the Moon to look for water ice,” Martin said. “An instrument will measure what comes out of the drill cuttings.”

In addition, Martin said, Intuitive Machines will fly what it calls the hopper, which is a small spacecraft that lifts off the lunar lander and then lands inside of a crater, looking for water ice.

On the same mission, Intuitive Machines will use a robotic rover and will control it via the LTE cellular network. “We want to prove that the rover can drive away and be constantly calling back to the lander,” Martin said. “We have to drive far away, talk back to the lander, and then we can communicate back to the Earth from the lander. The intent of the rover system is to give the LTE some mobility and to get farther away from the lander than simply talking right on the lander itself. That really wouldn’t test what needs to be tested.”

Robotic rover testing of the LTE cell system won’t be the same as the old days of astronauts riding in the lunar rover from the Apollo missions.

So, does $17 million sound like a lot of money for a Nokia 4G LTE cellular communications system on the Moon? President Kennedy once commented about the cost of space exploration: “I think that we must pay what needs to be paid,” he said. “I don’t think we ought to waste any money, but we ought to do the job.”

Doing the job now means robotic exploration of the Moon by 2022, the use of a cell system on the Moon, and, who knows? One day, cell towers on the Moon.

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AGL Virtual Summit

A Tower Company View of Mergers and Acquisitions: Paige

An executive with the owner of the fourth-largest portfolio of U.S. towers said the level of M&A activity in 2020 surprised him, and he expects 2020 prices to continue unchanged in 2021 as the tower business faces what he calls headwinds.

At the February AGL Virtual Summit, Bob Paige, senior vice president of mergers and acquisitions at Vertical Bridge, said there was a big difference in how last year played out for acquiring telecommunications towers compared with what he expected when the year began.

“When we started 2020, there was no meaningful deal flow in the pipeline,” Paige said. “I would have told you 2020 would be an absolute bust, from a mergers and acquisition (M&A) perspective in the tower world. And yet, in the six years that I have been directly in tower M&A, this has been by far the most active year, with a lot of deals at all levels of the spectrum.”

Paige cited deals with InSite Wireless Group ($3.5 billion), Cumulus Media ($208 million), Uniti Group ($220 million), CTI Towers and, last but not least, Eco-Site, which Vertical Bridge itself acquired. “It was just an incredible year,” Paige said. “It was frothy, too. The pricing was very full. There was not a single transaction where I would say people got a discount.”

The Vertical Bridge executive said that long-term, owning telecommunications towers is a great business. In the short term, he said, there are some significant headwinds, referring to T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint, and Dish Network starting its wireless system deployment. As for Dish, Paige said the company would not be focusing on anything but large markets early on in its deployment, because of requirements imposed upon the company by its FCC license.

Referring to Title II of the Communications Act, which underpins the FCC’s authority to regulate pole attachment rights and network interconnection, Paige said some regulation under Title II is coming back after the executive branch and the FCC shifted from Republican to Democratic Party control.

“What we saw the last time when Title II was implemented, when net neutrality was implemented, carriers like AT&T significantly trimmed their U.S. capital expense (capex) spending, and instead deployed capex in other parts of the world,” Paige said. “Those headwinds are likely to cause some people to consider whether they should exit now, or whether they have the staying power to wait for the next wave,” he said, referring to owners who may be considering whether to sell their towers. “We know that there will be a next wave. There will be a 5G spend. T-Mobile will go full throttle on all of the spectrum it has. The C-band will get deployed.”

C-band Spectrum

Wireless service providers are spending more than $80 billion dollars on C-band radio-frequency (RF) spectrum, Paige said. He said he expects that drain on carrier capital probably will slow construction spending for some in the short run. He said that ultimately, those who bought spectrum would deploy antenna sites to use the spectrum, which means capex spending. However, the spending may be two, three or four years from now, and he questioned whether tower owners who may need to sell assets have the staying power to retain their properties until prices may rise with the increased demand that accompanies ramped-up network deployment.

Cable TV companies have considered expanding into the wireless service provider business. In particular, Paige spoke of Comcast. He said the company might not be likely to create or buy a national carrier, because the cable companies have not done well, so far, when they tried. “All the cable guys have tried,” he said. “They have all played in the space over the last 20 years, starting with the PCS auction back in ’96. Every major cable company has played. Every one has taken their losses and moved on. I think it is tough for them.”

Nevertheless, Paige said he believes the cable TV companies will make some kind of wireless investment within the geographic areas they already serve because it is cheaper, sometimes, to get to the last mile with wireless than with cable.

Paige gave his forecast about prices to be paid by those purchasing towers this year. Those who acquire towers pay what is called a multiple, which is a figure representing a multiple of a tower’s annual cash flow. Talking about multiples is a way of talking about prices paid for towers.

“You will see the same level of pricing in 2021 that you did in 2020,” Paige said. “There were a number of public transactions in 2020 and a number of marks. You can look at the differences in some of those multiples and look at why they were different, whether it was broadcast towers or whether it was wireless attachments on utilities or whether it was a premier tower company. That is how all those had different multiples. Those multiples will continue to be consistent in 2021 — no changes.”

Network Spend Limits Tower Lease-up

Regarding the effect of the 5G wireless communications network rollouts on the value of towers, Paige said he finds it difficult to believe that carriers will spend $200 billion to $500 billion to build networks in a robust manner if their average revenue per user (ARPU) stays the same as it was with the previous networks.

“If there is no a business case that increases their revenue, they are going to slow-roll their 5G deployment,” Paige said. “It does not change the dynamics for infrastructure at all. The carriers will deploy capital for 5G as the business cases merit incremental revenue.”

Speaking of acquisitions, Paige said an added benefit of acquiring an entire company is the advantage of bringing the other company’s management team on board, as Vertical Bridge did when it acquired Eco-Site in November 2020. The acquisition of the ninth-largest owner of towers in the United States by the fourth largest brought Vertical Bridge’s tower ownership up to 20,000 U.S. towers, compared with 40,000 each for American Tower and Crown Castle, and 17,000 for SBA Communications.

The acquisition brought to Vertical Bridge the Eco-Site cofounders Dale Carey, Bob Glosson and Rich Stern, “seasoned professionals who supplement our existing team,” Paige said. “We had reached the point with the size that we are, without having increased our management team for five years, to where there were things we were missing, that we just didn’t have time to focus on. Bringing Dale on in a strategic role, bringing Rich on with some of the alternative assets involved, and having Bob involved on his piece of the business is a huge win for us.”

Paige spoke at the session, “Mergers & Acquisitions Redefine Wireless Infrastructure Industry,” for which Clayton Funk, a managing director at Houlihan Lokey, served as moderator. J. Sharpe Smith, senior editor of the AGL eDigest email newsletter, programmed the AGL Virtual Summit, and Kari Willis hosted it.

Sponsors made it possible for participants to register free. The Total Tech Sponsors were Raycap, SitePro 1 and Vertical Bridge. The Sponsors were Voltserver, NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association and the Wireless Infrastructure Association.

The next AGL Virtual Summit has been scheduled for April 8. For a speaking opportunity, contact Sharpe Smith at [email protected]. For a sponsorship opportunity, contact Deborah Plank at [email protected] (Western region) or Dean Bertram at [email protected] (Eastern region).

Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher of AGL Magazine.

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AGL Virtual Summit

An Investor View of Tower Company Mergers and Acquisitions: Apostolides

This year, domestic tower business activity may favor build-to-suit, collocation and amendments more than mergers and acquisitions. However, some owners may find motivation to sell during a period of slow lease-up.

An investment partner at Melody Investment Advisors, John Apostolides, characterized 2020 with respect to mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the tower business, when he spoke to an audience during the February AGL Virtual Summit. He said 2020 was a robust year in comparison with several previous years, and he said 2021 has started the same way.

Along with transactions for large portfolios of towers, he said Melody Investment Advisors saw many deals for 10, 25 and 50 towers at a time for rich multiples. Those who acquire towers pay what is called a multiple. It is a figure representing a multiple of a tower’s annual cash flow. Talking about multiples is a way of talking about prices paid for towers. The deals of which Apostolides spoke have been highly competitive, he said, whether in the United States or elsewhere. Some were in Canada, which he said is rare.

Speaking of the large transactions, Apostolides mentioned three.

SBA Communications paid PG&E, the electric utility, $973 million for PG&E’s license agreements with wireless communications providers to attach their equipment to the utility’s electric transmission towers and other structures. Already, wireless communications providers use some 700 PG&E towers and structures in this way.

Telefonica’s Telxius Telecom subsidiary signed an agreement in January to sell its European and Latin American towers business units to American Tower for $9.4 billion — 31,000 communications sites in Germany, Spain, Brazil, Chile, Peru and Argentina. American Tower said it expects to spend another $500 million to construct a committed pipeline of 3,300 new sites in Germany and Brazil through 2025.

In early February, Cellnex Telecom said it would acquire more than 10,000 French telecommunications towers from Altice Europe for $6.3 billion.

“You add that all up, and it’s already $16 billion in deals in January alone,” Apostolides said. “It’s actually been pretty robust, already.”

New Investments

Domestic mergers and acquisitions probably will not continue unabated in 2021, he said, because companies do not have many large U.S. tower portfolios that could be combined. He said some of them are relatively new investments. Melody Investment Advisors has some of its own relatively new investments in the tower business.

“We recently invested in Uniti Towers, which is now Harmoni Towers, and CTI Towers, in June and October 2020, respectively,” Apostolides said. “Those are relatively new platforms — different business lines, in a way. We are going to see an interesting ’21 and ’22, in particular.” Melody Investment Advisors paid $220 million for a 90 percent ownership interest in Uniti Towers. Its assets included more than 500 U.S. towers.

The pace of network rollouts affects the leasing of additional space on towers for antennas, known as lease-up, which in turn affects tower valuations because lease-up affects cash flow. How will the pace of lease-up affect tower valuations and ongoing mergers and acquisitions?

“Lease-up — it is not a matter of is it going to happen, it is a matter of when it is going to happen,” Apostolides said. He said those considering whether to sell their towers, whether their portfolios are small, medium-sized or, potentially, large, may be motivated by a slow lease-up or may choose to sell later, when they could sell into growth. “Depending on that, we’ll see a multiple-based valuation or even a per-tower-based valuation,” he said. “It is really unclear.”

Melody Investment Advisors’ position as a financial player affects the way it looks at mergers and acquisitions.

“From our perspective, you have to look at: Are there non-core assets, foreign towers or wireless infrastructure that may be held elsewhere?” Apostolides asked. “And can that be done from a strategic or a financial angle? There are only so many ways to play that.”

By way of example, Apostolides referred to the PG&E and SBA Communications transaction, in which to tower owner paid the electric utility $973 million for licenses the utility executed with wireless service providers to attach equipment to the utility’s structures. “That would have been a very difficult deal for a financial player with no real platform to do,” he said. “One of the things that we — and yes, the strategics are back — we also have to look at the number of towers that are being built and who is doing them. Over time, some of these smaller and mid-sized tower portfolios will get larger. Will they get to be a Big Three size? No. But, will they be larger? Yes. And there is substantial activity there.”

Other Ecosystem Investment Opportunities

Turning to other opportunities, Apostolides said there is another ecosystem with some favourable indications for successful investing that he referred to as tailwinds. He mentioned potential access to Department of Defense spectrum that may be interesting. He referred to wireless internet service providers (WISPs), saying, “There is some interesting credit-enhancing going on in the sector. Certain investors are starting to get behind these entities. They are real businesses, and they are bigger than they ever were, before. The real push to rural is important, as we have seen with the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) funding.”

Melody Investment Advisors remains optimistic about the tower business, Apostolides said, despite the headwinds the sector faces. If conditions in 2021 and 2022 do not favor mergers and acquisitions, he said, maybe the tower business activity will trend more toward build-to-suit (BTS) and collocation projects and toward lease amendments versus M&A.

Apostolides spoke about advantages that Melody Investment Advisors derives from mergers and acquisitions by keeping several separate business platforms that complement one another.

“We have three platforms,” he said. “One is Harmoni Towers, which is led by Lawrence Gleason. Another is CTI Towers, led by Tony Peduto.” The third is Symphony Wireless, which acquires, manages and leases tower, rooftop and non-traditional structure cell sites in metro, urban and suburban locations.

“We’re benefiting from having all three in place, because they are, in effect, doing slightly different things,” Apostolides said. “Harmoni used to do build-to-suit for some of the carriers. They are very good at it. CTI has worked with the cable providers and hard-to-zone locations. It is somewhat of a different discipline. At Symphony, we have our rooftops and easement platforms as well. When you factor it all in, it helps to have different themes, different ecosystems, and maybe not necessarily combining them now or down the road. It is a decision we will consider. However, we do see a substantial amount of synergy with the various people, of thought leadership, the sharing of ideas, and references. It is really, really impactful.”

Apostolides spoke at the session, “Mergers & Acquisitions Redefine Wireless Infrastructure Industry,” for which Clayton Funk, a managing director at Houlihan Lokey, served as moderator. J. Sharpe Smith, senior editor of the AGL eDigest email newsletter, programmed the AGL Virtual Summit, and Kari Willis hosted it.

Sponsors made it possible for participants to register free. The Total Tech Sponsors were Raycap, SitePro 1 and Vertical Bridge. The Sponsors were Voltserver, NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association and the Wireless Infrastructure Association.

The next AGL Virtual Summit has been scheduled for April 8. For a speaking opportunity, contact Sharpe Smith at [email protected]. For a sponsorship opportunity, contact Deborah Plank at [email protected] (Western region) or Dean Bertram at [email protected] (Eastern region).

Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher of AGL Magazine.

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In-building Technology

A Massive Market Opportunity: Expanding Cellular Coverage Inside Middleprise Buildings with Fiber

Because traditional DAS is often too large and too expensive for the needs and budgets of middleprise facilities, it is essential to propose a cellular coverage solution designed specifically for this market.

Large system integrators have historically focused on contracts to install large-scale distributed antenna system (DAS) networks to improve in-building cellular coverage in airports, convention centers, large public venues and campuses across the country. However, there are only so many facilities this large. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the United States has 9,000 buildings containing more than 500,000 square feet with 8 billion feet of total floor space.

More recently however, these large system integrators have considered venturing into in-building DAS installations in the less saturated, but much larger, middleprise market — commercial and public buildings between 50,000 and 500,000 square feet. According to the EIA, there are 351,000 of these buildings with 40 billion feet of total floor space.

M S Benbow & Associates (MSB), a consulting firm with headquarters in Louisiana that has a strong focus on telecommunications engineering, has successfully competed in the large-scale DAS market with deployments in venues such as the Superdome and DFW Airport. MSB also saw the opportunity in the middleprise market and set up an in-building department with the necessary certifications, engineers, installers and structured cabling techs for deployments across the U.S.

“Typically, we’ll finish a big project, and then we’ll have four to six months before the next one,” said Taylor Underwood, an MSB telecommunications engineer. “Big projects are a lot of money, but we still want to find work to fill time in the down time, The smaller projects are a lot easier to sell, and you can hop in and out in a couple of days.”

Middleprise In-building Cellular Coverage Technology — Similar, But Not the Same

Many of the largest integrators, particularly those that focus on macro telecom infrastructure, don’t have a department that handles in-building cellular coverage for buildings with less than a million square feet. This represents an opportunity to collaborate with organizations like MSB. Because traditional DAS is often too large and too expensive for the needs and budgets of middleprise facilities, it is essential to propose a cellular coverage solution designed specifically for this market. Subcontractors experienced with solutions for this segment are often brought on to support the work being done by general, low-voltage, structured cabling and macro infrastructure contractors.

Structured Cabling Technicians and Supervision

Category, coax or fiber cabling is often deployed inside a building by structured cabling technicians. Although these techs know how to run the lines, they don’t necessarily understand the underlying technology being used, so mistakes can be made.

“The structured cabling techs know how to run wire in the conduits, how to run Ethernet cables, and they might throw in fiber through the conduits, but they don’t know exactly what the outcome of their work is as they are not the ones hooking up the equipment,” said Underwood. “Sometimes poor installations occur. For example, I’ve seen antennas placed right next to large metal hoods in a kitchen. That is a very PIM-prone environment and can end up amplifying subharmonics where multiple frequencies mix together. You also get a lot of reflected power back into a system and it actually causes interference on itself. “We perform multiple walkthroughs and provide oversight to ensure the work is done correctly.”

New Cost-effective Way to Leverage Fiber

Traditional DAS networks are still the gold standard for the largest facilities. These systems often use dedicated signal sources and fiber-optic backbones to supply the headend and remote units inside a facility for solid transmission speeds up to 1 Gbps.

However, traditional DAS solutions are not always financially viable for most facilities under 1 million square feet. This is due to the high upfront cost of equipment, extensive length of installation time and contract negotiations with carriers, and extra operating expenses due to the heat, electrical and air conditioning loads.

The fiber hub allows us to provide cell service to multiple and larger buildings, all while cutting down on the infrastructure costs. — Taylor Underwood

To address the needs and budget of this market segment, in 2017 Nextivity launched Cel-Fi QUATRA, a hybrid active DAS. The multicarrier solution is fully digital, carrier-approved and guaranteed network-safe. The system can be deployed with an off-air donor signal or connected to a small cell to create a distributed small cell network called a supercell. Also, the installation can be accomplished in just days by certified installers versus months typical of a traditional DAS, and at a fraction of the cost.

The active DAS hybrid can amplify cellular signal to a maximum of 656 horizontal or vertical feet with 100 dB gain simultaneously delivered on multiple carrier networks using Category 5e or better cable between the headend and remote units inside a facility. However, a new fiber hub add-on to the Cel-Fi QUATRA DAS now also allows fiber runs from the headend to as far as 1.25 miles away, making the active DAS hybrid a viable solution for a multi-building complex, high-rise, or facilities in remote locations at the edge of macro coverage, such as a data center embedded in a mountain or a tunnel.

“The fiber hub fits into the infrastructure like traditional DAS but without being traditional DAS,” Underwood said. “The fiber hub allows us to provide cell service to multiple and larger buildings, all while cutting down on the infrastructure costs.”

Interference with the Macro Network

Facility managers or occupants of a building with poor cellular reception will often attempt to fix the weak cellular signal inside their buildings by installing multiple small repeaters. They inevitably call the carrier to report they still have poor coverage and cellular issues. “This happens frequently at plants,” said Underwood, who was previously the market interference subject matter expert at a major carrier. “Somebody installs a cellular repeater, but the signal isn’t strong enough to cover the whole building. So, they’ll add another cellular repeater on the other end of the building, because it’s cheap and cost-effective for them. This results in buildings with antenna farms that cause noise and interfere with each other. It also degrades overall quality of the network for the carriers, which doesn’t affect just those people in the building — it affects everybody on the network outside of the building using that cell tower.” Underwood said that with the fiber hub, “we can place a single antenna in a central location, even at a multi-building campus, with no interference on the macro network.”

SLA Confidence with an FCC Part 20 System

An FCC Part 90 system, as does a traditional DAS, offers many more bands than a Part 20 system usually deployed in middleprise facilities. Such a Part 20 system supports two bands per carrier. Still, in most middleprise buildings, two bands are sufficient to meet SLA requirements and may only run into a problem when there is a particularly high population density within the facility. According to Underwood, capacity and RF propagation planning should be done as part of an in-building system design, even for buildings with less than 500,000 square feet. Although the active DAS hybrid is available as both FCC Part 20 and 90 systems, there are advantages to installing a Part 20 solution.

QUATRA 4000

“Many people are skeptical about a Part 20 device, including myself, but we have seen that the QUATRA Part 20 hybrid is a good, solid, reliable product,” Underwood said. “I can order the equipment, have it installed quickly, and sign off through the carriers’ websites immediately.”

As any large-scale DAS integrator knows, all carriers have different standards. For a typical traditional DAS installation, the systems integrator has to deal with four different sets of teams that may want different things to sign off on an installation agreement. “This can take months and is a huge factor when the client doesn’t have $20,000 or more in additional budget to negotiate contracts with the carriers,” Underwood said. “This can be a significant differentiator in a competitive proposal to a middleprise customer.”

Middleprise In-building Cellular Coverage Solution Deployment Example

MSB recently completed an active DAS hybrid installation at a three-building, new construction, K-6 school with 236,000 square feet of indoor space. The construction general contractor hired a low voltage subcontractor to be responsible for installing a cellular coverage solution. Fortunately, the subcontractor recognized a need for a specialty design and build integration firm and connected with MSB to deliver a solution.

MSB used iBWave to design the system. “The entire school was constructed as a LEED-certified building, so it was a giant Faraday cage with no cellular signal coming in or out,” said Underwood. “Outside, they had a fairly decent signal, but the moment you walked inside, all the materials were RF-blocking, causing no signal.”

The headend of the active DAS hybrid was placed in the two-story main building, and six strands of single mode fiber were run 700 feet from the headend to the other buildings. The fiber was cut and spliced at key points, so they went back and forth between the buildings, providing full redundancy with a couple of backups and an alternate route if needed. Four antennas were put on the roof of the main building, one for each carrier, to provide the signal source for delivering cellular coverage to the entire school.

“It took two of us about a week to get everything turned up and checked out including the cables, antennas and sweep testing,” Underwood said. “I asked a couple of carriers to pull stats to make sure they were happy, and it came back all good with no interference. It took us an hour to commission the system. It was incredibly easy. The system can monitor itself for any type of interference that is introduced into the system, and it has an online portal and apps for remote performance monitoring, which is important to us in providing maintenance and ensuring we meet the standards we promise.”

According to Underwood, the entire system, including installation, cost the school about the same as it would have cost for only a headend of a traditional DAS.

Paul Rigatti is a solutions architect and technical sales director at Nextivity. Previously, he spent 10 years as an engineer and consultant deploying cellular infrastructure end-to-end. From mobile devices to the RAN to the core, Rigatti has worked with Qualcomm, Ericsson and Broadcom on the ground in 23 countries.

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5G

5G Will Make Little Difference to Long-Term Trends

The real problem for mobile network operators is whether 5G wireless communications networks are filled with the right kind of traffic.

“Wireless Network Data Traffic: Worldwide Trends and Forecasts 2020–2025” is Analysys Mason’s first traffic forecast published since the launch of 5G wireless communications. The company still expects that 5G will change the general direction of traffic growth. Some of the other high-level findings from the report are as follows:

  • Mobile data traffic will grow, in a broadly linear manner, worldwide between 2019 and 2025, by a factor of 5.5.
  • 5G traffic will not dominate as quickly as 4G traffic did, but it will overtake 4G traffic in 2025 (if fixed-wireless access [FWA] is included). 5G handset traffic will be similar to 4G handset traffic in 2025.
  • A growing proportion of handset traffic will use cellular networks. Cellular networks accounted for 39 percent of all handset traffic worldwide in 2019 (with huge variations among countries), but it will be close to 50 percent by 2025. This trend will be reversed in countries with rapidly expanding fixed broadband penetration.
  • The average cellular network usage by handsets worldwide will grow from 5.4 GB per month in December 2019 to 19.7 GB in December 2025. The average data use by handsets on all networks worldwide will grow from 13.5 GB per month to 40.5 GB per month over the same period.
  • FWA will account for 13 percent of all cellular traffic by 2025. Of this, handsets and data-only devices will account for 80 percent and 7 percent, respectively.
  • The Wi-Fi share of the total IP access network traffic will increase from 53 percent in 2019 to 66 percent in 2025. The cellular share will rise from 12 percent to 18 percent over the same period.

Analysys Mason has long predicted that 5G will not bring about particularly profound changes to the general long-term trend in mobile traffic (where “mobile” here excludes FWA); that is, the company expects that the cellular traffic growth rate will decline and eventually converge with the overall IP traffic growth rate. The report summarized here explains this in more detail.

5G Is Likely to Lead to Only Short-Term Surges in Traffic

Coverage is still quite limited in some markets in which 5G has been launched, but 5G does introduce a huge block of additional capacity to cellular networks. In the past, Analysys Mason has observed that mobile traffic volume is primarily a function of supply and pricing, and not of extrinsic demand: Volumes rise quickly when supply is plentiful, and slowly when it is constrained. However, the company also has seen that new capacity or generations of networks and new pricing (which often go hand-in-hand) have, over time, created increasingly weak surges in traffic. This effect was seen in South Korea (see Figure 1); the year-on-year traffic growth rate picked up after the 5G launch in April 2019 but has since fallen back to the levels seen prior to the roll-out.[1]

Mobile data usage by generation, South KoreaFigure 1. Mobile data usage by generation and the total year-on-year mobile traffic growth, South Korea, January 2019–May 2020 Source: Analysys Mason from MSIT, 2020.

Cellular Data to Displace Wi-Fi Use on Handsets

Increasingly common and inexpensive unlimited data contracts are dampening Wi-Fi use on handsets in both public Wi-Fi spaces and, much more importantly, private Wi-Fi networks (home or office). The Wi-Fi share of handset data varies greatly among countries, depending on mobile pricing and home broadband take-up, but it was 61 percent worldwide in 2019. The report forecasts that this will fall to 50 percent by 2025. This is a fairly slow decline; although unlimited data contracts stop disincentivizing the use of cellular networks, they do not actually incentivize their use. Wi-Fi will continue to be the dominant radio access technology for the overall traffic (there is currently four times more Wi-Fi data traffic than cellular traffic) for two reasons: Other, more bandwidth-demanding, wireless devices rely solely on Wi-Fi, and fixed gigabit broadband plus Wi-Fi6 should provide a superior indoor experience to 4G or 5G.

5G Illustrates the Perils of Overproduction

5G launches are showing some characteristics of a crisis of overproduction. Operators are caught between finding (or creating) high-yield use cases (often with more-complex value chains) to justify the investment and falling back on high-volume, low-yield ones. Simple mobile handset use is not going to change mobile network operators’ fortunes, as most acknowledge; hence their interest in novel (often business-to-business) use cases outside of enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), particularly the idea of “permission-in” network slices sold at, the report assumes, highly differentiated rates that generate higher yields per gigabyte than end-user-pays best-efforts internet. It is too early to predict the effect of these new use cases on traffic, but of course the volume of traffic is not the critical factor in these cases. The development of these new use cases may be understood as a kind of price discrimination to make the revenue trend (which is normally flat) match the demand trend more closely; that is, to give moderate and broadly linear growth (see Figure 2).

Capacity, demand, and revenue in a crisis of overproductionFigure 2. Capacity, demand, and revenue in a crisis of overproduction Source: Analysys Mason, 2020.

If cellular traffic volumes show that consumers are fundamentally underwhelmed by 5G and find little to do on 5G that they could not already do on 4G, then we expect that some mobile network operators will use FWA to monetize their investments in spectrum and the newly expanded, yet empty airwaves. A specific set of conditions is required for FWA to thrive; namely, poor coverage and weak competition from gigabit-capable fixed broadband. Where these conditions are not in place, there is no fixed-to-FWA substitution. The opportunity for FWA may be slipping away in countries in which there has been significant investment in fiber, and is almost nonexistent in super-advanced telecoms economies such as China and South Korea. Nevertheless, Analysys Mason expects that the adoption of the ultimate pile-it-high-and-sell-it-cheap cellular service, FWA, will pick up in a few markets, most notably in the United States, but also in Australia, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Indeed, the report forecasts that it will represent 13 percent of cellular network traffic worldwide by 2025.

Predicting that 5G traffic will catch up with 4G traffic by 2025 may appear bold. In fact, Analysys Mason does not expect that it will dominate quite as quickly as 4G did, but neither does the company envisage that operators, having invested large sums in 5G, will allow the networks to lie fallow. The real problem for mobile network operators is whether these networks are filled with the right kind of traffic.

[1] COVID-19 muddies the waters because in this case it is impossible to tell whether the pandemic caused the stronger growth in early 2020 or the slower growth in mid-2020. Most mobile network operators saw an increase in cellular traffic during lockdown, but a significant minority saw a decrease.

Rupert Wood is the research director of fiber networks at Analysys Mason, where he is the lead analyst for the company’s fiber infrastructure and wireless infrastructure research programs.

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Modernizing the Internet

Pioneering Open Access Broadband

Open access for the internet leads to a future much bigger than the past, with free consumer choice and a reliable, open access broadband to communities in the United States.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index has been collecting data on the happiness of consumers with their internet service providers since 2013. However, the fundamental problem has so far always been that the majority of American households could not choose their own service provider (SP). Whether they were happy with their internet or not, most people could not do anything about it.

It is this notion of consumer choice that motivates SiFi Networks to bring open access broadband to communities in the entire United States. The company is a privately owned developer of fiber-optic broadband. Once built, FiberCities networks offer wholesale access to SPs. Customers within FiberCities networks are free to choose from a growing list of SPs to buy the broadband access that suits their individual needs.

An open access fiber-optic network brings a range of benefits to everybody involved. Cities like it because it brings high-speed internet service to every business and household. Roads are only dug up once to lay fiber into the ground, which means that cities and residents are not inconvenienced by endless roadworks.

A multiservice provider network allows an SP to enter new markets without having to invest upfront in infrastructure. Instead, an SP can invest in marketing and great services. Moreover, SiFi Networks promotes its brand as well as the network brand. It is a little bit like a parcel delivery service.

Not every parcel delivery company needs to build a road. They use the roads together and focus on providing a great service.

Equally, not having a monopoly on a network allows SPs to focus on what they do best: delivering an excellent service to happy customers. Consumers benefit because as open access internet becomes more prevalent, households and businesses can choose who they want to buy their internet access from.

The first FiberCity network to go live is Fullerton, California. SiFi Networks has installed a fiber-optic broadband infrastructure that passes every home and every business. Everybody living or working in Fullerton can now choose his or her own contract from Ting or GibabitNow. The people of Fullerton have joined the world of free choice of internet service packages and can now stream videos without buffering.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how important reliable high-speed internet is. Many people are now forced to study, work and socialize from home — for all of which they are entirely dependent on internet access. Moreover, a growing selection of e-health applications, such as remote diagnosis and a myriad variety of fitness technologies make reliable broadband vitally important. The SiFi Networks mission is to give reliable internet access to everyone in the communities it serves. The company wants to allow residents to learn, grow and innovate. As the cycles of technological change continue, there is no telling what the future holds in store for the internet.

Why open access is such an important unfulfilled promise:

  • It requires true consumer choice and a reliable fiber-optic broadband infrastructure.
  • Customers living in the service areas of FiberCities networks have the freedom to choose their internet providers.
  • In a FiberCity network, the opportunities of Smart City applications are endless, such as water and waste management, lighting, mobility or real-time crime mapping.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how important reliable internet access is, and SiFi Networks works hard to bring the free choice of broadband to new areas.
  • Stay up to date on the growing number of Fiber Cities and register your interest here.

Mike Harris is cofounder of open access broadband pioneer SiFi Networks.

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Antennas

Reducing Multipath Interference with Multi-polarized Technology

Durable, robust and multi-polarized infrastructure will ensure connectivity and performance as the wireless revolution evolves and grows to meet global needs.

The world runs on the backbone of wireless communications. Every consumer, government, business and military organization relies on Wi-Fi, RF, cellular and GPS systems to function on a day-to-day basis. The modern communication network uses an interconnected system of satellites, access points, antennas and routers that transmit, receive and interpret signals.

This architecture is not built on one type of network and one type of technology. Often it consists of a blend of interoperable systems and applications that each carry a piece of the wireless load and deliver specific applications within the system.

Even with Covid-related economic instability, the communications infrastructure’s investment and development are expected to grow exponentially over the next three to five years. The global telecom market is estimated at $1.74 trillion with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5 percent through 2027. The majority of that growth will be mobile voice and data infrastructure as telecom companies build out support for cloud-based technologies and mobile devices.

Recent research by Cisco predicts that 71 percent of the global population will subscribe to mobile services by 2023. At that point, users will connect more than 29 billion devices to various types of communication networks.

Global mobile networks are no faster than wired networks, but Cisco expects to improve their speeds by a higher ratio than wireline networks. Fixed broadband network speeds are forecast to more than double, from around 45.9 Mbps in 2018 to 110.4 Mbps in 2023, but mobile network speeds are expected to triple, going from an average of 13.2 Mbps in 2018 to 43.9 Mbps by 2023. In addition to mobile networking technologies, RF semiconductors, which form the heart of radio communications, are expected to grow from $17.4 billion to $26.2 billion by 2025 with a CAGR of 8.5 percent. The growth in this market segment will be driven by RF devices’ demand, the importance of RF devices in radar and warfare systems, and the increased penetration of LTE technologies.

This buildout and investment in wireless architecture focus on connectivity and bandwidth performance. Yet, even with the growth in network infrastructure, many systems integrators and wireless managers struggle to understand the factors that degrade performance.

Understanding Multipath Interference

When environmental conditions continuously impede Wi-Fi and RF signals, ensuring wireless network connectivity challenges any network manager. Environmental conditions create a radio-wave propagation issue known as “multipath.”

Multipath propagation results in RF signals reaching the receiving antenna by two or more paths. For a signal traveling a great distance, atmospheric and ionospheric factors can cause bounces that result in multiple propagation paths. In aerial and industrial environments, physical objects like water, dust, mountains, equipment, and buildings may reflect of the signals and cause multiple propagation paths.

Multipath interference can create several issues in the communications channel that increases noise and reduces reliability:

  • Weakening of the signal strength through phase shifting
  • Intersymbol interference (ISI), which reduces effective bandwidth
  • Jamming of the receiver when the same signal arrives at different times at equal strength

Phase-shifting is the most problematic for the communications network. A horizontal signal could flip 90 to 180 degrees from its original orientation as it reflects from physical objects. If the direct and reflected signal reaches the receiving antenna at equal strength, the noise and static in the RF channel could make it unusable.

Network engineers attempt to address the propagation issues by using equalizers in receivers to counter time delays and amplitude changes in the signal. They also use redundancy in transmitting the data so the receiver can replace parts of the original signal that might have been corrupted.

One of the simplest and most cost-effective solutions to minimizing multipath interference is to upgrade to a multi-polarized antenna. Systems integrators and network managers are recommending multi-polarized antennas for several reasons:

  • Using all polarizations improves reception and throughput
  • Minimizing amplitude changes makes use of the full strength (gain) of the transmitter
  • Attenuation of interference improves signal bandwidth

Mitigating multipath interference improves the network performance, safety and productivity of countless vertical industries, including commercial drones and transportation. These essential market segments rely on wireless connectivity and bandwidth to enable automation, deliver direct control and reduce human interaction.

Drone Communications

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones are expected to revolutionize every part of our lives, from farming to filmmaking, delivery and public safety. PricewaterhouseCoopers recently estimated the market for drone business applications at $127 billion. This represents a significant investment in UAV technology and the buildout of the network infrastructure needed to keep the drones flying and data streaming.

Both drone flight management and real-time transmission of data rely on connectivity between ground and satellite networks. However, because the drone turns and adjusts altitude, the signal is rarely, if ever, in line of sight to ground stations. This creates multipath interference and phasing of the signal, leading to loss of control, signal noise and low data throughput. On top of signal issues, multiple drones could be competing for bandwidth and spectrum through the same wireless network. In addition, the drones themselves are trying to stay aloft by conserving as much energy as possible. This lowers the gain, or power, of drone transmissions, which could affect overall performance.

Many drone operators and network managers attempt to address the connectivity and gain issues by better use of signal spectrum and by optimizing the path of data packet routing. Although these steps deliver quantifiable benefits to data rates, they rely on different bidirectional and omnidirectional antennas to pick up the transmission.

Instead of saturating the drone network with additional ground stations and antennas, the network can use better technology, such as multi-polarized antennas to overcome the altitude, line of sight, and multipath interference challenges.

Trackside, Roadside, Dockside

From stevedoring to toll collection and railways, the National ITS Architecture program covers various industries, transportation modalities and applications. Each of these depends on wireless communications to oversee security, manage fleets and monitor access to keep business and government moving.

Weather conditions and physical obstructions that cause reflectivity, multipath distortions, absorption and phasing sabotage wireless networks that support transportation. Antennas mounted on locomotives, boats or trucks face significant radio frequency interference (RFI) from large engines and onboard motors.

Transportation companies and systems integrators try to overcome the signal issues by using a patchwork of commercially available networks, unlicensed networks with short-range coverage, privately-licensed bands or radio frequency identification (RFID).

Investment in the National ITS Architecture focuses on making the network “smarter” to improve automation, boost efficiency and solidify connectivity. The development of 5G solutions, bidirectional on-vehicle antennas and wayside routers are critical elements in the evolution of the transportation framework.

Network Connectivity

Laboratories test most network devices, including radio equipment, Wi-Fi routers, access nodes and antennas, with direct line-of-sight (LOS) signals between them. This type of laboratory research delivers stable connectivity data that many companies use to determine the best equipment for their operations. However, in the real world, equipment rarely has direct LOS to network devices. Equipment moves and rocks, buildings act as signal barriers and antennas do not receive consistent signals at the right vertical or horizontal orientation (polarization).

If one antenna cannot obtain a clear signal along one path, then another antenna in a better direct path can pick up the signal and relay it through the network. They may also use automatic gain control (AGC) to measure the output signal and adjust the signal’s power (gain) to match the range of signal input levels.

After the operator has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in communications equipment, the network and, consequently, operations, are at the mercy of a $10 antenna. Systems integrators are now recommending multi-polarized antennas to mitigate multipath interference and receive both horizontal and vertical signals to address the deficiencies.

The antenna upgrade makes use of the full strength (gain) of the transmitter, attenuates interference and processes the signal along with the right polarity. The multi-polarized solution keeps operations connected to personnel and machines, including drones, unmanned vehicles and automated transportation.

Conclusion

The world runs on wireless. And wireless communications are enabled and improved through the investment and buildout of the right technologies and applications that meet the needs of consumers, businesses and government organizations. Durable, robust and multi-polarized infrastructure will ensure connectivity and performance as the wireless revolution evolves and grows to meet global needs.

Adam Doskocil is president of MP Antenna. Visit www.mpantenna.com.

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Business

Prospects for Tower Lease-up, Fiber Deals Improve

The long-term outlook for the tower business is good. Increasingly, network operators select wireless facility sites with readily available fiber-optic cable connectivity.

Tower company executive Alex Gellman said he expects T-Mobile US and Dish Network to predominate tower space leasing this year, with AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless hampered, in comparison, by a lack of available funds to spend on leases. The CEO and cofounder of Vertical Bridge, Gellman heads the largest private owner and operator of wireless communications infrastructure.

Until AT&T decides what to do with its DirecTV business, Gellman said, the company might hold back on big spending on its wireless network. AT&T carries $18.6 billion of original DirecTV debt on its balance sheet stemming from its acquisition of DirecTV for $67 billion. A possible sale of DirecTV could bring AT&T some financial relief that then could evaporate as the company borrows to spend billions of dollars in the C-Band auction that drew $80.9 billion in bids in its first phase in January.

Verizon’s bids probably account for a large portion of the auction total, too. “A $20 billion spend by Verizon is not off the radar,” Gellman said. “That’s a whole year of capex for them.”

The valuable mid-band radio-frequency (RF) spectrum that the C-Band auction represents fits Verizon’s portfolio, Gellman said, so in his view, history dictates that the company will buy it, plan for it, and then roll out the plan. “They’re a big company,” he said. “That takes a while. So to me, that pushes them into the latter half of the year in terms of spending uptick.”

The wild card, Gellman said, is Dish Network.

“Dish has done a lot behind the scenes to get ready,” he said. “I do think in 2021 we’ll see more overt activity in leases Dish signs throughout the course of the year. They have a tight timeline, and they’re committed to hitting it. That means they’re going to have to do a lot of a lot of leases and installations.”

The goal for Dish is population coverage, Gellman said, which means leasing sites where population is dense. “It’s not just that,” he said, “because I do believe they’re building ultimately a competitive network.”

With respect to 5G wireless communications network construction versus 4G construction, Gellman said: “Everything is called 5G, regardless of what it really is. That’s because, for the existing big three carriers, you can’t separate 4G from 5G, which will not be standalone. 5G will be built and overlaid on top of the 4G networks.”

Much of the network construction activity this year represents densification and improvement of the 4G network, he said. “Look at T-Mobile,” Gellman said. “They’re rolling that 2.5-GHz spectrum from Sprint out across their network. That means better speed and better service. Then, where they add 5G, a lot of that capability will be available on that stronger base. The only standalone 5G is Dish.”

Turning to the subject of fiber-optic cable connectivity, Gellman said that increasingly, network operators select wireless facility sites where the fiber is. “With edge compute along with other considerations, the locations will be dictated by access to fiber as a primary consideration, just like power,” he said. “Vertical Bridge will more and more partner with fiber companies including Zayo, but others as well, in locating communications infrastructure along their fiber where network operators access it. Literally, what side of the street you’re on can make a difference.”

Many tower sites, especially in urban locations, lack sufficient space for collocating edge data center facilities, Gellman said. “I’m pretty familiar with what everybody’s looking at,” he said. “They don’t fit. There’s no place to put them. Certainly, no place to grow from the initial installation, if you think the business is really going to take off and grow. My view is, put it where the fiber is, and then you’ll get the connectivity to what you need. The latency loss through fiber is 5 milliseconds per 1,000 kilometers, so you have some flexibility there to move it a little bit.”

Gellman said that 2020 was a surprisingly busy year for Vertical Bridge for mergers and acquisitions (M&A).

“We build as many towers as we can, but on M&A we’re opportunistic,” he said. In some years, we’ll buy very little. In other years, we’ll buy a lot. In 2020, it happened to be a lot, because we saw some things that we thought were interesting. The InSite Wireless Group deal, the acquisition of InSite by American Tower, was sort of a headline transaction for the year in the industry in the United States. That was the number two private tower company in the United States, and now it is owned by American Tower. That that has a ripple effect for the customers. They took notice. We looked at that and said, ‘We don’t want to do that. We don’t want to be owned by anybody. We want to stay private, at scale and permanent.’ That’s our mission.”

The other headline in M&A has to do with new entrants, new money flowing in, new funds getting involved and new people entering as acquirers, Gellman said, with the result that prices for towers have continued to ratchet up. “I would say that during the COVID pandemic, the private market multiples have gone up five turns,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing.”

Gellman said that with low interest rates, long-term money is available fairly inexpensively. He said that lenders and subordinated investors in the tower business recognize the stability and strength of the business, towers in particular, and will lend with more leverage at low prices for loans. “Both things contribute to pushing tower prices up,” he said, adding that the same is true across a lot of real estate.

“I like to say people who do the work to understand the tower model in particular fall in love with it, and then they don’t ever fall out of love with it, so just more and more money comes in,” Gellman said.

The Vertical Bridge executive said that the long term outlook for the tower business is good. He said the next five years of lease up probably would be better than the last five years.

“I don’t think 2021 is the year to expect lease-up improvement,” Gellman said. “And I feel a little bit like we keep saying that, because 2020 was supposed to be great, and then '21 was supposed to be great. Nevertheless, I think once Verizon and AT&T clear their overhangs and the C-Band settles out, they’re going to invest in their wireless network because T-Mobile is investing, and I know they will, too. That takes a little bit of time. They’re big companies, but I think that a year from now, we’ll be talking pretty excitedly about what 2022 looks like.”

Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher of AGL Magazine. This article was derived from an AGL Connection interview with Alex Gellman conducted by Martha DeGrasse.

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Tower of the Month

Site Name: I-10/Fort Hancock

Site Owner: CCATT

Height: 245 feet

Location: Fort Hancock, Texas

Year Constructed: 2005

Photography by Don Bishop

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5G Future

Ericsson Estimates $31 Trillion 5G Consumer Market by 2030

The 5G consumer market could be worth $31 trillion by 2030 globally, according to the “Harnessing the 5G Consumer Potential” report from Ericsson ConsumerLab. The report estimates that communications service providers (CSPs) could $3.7 trillion of that total – a figure that could increase further as new adjacent digital services opportunities arise.

Jasmeet Singh SethiJasmeet Singh Sethi, head of ConsumerLab, Ericsson Research

The report also estimates that CSPs could generate up to $131 billion by 2030 from digital service revenue alone, by proactively bundling and marketing 5G use cases. About 40 percent of these revenue projections are attributed to consumer spending on enhanced video, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and cloud gaming over 5G networks.

The report projects that AR is likely to drive more than half of all consumer spending on immersive media by 2030, starting with gaming and extending to other areas like shopping, education and remote collaboration.

Key findings also highlight how the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on personal finances and financial priorities may have affected consumers’ willingness to pay a premium for 5G subscriptions. In early 2019, the average consumer was willing to pay a 20 percent premium for 5G. As 2020 drew to an end, that figure dropped to 10 percent. However, one in three early adopters globally are still willing to pay a 20 percent premium. Such high levels of early adopter take-up could help drive economic recovery, according to the report.

5G-enabled digital consumer services revenue by typeGlobal service provider share of cumulative 5G-enabled digital consumer services revenue by type (2019–2030). Source: Ericsson

The report also projects that by proactively driving 5G consumer adoption, CSPs could gain 34 percent higher 5G average revenue per user (ARPU) by 2030. This could boost consumer revenue at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.7 percent compared to flat revenue growth of 0.03 percent by taking a passive approach across the decade.

“This is the first time that Ericsson has presented a revenue forecast for the 5G consumer market, which remains the core business of communications service providers,” Jasmeet Singh Sethi, head of ConsumerLab, Ericsson Research, said. “Through our research, we have highlighted the role of use case development, tariff innovation, quality 5G coverage and ecosystem partnerships to unlock the true potential of this market. It is clear that 5G will drive enormous opportunities for CSPs in consumer business over the decade. As this journey is already underway, those CSPs that quickly and proactively evolve their consumer propositions are likely to be bigger winners.”

The report also highlights the enabling role technologies such as edge computing and network slicing will play in helping service providers to secure 5G-enabled consumer revenue. This could come from core digital services like cloud gaming and augmented reality applications, or adjacent digital services, such as in-car connectivity and associated safety features.

In May 2019, Ericsson ConsumerLab released a report that measured consumer interest across more than 30 use cases and their willingness to pay for them. The new 5G consumer potential report builds on those insights through business potential forecasts, both for service providers and the larger ICT ecosystem.

Source: Ericsson

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Internet

2020 Network Traffic, Internet Consumption Trends

Manish GulyaniManish Gulyani, general manager and head of Nokia Deepfield

Nokia Deepfield’s Network Intelligence Report, which examines service provider network traffic and consumption trends in 2020, reveals the networks were made to withstand the internet’s rollercoaster year. The report examines overall changes in internet traffic patterns in the last decade and in 2020, focusing on key application areas such as video streaming, video conferencing, gaming and distributed denials of service (DDoS) security.

As COVID-19 pandemic lockdown measures were implemented in March and April 2020, consumer and business behavioral changes transformed the internet’s shape and how people use it, virtually overnight. Many networks experienced a year’s worth of traffic growth (30 to 50 percent) in just a few weeks.

By September, traffic had stabilized at 20 to 30 percent above pre-pandemic levels, with further seasonal growth to come. From February to September, there was a 30 percent increase in video subscribers, a 23 percent increase in virtual private network (VPN) end-points in the United States, and a 40 to 50 percent increase in DDoS traffic.

In the decade prior to the pandemic, the internet had already seen massive and transformative changes, both in service provider networks and in the evolved internet architectures for cloud content delivery. Investment during this time meant the networks were in good shape and mostly ready for COVID-19 when it arrived.

Manish Gulyani, general manager and head of Nokia Deepfield, said: “Never has so much demand been put on the networks so suddenly, or so unpredictably. With networks providing the underlying connectivity fabric for business and society to function as we shelter-in-place, there is a greater need than ever for holistic, multidimensional insights across networks, services, applications and end users. Nokia Deepfield’s software applications have allowed service providers to understand activity in their networks in these critical times. The data and insights we’ve drawn on for this report also show how continuity of service can be ensured to create value for their customers.”

After monitoring network traffic over an eight-month period, Nokia Deepfield identified five key takeaways for service providers to use in planning future network capacity and value-added services for their subscribers:

  1. The networks were made for this. While the networks held up during the biggest demand peaks, data from September 2020 indicates that traffic levels remained elevated even as lockdowns eased; meaning, service providers will need to continue to engineer headroom into the networks for future eventualities.
  2. Content delivery chains are evolving. Demand for streaming video, low-latency cloud gaming and video conferencing, and fast access to cloud applications and services, all placed unprecedented pressure on the internet service delivery chain. Just as content delivery networks (CDNs) grew in the past decade, it’s expected the same will happen with edge/far edge cloud in the next decade, bringing content and compute closer to end users.
  3. Residential broadband networks have become critical infrastructure. With increased needs (upstream traffic was up more than 30 percent), accelerating rollout of new technologies, such as 5G wireless communications and next-generation fiber to the home (FTTH), will go a long way toward improving access and connectivity in rural, remote and underserved areas. Better analytical insights enable service providers to keep innovating and delivering flawless service and loyalty-building customer experiences.
  4. Deep insight into network traffic is essential. While the COVID-19 era may prove exceptional in many ways, the likelihood is that it has only accelerated trends in content consumption, production and delivery that were already underway. Service providers must be able to have real-time, detailed network insights at their disposal, fully correlated with internet traffic insights, to obtain a holistic perspective on their network, services and consumption.
  5. Security has never been more important. During the pandemic, DDoS traffic increased between 40 to 50 percent. As broadband connectivity is now largely an essential service, protecting network infrastructure and services becomes critical. Agile and cost-effective DDoS detection and automated mitigation are becoming paramount mechanisms to protect service provider infrastructures and services.

The report’s data was gathered from network service providers across Europe and North America from February to September 2020 using the Nokia Deepfield portfolio of network insights and security applications, which use big data analytics to monitor, analyze and understand network traffic and services.

Resources

Source: Nokia

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Employment

NATE Survey: Tower Industry Plans 12,000 Hires

Dr. Gemma DrockGemma Frock, Ph.D

The communications contractor industry is set to hire at least 12,000 additional workers, most of them in the next year, according to the 2020 Employer Workforce Survey, conducted by NATE: the Communications Contractor Industry Association.

Gemma Frock, Ph.D., who serves as NATE’s workforce consultant, presented the findings of the survey, which is a part of NATE’s Workforce Development Initiative, as the keynote of an AGL Virtual Summit. The survey queried NATE member companies on their current workforce needs and projected needs.

“The survey provides NATE with current data to promote the industry as a tremendously viable and necessary career pathway,” Frock said. “We have positions. We have career pathways, which are full time jobs with upward mobility to join a growing, thriving industry.”

The survey, which consisted of 15 questions, gave a nationwide window into the industry’s workforce needs. Almost all of NATE large members, with more than 350 employees responded to the survey, and 87 percent of the respondents had less than 75 employees and 11 percent had 76 to 350 employees.

When asked to project their hiring needs, the most respondents, 43 percent, said they planned to hire new employees within three to six months, followed by 36 percent of respondents that are always recruiting and hiring and 15 percent that said new hires were expected within the year. “This is extremely telling of the need for workers in a very competitive market,” Frock said.

The survey also covered the kinds of workers that are needed. Topping the list was Tower Technician 1 at between 2,000 and 2,500, followed closely by Tower Technician 2 at just above 2,000 and Lead Tower Technician at between 1,000 and 1,500. Coming in at more than 500 workers were Foreman, Tower Antenna and Line Lead Tower Antenna and Line Foreman, Rigger 2 and Small Cell Technician.

NATE: Job Opportunity Survey Results Courtesy: NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association

The majority of respondents, 63 percent, said they used networking/word of mouth to find new workers, followed by referral programs, 38 percent; online job boards, 35 percent; and social media, 35 percent; among other means. Sponsored telecom industry events ranked last at 19 percent.

“If a high school senior or college senior doesn’t know someone in the telecom industry, they are not going to know about the viable career options,” Frock said. “This a key takeaway for future outreach and promotion.”

According to the survey, the biggest obstacle to hiring workers is a lack of available workers, 68 percent; followed by recruiting skilled workers, 59 percent. Excessive travel, failure to pass a controlled substance screen and failure to pass a background check were also listed as hindrances to hiring.

The top reason for leaving a company was reported to be excessive travel, 46 percent; followed by a new career opportunity, 46 percent; physical limitations, 23 percent; and fear of heights, 23 percent.

In response to the question of whether the company has education/training or a credentialing program, 92 percent of the respondents said they had in-house training, 50 percent said they have National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA) preparation, 27 percent offered apprenticeships and 21 percent use a local education program and internships.

“We wanted to establish if companies are willing to work in a collaborative, public/private relationship with local colleges,” Frock said. “We are pleased to report that 83 percent of the respondents were willing.”

J. Sharpe Smith is contributing editor to AGL Magazine and senior editor of AGL eDigest.

 

Product Showcase

Radios & Antenna Products

Rail System

ConcealFab Corporation

ConcealFab is the leader in developing innovative solutions to mitigate passive intermodulation (PIM) at cell sites. New to ConcealFab’s PIM Shield® family of products is a lightweight Rail System for securing RF cables near multi-port base station antennas. Traditional cable supports generate high levels of PIM due to loose metal-to-metal contacts 2 and galvanic mismatches. ConcealFab eliminated these problems with its patented Rail System by using plastic channel runners inside an aluminum rail to secure and insulate all threaded mounting hardware. The channel runners move freely inside rail to conveniently locate support for cables or mechanical equipment exactly where required.

www.concealfab.com

Raycap's 5G mmWave InvisiWave®

Raycap

Next-generation integrated small cell concealments combine and conceal all the elements needed for a complete 5G small cell site to support a carrier's deployment priorities: optimal performance, fast time to market and upgradeability. This rooftop project in Boston, MA checks all the boxes by using Raycap's 5G mmWave InvisiWave® material, built into rooftop chimneys to conceal all the necessary equipment and maintain the aesthetic requirements of this historic district.

www.raycap.com

Integra-X Full-Outdoor XPIC Radio

SAF North America

The Integra X dual core radio operates with built-in 2+0 XPIC mode delivering over 1.5 Gbps capacity with single radio enclosures. For doubling capacity to 3 Gbps SAF developed a hybrid OMT solution for connecting two Integra-X radios to a single antenna. With industry-leading Tx power of up to +26dBm at 4096QAM Integra-X is one of the most powerful radios in the market. Built with a NEMA 4X certified anti-corrosion casing it's perfect for deployment in harsh environments. Radios come with a 5-year standard warranty and excellent technical support throughout the planning, installation, and lifetime of the deployment.

www.saftehnika.com
 

Company Showcase

In-Building Enterprise & Smart City Companies

Raycap

Raycap's STEALTH brand of camouflaged small cell poles & other smart city solutions are aesthetically pleasing, RF-friendly, and operate seamlessly in the urban environment. We have the 5G small cell technology, expertise, and manufacturing to help you deploy faster with facilities on the East & West coasts.

In This Issue  
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From The Editor

Cell Towers on the Moon

Um. Wait a minute. According to Trent Martin, vice president of space services at Intuitiv...
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AGL Virtual Summit

A Tower Company View of Mergers and Acquisitions: Paige

At the February AGL Virtual Summit, Bob Paige, senior vice president of mergers and acquis...
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AGL Virtual Summit

An Investor View of Tower Company Mergers and Acquisitions: Apostolides

An investment partner at Melody Investment Advisors, John Apostolides, characterized 2020 ...
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In-building Technology

A Massive Market Opportunity: Expanding Cellular Coverage Inside Middleprise Buildings with Fiber

Large system integrators have historically focused on contracts to install large-scale dis...
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5G

5G Will Make Little Difference to Long-Term Trends

“Wireless Network Data Traffic: Worldwide Trends and Forecasts 2020–2025” is Analysys Maso...
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Modernizing the Internet

Pioneering Open Access Broadband

The American Customer Satisfaction Index has been collecting data on the happiness of cons...
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Antennas

Reducing Multipath Interference with Multi-polarized Technology

The world runs on the backbone of wireless communications. Every consumer, government, bus...
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Business

Prospects for Tower Lease-up, Fiber Deals Improve

Tower company executive Alex Gellman said he expects T-Mobile US and Dish Network to predo...
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5G Future

Ericsson Estimates $31 Trillion 5G Consumer Market by 2030

The 5G consumer market could be worth $31 trillion by 2030 globally, according to the “Har...
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Internet

2020 Network Traffic, Internet Consumption Trends

Manish Gulyani, general manager and head of Nokia Deepfield Nokia Deepfield’s Netwo...
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Employment

NATE Survey: Tower Industry Plans 12,000 Hires

Gemma Frock, Ph.D The communications contractor industry is set to hire at least 12,000 ad...