5G Gets a Deep Dive at NATE

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NATE Unite 2019

With the U.S. facing stiff competition from China and South Korea in the race to implement 5G, the industry and companies responsible for building it, assembled in a hall in Dallas last week at NATE Unite 2019 to hear more on how it can be won.

The panel was comprised of Inside Towers Managing Editor Jim Fryer as moderator, along with Amandus Derr, Government Relations Manager at Crown Castle, Jeff Lewis, Founder and CEO of VERTICOM, Tom Prestwood, CEO of Centerline Solutions and Alexi Maltas, SVP and General Counsel  of the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA).

Covering a wide range of topics, the panel addressed everything from skill sets needed by tower crews to serve the buildout, to the current legislative and regulatory landscape affecting 5G’s deployment.     

Amandus “Mandy” Derr of Crown Castle said it was imperative the U.S. wins the race to 5G. The country has improved its odds with greater progress in state legislation that has allowed for lowered access fees on poles and eased shot clock rules, according to Derr.  Derr said Crown Castle will now be able to build out over 2,000 small cells in Texas alone, in 2019. In his four years with Crown, Derr was involved in negotiating agreements and obtaining approvals for small cell deployments prior to and after the Texas state small cell legislation that took effect in September 2017.  

Alexi Maltas of CCA said much of the legislative landscape was in need of change to further ease deployment issues, citing $170,000 reviews of tower projects on tribal lands that never come to fruition and coverage maps from the FCC that are inaccurate.  “If you can’t measure it,” Maltas said, “you can’t fix it.”

As the ‘boots on the ground’ representatives on the panel, CEOs Tom Prestwood of Centerline Solutions and Jeff Lewis of VERTICOM stressed developing qualified crews through more industry-sponsored training and education. Prestwood said 5G is not a panacea for the industry, however, and he will proceed accordingly.  “If we’re not going to make a profit on it,” he said, “then we’re not going.”

Lewis said the first uptick on 5G will come from a residential demand. He stressed several key skills needed to build a network densification that could rival the Asian competitors, including being leaders in OSP design, aerial and burial construction and splicing techniques to assist with field engineering, construction and maintenance. He said he would like to see trucks rolling with crews that can efficiently install antennas, radio equipment, power and cabling via aerial lift, or bucket trucks that can also sweep and PIM test.

“We must be leaders in fiber construction, node construction, OSP design, aerial and burial construction MOP’s and splicing techniques,” he said “in order to assist with field engineering, construction and maintenance.”

February 11, 2019

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