Tower Safety Section sponsored by NATE
In recent years, the cell tower industry has experienced a monumental boom in technology and innovation due to a critical, unrelenting influence: consumer demand. The market-driven need for higher speeds, greater coverage, and exceptional quality has transformed tower configuration in the wake of the 4G LTE rollout. Tower equipment is now more sophisticated and abundant—increasing network stability and customer satisfaction, yet also drastically increasing the demand on the mounts that bear this equipment.
With every technological innovation, it becomes increasingly clear that mounts carry not only the physical weight of enhanced equipment, but the weight of the network in its entirety. Once viewed as an afterthought at the end of the 20th century, mounts are now deemed critical to the success of the network.
As a result, mount analysis is now one of the greatest urgencies facing the cell tower industry today. Conducting an accurate, timely analysis helps to ensure mounts perform to design and provide a safe environment for valued carrier equipment and field services personnel. In addition, mount analysis provides a significant opportunity for long-term cost savings, which is critical at a time when subscriber growth is stagnating and revenue focus is therefore imperative.
Although the benefits of mount analysis are substantial and industry standards require it, an overwhelming lack of education regarding the subject has resulted in passive compliance and subpar implementation, in many cases. The result is an inconsistency (or overall absence) of record keeping, decreased quality, enhanced safety risks, and a need for costly reanalysis in the future.
It is only through mount analysis education and industry-wide commitment to its standardization that a stronger, more reliable mount infrastructure can be achieved—thus facilitating transformation and innovation across the network for years to come. The following resource stands testament to this need and serves as a catalyst for changing perceptions and actions regarding mount analysis implementation.
It’s time for a reality check.
Mount analysis is by no means a new or revolutionary concept within the cell tower industry, yet the lack of education and prevalence of misconceptions surrounding the topic indicate a contrasting reality. Across the spectrum of carriers, tower owners, and contractors, there are a host of assumptions that are commonly—although inaccurately—accepted: Although standards such as TIA-222-G discredit these assumptions, a lack of mount analysis education, engagement, and consistency across the cell tower industry enables these misconceptions to drive daily business practices. However, by incorporating the following concepts into the mount analysis dialogue, an effective solution can be generated: In addition, collaborative efforts to establish standards and develop mount analysis classifications (at individual, company, regional, and industry levels) will aid in enhancing accountability, communication, professionalism, and consistent practices. When a mount analysis is conducted properly the first time it is performed, this reduces the need for re-analysis and provides a better availability of engineering records, making it easier to respond to future technology challenges.
These safety concerns include mount drooping, degradation of equipment, and environmental concerns (e.g., regional impacts of wind loading, ice, lightning, etc.), among others. In addition, mount analysis benefits the industry by clarifying long-standing misconceptions related to insufficient or “failing” mounts. In many instances where a mount is classified as failing, the immediate reaction is to eliminate safety concerns by replacing the entire mount. However, in the majority of these cases, the modifications required in order to pass are minor (e.g., stabilizer arm replacement) and often have a low cost. A mount analysis identifies the severity of equipment degradation and indicates exactly what is required in order to modify the mount, thereby initiating meaningful change to create cost effective, safe, intelligent solutions.
Effective solutions require defined roles and responsibilities and mount analysis is no exception. Within the cell tower industry, the tower owner holds responsibility for the tower structure and its real estate, while the carrier is responsible for any installed equipment—including the mount. For this reason, it is imperative for all carriers to be leaders in mount analysis education, implementation, and classification. The safety of every engineer and contractor in the field depends on this proactive engagement.
However, leadership can only achieve meaningful results when others assume the mantle of responsibility and endeavor to achieve a shared goal. It is therefore the responsibility of all industry stakeholders to advance the pursuit of universal mount analysis compliance in order to create an exceptional network for the future.