Tower Workers Critical to “Rip and Replace” Effort

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UPDATE Workforce development was discussed as a key element of deploying 5G during a Senate hearing last week on securing the next-gen network supply chain. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) asked if the lack of enough trained personnel to work on towers could compromise the ability to replace Huawei or ZTE gear.

U.S. intelligence personnel and Congress believe such gear poses a national security risk and lawmakers recently passed a measure (the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act) to create a fund to reimburse smaller carriers that swap out the gear. 

Senate Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker predicted the President will soon sign the legislation “with much fanfare.”  

Competitive Carriers Association President/CEO Steve Berry said having enough workers is key to being able to keep up with 5G growth. “You have carriers who may only have access to their towers for a few months out of the year because of weather. Having a crew that’s available is critical.”  

Berry also stressed that flexibility is going to be a key to “getting this done in a reasonable and rational way. In rural America, carriers … are trying to keep connectivity while you replace your network.”

Concerning the lack of sufficient trained tower workers to handle the growing work, Thune recently introduced the Telecommunications Skilled Workforce Act. He said it would, “help increase the number of workers on the front lines of replacing this equipment and deploying new secure 5G networks.”  

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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