Kaizen – the Japanese term for “continuous improvement” or “good change” was first implemented in industrial Japan during the post-World War II era. Edward Deming, an American statistician, inspired the Japanese to seek new methods of production efficiency during the post war occupation by General Douglas MacArthur’s forces.
Rising from the rebuilt Japanese economy was this concept that many, successive, incremental changes can combine to create substantial change. And the ideas for these small changes can come from any individual within the company from the CEO down to the line worker on the factory floor. You do not need to completely rebuild and change everything every time you seek improvement. You simply need to keep measuring results and move forward on a daily basis.
While Md7 does not manufacture industrial products, we do “manufacture” leases and other related real estate documents for the wireless industry in high volume. We negotiate, process, and execute more wireless real estate documents each business day than almost anyone else in the world. In order to do this effectively, Md7 must continuously improve our processes and software. LiveTrack™, our proprietary software that we use to track and facilitate each and every step in the site acquisition process, is evaluated and updated on an almost daily basis. We never wait for the “next release” of the software. If we have a need, we diagnose the problem, whiteboard the solution, develop and update process flow, and then modify the software – all within days – to keep the flow of leases and all other stages in the site acquisition process flowing with scale and efficiency.
We also continuously train and retrain all of our employees on the latest changes in our processes and LiveTrack as well as constantly re-evaluating our negotiation techniques.
We don’t continuously improve because it is one of our core values; it is one of our core values because we continuously improve. It is part of our corporate DNA.
 One Small Step Can Change Your Life, by Robert Maurer, Ph.D.
The Densification of America
by Tom Leddo
Vice President of Business Development
If most people were to hear the term densification, they would probably assume one was referring in some manner or another to the growth (maybe even a plight) of population in urban areas. But if you work in the wireless infrastructure arena, the term densification refers to the rapid increase in the density of cell sites to accommodate the need for additional capacity.
The industry is abuzz about the need to increase the number of cell sites to keep up with the demand for capacity. In reality, we have been enhancing existing networks for quite a while – through cell splitting and building fill‑in sites – we are just doing it now at an unprecedented pace and with the addition of new technology (i.e., small cells and DAS).
The frenzy behind densification is being driven by the forecasts for exponential growth in wireless data traffic over the next few years. Some of my favorite statistics are published online by Cisco. A few notable ones are:
- By the end of 2014, there will be more mobile devices than there are people on Earth. Thus, we will have reached 100% global penetration.
- Traffic from wireless and mobile devices will exceed traffic from wired devices by 2018.
- Over two-thirds of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2018. Mobile video will increase 14 times between 2013 and 2018, accounting for 69% of total mobile data traffic.
This 69% comes from things such as: consumers demand a highly customized video experience on demand, 24/7, in real time; Facebook now auto-starts videos in your news feed; and we are fascinated by videos of celebrities and friends dumping ice buckets on their heads (but that’s for charity and so it’s okay).
For the first time, the industry is behind in meeting consumer demand. And, as we all know, we cannot wait for new spectrum to solve this dilemma. So, we must enhance the network in more creative ways than we ever imagined and at a pace that is faster than we ever dreamed possible. Oh yeah, and we have to do it cheaper than ever, because now that we are at 100% global penetration there aren’t that many people to sell new mobile plans to.
The wireless infrastructure industry will thrive and keep many of us employed for the next 3-5 years. But we will need completely new processes, tools and cost models to keep up. Time to be creative!
Hey There, Good Lookin’
by Ben Estes
Real Estate Counsel
Ever since Pebble set the then Kickstarter record for funding in 2012 the smartwatch has been the future of mobile technology. Now with the announcement of the Apple Watch, every major mobile technology manufacturer is in the market, including Samsung, Apple, LG and Motorola. And the market is booming. The smartwatch industry is set to earn 700 Million Dollars in 2014, which is already 5% of the watch industry, and is estimated to grow by triple digits every year.1 However, until last month, what the smartwatch industry was missing is something that could excite the casual watch enthusiast and techie alike.
Then came the Moto 360. What the Moto 360 does better than any other smartwatch, is tell time, a simple function that has been the standard for wrist wear since the 1880s. Obviously all smartwatches tell time, but the Moto 360 does it with style. It is the first smartwatch with a rounded face, which is a welcomed relief from the bulky rectangular designs that look more like the wrist calculators of the 1990s than the future of wearable tech. From the gray leather band to the seven customizable watch faces, the 360 makes for a great purchase if all it did was tell time. However, the Moto 360 creates the ultimate information environment.
Paired with Android Wear, the Moto 360 uses Google Cards and a handful of apps already compatible to share information from your phone to the watch. Many people ask what a smartwatch can do for them, and even more people wonder why you would want an extension of your phone on your wrist. The answer is simple, the ability to check updates and information on your wrist allows you to not only be more up to date, but at the same time save countless hours normally spent checking worthless updates on your phone every vibrate. With a simple flick of the wrist you can see if that buzzing is a daily deal email or social media like, or if it is an emergency message from family or client. Overall, the Moto 360 is a stylish timepiece and an efficient communicator. Just when the mobile phone industry made wearing watches obsolete, it made wearing (smart) watches the next big thing.
Photo courtesy of KnowYourMobile.com
Md7 Is Built for the Current Data Explosion
by Tom Leddo
Vice President of Business Development
Md7 – The Early Years
When Md7 was formed in 2003, the company had one asset – Michael Gianni’s monochrome BlackBerry. We may have had a couple of laptops too, but it wasn’t Michael’s hardware that was valuable, it was his contacts from many years in the industry that he stored in that (at the time) high-tech phone.
Michael used that phone to call a lot of people to talk to them about the future of the wireless industry and seek out ideas that could become the core of a future business. As he reached out to his wireless friends and acquaintances he began to hear two common themes emerge.
- OpEx was becoming just as important as CapEx as wireless executives were beginning to forecast the decline in explosive subscriber growth. It was Business 101 – the wireless industry would eventually flatten out as subscriber growth approached 100% penetration.
- Rent rolls for cell sites was going to become an increasing area of concern for operators. This was also Business 101 – if revenue growth flattens, operating margins become more crucial. And after payroll and backhaul, rent rolls were the largest OpEx line item in the network.
In 2004, Md7 got the opportunity to address these two issues when AT&T Wireless merged with Cingular. The new company had thousands of overlapping sites and we were contracted to renegotiate literally thousands of cell site leases. With private landlords located throughout the U.S., we simply could not follow the traditional site acquisition negotiation model of scheduling face-to-face meetings. So, we decided to handle everything over the phone. We had a lot of doubters because pretty much no one believed you could negotiate leases over the phone. But within days, the response to our efforts was so overwhelmingly successful that we kept maxing out our voicemail storage. We knew we were on to something.
With the subsequent Sprint and Nextel merger, we got a second bite of the apple. In 2005 and 2006, we began to refine our internal tracking software (which would eventually develop into the LiveTrack™ system) to enable us to manage literally thousands of negotiations from our central office in San Diego. We learned that a single negotiator could easily track and manage 150 negotiations and we began to truly master high-volume lease negotiations.
Oh yeah, and we were pretty good at keeping the rents down too.
Centralized Efficiency, Localized Know-How
After our early days in lease optimization, we transitioned into site upgrade amendments. The LTE growth boom had arrived and Md7 was ready for it. We proved that our newly developed processes and techniques, combined with well-trained lease negotiators, resulted in a better way to negotiate not just lease optimizations, but all cell site leases. We called this model “centralized leasing.”
By that time, Md7 had grown quite a bit. We traveled the country evangelizing the benefits of centralized leasing. Michael and Mark Christenson even took the message to Europe. But as any seasoned evangelist knows, not everyone believes the news is good – some do, some don’t. And no matter how much you believe it, not everyone will convert. Some people did, risking scrutiny within their own organizations to take a chance on Md7. Others politely passed on the idea.
Throughout the LTE build-out years, Md7 negotiated tens of thousands of lease amendments, including with private landlords, as well as processed site upgrade applications with each of the major tower companies. We showed that leasing can be scaled.
Md7 is now also scaling zoning and permitting services and all other site acquisition related services as well. We have discovered the balance between streamlining for large volume and utilizing a few people in the local market as needed (to maintain the local touch when needed, identify candidates and prepare SCIPS, close the final details with a local landlord, attend a hearing, or meet with municipal officials to get that final approval).
Wireless Infrastructure – The Future
A funny thing happened recently. I noticed that our phones are now ringing more than we have to dial out. Maybe all those frequent flier miles we earned meeting with our customers around the world is starting to pay off.
We have all seen the forecasts for exponential growth in the demand for wireless data. We all know that with that exponential growth comes a need for a new deployment model. Whether indoor or outdoor, macro or micro, we need to scale our ability to acquire and manage wireless real estate like nothing we have ever seen before.
The sheer volume of small cells being deployed over the next three to five years in order to meet capacity demand has created a new reality and carriers can’t use the same financial and deployment models for indoor and outdoor small cells that they’ve traditionally used with macro sites. They’re going to have to keep costs down and move faster. And all this work on small cells has to be performed in addition to growing the macro network.
The wireless infrastructure industry is going to be strong for the foreseeable future, but it is also going to have to be more creative than ever before.
Md7 has long grown past that initial, single, valuable BlackBerry in Michael Gianni’s pocket. Currently, the Md7 team is working for 25 different operators, across 4 continents, in 10 different languages, within 13 different countries. We now have lots of great employees, with their own list of contacts in their own iPhones and Galaxies — we even have one, hard-core loyal BlackBerry user.
The Md7 team is very excited about the current explosion in wireless infrastructure and is extremely confident that we are ready for the challenge.