Month: March 2015

How Has the Smartphone Changed Your Life? (My Ten Favorite Apps)

by Tom Leddo
Vice President

Did you see the “Connection Lost” episode of Modern Family that aired February 25, on ABC? The episode starts after Claire drops her iPhone in the toilet and is forced to use her laptop at O’Hare airport to sync-up with her entire family to address a family emergency. The entire episode takes place wirelessly on Apple products.

If you missed it, be sure to stream it on Hulu or on iTunes.

While making me laugh pretty hard, “Connection Lost” made me realize just how much our lives have changed in the eight short years since the iPhone was introduced by Steve Jobs in 2007.  We used to hold the phone up to our ear with one hand and care about voice quality. Now we hold our phone with two hands while looking down and typing and care about speed/bandwidth.

Personally speaking, the apps on my smartphone have significantly changed my daily habits. The following are my personal top ten in no particular order.

  1. News apps have completely replaced print version of a newspaper. My favorite is the Wall Street Journal, particularly the editorial page.
  2. Google Maps has usurped the built-in GPS in my car. It is much better at helping me find an address, points of interest, places to eat and is easier to use.
  3. Facebook and Twitter have made posting Food Porn (not what you are thinking) a fun part of my business travel. When on business travel, you often eat alone. Posting photos of my meals and commenting on my favorite Bar-B-Que joints helps pass the time and usually strikes a few chords with people I don’t often speak with otherwise. Oh yeah, and speaking of eating out, Hello Vino helps a wine novice like me select the right wine with the meal in my photos.
  4. Lose It!, a calorie counting app has tipped the long-term battle with my weight in my favor.
  5. Digifit combined with a heart monitor has significantly improved my overall health.
  6. Evernote has finally given me a decent way to organize countless notes, including a few hundred of my favorite recipes.
  7. Uber!
  8. USAA has made mobile banking effortless.
  9. Games – I hate to admit it but yes, I have Candy Crush and Flow Free on my phone.
  10. Pandora and Spotify have personalized my music and iHeart Radio has kept me in touch with the local college sports talk shows back in Alabama.

Plus one more – as my colleague, Harry Kapp, reminded me, no list of top apps would be complete if it didn’t also include Happy Hour Finder. As Harry said, “nothing more is needed.”

Planning for Site Acquisitions, Modifications and Upgrades – How to Break Murphy’s Law

By Harry Kapp
Project Supervisor, Md7

How can we use Murphy’s Law to our advantage? Simple. Knowing from the onset that anything that can possibly go wrong, will likely go wrong, may very well be one of the keys to success in planning and completing a successful project. It’s great when everything is completed perfectly according to plan and on schedule. Happens all the time …right? Well, maybe not all the time.

For those of us who have worked in the telecomm industry for a while, we have all heard or possibly experienced numerous horror stories, funny stories and misadventures ranging from landlord threats of arrest to the removal of the wrong equipment by decommission crews. I have actually had a tower owner tell me that another carrier’s construction crew had once installed equipment upside down requiring a second trip by a crane. Even what should be a simple equipment upgrade can often take some interesting twists and turns. Perhaps a bird has made the tower its new home, building a nest with a glorious view or the tower owner has recently had a very bad experience with another carrier and has decided that you are no different from the carrier that haunts the landlord’s dreams. You now have a landlord that is seeking some measure of payback or an outlet for previous frustration with another carrier.

But, there is a saying that with experience comes wisdom. Proper planning and knowing what to do or whom to call when a perfect plan manages to go awry is critical to the success of any project or site acquisition. In many cases, relationship building and communication will save the day. If you have worked with a site or a landlord in the past, your knowledge of the site’s telecomm history will be a huge assist in resolving unforeseen events. If you have not previously worked on a particular site, all is not lost. With well-planned lease and file audits, you can quickly become well-versed with the specific good, bad and, perhaps, ugly parameters of a site. There is no real need for surprises or entirely cold calls.

Anticipating what may go wrong will result in a plan that succeeds. You can create and name your own law to stay on a path to success!

Spotlight on Core Values: Balanced Life – Work smarter, not longer

by Cheryl Bobbitt
Director of Corporate Responsibility

“The key to keeping your balance is knowing when you’ve lost it.” ~ Anonymous

The qualities considered necessary to produce a balanced life will appear as varied from one individual to the next as will their social, ideological and moral principles. Because of this, we encourage our employees to find their own unique balance between work life and personal life and we look for ways to inspire them to find the place where healthy equilibrium in life can be achieved.

“How Will You Measure Your Life? is the title of an article by Clayton M. Christensen published in HBR’s 10 Must Reads – On Managing Yourself. Christensen poses three questions that we at Md7 must also answer:

  1. How can I be happy in my career?
  2. How can I be sure that my relationship with my family is an enduring source of happiness?
  3. How can I live my life with integrity?

Because in the busyness of life we rarely pause long enough from our work or play to assess our personal values, taking the time necessary to delve into the process of establishing enduring answers to the above questions can be a life-altering investment.

At Md7 we not only encourage the establishment of personal core values, but we are purposeful in our encouragement of our employees to maintain the integrity of their commitment to those values. We encourage involvement in activities outside of work that will promote family unity and growth in relationships; and activities that will produce personal growth through involvement in athletic, artistic and cultural enrichment activities.

The establishment of personal values and guarding the integrity of commitment to work-life balance will produce happy employees who will contribute to the success and growth of Md7.

Lease Audits – An Essential Element of Site Modification Project Planning

By Jared Williams
Project Supervisor

Following up on “Lease Audits – An Essential Element of Proactive Site Project Planning” previously published in the February 26, 2015 Md7 Communiqué, cell site leases are an essential part of each cell site. As technology continues to evolve and carriers aggressively work to improve their network coverage and capacity, site modification projects are becoming more and more necessary. This means that cell site leases are being modified more often than ever before. As a result, it is critical that carriers fully understand their cell site portfolios and analyze them prior to every site modification project.

Now that landlords are being contacted with requests for modifications more frequently, this has led to a massive increase in landlord sophistication and expertise when it comes to the wireless industry. If they did not know it before, landlords now understand that their property, their buildings, and their towers are a valuable asset. As a result, landlords are often more knowledgeable about their leases than the carrier. A lease audit will change that.

Site modification projects are complex, and driven by the need for increased capacity and coverage. As a result, these projects often need to be completed as quickly as possible to get the modified sites on- air. To ensure that these deadline- driven projects are completed on schedule, every effort must be taken to be proactive and ensure that any possible roadblocks are predicted and planned for. Obtaining knowledge of the items below is paramount to achieving this goal.

  1. Does your lease permit modification of the site or equipment? – Before resources are allocated, equipment is ordered or on-site work is scheduled, it is imperative to know if modification is even permitted. This seems like a basic question but it is one that is often overlooked. Make no assumptions here. A project manager should always ensure they know what modification rights exist before starting the project.
  2. What, if any, new leasing documents must be executed? – While site modification may be permitted, the lease could, and most likely will, have requirements for landlord notification, landlord consent, or possibly the execution of a new amendment to the agreement. Understanding what is required for each of these documents will allow for more accurate forecasting of site completion. The worst thing that can happen is to have a crew arrive on site only to have them sent away because an amendment is needed. The project is now up to several months behind schedule unnecessarily.
  3. What are your access rights for the site? – When is the carrier permitted to be on the site? Must the carrier provide additional documentation before going on site? Must the landlord have a representative on site? Knowing whether it is necessary to possess an up- to- date certificate of insurance, security clearance, or the landlord’s express permission to access the site can be essential in preventing delays or unreasonably upsetting the landlord. Showing up to a site unannounced and unprepared can lead to a lot of headaches down the road (see Item 2 as well).
  4. What is the current rent? – Knowing the current rent on a site, and comparing it to the market rates in the area will provide the carrier with the knowledge necessary to successfully negotiate proposed lease terms. Arbitrarily increasing rent to complete a site modification will only drive up costs exponentially in the long term. Network costs are going to continue to rise, and carriers will lower their plan prices to compete for business. Understanding and effectively managing the costs associated with real estate in the wireless industry is going to become more and more important.
  5. What are the current equipment entitlements? – Understanding your current equipment entitlements will allow for better planning of your leasing activities. If the proposed equipment configuration will not exceed existing entitlements, then perhaps no lease modification or increase in rent will be required. Perhaps, due to the addition of new equipment, there is a need to increase the leased area. It’s better to find that out during the audit than when a crew shows up on a site to install the equipment.
  6. What, if any, engineering studies will be required? – Knowing ahead of time whether or not a structural analysis, geotechnical report or wind study will be required is an essential time-saver. These studies can often take weeks to complete, so knowing when they’re required is a must. Another element to this is knowing whether or not the landlord runs their own studies or requires the carrier to order them. If the carrier pays for their own structural analysis but the lease and/or landlord requires their own engineering firm to do so, the carrier could end up paying for the same study twice!
  7. What was required the last time the site was modified? – With a guide to what was required the last time a site was modified, you will have an excellent heads-up as to what lies ahead. Did the landlord charge miscellaneous fees? What were their Notice to Proceed (NTP) requirements? Who signed their documents? Did they require the utilization of their own engineering firms? These are just a few items that would save time and money on the proposed site modification.
  8. Who currently owns/manages the site? – Cell site leases change ownership more frequently than ever. With the growing presence of lease buy-out companies and the continued acquisition of leases by various tower companies, it is important to know who currently owns the site. Why spend three months getting ready to modify a site only to find out right before you go out to the site that the lease is now controlled by a tower company and not by the property owner.

Proactivity cannot be stressed enough when it comes to effective site modification project planning. Every day, projects run into delays, roadblocks, and outright “site-killers” because not enough attention was given to the lease prior to engaging in on-site activities. The problems can be the difference between getting a site on the air in time and on budget or being delayed several months, resulting in deficiencies to network capacity and coverage. Proactively addressing the lease for each site at the beginning of every site modification project, and knowing the information outlined above will provide the head-start necessary to ensure success.