Category: Articles by Md7

Md7 Announces ISO 9001:2015 Certification

SAN DIEGO, CA – July 31, 2018 – Md7 is pleased to announce it is certified to ISO 9001:2015

ISO 9001:2015 is the most recognized and widely used business management system in the world, designed to help organizations meet and exceed the expectations and needs of their customers and other interested parties.  As part of the certification process, Md7 participated in a thorough audit of its business processes.

This certification reflects Md7’s commitment to two of our six core valuesContinuous Improvement and Extreme Service.  Tom Leddo, Chief Strategy Officer for Md7, noted, “While the certification process was rigorous and time-consuming, we found that many of the key components of the ISO process were already present at Md7.  Our core values are embraced throughout the company, which results in a sincere commitment to extreme service, well-defined and documented processes, and proactive client communication. Our proprietary workflow tool, LiveTrack®, automates our workflow to eliminate errors.  The ISO certification process certainly helped us improve some practices, but the underlying commitment to quality and continuous improvement were already embedded companywide.”

This certification formalizes and strengthens our commitment to our customers and our Quality Policy, which states:

Md7 delivers innovative solutions through its Business Process Manual (BPM), which uses ISO 9001:2015, together with our Company Vision & Purpose statement and Core Values, and any applicable legal requirements, to provide a framework to guide the organization in documenting, measuring and continuously improving our practices.

 

ABOUT MD7

Based in San Diego, California, and Dublin, Ireland; Md7 is a turnkey site development and real estate management company serving the telecommunications industry since 2003.  Md7 has provided a variety of site acquisition, lease management, and negotiation services for over thirty operators in eighteen different countries and twelve different languages in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and Oceana.

To learn more about Md7, please visit https://www.md7.com/.


Snapshot of the Small Cell Market – Jurisdictions

Most in the industry tend to picture small cells as an “easier project,” due to the nature of the technology and build. It is logical, as typically, small cells commonly consist of few smaller antennas and RRUs, that are placed on either a light pole or utility pole in the public ROW, or possibly concealed on a building. However, what is sometimes overlooked is many jurisdictions have finally become accustomed to zoning and permitting for a macro site. Throw small cells into the mix and numerous jurisdictions simply do not know how to move forward with such a site.

Additionally, ownership rights of the poles that are in the ROW can vary greatly. Sometimes ownership of the poles is with the power companies, but in many cases, the jurisdictions themselves own the light poles, and some have partial ownership of the utility poles. Revenue opportunities await jurisdictions who have ownership of the poles, but at a lower pay point than rent involved in a macro site. The attachments fees associated with the poles can be in the hundreds of dollars (or less) on an annual basis per pole, as opposed to sometimes in the hundreds to thousands per month on a typical macro site. Rent is also inconsistent amongst the jurisdictions and at times, the jurisdictions look to one another for guidance in negotiations.

State legislation currently being considered across the country looks to regulate jurisdictions’ authority in the rents charged when the jurisdiction is the pole owner, as well as limit zoning and permitting power. Most recently in California, the long awaited SB 649 was vetoed by the Governor which essentially allows the jurisdictions higher bargaining power regarding the rents and the permitting process in the ROW. It remains to be seen if other states’ legislation is successful from a carrier standpoint.


Md7 Blog - Five Things You Need to Eliminate Deployment Calls

Five Things You Need to Eliminate Deployment Calls

To eliminate deployment calls you need five things.

  1. Realistic forecasting. Proper forecasting is the foundation for a successful implementation. Without it, the project will spin out of control. Be realistic upfront, and it will go much smoother.
  2. A well-defined and mutually agreed deployment process. A defined process allows everyone to know where we are going and how we are going to get there.
  3. Proper tracking and reporting of the process. Good reporting of each step in the defined process including forecasts for delivery promptly informs everyone of the status. If the info in a report is trustworthy, there is no need to discuss trackers line-by-line.
  4. Proper execution. Execution is the most important. Talented, hard-working, experienced people are needed to execute the plan. Over time this results in trust. As trust develops, the need for scheduled calls diminishes.
  5. Trust. Immediately notify all key people as soon as you know something is going to delay the process significantly. This notification not only allows everyone time to adjust but also builds trust. Without trust, deployment calls are required to create routine accountability and uncover problems and delays. Trust is crucial to eliminating deployment calls, but that trust must be earned!


Scaling Small Cells One Community at Time

Scaling Small Cells One Community at a Time

Small cells are still new to most communities, and each community must go up its own learning curve and develop its deployment guidelines. No two cities are the same, and each must make its own decisions.

A recent article in RCR Wireless News highlights some challenges faced on a Verizon deployment in Palo Alto, California. As the article notes that due to “the unique nature of each site and the regulatory process that governs a particular location, it’s difficult to establish a scalable, predictable process.

But scale can be achieved.

Md7 is currently working on small cell deployments in over twenty-five cities. As this number continues to increase we have found that several aspects of small cell deployments can scale. For example, site walks and CAD designs can be standardized on a single pole type within a community. Thus, as noted in RCR, the work can often be completed in hours or days. But we do have to wait for each community to make aesthetic decisions which can take months.

As we work across more communities, we are learning how to reduce the wait time. We are learning how to educate communities on the need for small cells. We are getting much more efficient and wiser in our submissions. And we are learning to steer and advise communities as they make decisions.

Small cells fit very well in the Md7 business model of efficiency gained through scale and standardization of process. Economies of scale in some areas are quick, and others will take more time. However, even the challenges we face are beginning to nicely iron out as we work across more communities.


Best Practices for Small Cell Design

Best Practices for Small Cell Design

When viewed through the lens of our rapidly advancing industry, the implementation of small cell installations is nothing new. But, in the red tape laden world of local government zoning, small cell deployments are still relatively novel.

As such, a substantial majority of jurisdictions across the U.S. have yet to establish any standards for small cell design. Additionally, within the small group of cities and counties that have, the large variety of discordant design standards and state utility regulations makes it nearly impossible to create a one-size-fits-all solution that works across the country.

However, after working together with a plethora of jurisdictions throughout the U.S., we have seen that there is a common theme aimed at creating an integrated design that is as unobtrusive as possible. To that end, we have established a set of best practices for small cell design that can be used for successful deployment in almost every location across the country.

  1. Ideal: Completely hidden in pole. All-in-one new pole solutions where even the antenna is disguised as a pole feature are the gold standard. The Phillips SmartPoles deployed in San Jose are a great example.
  2. Flush-mounting and color matching on existing utility poles
  3. Seamless top mounting on existing light pole
  4. Enclosed and camouflaged in RF transparent screen
  5. RRUs/other equipment housed within new base shroud on light poles
  6. RRUs/other hidden behind existing street signs on pole
  7. Two antennas max, each antenna limited to 2-3 cubic feet
  8. Dedicate more time on the front end to work together with jurisdiction on a permit for a single site to create a compatible design solution. Implement the approved design into the remainder of the deployment to expedite the overall permitting process.


An International Perspective on the Challenges Facing the Wireless Infrastructure Industry

By Tom Leddo, Chief Strategy Officer and Lynn Whitcher, General Counsel

Different Cultures, but Similar Challenges

Md7 currently operates in fourteen different countries and eleven different languages. While there are obviously a lot of cultural differences between each of these markets, Md7 has found that each of these countries and regions within are facing a lot of the same challenges as each continues to upgrade and maintain their networks. And, believe it or not, we have also found that many of the solutions to these common infrastructure challenges are similar as well.

In short, Md7 acknowledges that each country and/or market within a given country is unique, but we have found through our efforts to acquire, modify, expand, extend, optimize and even decommission, tens-of-thousands of sites around in North America, Europe, New Zealand and Egypt that the challenges and solutions are more similar than one would assume.

Based on our experience over the last thirteen years, we find that all of the wireless operators we serve are facing the following two challenges.

  1. Managing capital expenditures (CapEx) on continuous and more frequent network upgrades in response to the ever-evolving consumer demand driven by the advent of smartphones, tablets and now even the Internet of Things (IoT).
  2. Managing operational expenditures (OpEx) in response to handset penetration rates in excess of 100%.

Or said another way, operators worldwide have to continuously increase the efficiency and bandwidth of their spectrum and networks while simultaneously operating on tighter budgets.

Independent of country or culture, it is simple economics. In all of the markets in which Md7 operates, the operator’s growth curve has flattened as it crosses 100% penetration, while the customers are demanding more bandwidth at lower prices, on cooler devices.

Disruption is Needed Globally

It’s clear that more cell sites are needed, but given the economic constraints of the industry, the traditional deployment model must be disrupted. In our previous article, More Cell Sites – Better, Faster, and Cheaper, we discussed the need to find a better way to acquire and build more cell sites (small cell, as well as DAS and macro sites) that is faster and cheaper. At Md7, we are investing a lot of money in R&D to find and improve upon solutions. We believe that the site acquisition process must be blown up and redesigned to be better, which we believe inherently results in cheaper and faster processes.


Md7, LLC Acquires ACO Architects, Inc. in Orange County, California

SAN DIEGO, CA – OCTOBER 26, 2016

Md7, LLC announced that it has acquired ACO Architects, Inc., an Orange County, California-based A&E firm with a strong presence and trusted reputation in Southern California.

The asset purchase of ACO’s operations in Orange County fits into Md7’s continuing growth of its site development services in the cellular industry. Through this acquisition, Md7 will substantially strengthen its efforts to offer a variety of à la carte and turnkey services in Southern California, particularly in the Los Angeles market.

According to Tony Ortale, who founded ACO thirteen years ago, “We are very excited by the opportunity to join such an innovative wireless services company. The first time I walked into an Md7 office it was clear to me that Md7’s centralized workload processing and tracking of the day-to-day workload is revolutionizing the wireless service industry. It is a clear example of an entire company working smarter not harder. It is unlike any other wireless services company I have encountered in my career. I am looking forward to the new challenges in the industry, and working with such a forward thinking company.”

Md7 initially launched its Engineering and Design Services division in February of this year under the leadership of Mario Martinez, Vice President of Engineering. According to Martinez, “ACO has a significant amount of industry expertise and a great reputation for quality design and engineering work in some of the most challenging markets in Southern California. The addition of ACO to the Md7 team will significantly bolster our Architectural and Engineering team and strengthen our ability to provide high volume and quality services, particularly in our rapidly growing service to deploy small cells.”

About Md7

Md7, LLC, based in San Diego, California and Dublin, Ireland, is a turnkey site development and real estate optimization company serving the telecommunications industry since 2003. Its experience and proprietary systems create greater efficiencies and significant cost savings for the largest wireless operators in the world. Md7 has provided a variety of site acquisition and real estate-related services in ten different languages, in thirteen different countries in North America, Europe, Africa and Oceania.

To learn more about Md7 please visit www.md7.com.


Small Cells Zoning – Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

By Tom Leddo, Vice President

On September 8, I had the privilege of moderating a panel at the Tower and Small Cell Summit that accompanied CTIA Super Mobility Show at the Sands Expo in Las Vegas, entitled “Small Cell Zoning: It’s A Problem. We Can Fix It.” The panel consisted of three attorneys; two from Southern California – Jeffrey Melching and Tripp May who typically work on behalf of municipalities and Chris Fisher who typically represents carriers in zoning issues and also just happens to be the President of the New York State Wireless Association. I say it was a privilege because these three attorneys are some of the best in the industry and I only had to ask the questions, not answer them.

The panel did a great job discussing best practices and how to find common ground between deploying small cells in the right-of-way and maintaining the aesthetic integrity of communities.

The 15-20 members of the Md7 Land Use team and I often discuss best practices regarding the rapidly evolving practice of deploying small cells in the ROW. I was encouraged to learn that many of the things we practice at Md7 are in fact the same things this panel recommended such as starting to communicate with municipal authorities very early in the zoning process, take the time to educate municipalities on why small cells exist and how it may be time to update the code to address this evolution in technology.

In my own words and in my own opinion, the following is a countdown of the top-five “take-aways” from this talented panel.

5. There are more success stories than horror stories – All three attorneys agreed that more often than not the operators and communities appear to be working together to reach a solution. That doesn’t mean that either side gets everything they want, but rather reasonable compromises are being reached. As is the case with many things, we just hear about the horror stories and often assume that is the norm – it isn’t.

4. Most municipalities do not oppose small cells – Generally, many municipalities recognize the need for, and in some cases even welcome, the new deployment methods to accommodate demand for high-speed connectivity to accommodate data and streaming video. According to Jeff Melching, in many cases the demand for data is beginning to outweigh the opposition against cell sites.

3. Working together and listening pays off – Tripp May pointed out that he often doesn’t even get asked to work with a municipality unless there is an issue and often those issues are caused by a threatening or unreasonable position on behalf of one side that causes the other side to take an aggressive counter position. By simply being reasonable and listening to each other, many of the issues can be avoided.

2. There are pros and cons to the shot clock. While both parties typically recognize and understand the shot clock, it may be equally advantageous to use it as a guide rather than a hard and fast rule. Federal shot clocks require operators to submit “complete” packages for zoning approval and then the zoning authority has 60, 90, or 150 days to approve or reject the submission, depending on the site build. If followed to the letter, an operator and vendor working on their behalf could spend a significant amount of money compiling a complete package for submission in anticipation of “starting the applicable shot clock” only to have it rejected outright and thereby wasting time and money. A better approach may be to discuss in advance the zoning authorities’ concerns and factor those issues in the initial design. This approach requires buy in from both sides- the applicant will need to produce some preliminary visual representations earlier in the process, while the municipality needs to be willing to provide meaningful feedback prior to a complete application and shot clock beginning.

1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate – In case you haven’t noticed the common thread in the first four of the top five in this list, it is clearly that communication is the key to finding a win/win solution to deploying small cells in the right-of-way. At the end of the one-hour panel I asked all three attorneys “if they wanted all attendees to take away just one thing from the session, what would it be?” All three answered “communication.” Each elaborated uniquely but I would summarize their comments as not only talking but also listening and considering to the other side’s position. More often than not the opposing position is grounded in reason and a mutual solution can be reached if respectful communication occurs.

Candidly speaking, the Land Use team at Md7 has been telling me for several months that communication is simply the best approach to working with municipalities when deploying in the ROW. I am glad to hear the experts agree.


Al Gore Was Right!

By Tom Leddo, Vice President

In April of 2009, I was at an industry event where one of the speakers was the former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore. He made a couple of predictions and as I look back on them it is quite obvious he was right.

No, no… I am not talking about that! I am of course talking about the wireless industry.

The event was the 2009 CTIA trade show in Las Vegas, and Vice President Gore was the keynote speaker on the final day. This was when CTIA was still at the Las Vegas Convention Center rather than the Sands Expo. CTIA often has a pretty big speaker on the final day and, as I assume it was intended to do, I stuck around to hear what he would say even if it is not directly related to the wireless industry. In this case, my expectations were pretty low but Mr. Gore made his comments very relevant. I often think back to what he said and how accurate he was about his predictions for the wireless industry.

Although he also spoke about global warming and national security, his comments that have caused me to reflect the most over the ensuing years were those he made about the economy and politics, particularly, how the mobile handset would really impact our nation. Acknowledging that the speech was over seven years ago and I can’t find a complete video or copy of the text anywhere online, I still think it is worth sharing my recollection of these two topics.

The impact of wireless on the economy

Bear Stearns, the investment bank and brokerage firm, had just collapsed in September of 2008 and at the time of his speech we were in the heart of the 2008-2009 subprime mortgage meltdown.

Attendance at CTIA was pretty low and the overall morale of the those attending the show was even lower.

While I never thought of Al Gore as an optimist, he spoke about how we were on the front end of a revolution and how as an industry we would continue to invest in infrastructure to meet growing demand. He was right.

At that time, according to Wikimedia, Apple had sold a total of only 17.37 million iPhones from the introduction of the original iPhone in Q3 of 2007 through the end of Q1 2009 when the second generation iPhone (iPhone 3G) was the new hot product. By comparison, Apple sold 125 million iPhones in the first six months of 2016 alone.

As further evidence of how the smartphone has evolved over the last seven years, I offer this photo that I took of Vice President Gore that day with my Blackberry Curve. Although small and with terrible resolution and clarity by today’s standards, it was virtually state-of-the-art at the time!

Article photo - Al Gore at CTIA 2009
Former Vice President, Al Gore speaks at CTIA in April of 2009. Photo taken with a Blackberry Curve.

Our industry was relatively stable compared to most of the economy at that time. If you lost your job in 2009 and found yourself sitting at the kitchen table trying to decide which bills to pay, you always paid your phone bill before your mortgage. You couldn’t find a job without a phone and the banks were easier to negotiate with than a cellular service provider.

Recurring service revenue and soon-to-boom smartphones sales weren’t the only part of our industry that rose during the economic downturn. The LTE build out began, and that kept many people in the wireless infrastructure industry employed while many friends and neighbors in other industries were struggling to make ends meet.

But bigger than our ability to endure through a struggling economy, Gore noted that information would be the dominant strategic resource throughout the 21st century. We are only sixteen years into this century but he appears to be right so far about information and how we communicate. And this leads me to the second of two things he spoke about that often causes me to reflect.

The impact of wireless on politics

When Vice President Gore spoke at CTIA in 2009 he compared the wireless handset at that time to the advent of the printing press and how information could be widely distributed to everyone. But, he said, the mobile phone will take it much further. The mobile phone would give a voice to the general population.

As I recall, he stated that prior to television, politicians had to create a local presence and go door-to-door to make speeches and meet voters. This allowed voters to speak with them directly and to influence decision making. But in the era of televised politics, communication became somewhat one-directional. Politicians would speak to a camera and buy advertising to influence voters who basically sat at home and listened. This lead many voters to become a bit lazy and less engaged.

Gore noted that the mobile phone would change that. It would return the power to the voters because they would have great ability to choose the source of their news and would be able to comment on what they would hear. The phone would always be within reach and the internet would allow each person to offer their thoughts and opinions to the entire world. Since that time, the explosion of various forms news and blogs as well as social media have changed our political landscape.

President Obama was the first candidate to use social media as a means to distribute his campaign message. And, regardless of one’s opinion of Donald Trump, there is no denying that he won the GOP primary with very little advertising and a whole lot of tweets. I would argue that the entire Trump phenomenon would not have even occurred if it weren’t for the way communication has changed over the last several years.

Entire political movements have quickly ignited and spread through social media – Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring and Black Lives Matter are perfect examples.

Regardless of who wins in November, future candidates will view and engage voters differently. Social Media flowing in both directions will be a major part of future elections.

Conclusion – Gore Was Right!

As noted previously, I was not able to find a complete video or copy of the text of Gore’s speech. But I did stumble across a Liveblog by a guy named Vikram who apparently was also in attendance that day. He notes that Gore stated that when “he and Bill (Clinton) took office there were only 50 websites”. That was in January of 1993.

Resisting the obvious opportunity to drop a joke about who “invented the internet” I’ll just give Vice President Gore his due. I walked into that 4,000 seat auditorium that day with an expectation of hearing a lifetime politician make a politically oriented speech about the “hope and change” that had just occurred three months earlier. Instead, I heard an excellent speech on the impact our industry will have on the future. I left feeling quite inspired and motivated, especially considering the economic environment at that time.

As I do each year, I’ll return to Las Vegas for the 2016 CTIA Super Mobility show at the Sands Expo September 7-9. This year’s headline making keynote speaker will be Mark Cuban; the businessman, investor, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and star of Shark Tank. We’ll see if he, too, has any bold predictions that inspire my thinking for the next seven years.

See you in Las Vegas!


Responsible (and Accelerated) Deployment of Small Cells

By Sean Maddox, Land Use Project Manager and Tom Leddo, Vice President

The much anticipated rollout of small cells appears to have finally arrived. The wireless infrastructure industry has been forecasting the small cell boom for the last couple of years and while the current wave is not as big as initially anticipated, the work is rolling out, and along with it a lot of new challenges. It’s clear that business as usual (which arguably no longer works even in the macro-site context) has no place in small cell deployments.

Some of the hurdles include:

  • developing new deployment models, including internal tracking and project milestones tailored to small cell polygons and clusters, rather than macro-site systems,
  • negotiating bulk attachment agreements with a variety of municipalities, utilities and pole/infrastructure owners,
  • rapid, large scale deployments at a low cost per node; and of course
  • working with local municipalities to develop guidelines for deployments specific to small cell technology.

In our opinion, the last issue is the most significant challenge we face at this time. On the one hand, operators have an immediate need for large-scale, efficient deployments in the rights‑of‑way. On the other hand, municipalities need to maintain the architectural and historical integrity of their communities while faced with an extraordinarily large volume of applications crossing their desks and (often) antiquated code, guidelines, and processes designed for hundred-foot towers. Given the stakes, the wireless infrastructure industry must take the lead to bridge these issues.

The following table outlines these two points of views from a high level.

responsible_small_cell_table

 

The Challenge

Mobile operators need to deploy a lot of new technology quickly and at a low cost due to their saturated market space. Based on the latest technology, one of the best ways to do this is to mount small cells on utility and light poles in the right-of-way.

Local officials want to make sure the latest technology being mounted on these poles is deployed in a manner that is consistent with the look and feel of their community so that their citizens (ideally speaking) can have access to bandwidth without even knowing where the rad centers are located. Many local officials are just now being exposed to small cell technology for the first time, leading to small cell approval processes being shoehorned into macro-site build processes.

As carriers and municipalities work through newer deployment models, frustrations have arisen on both sides. However, at the end of the day, mobile operators and local officials both just want to meet their customer’s/citizen’s expectations.

Is it possible to satisfy the consumer and the citizen in each of us?

At Md7, we believe the answer is yes – small cells can be deployed and even accelerated in a responsible manner.

 

Five Tips for Responsible and Accelerated Deployment of Small Cells

The following are the top-five tips that the Land Use Team at Md7 has generally found not only satisfy the local officials, but also actually accelerate deployments for our customers.

1. Treat people with respect. At Md7, “respect for the individual” is one of our six core values. Simply put, treat each person as you would want to be treated. If we treat each person we encounter as we want to be treated (even if they are opposing us on an issue), life is just more enjoyable.

2. Approach your municipality early. And often. For most jurisdictions, small cells are part of a new world. Therefore, as soon as a project is in-house (and subject to client consent), approach the jurisdiction with the project. The more visual materials available, the better. Getting the planning office involved early on allows for mutually agreed upon designs and government buy off. Bring in updated materials as they become available to continue the earlier dialogue and to help avoid expensive and time-consuming design revisions.

3. Aesthetics matter. The look of the final constructed project matters a lot. It matters to the municipalities, it matters to the citizens, and it matters to every future deployment. An aesthetically displeasing build leads to community distrust. Keep the wires tight and equipment small. Remember, this may be someone’s home. The look of the deployment must fit the look of the neighborhood.

4. Take the long term approach. If you push an approval request through in an irresponsible manner you may, in some circumstances, actually get on-air more quickly. Or, more often than not, you may actually delay your deployment through multiple rejections and resubmissions. Not to mention, you will damage relationships with the key decision makers within a community and often scorch the earth for future deployments.

5. If the municipal code or local guidelines are out of date, work with the municipality to update them. Md7 has actually done this in a few occasions. Many municipalities don’t have the time or resources to draft new code or guidelines for a technology they have never seen. By taking the time to educate them on the new technology and even giving them examples of code or guidelines from other municipalities, the goodwill you create more than offsets the time and cost to your projects on the front end.

The wireless consumer is also a citizen. The people who earn a living developing wireless infrastructure ultimately serve the same individuals that local government officials represent. The Land Use Team at Md7 has found that practices such as these not only smooth out the entitlement process, but actually accelerate deployments – particularly in the rapidly developing arena of outdoor small cells.

 


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