Tag: Small Cells

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Md7 Scout Mobile App

Md7 Partners with Overlay to Develop Scout App


SAN DIEGO, CA, and MENLO PARK, CA – January 23, 2019 – Md7 and Overlay have partnered to develop Scout, a cutting-edge computer vision and mobile augmented reality app, to accelerate the site acquisition and land surveying process for small cells in the wireless industry.  

Scout accelerates the site acquisition process by enabling virtual site walks as well as automating pole measurements and the creation of candidate packages.  It eliminates the need for back office processing of the data gathered in the field because all field data is uploaded from the app and is immediately accessible through a complementary web portal called Base.  Base manages search rings and auto-populates candidate packages and site sketch templates as soon as the field data is uploaded from Scout.

Scout is also designed to accelerate the land surveying process for small cells through the generation of 1A and topographic surveys.  When paired with survey-grade GPS, Scout uses Visual Inertial Odometry to build an accurate 3D scene of the objects and planes around each candidate pole.  This data is also immediately accessible through Base, which auto-generates 1A and topographic surveys in PDF format for review and approval by a licensed surveyor.

Tom Leddo, the Chief Strategy Officer for Md7, noted that “the small cell deployment model requires innovation in every phase, that is why we partnered with Overlay.  We have been working together to develop what we believe will be a disruptively innovative tool to accelerate the deployment of countless small cells over the next three to five years.”  

Overlay CEO Chris Morace said, “For too long deployment of our most critical infrastructure has relied on pushing paper and making phone calls, resulting in more cost and missed deadlines. Overlay uses the latest technology to pull critical data from the corporate office into the field and makes the results of that field work immediately accessible to the extended enterprise.  This technology is transforming the way networks are built.”


Based in San Diego, California, and Dublin, Ireland, Md7 is a network 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 twenty different countries and twelve different languages in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and Oceania.

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


Based in Menlo Park, California, Overlay is the pioneer and leader in the category of Field Intelligence Software.  Overlay brings together GNSS, AR, computer vision, AI, and back office data sets to transform the way our critical infrastructure is deployed, built, and managed.

To learn more about Overlay, please visit: https://www.overlay.com.ar

state legislature small cell map

Streamlining Small Cells Entitlements at the State Level

At last week’s Connectivity Expo or “Connect (X)” show in Charlotte, North Carolina, panel moderators and audiences alike asked the tower companies and carriers whether they were looking for intervention by the Federal Communications Commission to help streamline the entitlement process for small cells at the federal level.  It might surprise you to hear that the answer was, pretty uniformly, “no.”

Instead, the industry is hoping that reasonable state and local legislation will strike the right balance between the government’s interest in safe and responsible deployments and the industry’s drive to build the wireless network demanded by the consumers located in the very same area.

As shown in the map above, provided by the State Capitals: Building a 5G Future panel at Connect (X), seventeen states have already enacted legislation streamlining small cell siting, with one more state legislature having passed a bill that is awaiting the governor’s signature.

In jurisdictions like California, where the carriers and tower companies have long been looking for outside relief from the difficulties in clearing local entitlement challenges for small cells, attempts to pass state level relief have not been successful.  California’s most recent attempt to tackle the issue, Senate Bill 649, was passed by the state legislature but ultimately vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown at the 11th hour.  Panelist Monica Gambino, Vice President, Legal for Crown Castle, said it was not clear whether the state would see another piece of small cell legislation before Governor Brown is termed out of office this year.

The scope of issues facing California are not unique:

  • What are appropriate fees?
  • How do we achieve the right balance in residential areas?
  • What are the design solutions for communities with underground utilities?

We hope that California and the other states facing small cell siting challenges, like the seventeen states before them, find workable solutions to these issues.  If the industry is to support the vision of  5G, and the promises of self-driving cars, smart cities, the internet-of-everything, and the technical developments in connected devices that we haven’t yet even dreamed of inventing, the industry will need help breaking through the current barriers to deployment.

barriers to small cells

Top Barriers for Small Cells

The United Kingdom based Small Cell Forum recently released their annual Small Cell Market Status Report which included a wealth of statistics and trends about the rapidly evolving deployments of small cells worldwide.  The report included a list of top barriers to small cell deployments as identified through a survey of 78 different mobile network operators (MNOs) from across the globe.  

I took the liberty of categorizing the list of barriers into four general groups and offering some commentary on each.  

  1. The cost to build and operate small cells – The cost to deploy and operate a single small cell is still significantly higher than MNO targets which is an obvious barrier.  The industry must continue to innovate both the technology as well as the deployment process.
  2. Identifying approvable sites – Because small cells are still a new concept to many communities, the approval process can be lengthy and difficult.  Jurisdictions and communities need to be educated about the needs and advantages of small cells. As an industry, we are still in the early stages of generating awareness and developing processes for site approvals.  As deployments continue, awareness will increase, the process will be refined, and speed will improve with scale.
  3. Availability and costs of backhaul – This is a big one.  Simply put there is not enough fiber in enough places to support the anticipated deployments.  Large investments are needed to push fiber closer to the end users.
  4. Interoperability with macro sites, Wi-Fi and HetNets – This is a network engineering and design issue which is outside the area of expertise for Md7. However, we do regularly encounter this fourth barrier.  Even if we overcome the first three barriers listed above, if the engineers can’t make it work within their overall design, then we have to start over.

Conclusion: As an industry, we are beginning to see movement on all of the top barriers to small cells but are still a long way from achieving significant economies of scale.

why do we need small cells?

Why do we need small cells? (Updated)

Explaining Small Cells to New Community – Part 2

In an initial post about explaining small cells to a new community, we commented that one should “keep it simple when trying to answer a community’s or jurisdiction’s initial question – What is a small cell?” Once you have answered that question, the next question that typically follows is, “Why do we need small cells?”

The answer to this question is also simple as long as you keep in mind that small cells are still new in a lot of communities and view the community representatives as consumers of mobile services rather than a hurdle to zoning approval.

Often, the most persuasive answer is:

  1. Twenty years ago, we used to use mobile phones for talking.  As technology evolved, we began to text, email and do clunky, slow web searches.  Now we have data intense social media and video services. In short, video requires a LOT more bandwidth.
  2. To increase bandwidth on the networks, we need a lot more cells sites that are closer to the end user.  Thus, enabling operators to use their allocated spectrum more efficiently, and our phones working optimally.

This simple answer often creates a visual that allows an individual to recall the different handsets they have owned over the years and how their mobile habits have changed. Heads sometimes begin to nod in agreement. They may even chuckle if you drop a reference to the old brick phone.

When we view them as a consumer of mobile services as well as a jurisdictional representative, they begin to understand that the evolution in handsets and how they use them logically requires a change in cell sites and how we build them. Thereby we open the door to a productive zoning conversation.

Small Cell install

Why Small Cells Matter

In an era where roughly 77% of adults in the United States now own a smartphone, to say that network capacity is critical is something of an understatement. This is before you begin to think about the Internet of Things and the impending data explosion that it’s about to bring with it – there will be 30.7 billion devices connected to the IoT by as soon as 2020 alone.

Because of this concepts like expanding capacity, improving coverage and bringing service closer to the consumers who need it the most are of paramount importance – which is precisely why small cell sites are so critical to our future.

At Md7, we have years of experience working on thousands of unique small cell deployments in nearly every environment you can think of – from dense urban areas to suburban neighborhoods to beach and resort communities and everything in between. With projects having been successfully deployed in both the United States and in Europe, we are truly the partner in your wireless future that you (and your customers) need when you need it the most.

Our Services

Md7 is proud to offer a wide range of different services, all of which can be fully customized to meet your needs. These include but are not limited to things like:

  • Siting and Candidate Identification. In addition to identifying geo/polygon and targeted node locations, we will work directly with municipalities, utility companies, pole authorities and more to help get your solution up and running.
  • Zoning & Permitting. We have experience in challenging areas such as dense urban, beach communities, and environmentally sensitive areas.
  • Solution Engineering and Design, which can include site surveys, A&E services, utilities coordination and more.
  • Deployment/Construction Management

The need for small cell towers and related services is only going to increase – and become more urgent – over the next few years. If you’d like to find out more information about why small cells are such an important factor in both the current and future success of your business, or if you’d just like to discuss your needs with someone in a little more detail, contact Md7 and let us show you how we can help you Get On-Air Faster.

Solving the Small Cell Puzzle

By Brian Mackey, Md7 Land Use

Your RF engineer wants a small cell on this utility pole. Your construction manager prefers that streetlight pole. The City Planner says neither pole is acceptable and asks you to move the site 1/4 mile down the road, away from nearby houses. How do you please everyone? Our Land Use team asks – and answers – this question on a daily basis.

It starts with education and teamwork. We’ve talked extensively about the importance of developing rapport with jurisdiction decision makers, a topic so vital that it deserves another mention. It is equally crucial to recognize the value of strong intra-team communication. Have discussions with your RF engineer to prevent choosing a site that looks great on a propagation map, but requires several hundred feet of underground conduit topped with curb-to-curb street resurfacing that costs as much as a macro site. A well-placed small cell will provide maximum coverage while minimizing the price tag associated with bringing power and telco to the pole.  

Work closely with your construction manager to make sure she knows how the local zoning code may limit the options. At the same time, become familiar with construction concerns to avoid choosing sites that cannot reasonably be built. 

Explain to the City Planner why small cells need to be closer to residential neighborhoods than he might want or expect. While you’re at it, inform the local residents about the benefits your small cells will offer. Believe it or not, I have read a letter of opposition from a resident who said her cell phone reception was so bad that she didn’t think an antenna would help. Clearly, this is precisely the type of person who would benefit most from a nearby small cell.

Naturally, all of this gets easier when you have a good relationship with everyone involved. We’ve said it before and it’s worth repeating: taking time to build relationships will help get everyone on the same wavelength, and will assist you in solving the small cell puzzle.