Five Things You Need to Eliminate Deployment Calls
To eliminate deployment calls you need five things.
- 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.
- 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.
- Proper tracking and reporting of the process. Good reporting of each step in the defined process including forecasts for delivery promptly informs every one of the status. If the info in a report is trustworthy, there is no need to discuss trackers line-by-line.
- 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.
- 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 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
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.
- 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.
- Flush-mounting and color matching on existing utility poles
- Seamless top mounting on existing light pole
- Enclosed and camouflaged in RF transparent screen
- RRUs/other equipment housed within new base shroud on light poles
- RRUs/other hidden behind existing street signs on pole
- Two antennas max, each antenna limited to 2-3 cubic feet
- 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.
What is a Smart City?
I have been struggling for a while to write an article about Smart Cities that addresses three simple goals:
- accurately defines the term Smart City,
- explains how Smart Cities will impact our future, and
- gives an example of an actual Smart City.
As I often do, I started with searching the term on Google and zeroing in on the definition of a Smart City in Wikipedia. However, I ended up getting distracted by new terms like Urban Informatics, and reading tangential articles that were extremely interesting but difficult to summarize in a single article. The exciting and vast possibilities for the rapidly developing future are simply overwhelming.
Coincidentally, my colleague, Michele Brod, who is working on an exciting new project for a Md7 customer in Canada, sent me a link to an article published on Mobile Syrup, a Canadian news page that focuses on mobile technology and innovation. The article addresses the three objectives better than I can do myself so I am simply republishing it below.
How three Canadian cities are trying to become smart cities
MAR 9, 2017
Upon hearing the phrase “smart city,” a foggy image of the Jetsons probably comes to mind.
Smart cities are still an unknown concept to most urbanites, who don’t realize that changes are currently underway to make the cities they live in smarter. On March 7th, representatives from cities across Canada came together for the second annual SAP Smart Cities Forum, where the future of urban life was explored.
As the director of technology innovation for the City of Kitchener, Dan Murray puts it; the definition of a smart city changes depending on which city you enter, as each city has its own priorities and its own obstacles.
However, for Canadian cities that are looking to become smart cities, one central theme seems to be generally agreed upon, and that is one of efficiency and communication.
While some cities like Mississauga are tackling these concepts by modernizing and improving their transportation portals, others, such as the City of Toronto, are bridging communication gaps by making its data available to its citizens.
Here’s a look at how three Canadian cities are trying to become smart cities.
Toronto: Open Data, Public Transit, IoT
The city of Toronto has been extremely active in making the vast amounts of data its collects available to the public. The city’s open data initiatives have paved the way for all kinds of data-driven projects to come to fruition.
According to the director of enterprise and solutions at the City of Toronto, Fazal Husain, the data obtained through the city’s open data initiatives plays a critical role in helping city workers gain a better understanding the obstacles that stand in the way of Toronto becoming a smart city.
“If the city doesn’t know the problem of day-to-day life that you’re experiencing, I don’t know if we can address it,” says Husain.
He goes on to describe the city’s Cycling App as a prime example of how data initiatives help the city run more efficiently. The Cycling App is an initiative spearheaded by Brisk Synergies for the City of Toronto which allows cyclists to record their cycling routes. This data will be made available to the city for reference when developing cycling network plans.
After a run-in with a pedestrian who raved about the app, Husain was convinced about its potential to improve circumstances for all Toronto cyclists and serve as a model for other city services.
In addition, Toronto is focusing heavily on public transit and IoT as a way to solve the city’s ongoing congestion problems. Going forward, the city is considering an IoT solution to improve the flow of traffic.
Husain concluded by saying that a smart city isn’t an end goal, but a process. “I don’t think a smart city is an end state. It will continue to be developed because technology is not standing still,” says Husain.
Mississauga: Wi-Fi Blanket, Public transit, public outreach, IoT
The City of Mississauga has been extremely active in the smart city movement through public transit initiatives, Wi-Fi enhancement and other forms of public engagement.
Shawn Slack, the city’s director of information technology and chief information officer spoke extensively about Mississauga’s investment in improving public transit across its jurisdiction as a response to one of the GTA’s most pressing concerns.
“So, a lot of our smart city type technologies are investing in advanced traffic management, smart bus technology, so that we can get a better handle around how traffic is moving and then respond when there’s either an accident, or during rush hour, or in making sure we have coordination of services and traffic control,” says Slack.
Slack also emphasized the importance of bringing Wi-Fi to as many corridors of the city as possible. In addition helping to bridge the digital divide, Slack describes that such a robust Wi-Fi network is also invaluable to the consolidation of communication across the city.
He uses the example of communicating with citizens. As City Hall becomes more technologically capable internally, it has the ability to communicate with citizens about relevant announcements and services through web portals, such as video messages. Without reliable internet access, citizens in certain parts of the jurisdiction may not have access to these important messages.
“We want to make sure that if we’re going to tailor communication, people have the capacity to get internet in that area,” says Slack.
In order to sustain this model, the City has partnered with multiple parties across the region, including the Region of Peel, Brampton and Caledon as well as several hospitals and universities. These partnerships ensure that services like this one remain affordable.
“It’s an economy of scale. So we have a private fibre network within the region of Peel. And it’s a partnership between the city of Mississauga, Brampton, town of Caledon and the Region of Peel, the hospitals and the post-secondary schools. We’ve built enough fibre within the region to go around the planet once. If the city were to build that on its own, it wouldn’t be as affordable and the benefits wouldn’t be as effective,” continues Slack.
Kitchener: Outreach, incubators, eServices, public transit
While the City of Kitchener doesn’t see a value in blanketing its jurisdiction with Wi-Fi, city leadership has developed a four-part plan to work towards becoming a smart city.
The director of technology, innovation and e-services at the City of Kitchener, Dan Murray, says that there isn’t one definitive standard for what a smart city will be. It all depends on the individual city’s circumstances.
Kitchener leadership placed a heightened emphasis on the community aspect of ‘smart city,’ by spending 18 months developing the Digital Kitchener strategy.
“We tried to leverage technology to improve the lives of the citizens in Kitchener. That’s kind of how we approached this. We approached a technology strategy with a strong community focus to it,” says Murray.
Kitchener’s strategy calls for the to be city, connected, innovative, on demand, inclusive, and to prioritize the needs that the citizens want to see fulfilled.
The city will aim to install an IoT network and fibre optic capability in areas where it would improve civic life, and implement on-demand e-services to reach citizens on the digital platforms they’re active in.
Moreover, the City of Kitchener is a fast-growing innovation hub in Canada, which is largely incorporated into the city’s smart city ambitions.
Communitech, for example, is the largest technology incubator in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, and one of the most well-known across Canada. This incubator and others will play a significant role in becoming more digitally-enabled.
“Every city also has their own realities and their own factors that are at play. I think what we try and do is look for various ideas among municipalities but you have to try and adapt them for what makes sense for yourself. And that’s really what we were trying to do with digital Kitchener, was gain an understanding of the things that are of interest to the citizens of Kitchener.”
Smart cities, by the city
When it comes to smart cities, every region has its own idea of how to get there. They all agree on one thing however; a smart city will be in a constant state of development.
As technology evolves and changes, so to will its uses in civic life. Even more importantly, as cities evolve and change, so to will their requirements of the technology they use.
Between cross-platform Wi-Fi, consolidated transportation and data-driven initiatives, it’s fair to say that citizens will begin to feel the effects of these changes extremely soon. Perhaps the ever-elusive smart city isn’t so much about achieving an end goal, but rather, a way for technology to truly change the civic experience.
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.
- 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).
- 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.”
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!
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.
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.
Small Cells – Not In My Front Yard!
By Tom Leddo, Vice President and Lynn Whitcher, General Counsel
“A favorite theory of mine — to wit, that no occurrence is sole and solitary, but is merely a repetition of a thing which has happened before, and perhaps often.” –Mark Twain
Anyone who has worked in the wireless infrastructure industry for a while has heard the term NIMBY, an acronym for Not In My Back Yard. According to Wikipedia:
“NIMBY is a pejorative characterization of opposition by residents to a proposal for a new development because it is close to them (or, in some cases, because the development involves controversial or dangerous technology) often with the connotation that such residents believe that the developments are needed in society but should be further away. The residents are often called Nimbies and their state of mind is called Nimbyism.”
In the wireless infrastructure industry, this “controversial or (perceived) dangerous technology” is a cell tower.
We first heard the term NIMBY in the late 1990’s. In 1996 the industry began to rapidly deploy the first digital networks, or what we now call 2G. Cell towers were new to most communities around the country and therefore most municipalities did not have sufficient code to deal with these new structures, nor the staff to handle the abundance of zoning and permitting requests.
Some developers took the lack of code as an opportunity to argue that there was nothing to prevent them from building these new tall structures. The result was an onslaught of moratoria against the development of towers across the country, which in turn resulted in increased levels of litigation.
It was an understandable situation. Investors had just paid billions of dollars for wireless spectrum and were in a race to develop their networks in what was forecasted to be a booming industry. Newly incorporated, mobile operators were in a hurry, and it was reasonable for local planners and commissions to want to preserve the aesthetics and beauty of their communities. Nimbies began to attend zoning hearings by the busload.
Twenty years later, wireless history is about to repeat itself. The only difference is that instead of 200’ masts and rooftop mounts, we are deploying suitcase sized boxes and small domes on light poles in the public right-of-way. People who live in suburban or dense urban neighborhoods may return from work one afternoon to find the latest technology deployed next to their driveway or just outside the window of their second story bedroom in an apartment or townhouse – or said another way, in their front yard.
If we are not careful, we are going to create an entire new movement of social media empowered people with the battle cry of “NIMFY!” and this will result in another wave of moratoria and legal battles.
The wireless industry has been placed in a difficult position. Consumers demand 24/7 high‑definition video streaming and reliable download/upload capability in their homes, at their offices, and while on-the-go in coffee shops, malls, and waiting in line – everywhere and any time. People get frustrated when they can’t get a signal on their phone, emails don’t send, or social media updates fail to post. This is the generation of the cord-cutters: people who proudly renounce landlines and/or cable and rely on wireless connectivity instead. However, high volume wireless use requires dense wireless infrastructure solutions. It’s a simple matter of math and science. Large macro-site towers serving large geographic areas no longer have the capacity to meet current consumer data use. Homeowners have spent hundreds of dollars on in-home signal boosters, only to find themselves pulling over on the drive home to complete a call because there is still no signal at the house. The practical reality is that we need wireless facilities located closer to the high-volume user. Ironically, it’s the mobile user, not the carrier, who is driving wireless installations into residential areas. Rest assured that carriers do not spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to design and install a facility that is not needed by the customers. These small cell facilities are low‑powered and serve only that specific neighborhood. Cell sites are coming into residential neighborhoods because that is where the high-volume data usage is.
Right-of-way installations are not new. In fact, the carriers have a federal right to use the public right‑of‑way without discrimination. Carriers obtain encroachment permits or franchise agreements (similar to the franchise agreements given to public utilities or cable companies) from the local municipality to use the public streets. Wireless carriers are often certified by the state public utilities commission. DAS and small cell attachments are found on utility poles, traffic signals, and street lights throughout the United States. Right-of-way installations have been the solution to preserve coastal lines and provide an alternative to contested macro-site tower proposals. There are many outdoor small cell and DAS deployments that are installed without heartburn to the public or city planners. In fact, many jurisdictions require no zoning review for right‑of‑way attachments.
DAS and small cells can provide a win-win for the carrier and the public. For example, Verizon Wireless worked with the City of San Francisco to create a plan for the deployment of 400 small cells that balanced the carrier’s desire to more effectively meet current and future consumer needs with the preservation of the unique beauty and character that defines San Francisco as a world-class travel destination filled with historic sites and famous architecture. The examples below depict elegant small cell deployments.
But, where an installation is deployed directly in front of a residence without notice, or a visually obtrusive installation is located outside a historic building, public opposition may potentially arise. In the 1990’s, the first-movers sometimes scorched the earth with unsightly tower deployments, burning bridges with the public and city planners for the carriers that followed. We hear reports that a similar approach may be underway with right-of-way installations. That method does not work in a 21st century society. In an era of social media and the internet, wireless facility installations do not go unnoticed. The internet and social media, the very reason why the facilities are installed in the first place, provide a conduit for information and complaints to proliferate. As a result, carriers are voluntarily and involuntarily relocating controversial pole installations.
PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS ARE NEEDED
The demand for 5G will only increase the need for densified networks in high‑volume urban areas. Wireless carriers need a stable, predictable environment in which they can efficiently deploy DAS and small cells within the right-of-way in a timely and cost-effective manner. Addressing public opposition and, worse yet, incurring the costs of relocation, diverts precious time, resources and money that a carrier would be better served investing in additional network infrastructure enhancements.
So, what do we do about it?
The following are a handful of lessons we (should have) from the late 1990’s and (hopefully) won’t repeat in the late 2010’s.
FOR THE WIRELESS INDUSTRY:
1. Understand the environment surrounding the site. When designing a site, consider the look and feel of the location. For example, the installation of a new pole support structure or larger installation may meet opposition in an area with undergrounded utilities or in residential neighborhoods. In contrast, that same design may be appropriate for industrial areas or urban thoroughfares proliferated by other street furniture, such as kiosks, cabinets, traffic signals, news racks, trolley poles, and street lights.
Also, familiarize yourself with any prior community concerns (if any) relating to cell sites. Even where community meetings or notices are not required by law, these may help smooth the overall process and encourage community acceptance of the site. Many of our clients have excellent materials designed to educate the general public. Take advantage of these resources. T-Mobile’s How Mobile Works website uses easy to follow graphics and straight-forward explanations to illustrate the interaction between larger tower sites and their smaller counterparts, the conditions under which a small cell system or DAS may be needed, and the benefits to the consumer (improved coverage and network speed) and the general public (improved 911 accessibility and caller location and identification services).
2. Silence in the code isn’t necessarily a green light. Carriers and tower companies should not assume that just because a local zoning code is silent on right-of-way wireless installations, this is the equivalent of a green-light to install whatever you want, wherever you want. Unless industry deployments are responsible and reasonable, a municipality may react by imposing a moratorium and developing onerous deployment requirements for future installations.
Given the opportunity, carriers can act responsibly and reasonably. Take, for example, backup generators. The federal government has explored the idea of regulating and mandating the installation of generators at cell sites to protect public safety and welfare in the event of a natural (or other) disaster. The wireless industry responded by voluntarily rolling-out back-up emergency generators at their sites. The carriers have also voluntarily implemented 911 wireless location capabilities far in excess of current Federal Communication Commission requirements. As an industry, we do not need government intervention to make common sense decisions.
3. Earning the municipality’s trust and respect will allow you to be an ambassador for positive changes. In recent months, the Md7 team has been working on a small cell polygon located in a burgeoning suburb in the Pacific Northwest. This particular municipality had never encountered the zoning approval of a small cell. Faced with a 30-node polygon, the jurisdiction initially requested we submit 30 separate zoning applications, each with a $5,000 deposit. After lengthy discussions with the jurisdiction, the planning department agreed to consider the polygon as a single system, reducing the number of applications from 30 to 1. This approach makes practical sense for both parties. Neither the jurisdictions nor the carriers can afford the time and money expended in treating a small cell node in the same manner as a cell tower. But change requires trust, which is often hard to earn and is easily lost.
Site acquisition and wireless industry professionals must be trained to effectively communicate to the municipality that expedited deployments support and further the interests of the community. Relevant factors may include: wireless service issues within the city, homebuyer preferences towards connectivity, and the symbiosis between the proposed small cell deployment and the municipality’s general or comprehensive plan. Once an agreement is developed with the municipality, stick to the plan. If, for some reason, changes in the field necessitate a different direction, communicate with the jurisdiction early and often. Where mistakes are made, fix them quickly.
WHAT WE ASK FROM THE JURISDICTIONS:
1. Identify and communicate relevant concerns. To the extent that a jurisdiction has concerns regarding small cells and DAS installations within the right‑of‑way, it should issue clear standards that preserve the governmental interests while balancing the infrastructure needs of the community. Examples of jurisdictions that have already addressed right-of-way installations include Portland, Oregon; San Carlos, California; and Alpharetta, Georgia. And, even where we may not agree with the jurisdictional process or requirements, clear communication of the relevant requirements helps us submit complete and accurate application packages.
2. Make it easy to comply with local process and requirements. Design requirements and approval processes should be easily available, preferably online. Consider email or online application submissions. Additionally, it is a pleasure to work with planning departments staffed with knowledgeable and easily accessible personnel.
3. Be prepared for volume. Municipalities should be prepared for the onslaught of applications for right-of-way installations. Nothing is more frustrating than hearing that that the only planner that can review your application is on vacation or only comes into the office once a week. The much anticipated 5G mobile standard will only increase the number of siting applications being submitted. Inside Towers reports that Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler expects 5G’s infrastructure will rely heavily on small cells, towers, antennas and backhaul. Chairman Wheeler notes, “To make sure we have this connectivity with high-band spectrum will require a lot more small cells, which means a lot more antenna siting decisions by local governments.”
To learn more about best practices for right-of-way deployments, click here.
HOW TO GET THERE
In the 1990’s, wireless connectivity was a luxury. Fast forward 20 years and wireless communication has moved from convenience to necessity. This utility has become essential to public health, safety, welfare, and happiness. Thus, while many not often realize it, the wireless industry and municipalities share a common goal of serving the greater public good. The same people that comprise the wireless customer base are also the government’s constituents. With that in mind, neither side can afford to repeat the mistakes of the past. We have much work to do.
In recognition of the essential nature of wireless service and the benefits it brings to the community, and in further recognition that there has been a long history of onerous and unwieldy siting processes in some jurisdictions, lawmakers at the federal, state, and local levels have implemented or proposed regulations and legislation to help ease obstacles to deployment. With this ability to expedite deployments, the industry must ensure that it does not violate the trust placed in us by jurisdictions. We look forward to seeing more jurisdictions take a forward thinking approach in investing in their communities by helping to bring wireless connectivity where it is most needed.
 47 U.S.C. §§ 253(a) and 224(f)(1).
 Many of these lessons are taken from Best Practices for Deploying Wireless Infrastructure in the Public Right-of-Way, by Daniel Shaughnessy of Md7, available at: https://md7llc.wpengine.com/2016/04/best-practices-for-deploying-wireless-infrastructure-in-the-public-right-of-way/
 See Best Practices for Deploying Wireless Infrastructure in the Public Right-of-Way, by Daniel Shaughnessy.