Category: Blog

The Seasoned Traveler

By John Cahill
Vice President of Business Development

As a seasoned traveller, typically logging 80,000+ airline miles and over 75 hotel nights in a year, you become accustomed to and prepare for Airport parking hassles, TSA security requirements, clogged airport terminals, weather delays, long lines, cramped planes and just plain waiting.   I’d have to say, in general, the best way to prepare is to lower your expectations for service and comfort, whether it’s Airport personnel, vendors or the Airlines. Not to say there are not service agents who will truly try to be helpful. There are good people and good experiences to be found out there. But, however exciting travel sounds, business travel is just not a glamorous activity.

To cope and compensate, you develop certain routines. One rule you see used by many travelers is to bring a carry-on bag and not check luggage. For some, this may be strictly to avoid baggage fees but for most active business travelers these fees are waived and not applied based on the quantity of flights with a specific airline. However, often not checking a bag is one key to speed and convenience when arriving at an airport and not having to wait for luggage at baggage claim. I am one who adheres to this policy unless I have excessive luggage for a lengthy trip or planned extracurricular activities, e.g., golf clubs.

Recently I was traveling on a usual route leaving from my home Atlanta airport on my usual, loyal airline. But this time, I had arrived early. I knew the plane would be full and crowded and I wasn’t necessarily in a hurry so I decided to check my usual carry-on bag. Being a frequent flier, I knew my bag would be tagged priority and I would not have to wait long for my bag at my destination. And besides, the airline has a 20-minute bag delivery guarantee! I was able to traverse the airport a little easier and boarded my cross-country 4+ hour flight.

I arrived on time, proceeded to baggage claim and waited for my bag. After waiting 10 minutes or so, I began to notice people picking up bags without priority tags and making their way out of the airport. Could it be that the one time I voluntarily checked my bag, it didn’t make the flight? I was at the airport plenty early for my flight. With all these thoughts going through my mind, I heard my name paged to please come to the Airline baggage service desk. There I found the reason my bag was not on the baggage claim conveyer (see attached picture). Ouch! The very courteous and helpful baggage service agents surmised my bag had either been stuck in the routing conveyer after being checked, had fallen off the delivery trolley, been dragged and run over, or, all of the above. Well the airline did compensate me for my bag and the agents made the experience as painless as possible. For that I am grateful. Also a big shout out to Briggs & Riley luggage! Although my bag was destroyed, the contents were unharmed!!! From the picture, you may notice a bottle even survived. Unfortunately for me, it was not a bottle of Bourbon – I could have used it just then.

Now I am even more dedicated to my “never check a bag”’ policy.

Will Small Cells Ever Really Come?

by John Cahill
Vice President of Business Development

At first glance, you might think deploying and activating a small cell would be relatively easy compared to a Macro cell. Turns out that is not necessarily the case. Macro sites are expensive to deploy but provide a “big bang for the buck.” Small cells are very targeted deployments for delivering needed coverage or capacity to the benefit of a much smaller group of users. A small cell, however, still requires space, power and backhaul as well as appropriate RF design, network integration and interoperability, operations and maintenance, all of which potentially contribute to the cost of a successful network addition. Carriers look at Return on Investment as a major differentiator for approving capital projects and small cells are a tough business case.

So where will it go? What are the alternatives? How can the small cell business case be improved?

There is much discussion about the role of Wi-Fi and whether this technology can alleviate or reduce the need for small cells. Wi-Fi is already an integral part of smartphone data usage. Some studies indicate Wi-Fi currently carries over 60% of smartphone data traffic. The thirst for capacity isn’t stopping. Wi-Fi will continue to be a key part of the solution and may even grow but it won’t be the only answer. The integration of Wi-Fi and Cellular LTE, e.g., LTE-Unlicensed and LTE Assist, are key topics the equipment industry is working on to improve alternatives, delivery and performance.

Even with Wi-Fi-LTE integrated solutions such as “plug and play,” self / minimal install and auto provisioning, network integration and self-optimization are the critical requirements for widespread, high volume, small cell deployments. Wi-Fi is a widespread de-facto network technology for office buildings and homes because of the ease of installation and use. There are many models for office network design with installation and maintenance ranging from obtaining a single Wi-Fi router and plugging it into your Internet Access to hiring an Internet Provider/VAR/Integrator to design, install, operate and maintain your entire office network. Small cell deployments need to be the same from a cost as well as deployment, network integration and operation perspective. Cellular small cells need the same deployment options – whether it’s a single unit plug and play solution or a more complex design and installation.   These heterogeneous, site/customer specific delivery models will be required to meet the extensive demands to “light” buildings with cellular network capacity and growth.

For small cells to reach the widespread volumes once envisioned, there must be viable economic deployment alternatives to meet the varied needs of carriers as well as targeted locations.

Heterogeneous Deployment Models for Small Cells (HetDep)

by Tom Leddo
Vice President

In September of 2013, I wrote a blog called “Small Cells, Small Cells, Small Cells” about all the buzz and conversations around small cells. In short, I was saying that there was still a lot of uncertainty about small cells and that it may be a few years before we know how it would all play out.

Eighteen months later, we know a whole lot more, but we still do not have a single, simplified model for small cell deployment. We do know that deployment costs are forcing our industry to temper our high hopes for 2015 and 2016 deployment volumes and also forcing us to really think outside of the box.

Simply put, the biggest factor is of course cost. While it is generally agreed that the various versions of small cells are much cheaper than a Distributive Antenna System (DAS) to deploy, the ROI on individual deployments has prevented the deployment levels we anticipated a couple of years ago.

Demand for coverage and capacity is high enough that some venue and large building owners are willing to help share the costs of DAS installations, particularly in the case of neutral hosts systems. But the economics on a model of this nature only work in stadiums, venues and buildings generally over one million square feet. While the demand for data is also beginning to get the attention of the owners of medium and small buildings, a viable single financial model has not yet evolved far enough to allow scale deployment to the levels we hoped.

Additionally, Wi-Fi calling and the combination of small cells with Wi-Fi are changing the landscape. Wi-Fi systems that can be self-deployed by the customer could be packaged with traditional LTE service to increase bandwidth, particularly in small buildings like restaurants that thrive on the buzz of social media.

So, stadiums, arenas and large buildings are covered by DAS and Wi-Fi systems. Residences, and small buildings are being covered through a combination of the traditional, macro network, personal “Femto” cells and Wi-Fi. The biggest challenge/opportunity seems to remain the medium sized buildings (bigger than a restaurant but less than 1 million square feet), the area we assumed would cause the small cell revolution. This is where creativity is needed to develop new economic models to fund deployment.

  • Will operators begin to increase funding for large volumes of small cell deployments?
  • Will independent third parties fund small cell deployments much like they currently do many traditional DAS networks?
  • Will building owners fund deployments (or at least offset the cost)?
  • Will tenants that rent office space in these middle ground buildings begin to self-deploy Wi-Fi and LTE small cells?
  • Will OEMs seek new ways to finance design and installation costs to move their cool new systems from R&D to ceiling tiles??
  • Will more creative approaches to deployment evolve?

The short answer is yes to all of the above!

To quote the English proverb, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” The exponential increase in the demand for data is driving the necessity for new creative deployment models. New models will be invented. I speculate that one or two of the best are yet to come and that no single one will be the silver bullet we all hoped for.

Or said another way, the HetNet will require a Heterogeneous Deployment model – HetDep!

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

By Harry Kapp
Project Supervisor, Md7

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

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

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

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

The Chutes and Ladders of Site Acquisition

by Harry Kapp
Project Supervisor

Multiple projects, multiple carriers… site. Saving money or doubling your costs are both possible scenarios for these sites. Similar to the old game of Chutes and Ladders, when there are multiple carriers who are all seeking to upgrade the same cellular site, a mistake or a delay can result in having to begin your application from the beginning, losing your place in line. Given the time required by some tower owners to review and process applications, this can add months to your project and increase costs, e.g., re-application fees and the cost of revised structural analyses. When budgets and forecasts need to be changed, justified and explained, it’s no longer a game.

Additionally, when one carrier has multiple projects planned for the same site, it is important to understand the impact these projects may have on each other and on the tower owners who may be approached by various vendors with overlapping requests. Approaching tower owners with coordinated plans to upgrade equipment, change equipment, install backhaul, etc. is a much more successful and cost effective approach than having an owner poised to sign an amendment for one project who is suddenly approached by another vendor with a separate but related request for the same carrier. The pen is put down, the amendment remains unsigned and you may be faced with revising an application and paying more fees. The result will likely be another delay and another need to revise forecasts.

Multiple carriers and projects at the same site clearly illustrate the importance of attention to detail, matching your needs to the site’s needs, understanding the big picture and communicating successfully and proactively with both the carrier and the tower owner. Communication is the key to success for your projects and successful communication can be accomplished in various ways. Whether it’s the use of accurate up-to-date reporting for all the required steps in your process or simply responding quickly to email and phone messages, to be successful you will need to be fully aware of your particular project and, at the same time, have an awareness of how the pieces fit between all parties and other projects that may be impacted. Having tunnel vision and focusing only on your part of the process may lead to the issues raised above and ultimately delay your project.

The lesson in all of this is to pay attention to detail but to also not get lost in the detail. Understanding the big picture is just as important. Chutes and Ladders may depend on the roll of a dice but in the constantly changing and demanding world of telecommunications, tracking, reporting and communication are the tools needed to successfully play the game. Don’t just roll the dice and hope for the best.

You Can’t Do Zoning That Way

by Sean W. Maddox
Md7 Land Use Department

The first time I was told that zoning couldn’t be done remotely was on my first day in the Land Use department at Md7. At the time, my supervisor was explaining that conventional industry wisdom suggested there was a need for in-market zoning and permitting services, but that she (and Md7) had a differing view. So, we got started on a project in New York and New Jersey, while working from our San Diego office. Then some projects came in in the Southeast, then the Midwest, then the Northwest too. Within months, I had pulled zoning and permitting approvals in several states I never even stepped foot in.

I heard that zoning couldn’t be done remotely again the first time I went to a telecom networking event. At that event I heard it several times, actually; first from a recruiter, and then a competitor. Still relatively new to the industry, I more or less let it pass. If these industry veterans were sure that an in-market presence was necessary, then I figured they must have their reasons. Arguing otherwise seemed like a fruitless endeavor at the time, but I took note of their opinions, even if in practice I knew differently.  Plus my supervisor had said that we may need to handle a zoning approval in person if a Public Hearing was required, so I thought that must be what these other folks were talking about.

After a couple years and many more networking events, I heard again that zoning couldn’t be done remotely. This time, it was from someone in the industry with whom I’d developed a working relationship, and they were rather insistent that it just couldn’t work the Md7 way. Then I explained how we have worked in 36 states, in over 3,500 jurisdictions, and had success in every one. I also detailed what is really a simple explanation for our success. We have a team of lawyers who are very comfortable reading code online, scoping out the process, and engaging planning and building staff over the phone. FedEx and UPS over night to just about anywhere in the U.S., with e-mail notifications to let you know the package sent to a jurisdiction has arrived in real-time. And we have found, again and again, that busy city employees very much appreciate receiving professional and complete packages, and have no problem processing them and sending the permits back in the pre-paid envelopes we include. If needed, we always have the option to have our contractor drop off, pick up, or sign for the permit in question. It’s been incredibly simple, efficient, and successful. By the end of our talk, I was pretty certain that this conversation had swayed another convert to remote zoning, and I would no longer hear from that person that it couldn’t be done.

As many times as I’ve heard that zoning can’t be done remotely, there is notably one group of folks from whom I’ve never heard it… the planners, building officials, and city staff in jurisdictions across the country.

To Wi-Fi, or Not to Wi-Fi?

by John Cahill
Vice President Business Development

Wi-Fi is the method of choice to connect laptops, tablet, smartphones and any other nomadic device to a business network, public Internet or home network.

In-building cellular networks will complement Wi-Fi networks to provide carrier managed connectivity and services.

Although there are overlap of service capabilities between cellular and Wi-Fi networks, such as basic Internet access and evolving voice over Wi-Fi services, there are distinct differences and advantages to both.

Wi-Fi will continue to be a fundamental network technology for business and residential users to provide simple, easy access to the public or corporate Internet. Wi-Fi network connectivity is made via radios that operate over a band of unlicensed or publicly available spectrum allocated by the Federal Communications Committee. Any device that complies with defined electronic emission parameters and meets operating constraints can legally utilize this spectrum. Besides networking devices, microwave ovens, cordless phones and other devices may utilize this spectrum band. Someone/something next door could be interfering with your network signal and connectivity. Also, Wi-Fi networks provide service coverage in a very targeted area. When you leave that area the connection drops. There are initiatives underway to add “roaming” capabilities across networks but this is still a work in progress.

Cellular network connectivity is made via radios that operate on licensed or assigned spectrum that the carriers paid billions of dollars to utilize. The use of these spectrum bands is restricted to the carrier to whom it is assigned. The cellular network signals and protocols are encoded to ensure each device connection is secure and independent. Thus there is an inherent level of security associated with cellular connectivity.

Although business-created Wi-Fi networks typically add multiple levels of security (e.g. access passcodes and intrusion detection devices), public Wi-Fi hotspots (e.g. coffee shops) are open unsecured networks. You don’t want to do your banking or online purchases over these networks.

Radios are only one part of wireless connectivity. A user device connects to a wireless access point (Wi-Fi or cellular radio base station) that is connected to the Internet via a backhaul circuit. The bandwidth and technology of the backhaul circuit has a large impact on performance of the wireless connection. As cellular connectivity is a managed service provided by your carrier, the end-to-end throughput and network performance, including backhaul circuits, is administered and operated to designed service levels. Public Wi-Fi hotspots can be constrained by the backhaul circuit utilized at the particular location. Typically a public Wi-Fi network would restrict access to online video streaming services like Netflix. And even business may limit certain Internet sites or services. Otherwise a business network may come to a screeching halt during NCAA tournament time. You may have been at your favorite coffee shop with fantastic network response until more customers arrive and utilize the Wi-Fi network.

The bottom line, Wi-Fi network connectivity may be fine and acceptable in a number of cases. But as long as people use mobile carrier connected devices; in-building cellular coverage will be a necessity to complement any locally available Wi-Fi service.

Abbott & Costello: Who’s on Title?

by Harry Kapp
Project Supervisor

“Who’s on 1st, What’s on 2nd and I Don’t Know is on 3rd” comes from one of Abbott & Costello’s most famous comedy routines and, unfortunately, it is often the hurdle that is faced when trying to establish who signed your agreement for an upgrade or site acquisition. For example, your original lease may be with ABC Corporation but your amendment has been signed by DEF Corporation or ABC, LLP.   Chain of title refers to having supporting documents for each change in ownership. In other words, you should have support for each link between owners and entities in order to have a complete chain of title. Simply stating that the new owner is “formerly known as” or “successor in interest to” the original owner is just not enough. You need proof. Ideally, this can be accomplished by ordering a title report. However, this can be costly and time consuming. As a result, you often see carrier programs calling for a more streamlined property ownership analysis where the site acquisition specialist is asked to piece together the chain of transfers tying the original landlord in the lease to the current landlord with whom the site acquisition specialist is negotiating.

The change in ownership can be documented in many ways. For example, there may be a deed, assignment, merger, name change, judicial order or, perhaps, the Grim Reaper may have effected a change in ownership. The problem arises when documents are not available. Too often, the current owner, which may even be your own client, has no clue as to where the documents may be and is probably wondering why you are even asking. After all, you are working on the 4th amendment and you are asking for proof of how ownership changed from the 2nd to the 3rd amendment.   Often the explanation is that their own legal department requires that the chain of title be shown. But simply stated, without the proper paper trail between successive parties, you may have a break in the chain of title and no way to prove that the owner is indeed the current owner. So the hunt is on to track down the missing pieces of the puzzle to perfect your chain of title.

Initially, your best source is the tower owner or current lessee. If that is not successful, you can also check the websites of Secretary of State Offices for the state in which a company is incorporated. When examining the chain of title, think of corporations as people. Any variation in name indicates that you are dealing with a new person/ entity. State websites often have links to the state’s corporation division. It is here that you may find a merger document, evidence of the creation or dissolution of a corporation, or evidence of the change from a corporation to an LLP ( i.e., from a corporation to a partnership). Internet searches can sometimes help as well.

Hopefully, your search is successful. If not, there may still be a way out of your dilemma. If you are really stuck and have made a diligent but unsuccessful effort to find the answers, you may be able to convince the current owner to warrant and represent in your new amendment that they are indeed the current owner, and indemnify you for any breach.

In this current environment where carriers are focused on the costs and delays in project deployments, now more than ever, site acquisition specialists are being called upon to come up with creative solutions to avoid Abbott & Costello quality leases and lease packages.

The Densification of America

by Tom Leddo
Vice President of Business Development

If most people were to hear the term densification, they would probably assume one was referring in some manner or another to the growth (maybe even a plight) of population in urban areas. But if you work in the wireless infrastructure arena, the term densification refers to the rapid increase in the density of cell sites to accommodate the need for additional capacity.

The industry is abuzz about the need to increase the number of cell sites to keep up with the demand for capacity. In reality, we have been enhancing existing networks for quite a while – through cell splitting and building fill‑in sites – we are just doing it now at an unprecedented pace and with the addition of new technology (i.e., small cells and DAS).

The frenzy behind densification is being driven by the forecasts for exponential growth in wireless data traffic over the next few years. Some of my favorite statistics are published online by Cisco. A few notable ones are:

  • By the end of 2014, there will be more mobile devices than there are people on Earth. Thus, we will have reached 100% global penetration.
  • Traffic from wireless and mobile devices will exceed traffic from wired devices by 2018.
  • Over two-thirds of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2018. Mobile video will increase 14 times between 2013 and 2018, accounting for 69% of total mobile data traffic.

This 69% comes from things such as: consumers demand a highly customized video experience on demand, 24/7, in real time; Facebook now auto-starts videos in your news feed; and we are fascinated by videos of celebrities and friends dumping ice buckets on their heads (but that’s for charity and so it’s okay).

For the first time, the industry is behind in meeting consumer demand. And, as we all know, we cannot wait for new spectrum to solve this dilemma. So, we must enhance the network in more creative ways than we ever imagined and at a pace that is faster than we ever dreamed possible. Oh yeah, and we have to do it cheaper than ever, because now that we are at 100% global penetration there aren’t that many people to sell new mobile plans to.

The wireless infrastructure industry will thrive and keep many of us employed for the next 3-5 years. But we will need completely new processes, tools and cost models to keep up. Time to be creative!

Celebrating the new

In celebration of the new site (and the return of football) the San Diego office threw a kick-off party with craft sodas and beer, stadium snacks, and encouraged employees to wear their favorite jerseys as they gathered together to launch the new website.

Fun and games aside, the event was also a way to recognize how far Md7 had come and to engage employees and ignite excitement for where Md7 is heading.

See more photos on our Facebook page!



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