The Chutes and Ladders of Site Acquisition
by Harry Kapp
Multiple projects, multiple carriers…..one 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.