These are heady days for San Francisco-based small cell specialist NextEdge Networks. As Doug Wiest, the CEO of the newly formed company, explains: “NextEdge Networks was founded in November 2016, when Titan Grove purchased the small cell assets from EdgeConnecX, an international edge data center company. In September 2017, we finalized our merger with Modus, which is a leader in wireless site acquisition and turnkey deployment, and which has been in business, focusing on small-cell deployments, since 2005. In terms of size, we’re growing, and right now we’re at 60-plus employees and seven offices on both coasts.
“The merger of NextEdge Networks and Modus, a San Francisco-based site acquisition and construction firm deploying small cells for all the major wireless carriers, has created a turnkey provider of services and infrastructure solutions to enable the deployment of the next generation of wireless infrastructure. “Because we focus on small cells, we do things a little bit different than your typical site-acquisition and construction company does, Wiest said. “Although we do other types of work, we really see ourselves as being experts in small cells.”
According to Wiest, the rapid growth of data use is causing increasing demands on the nation’s wireless infrastructure and wireless providers, which require innovative solutions aligning the interests of all stakeholders. “Our combined capabilities, as well as our experience and success in the most difficult of jurisdictions, allow us to partner with wireless carriers, municipalities and business owners to create long-term alignment to address the impending need of network densification,” he said.
Predominantly West Coast-oriented, NextEdge Networks has offices in San Francisco; Portland, Oregon; Washington, D.C.; and Florida. The company’s range of services now includes project financing, small cell deployments, site acquisition and jurisdictional partnerships, construction and construction management, program management, fiber deployment, in-building distributed antenna system (DAS) networks and small cell installations and maintenance.
NextEdge Networks bills itself as the recognized expert in the burgeoning field of small cell and DAS deployments, having executed more than 4,000 node deployments in more than 40 states. Meanwhile, Modus’ past deployments have also included more than 3,500 fiber-to-cell installations, the first microcell deployment, the first western U.S. small cell installation, the first U.S. 5G deployment and numerous high-profile DAS installations.
A wireless industry veteran, Wiest has built a multidisciplinary career, working for various wireless infrastructure companies before becoming CEO of NextEdge Networks. He worked at EdgeConnecX for six years as executive vice president for business development, focusing the last couple of years on small cell deployment. Prior to EdgeConnecX, Wiest was the founding president and CEO of LightTower, an Eastern U.S.-based fiber company that Crown Casstle International acquired. Before that, Wiest was COO of American Tower for its first five years. Earlier still, Wiest worked with various carriers, including Nextel and McCaw.
The NextEdge Networks team also includes Chris Maguire, CFO, who was formerly CFO of Golden State Towers and executive vice president of American Tower. Maguire has held CFO and strategic consulting positions in wireless, radio and renewable energy businesses. Chad Abbott, Erik Corkery and Ryan Crowley, who founded Modus in 2005, will become executive vice presidents of the new entity and continue to lead the services activities of NextEdge Networks. Business development efforts are headed by two industry veterans, Jennifer Hockensmith, formerly of EdgeConneX, Lightsquared and PrimeCo, and John Ricci, formerly of Ericsson, Golden State Towers, Spectrasite and SBA Communications.
A self-described wanna-be engineer, Wiest said he always is fascinated by patterns of mobility and how technology can change the ways humans interact. “Wireless mobility always intrigued me; I was lucky because the wireless industry has been in a growth pattern as long as I’ve been involved — and it’s been great to watch,” he said. “I think we’re now entering a new area of growth where data is now being consumed, particularly video, in larger and larger chunks. It continues to transform the way we do business. Ten years from now, we’ll be astounded what’s changed.”
Fortunately, Wiest says, NextEdge is well capitalized to exploit the technology trends. “Our investment in infrastructure, we hope, will grow as a percentage of our business over time —and, those investments will happen, both outdoors and indoors, either through pockets of fiber deployment or in-building through small cell or DAS installations,” he said. “We have the capability, financially, to create infrastructure opportunities as we go forward.”
On the real estate side, Wiest expects NextEdge Networks to remain cautious. The company isn’t planning to do any speculative development, although it will look for risk-adjusted opportunities. “We have a rather unique approach to site acquisition because it’s our belief that, for the last 30 years, real estate owners, organizations and managers have expected wireless as a funding source — or a way for remuneration,” he said. “It’s our view that that needs to be turned on its head.”
Wiest believes wireless is more of a benefit and, as a result, real estate owners and managers shouldn’t be expecting a wireless entity to fund activities that happen within their buildings. “As a result of that benefit, our real estate activities really set a completely different expectation in terms of what the cost would be for access to those buildings,” he said.
“We essentially start at zero for access cost; we don’t start at a high number and work down,” Wiest said. “That’s going to be the future of the industry because, otherwise, with carriers not being as capable of funding, particularly on the in-building side, the real estate owners will take a good brunt of that on, which they really haven’t had to do before and, therefore, look on it at as a utility than as a way to make money.
Wiest said the main strength of the merger is how it combines small cell and jurisdictional capabilities. Although both Modus and NextEdge focused on small cell deployment, Modus has more experience in jurisdictional partnerships, particularly in the ability to partner with municipalities and other regulatory entities to help speed up the process and make it easier for wireless carriers to deploy their networks.
Wiest sees Modus’ jurisdictional knowledge as a big plus, particularly because the company worked in San Francisco, said to be one of the toughest jurisdictions in the country.
“Not only did we work with the city and county of San Francisco to develop their wireless standards and procedures, they looked at us as an integral entity in helping them create their processes going forward,” Wiest said.” Although we see that as a partnership, we certainly don’t forget the fact that our ultimate customers are wireless carriers. They’re the ones that use those procedures to get the work done. Nevertheless, it’s important to establish good relationships because that makes things go so much quicker as you move through the points and process of our collective groups together.”
The other strength that NextEdge and Modus have long shared, according to Wiest, is a relentless attitude in keeping customers satisfied and happy. He believes that both companies also share the same approach exceeding expectations.
The Road Ahead
Wiest envisions continued growth for the marketplace in general and NextEdge in particular. As reasons, he cited the increasing demand for data consumption and the fact that data and video are growing at almost logarithmic leaps and bounds. “We’re going to continue to be the experts of small cells, but we’re certainly going to be open to different ways to grow and invest and we hope that over time we can turn our infrastructure business into a bigger percentage of the business as a whole,” Wiest said. “We hope to be one of the principal small cell experts and deployers of the new technologies. We hope to be an owner, too. We certainly see growth in our future.”
The biggest challenge for the brand-new company will be capturing the right opportunities, Wiest said, including exceeding customer expectations and focusing on the near-term needs of the wireless industry. “We’re going to be focused on small cell installations, both indoors and outdoors, alhough I hope you’ll see us morph over time,” he said. “We would like to see a bigger percentage become more infrastructure-oriented than service-oriented, and we would like to own some of these networks that are being invested in throughout the country.”
Finally, Wiest said he believes that as carriers look for ways to improve their own competitive position, the ability of other people to fund networks will grow over time.
Mike Harrington is a freelance writer in Prairie Village, Kansas.
New non-residential small cell deployments set to grow at compound annual rate of 36 percent from 2015 to 2025, with enterprise deployments set to 17x over same period, according to research sponsored by the Small Cell Forum. The survey of more than 50 mobile operators, undertaken by Rethink Technology Research, covered their deployment plans and business drivers for a dense HetNet, as well as the barriers they expect to confront.
The results showed that densification has begun in today’s LTE networks and will intensify in the 5G era, enabled by profound changes to the architecture and economics of small cells. SCF forecasts that between 2015 and 2025, new non-residential small cell deployments will reach almost 8.5 million, and by 2025 deployments will be 22 times higher than in 2015.
The research also provides an insight into operator’s densification plans, with 40 percent of operators expecting to deploy between 100 and 350 small cells per square kilometer (indoors and outdoors) in the areas they densify by 2020. Additionally, in the first 2-3 years of deploying 5G New Radio, 58 percent expect to focus primarily on small cells. The research also shows that the industry is already seeing acceleration of deployments in the Enterprise, where small cell deployments rose by 98 percent between 2015 and 2017, and are set to grow by up to 1,600 percent from 2015 to 2025.
“The industry is seeing explosive growth in the number of small cell deployments, which provide the densification solution to grow today’s LTE networks, as well as providing a fundamental building block for tomorrow’s 5G deployments,” said David Orloff, Chair of Small Cell Forum. “This research shows the confidence and emphasis that operators around the world are placing on the technology, and we at the forum are actively collaborating with both them, the vendor community, and other industry associations to avoid fragmentation and accelerate the shift to true next generation networks and the enhanced connectivity they will bring.”
The full research report and Release 10 documents are available for download from scf.io.
Sprint is using a small cell solution from SpiderCloud as part of its strategy to better address the coverage needs of enterprises and public venues, joining small cells with existing Wi-Fi infrastructure.
“This innovative LTE small cell literally clips onto existing Cisco Wi-Fi infrastructure and can be deployed in less than 30 minutes, providing a very cost-effective way to rapidly improve indoor service,” said Robert Kingsley, director of small cell and Wi-Fi development at Sprint.
An enterprise can deploy SpiderCloud LTE Radio Nodes on its Ethernet LAN. The RNs connect to SpiderCloud’s services node, located on the enterprise LAN. A network of 100 radio nodes and one services node can provide more a gigabit of capacity and seamless coverage across a public venue, enterprise or university campus as large as 1.5 million square feet.
SpiderCloud, part of Corning’s Optical Communications segment, offers two radio nodes to enterprises to improve their indoor Sprint service. The first is the SCRN-220, a PoE+ powered unit capable of serving as much as 15,000 square feet in a typical office environment. The second is the SCRN-250 attached to an existing Cisco Aironet 3600 or 3700 Wi-Fi access point providing 7,000 square feet of coverage in a typical office environment. Enterprises that have previously invested in these Cisco Wi-Fi access points can add Sprint LTE coverage without pulling cable.
SpiderCloud LTE radio nodes for enterprises and public venues support Sprint’s 1.9 GHz spectrum band. Support for Sprint’s 2.5 GHz band is slated for availability in mid-2018.
In September 2017, Matthew Gabrielse became president of Gabe’s Construction in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He is a member of the fourth generation of the Gabrielse family to lead the company, and he succeeded Tim Gabrielse.
Since its first contract to install fiber-optic cable in 1985, Gabe’s Construction has installed 5,500 miles of cable. In 2006, the company built its first DAS, eventually becoming at one time the largest DAS contractor in North America.
With the formation of a new division, Gabe’s Wireless Solutions, the company has expanded its wireless engineering and construction services. The company provides a turnkey, end-to-end solution for indoor and outdoor DAS, small cells and venue-based wireless networks, serving wireless carriers, neutral-host providers and building and venue owners throughout North America.
In my role as president of the Northeast DAS & Small Cell Association (NEDAS), I interviewed Gabrielse. He talked about Gabe’s Construction’s recent acquisitions and how the company sets itself apart in a competitive industry. He also shared his long-term vision for the organization and discussed the effect of emerging technologies on the wireless community. What follows is the interview, edited for length.
Your appointment to be the new president of Westshore Companies and Gabe’s Construction comes as the organization celebrates 75 years in business, during which it has flourished in both good and challenging economic times. What are the key attributes or core values of Gabe’s Construction that have enabled it to be such durable force in the industry?
Gabrielse: One of the key attributes that has enabled Gabe’s Construction to become such a durable force in the industry has been our ability to adapt to change for the past 75 years. We started out installing drain tiles for farm fields in the 1940s. The company then grew into the public works construction business, and in the 1960s, we entered the natural gas market in Wisconsin. Moving to the 1980s, Gabe’s Construction began building the backbones of today’s communications infrastructure, and in the early 2000s we entered the wireless business, building networks from coast to coast and border to border. Many of our current employees possess more than 15 years of experience, and we have had many retire from Gabe’s with more than 25 years of service. The idea that we are a close-knit company that understands the importance of treating our employees like family is something I am very proud of and has provided our company stability over the years.
Gabe’s Construction made a major acquisition in its recent purchase of PCTEL’s assets. What new markets, customers and projects will this move enable Gabe’s Construction to pursue?
Gabrielse: This acquisition will allow Gabe’s Construction to expand its wireless-based customers. We have installed thousands of small cells throughout the Midwest markets and this will allow us to expand our client offerings and add network engineering services to our implementation services. I am looking forward to expanding our services in the Midwest and other areas of the country.
How will this affect your vision for the company in the short and long-term?
Gabrielse: Gabe’s Construction is always looking to grow the business in all areas of our company. We recently signed a multi-year agreement with one of our long-standing clients and look to grow the maintenance side of the company as we continue that relationship. In the long term, we anticipate growth in the wireless solutions division and other divisions within the company. We have such a great team from our wireless group to our horizontal directional drilling group, to our utility construction group. Our team is second to none.
Gabe’s Construction has completed tens of thousands of indoor and outdoor DAS networks, small cells and venue-based wireless projects across the United States and Canada. When you look across the landscape at your competitors, what sets Gabe’s Construction apart from the pack?
Gabrielse: On all sides of the business, I believe one thing that sets Gabe’s Construction apart is our focus on safety. We were one of the first contractors in Wisconsin to hire a full-time safety director. Another core tenet is our commitment to our customers. We value each customer and the relationships we have developed. Gabe’s Construction has many customers with whom we have done business with for more than 15 years because of our commitment to safety. We recently completed a major project in Pennsylvania for one of our customers, and I am proud to say we sent everyone home without injury, and that includes our crews and, more importantly, the public. One of the things my father taught me was that as a family-run business, Gabe’s Construction is able to focus a little more on our customers and give them the best service possible.
What emerging technologies or market conditions — whether the coming of 5G, the expected exponential increase in mobile traffic, or the connectivity to support the internet of things — do you anticipate will have the most profound effect on your business?
Gabrielse: Most definitely, all these trends and emerging technologies will have a profound effect on our business. The demand for mobile technology is not going to go away. Everywhere you look, you see people on their mobile devices. The demand for more speed and faster connectivity to social media will drive Gabe’s growth on the wireless side of the business as well as provide added construction projects to support the infrastructure needed to deliver the wireless signal.
What core competencies come into play that positions Gabe’s Construction to best serve the technological, logistical, project management or other demands for these projects?
Gabrielse: The experience of our team positions us to meet the demands of these projects, while our passion in helping our clients ultimately positions everyone to succeed.
Representatives of Gabe’s Construction and Gabe’s Wireless Solutions recently attended the inaugural Mobile World Congress Americas in San Francisco. What were your key takeaways from the event?
Gabrielse: One major takeaway is the importance of being at events such as MWC Americas. This was a fantastic opportunity for Gabe’s Construction to meet with multiple vendors, clients and friends in the industry and bounce new ideas off each other. The opportunity for our wireless team to network with other professionals in the industry is priceless. We get to hear speakers on the latest and greatest ideas and products. And we get to listen to our customers and better understand how we can help them deliver their projects on time and under budget.
For more information about Gabe’s Construction, visit www.gabes.com. Ilissa Miller is president of the Northeast DAS & Small Cell Association. She is the founder and CEO of iMiller Public Relations.
ExteNet Systems has completed its acquisition of Axiom Fiber Networks. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Axiom’s high-bandwidth fiber will be accretive to ExteNet’s existing purpose-built fiber in Manhattan. Overlaying Axiom’s newly-built and high strand count fiber to its fiber plant positions ExteNet well to address the increasing densification, bandwidth and communication needs throughout New York City.
“Our customers, including service providers, building owners, municipalities and enterprises require scalable, reliable, secure and high-bandwidth network solutions,” said Ross Manire, President and CEO for ExteNet Systems. “ExteNet has an expansive fiber network in New York City, serving outdoor and in-building customers. This acquisition of Axiom Fiber Networks allows us to extend and densify our service footprint in lower Manhattan for the benefit of our customers. I would like to welcome Axiom customers, and employees, to the ExteNet family.”
ExteNet will undertake responsibilities of all existing Axiom customers. Axiom CEO Felipe J. Alvarez will join ExteNet’s management team.