Companies that want to deploy small cells, distributed antenna system (DAS) networks or macro towers, or that need to maintain the assets they have in the field can make use of the cloud-based life-cycle platform offered by Sitetracker, according Brett Chester, the company’s vice president of marketing.
Referring to predictions that mobile network densification will spur the construction of 800,000 small cells, Chester said the wireless communications industry has reached an inflection point, beyond which methods used to manage the construction of 100,000 macro towers will not serve for small cells. He spoke with AGL Magazineat the DAS & Small Cells Congress, where Sitetracker had an exhibit.
“The amount of effort required to build a tower is the same amount of effort that needs to go into a small cell project,” Chester said. “But, it needs to be done at a much larger scale with a smaller budget and fewer resources. Sitetracker enables companies to achieve operational excellence and derive benefits from a market that they couldn’t access before. They are able to allocate the correct resources to projects, enabling them to provide turnkey readiness and recognize revenue much faster.”
A Software Tool for Cell Projects
Chester attributed customers’ operational improvements to Sitetracker’s software platform, which he said extends fully from the planning phase to growth and maintenance. A software platform is a major piece of software, such as an operating system, an operating environment or a database, under which application programs can be designed to run. Previously, and to some extent even to this day, tower and small cell builders used Microsoft Excel or other spreadsheet database tools to manage their projects, Chester said. Because spreadsheets are not live, collaboration is difficult, he explained.
“As a result, you’re never able to be ahead of the project,” he said. “You’re always looking in the rearview mirror. Imagine for a second that you’re driving down the freeway trying to navigate only by looking in your rearview mirror. It’s not easy. You’re basically using different mile markers to navigate forward. It’s practically impossible. And now multiply that across the number of projects that we have in place at any point in time. We have gone from a world with a lot of resources where there wasn’t as much you had to do, to a world where there is much more to do with far fewer resources.”
The cloud-based software from Sitetracker allows users to access the platform with a native iOS and Android mobile app,” Chester said. “A user can access all Sitetracker functionality, from tracking assets to checking project status. Users can see drawings associated with assets and project milestones in bulk across all projects or at the most granular level of a specific project or asset,” he said.
The software allows users to upload drawings, mark them up and collaborate live on those drawings, Chester said. “Imagine it’s a permit or a contract or even just a drawing of a macro. You can actually mark it up and show something that needs to be done and, in live time, collaborate on those things faster and more efficiently,” he said. “After all, the efficiency of your team is how you’re making money in most of these cases. If you’re a carrier, delivering fantastic products to your end-users is what the goal is, as well.”
Chester explained what it means for Sitetracker to be cloud-based. “All we’ve done is to install our software in a remote location, in the cloud or the internet, and it lives and breathes there,” he said. “You’re communicating with that location rather than it being on the premises. The same functionality that you would have anywhere else is now available through that remote location, delivered to all of your devices, instantly. It syncs seamlessly and in real time. That’s the way modern software as a service (SaaS) is designed — to enable its end-users to use it efficiently and easily, and at a low cost.”
Small cell developers have seen three times to four times improvement in the time it takes to go from planning to turnkey release and closeout, Chester said. Because those gains have been obtained prior to legislative changes that could make the permitting processes faster, Sitetracker expects further increases in speed when those changes occur, he said.
Track Performance Indicators
The software makes it possible to formally apply key performance indicators and see in real time whether project completion is trending in the right direction, according to Chester. He said companies can map and create milestones to work toward, allowing them to work more efficiently within their departments and with their vendors. The Sitetracker platform lets users customize reports on the fly, he said, adding that workers can keep their bosses informed and companies can communicate reports to shareholders.
Chester said the company is seeing 2.7 million to 3.2 million changes made in the platform on a weekly basis. That represents activities tracked against all manner of different projects, he said. Tracking the activities mitigates risk for those deploying projects.
“Imagine that you are working with 15 vendors,” Chester said. “Each of these 15 vendors has 100 tasks. Consider that 15 times 100 equals 1,500 steps necessary to complete one of those projects, and you can start to see that you get millions of points of failure across multiple projects.”
Intersection Media used the software when it deployed 4,000 Wi-Fi kiosks in Manhattan, New York, Chester said. “They replaced nearly every single payphone with a LinkNYC kiosk and did that seamlessly,” he said. “They had 27 million possible points of failure. That’s not even taking into account how angry New Yorkers can be if you upset their traffic flow. When you have 27 million points of failure in a project that’s repeated over and over again, you’re bound to make a mistake without safeguards in place. The Sitetracker solution prevented that from happening, which is a huge win for Intersection.”
Although the software helps with small cell deployment, Chester said Sitetracker isdesigned to help companies complete repeatable tasks, including those included in DAS, macro and fiber-optic cable projects. “We started out servicing the telecom industry, so we know it really well,” he said. “We have a specific department that works to enable business transformation over telecom, utility and media companies because we’ve seen these types of efforts over and over again. We know what works and we know what doesn’t. We are happy to consult, offer suggestions and make recommendations based on what we’ve seen so potential users can improve their business processes and put the right foot forward when they’re working with Sitetracker.”
The idea for Sitetracker software began when the company’s founder and chief technology officer, Tim May, noticed the deployment problem that Verizon Communications had. Chester said May built a solution for Verizon, and ever since, Sitetracker has been growing. It manages billions of dollars’ worth of Verizon’s assets. Sitetracker has tens of thousands of Verizon users in its platform every day, making project updates.
“We have partnered with most of the ecosystem surrounding Verizon and, tangentially, other carriers work through us through their providers,” Chester said. “It all started with one person’s vision and we built it from there. Our customers’ success is our success. As their businesses keep growing, we scale with them to make them increasingly efficient.”
The next DAS & Small Cells Congress is set for June 10–12, 2019, in Las Vegas. Visit www.dascongress.com.