November 1, 2016 —
Speaking at the HetNet Expo on Oct. 25 in Houston, Wireless Industry Association (WIA) President Jonathan Adelstein said that wireless communications affects every aspect of daily life, and people depend on innovations and communications made possible by companies that contribute to the functioning of heterogeneous networks (hetnets).
“The wireless industry is not only about what we build, it also is about what we enable,” Adelstein said. “We go to regulators and tell them about the wonderful things we make possible, such as education and health care, and support for the economy. Small cells and distributed antenna system (DAS) networks are recognized more than ever as indispensible parts of the wireless carriers’ arsenal.”
WIA owns the HetNet Forum, which operates the expo, advocates for public policy decisions and promotes the adoption of interoperable technologies and uniform methodologies. In the world of wireless communications, hetnet refers to networking of a variety of types of infrastructure and technologies to help deliver the coverage and capacity mobile network operators need for delivering voice and data communications.
Adelstein cited growth in data demand and research that indicates half of American households no longer have wireline telephone service and instead rely entirely on cellphones in saying that wireless communication is the future. He said people rely on it for 911 emergency response access and for the work they do every day.
Smart city ventures, in-building wireless in hospitals and public safety mandates and mid-tier market opportunities are among projects that those in the wireless communications business pursue, Adelstein said.
“Investments are taking place on both the carrier and vendor side, which led us to launch a business matchmaking program,” he said. “The program includes procurement officials from Crown Castle, ExteNet Systems, InSite Wireless and American Tower meeting one on one with attendees to learn about specific plans and products that each company provides, to establish professional relationships that could lead to some good business deals.”
Adelstein said the two biggest regulatory problems members tell him they face are rights of way concerns and affordable fronthaul and backhaul solutions. “With proper education, regulators can be helpful,” he said. “We understand the challenges you face better than anyone.” He said WIA’s role is to ensure that government encourages wireless infrastructure investment and doesn’t place roadblocks.
“We’re working with state governments more than ever before to improve the regulatory environment,” Adelstein said. “We’ve hired lobbyists in states across the country. We’re working with them to break down the barriers to responsible wireless network deployment. We’re trying to do it in a balanced way, not just quickly and cheaply at the expense of our relationships with local communities. You can slap up a big tower in a right of way without asking for anyone’s permission, but you might be the last one who gets to do that as the door gets slammed behind you. We are trying to be as respectful as we can with local communities and address their concerns. At the same time, we push back when they go beyond reason. They don’t need to treat each one of the DAS and small cell devices as though it were a macro tower.”
Adelstein said streamlined regulation of utility pole attachments would facilitate deployment of the tens of thousands of small cells the way wireless carriers would like. He said pole attachment rules are critical to the use of fiber and small cells that supplement macrosites and that enable 5G wireless communications networks.
To put up so many cell sites so quickly requires a trained workforce, Adelstein said. To that end, he said WIA has partnerships with the U.S. Department of Labor and with private partners on workforce development and training. He said the goal is to improve safety and quality, and on the second point he said carriers are not seeing systems deployed to the level of quality that they expect. “We want to help you to have the workforce you need to be able to do that,” he said. “We want to address the skills gap so people who are used to pulling cable don’t think all they need to do is slap an antenna on the end of it and they’re done.” Adelstein said it takes a long time to develop educational programs and funding that lead to placing technicians in the field.