Who says municipalities don’t like DAS? The town-owned electrical utility, known as Municipal Light Plant, of Wellesley, Mass., has released a request for proposal for the design, construction and operation of a town-wide DAS network.
The RFP is for a public-private partnership with a neutral-host provider. In the two-step process, the town will receive and evaluate all responses and meet with three finalists and request final proposals. The deadline is Sept. 28 for submissions with the final award scheduled for Nov. 30.
The town will provide 2,000 square feet for carrier hotel/headend equipment and a backbone of eight to 16 strands of fiber per node. Coverage goals of the town is expected to require between 25 and 70 pole-top antennas.
In 2007, T-Mobile approached the town about deploying five DAS antennas, which the MLP deployed using the town’s fiber network. Three years later, the carrier came back and asked for three more DAS antenna deployments.
“It dawned on us that, instead of deploying a different DAS for each carrier, we should deploy a neutral host system that they all could use,” MLP Director Richard Joyce told DAS Bulletin.
One thing that has driven Wellesley’s pursuit of DAS is overwhelming support from its citizens. The town reached out to its residents and businesses requesting feedback for the expansion of the DAS and found that they were very receptive to the idea, in part, because from 15 percent to 20 percent perceive their cellular coverage to be lacking in their area.
“The response was like, ‘can you get it up tomorrow. We really need to use our wireless communications,’” Joyce said. “The fact that we haven’t had any opposition really surprises me. Even neighboring towns have had huge issues with DAS. We have not encountered that yet.”
Another goal for Wellesley is to maximize profits to cover the costs for areas of town that will require a longer payback as a result of the fiber installation. Additionally, the town is looking to partner with a DAS provider that has strong relationships with all major carriers.
MLP staff recommended a business model in which the town to responsible for all facets of the fiber backbone installation, including costs, and maintain ownership. The MLP would assist with the antenna installation and assume all fiber operation and maintenance responsibilities.
“We have been running fiber throughout Wellesley for quite a while, connecting the city buildings, entering into a partnership with LighTower and then working with T-Mobile,” Joyce said. “We have a pretty good fiber backbone here.”
In return for providing the backbone, the MLP would require a share of all revenues, which may be the fly in the ointment. At a preliminary meeting with American Tower, the town’s fiber ownership and revenue sharing requirements were “not well received,” but Joyce seemed undeterred.
“Considering what we’ve done [to build out our infrastructure], we are not going to give up ownership of the fiber backbone. We will lay the fiber and lease it to the neutral host provider,” Joyce said. “If your business model isn’t consistent with what we are looking for, I think there is enough competition that you might want to rethink it.”