Duke Energy’s Charlotte-based wireless infrastructure team and St. Petersburg, Florida-based PT Access Networks have combined operations to create a joint venture under the new name PeakNet.
PeakNet provides macro site collocations, small cell attachments, and build-to-suit monopoles, including complete turnkey management of the process from site acquisition, to structure analysis, engineering, zoning and permitting, construction management, and ongoing upgrades and maintenance.
PT Access Networks was a part of Progress Energy, and it handled collocations on transmission assets as well as new build monopoles on existing raw land parcels. When, in 2012, Duke Energy merged with Progress Energy, it gained control of PT Access. The joint venture is now majority owned by Duke Energy, with a minority ownership by a capital investment group, which handles the executive leadership and runs the day-to-day operations.
“With access to Duke Energy’s utility structures and real estate assets we’re able to find competitive solutions to tough siting challenges,” said Michael Whitley, PeakNet vice president of business development. “We have hundreds of thousands of potential sites—many in the toughest areas to zone. We offer a diverse range of existing utility structures for collocation throughout our service area as alternatives to building new towers. Our extensive real estate portfolio helps us meet the growing 5G demands of our customers while reducing the proliferation of wireless structures.”
The joint venture has been in the works for a while. Duke Energy used to handle collocations internally, but it decided it would be more productive to let a joint venture run that part of the business. With the revised JV agreement between the two organizations, PeakNet now operates with an “arm’s length” relationship with Duke. It now has responsibility for all of the Carolinas and Florida and is finalizing the details on serving the Midwest transmission infrastructure holdings of Duke Energy.
“The ultimate goal is to serve any type of wireless communications collocation associated with the transmission infrastructure, raw land parcels, substations, and monopole development in all of Duke’s territory,” Whitley told AGL eDigest.
Bringing the Wireless and Utilities Together
Even though there a lot of potential for collocating wireless equipment on utility infrastructure, the two worlds notoriously have been at odds. Some utilities view wireless carriers as more of a nuisance being on their structure than a benefit. As a result, it can take weeks, maybe months, for a carrier to be able to restore an out-of-service antenna.
PeakNet bucks that paradigm, working continually to reduce its service level agreements in terms of the length of time for restoring out of service equipment.
“We work diligently to allow equipment to be repaired as quickly as possible,” Whitley said. “You have to work on all fronts to drive the importance of what carriers are trying to accomplish. It is our job to bring together that marriage of wireless and utilities, maximizing the potential of the assets and solving otherwise difficult siting challenges.”
PeakNet serves as a liaison between the utility and the wireless carrier, working to take the needs of both into consideration. “This can result in a more efficient process, shorter timelines, and ultimately be more cost-effective,” Whitley said.
“We do a good job of listening to carrier needs. The carriers want a reasonably priced asset access. They want the ability to get to the asset to service it if they have a problem,” Whitley said. “For the utility, safety is job number one. It can be a challenge to install carrier equipment on a structure that also carries high-voltage power lines, these installations need an uncompromising focus on safety.”
PeakNet is currently talking to the carriers about a solution where the antenna is installed below the power conductor as an option to further reducing costs and expediting maintenance requirements.
Gearing up for the Future
PeakNet has spent time reimaging and rebranding the company to represent its current services and create the opportunity to develop future product solutions with the Duke Energy assets. As a matter of course, PeakNet will be able to market Duke Energy’s sites to the carriers at higher level.
The JV agreement with Duke Energy opens up a six-state territory that PeakNet will be marketing to the carriers, including macro site collocations on existing monopoles, transmission structures and microwave towers; small cell attachments on streetlights, distribution poles and transmission structures, as well as, turnkey services, land parcels and construction services for build-to-suit monopoles. And PeakNet may even provide similar services to other utilities that have the same needs and concerns.
“PeakNet has the ability, experience and willingness to look at being a managed service for other utilities that struggle with this very thing,” Whitley said.