March 8, 2017 —
The National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) has announced that NATE UNITE 2017 Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, set new attendee and exhibitor records.
The Association announced that 1,801individuals registered to attend NATE UNITE 2017. This total eclipses the organization’s all-time conference registered attendee total in its 22-year history, exceeding the previous attendance registration record of 1,614 at NATE UNITE 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NATE leaders also touted the record-breaking number of 153 exhibitors who participated in the NATE UNITE 2017 trade show this year. The 153 exhibitors surpasses the previous mark of 137 exhibitors for a NATE event.
“We are thrilled with the overall success of NATE UNITE 2017,” said NATE Event Coordinator Shari Wirkus. “The record-breaking numbers associated with NATE UNITE 2017 were made possible due to the tremendous sponsor and exhibitor support and the top-notch keynote speakers and educational sessions that were offered,” added Wirkus.
“NATE is excited to continue this momentum moving forward and our Trade Show Committee is already in the planning stages for NATE UNITE 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee,” stated Executive Director Todd Schlekeway. “Given the trajectory the Association is on, I am anticipating another record setting event in the Music City next February,” Schlekeway said.
To read a recap of Decorated Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell’s captivating NATE UNITE 2017 Keynote address, visit the Wireless Estimator story HERE.
March 14, 2017
With the broadcast incentive auction bidding recently completed, all eyes are on the process of relocating TV stations to their new channels, known as “repacking.” And the FCC has set a 39-month deadline for the broadcasters to leave their spectrum.
During the 39-month timeline, the wireless infrastructure industry will be hustling to build towers, modify towers, attach antennas, and rework backhaul links — among other things.
If the changing of physical plant was all that had to transpire, the FCC’s repacking window would probably be adequate, but the compliance process may prove to be a stumbling block to making the deadline, Cory Crenshaw, FCC-FAA regulatory compliance consultant, Crenshaw Communications Consulting, told an audience during the NATE UNITE 2017 conference, Feb. 28, in Fort Worth. The compliance process, however, can take six to 24 months or more, she noted.
“The 39-month period would be reasonable if transitioning the broadcasters was all that you were doing, but other factors are at play that have not been accounted for, such as regulatory compliance issues,” she said. “They missed a huge piece, the compliance and waiver process, which is a red flag that can hold systems up. The compliance processes are complex and sometimes take months to years – each site must be individually evaluated.”
Crenshaw said that the repack will require work on more structures than just the broadcast tower. There might be 30 other communications structures spread out across the coverage area that feed into the network. Compliance filings may be needed for all of those structures, whether they are new towers, reinforcements, new antenna heights, lighting changes or environmental assessments.
“Every one of those towers may to need to be touched,” she said. “Those touches will require a massive volume of filings with the FCC and the FAA for repacking.”
Crenshaw: Don’t Delay Regulatory Compliance Filings
The wireless infrastructure industry must be vigilant in making its regulatory filings with the FCC and the FAA from the get-go to give it the best shot at completing the repacking process before the FCC’s deadline, Crenshaw said.
Construction permits have to be filed no more than 90 days after the Closing and Reassignment Public Notice is released. There is flexibility to expand contour coverage of applications filed in the initial 90-day window – with justification and appropriate showings.
“If you have an idea of a way to expedite the process, please file those applications as soon as possible. The FCC wants to make it as easy as possible to move forward,” she said. “The initial 90-day window is the window of opportunity for everything. If you need to file an STA [special temporary authority] or a waiver or something like that, get it in during the first 90 days. Whenever you file an STA or a waiver on a major mandate like this, you must have a really good reason, be sure to give them a documentation trail on why this is justified.
“In reality some tower owners won’t know they need to file for a waiver on the scheduled deadline or any other waiver concern until in the middle of a process,” Crenshaw added.
The first 30 days after the [Closing and Reassignment Public Notice] comes out, the industry will need to be busy doing thorough assessments of the broadcasters’ networks and what the infrastructure looks like. What changes do they really need to make? Do new towers need to be built, dishes moved around, or does the backhaul need to revamped? Once that is done, the proper paperwork should be filed with the corresponding federal agency and/or tribes as soon as possible.
EDITORS’ Note — This article was supplemented with an exclusive interview with Crenshaw.
The Executive Director of the National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA), Duane MacEntee, called on members in the industry to assist the organization as it develops certification programs for workers in the tower industry, during the NATE UNITE 2017 annual conference of the National Association of Tower Erectors, held last week in Fort Worth, Texas.
Last December, NWSA launched certifications for Telecommunications Tower Technician 1 and 2 (TTT1) (TTT2). It also offers the Signalperson and Rigger I and Rigger II certifications through a partnership with the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators.
In the development of TTT1 and TTT2, a group of volunteer subject matter experts, chaired by Don Doty, president of the NWSA Board of Directors, came together 18 times to write the test questions.
“Task force membership is very important to the development of consensus needed to create certifications,” MacEntee said. “For the NWSA to become accredited as a certification body, we have to show that we build consensus. The industry tells us what needs to be in our certifications.”
Along with the written exam, which is administered by PSI Exams Online, NWSA gives a practical exam where the worker is observed applying the knowledge on a tower. NWSA has accredited practical examiners. So far, 400 people have taken the TTT1 and TTT2 written exams and 60 have taken the practical exams. Many of those were task force members.
There is no shortage of work to be done. Other assessment and certification programs the NWSA is considering for future development include Antenna & Line Foreman, Certified Climber, Tower (Stacking) Foreman, Structural Modifications Foreman, DAS Systems, Small Cell Systems, Broadcast Structures, and Outside Plant/Fiber to the Home and Business.
“Because of the composition of our Board and Board of Governors we will see what is coming down the pike in terms of the labor force,” MacEntee said. “The industry’s landscape is changing fast and furious and we will need different types of labor. New task forces will be needed to develop those certifications. Please raise your hand and help out.”
NWSA is the brain child of the Telecom Industry Safety Summit, a meeting that occurred in Dallas in the fall of 2013, which was a particularly lethal year in terms of tower fatalities. Carriers, tower owners, contractors, insurance companies and the education community came together at that meeting to find a way to make the tower industry safer by increasing professionalism.
“It was a pivotal moment for safety in the tower industry,” MacEntee said. “We had a variety of stakeholders representing various interests – large program engineering companies, carriers, contractors – coming together for the common good.”
NWSA began late in 2016 taking off on a mission to provide verifiable certification to workers in the tower industry through the assessment of knowledge and skills to enhance safety and reduce risk in the workplace.
“What we are is a certification organization; what we are not is a training organization,” MacEntee said. “We encourage great training and well-trained employees. We want them to come to us and pass a rigorous series of examinations that make us confident that they are true professionals in what they do.”
MacEntee said that while NWSA is separate from NATE it shares the common goal of making the tower industry safer.
“We are trying to create a good labor force that knows the job that they are being asked to do,” he said. “Bad days happen in our industry, but elevating the professionalism in this workforce is key to avoid those type of events in the future.
The luncheon at NATE UNITE 2017 will feature a retired Navy SEAL as the Keynote Speaker, March 1, at the Ft. Worth Convention Center.
Marcus Luttrell is a retired Navy SEAL who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was awarded the Navy Cross for combat heroism in 2006 by President George W. Bush. Luttrell is now a best-selling author of the best-selling book, Lone Survivor. He also speaks across the country on his experience in Operation Redwing. In 2014, Luttrell’s amazing story made the leap to the big screen with the blockbuster film, Lone Survivor. In an unparalleled and inspiring program, Marcus Luttrell takes us from the rigors of SEAL training and what it takes to join the America’s elite fighting force, to the battle on the mountain and back to his own incredible story of survival and grace. In powerful narrative, he weaves a rich account of courage and sacrifice, honor and patriotism, community and destiny that audiences will find both wrenching and life-affirming.