July 16, 2015 — Another day, another drone application. In this one, Nokia Networks has employed drones carrying smartphones to analyze the wireless network at Dubai International Stadium. The drones gathered network data and provided key performance indicators at the stadium, which seats 25,000, and were also used for tower inspections, radio planning and line-of-sight testing between radio towers.
With automated testing, drones can cover the desired area more quickly than a manual test. Additionally, the test data is sent to a server at Nokia Networks’ Global Delivery Center so that it can be processed and reported to the engineers in the field, who then improve network performance in a timely fashion.
Drones can be used for tower inspections to reduce the number of times technicians need to climb a tower, which increases safety, but sky-high expectations of drones should be tempered a bit, according to Todd Schlekeway, executive director, National Association of Tower Erectors.
“Drones are never going to have the skillset to perform the sophisticated, demanding work done by tower climbers,” Schlekeway told AGL Link. “Installing remote radio heads needed for 4G is really sophisticated work, and we don’t even know what 5G looks like yet.”
Nevertheless, in short order, the role of drones has expanded. They were also used for radio planning and line of-sight testing in Dubai. The INSPIRE1 drone was used for network optimization at the stadium, and Microdrones md4-1000 was used for tower inspection, LoS and radio site planning.
“The engineers knew if a frequency used was impacted by trees, if there was sufficient power to cover the distance, what the simulated latency would look like and what performance over such a connection could be expected. This helped achieve optimal site design, establish a clear LoS, as well as suitable antenna height and site location,” said Marwan BinShakar, vice president, Mobile Access Network & Operations at du, in a press release.
One sign that drones are here to stay in the tower industry is that several companies in the drone space have become members of NATE.
U.S. Convenes Meetings to Discuss Drones
Meanwhile, the United States must establish new regulations for drone use. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is holding several meetings to discuss privacy, transparency and accountability issues regarding commercial and private use of unmanned aircraft systems. The meetings will be held on Aug. 3, Sept. 24, Oct. 21 and Nov. 20 in the boardroom at the American Institute of Architects, 1735 New York Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20006.
(Overland Park, KS) – The National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA) announced today that it is seeking nominations from qualified Tower Technicians to fill several available seats on the inaugural NWSA Board of Governors. The NWSA is a national non-profit assessment and certification organization that is under development to provide thorough, independent assessments of knowledge and skills and provide verifiable worker certification in order to enhance safety, reduce workplace risk, improve quality, encourage training, and recognize the skilled professionals who work on towers and other non-standard structures.
The NWSA Board of Governors will consist of representatives from a broad cross-section of the industry and will be tasked with developing policy and overseeing the activities of the various Committees that will serve under the NWSA Board of Governors.
“These highly sought after Governance positions are critical to the organization’s success at a foundational level,” stated NWSA consultant Chuck Slagle, a former Sprint Environmental Health and Safety Executive. “This endeavor will transform the industry for the better, and this is a great opportunity for qualified Tower Technicians to be involved in a leadership capacity with the NWSA,” added Slagle.
Tower Technicians interested in applying for a seat on the NWSA Board of Governors must meet eligibility requirements including: completion of training at the Competent Climber/Rescue level or higher; having a minimum of 4 years of climbing experience; a commitment to serve a 2 year term; and providing demonstrated employer support regarding their ability to participate as a Governor. The complete eligibility criteria are outlined on the official NWSA Board of Governors Tower Technician Nomination Application. Interested candidates are encouraged to download the official application form at the website link HERE, to start the application process.
The deadline for applicants to submit their official application is Friday, June 19, 2015. All completed applications must be submitted via e-mail to email@example.com.
April 16, 2015 — The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is asking the tower industry for information about safety hazards in tower construction and maintenance to assist the agency in determining what measures are needed to prevent worker injuries and fatalities.
“NATE has worked closely with OSHA over the years educating them on the unique nuances of this industry,” said Todd Schlekeway, executive director, National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE). “It is not general construction. There are so many challenges to constructing and maintaining communications towers. This is another opportunity for the industry to continue that process of education.”
PCIA — the Wireless Infrastructure Association has made workforce safety a priority and has engaged with the Department of Labor and Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program in working to find ways to ensure that workers are better equipped to perform under safe conditions.
“We want to help create the wireless workforce of the future with the best training available to those who are deploying wireless infrastructure. PCIA welcomes the opportunity to work with OSHA and other government leaders on this critical effort,” said Jonathan Adelstein, PCIA president and CEO in a prepared statement
OSHA welcomed input from tower workers, wireless carriers, engineering and construction management firms, tower owners, and tower construction and maintenance companies on the causes of employee injuries and fatalities, and to share best practices used by workers and employers in the industry to address these hazards.
“This is an early part of their process to gather information on the industry to determine whether they want to move forward with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” Schlekeway said. “We encourage our membership to review the RFI and respond to some of the specific questions that they feel strongly about.”
In particular, the RFI asks about the significant hazards that tower climbers face the job and what circumstances contribute to the hazards. The RFI asks tower climbers about what they do to remain safe on the job, and what additional safety-related practices they would like to see implemented. OSHA also asks about the specific safety rules and work practices that are provided to tower climbers and who gives them that information.
Schlekeway welcomed OSHA’s effort in the name of tower safety, but he wants to make sure the government knows the efforts the industry is making to address issues brought up in the RFI.
“We will make sure that everyone knows what the Wireless Industry Safety Task Force is working on and the direction of the National Wireless Safety Alliance in terms of assessment certification,” he said.
The deadline for submitting comments is 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. Interested parties may submit comments and additional materials electronically at www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Comments may also be mailed or faxed.
March 5, 2015 — Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Kalamazoo, Michigan-based member of the National Association of Tower Erectors, has launched a training academy for cell tower technicians, with classes beginning mid-April 2015.
The curriculum will include classroom instruction, demonstration and laboratory practice in worksite safety, electrical basics, fasteners, cell site basics, lines and antennas, RF fundamentals, computer skills and fiber-optics.
“Trainees will leave the six-week program well prepared for employment. Training to develop the skills needed to perform this work safely is a key component of the program,” the program brochure says.
Along with support from NATE, the KVCC program has garnered the support of local businesses such as Newkirk Electric and Earthcom, a Michigan-based communications contractor.
NATE has several community colleges as members that provide either comprehensive training programs or individual courses, including LakeShore Technical College, Cleveland, Wisconsin; and Corporate College (Western Iowa Tech Community College), Sioux City, Iowa.
“We are starting to see more tower technician training activity at community colleges, and I like that because it helps promote the profession as well as create another training pathway to bring workers into the industry,” said NATE Executive Director Todd Schlekeway. “I anticipate that we will continue to see more of these programs being developed in the future as organizations like PCIA work with Virginia State University to develop educational framework models that community colleges could potentially adopt.”\
Assessment and Certification Group Formed
The Wireless Industry Safety Task Force has created the National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA) to certify the industry’s workforce to the various worker categories outlined in the national wireless skills-based training standard that is currently being developed.
The 501(c)(6) assessment and certification organization will be the governance arm of the task force’s national wireless skills-based training standard, providing independent assessments of knowledge and skills and verifiable certification for professionals who work on towers and at tower sites. The NWSA will serve workers who have completed training programs, including third-party private training, internal company training programs and local community college training.
The development of the standard continues. The task force’s skills-based training subcommittee has developed a skills-based training standard that outlines the minimum competencies and skills required for five categories of workers in the industry: helper/ground worker, ground technician, Telecommunications Tower Technician I, Telecommunications Tower Technician II and General Lead/Foreman.
Additionally, the task force is developing three specialized foreman tracks that will be added to the National Wireless Skills-Based Training Standard. The three are the worker categories of antenna and line foreman, tower construction (stacking foreman), and structural modifications foreman. Plans are in the works for other specialized worker tracks to be developed and added to the standard in the future.
Within the standard, each worker category has a list of both knowledge-based and competency-based skills that the tower technician will need to master to be capable of performing that scope of work. Upon completion, the standard will be broken down by each work category and will be made available to the industry, so that community colleges, such as KVCC, will be able to see what the workers are required to know in order to be certified.
“The National Wireless Skills-Based Training Standard will serve as a playbook that will ultimately improve the various training programs’ ability to prepare individuals for assessment and certification and subsequently the employers’ ability to hire qualified workers,” Schlekeway said.
February 24, 2015 — In an effort to provide certification for the national wireless skills-based training standard being developed for tower climbers, the Wireless Industry Safety Task Force has created the National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA), it was announced this week at NATE UNITE 2015 conference in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
The 501(c)(6) assessment and certification organization will be the governance arm of the Task Force’s national wireless skills-based training standard.
The NWSA was designed to provide independent assessments of knowledge and skills and provide verifiable worker certification to recognize the skilled professionals who work on towers.
“Creating a national assessment and certification entity is the next logical step in order to ensure that industry workers in the future will be trained in accordance to the various worker categories outlined in the National Wireless Skills-Based Training Standard,” said Pat Moore, vice president of operations at Velocitel.
The National Wireless Safety Alliance will serve workers that have completed existing training programs, including third party private training, internal training programs and local community college their training.
In order to accomplish its objectives, the NWSA organization is in the process of developing written and practical assessments for various levels of worker categories outlined in the national wireless skills-based training standard. The NWSA is also creating partnerships with a third party testing firm and a website certification database firm.
Members of the Wireless Industry Safety Task Force have pledged to provide transparent, timely and relevant updates to the industry as key benchmarks are achieved in the establishment of the NWSA assessment and certification program.