When Keith Pennachio, executive vice president of SQUAN, envisions the future of telecom infra, he sees a world where the skillsets needed to build smart cities have more to do with wireline than wireless.
“We are viewing wireless through a wireline lens,” he said. “We are building our expertise in the outside plant, in addition to traditional wireless development. We are able, in a seamless way, to bridge the gap between wireless and wireline.”
SQUAN purchased Communications Specialists Inc. (CSI) earlier this year, which brought it a suite of aerial and underground fiber optic services that complements the company’s small cell deployment services. Last year, it purchased Osmose Communications Services, which provides outside plant and inside plant design engineering services.
“We saw in them an opportunity to take advantage of the shift to small cells and how it is trending toward the utility fiber contractors,” Pennachio said. “We wanted to bring that expertise in-house instead of being put in a position that we had to subcontract out the work.”
With the purchase of CSI, SQUAN comes full circle to a degree. It was founded in New Jersey in 2008 to do fiber to the tower work before expanding into macrocell construction and eventually DAS and small cells construction throughout New York, as well as New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and in parts of New England. Three years ago, SQUAN was sold to a private equity firm, RFE Investment Partners, has led to two more acquisitions so far.
Through its purchase of CSI and Osmose, SQUAN now has access to nearly a dozen additional fiber companies as customers, all of which have been contemplating how to capitalize of their existing fiber through wireless services.
“When you think of the assets we purchased, you have to look at the information we glean from our fiber clients,” he said. “We take that intelligence, repackage it and sell it to our wireless clients as a streamlined service offering.”
In addition to the carriers, SQUAN works for municipalities, Internet of Things providers and cable companies.
“We do quite a bit of work with a cable company in the northeast, doing test beds for strand-mounted small cells,” he said. “We have fiber-optic experts who are comfortable working in the telecom right-of-way space. Our first plan of attack is to use the outside plant resources that are already familiar with this type of application. But instead of installing a DSLAM [Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer] in the right of way, they are deploying small cell radios and antennas.”
Jobs in the Future: Wireless Versus Wireline
As the line has blurred between wireless and wireless, Pennachio notes that friction is occurring as wireline and wireless employees compete for jobs.
“I think the wireline employees have the greatest advantage if they can understand RF wave propagation,” he said. “The line is disappearing, but the wireline will take control because it is outside plant, at the end of the day.”
Pennachio believes it is easier for a wireless company to add fiber optic expertise through acquisition than for a major company to consolidate wireless and wireline divisions. “It is so much easier to bring an outside plant group into our wireless space where we don’t the politics. We see it as a service offering that complements the rest of our business,” he said.
Pennachio expects the closing of the AT&T/Time Warner deal and the Century Link/Level 3 merger will bring a rapid acceleration of the market for services in the next five years.
Over the long term, as smart cities build out, deployment methods are going to favor the expertise of fiber companies, as opposed to the wireless site development companies, according to Pennachio.
“My background is wireless, but the addition of fiber services adds some clarity as to how these networks will develop over time,” he said.
J. Sharpe Smith is senior editor of the AGL eDigest. He joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 27 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence.
July 20, 2017 —
SQUAN, a telecom infrastructure service provider, has acquired Communications Specialists, Inc. (CSI), which will not only add geography and a broader services base to support its existing clients but it will open to doors to the development of future Smart Cities.
CSI is involved in aerial and underground fiber construction services for the telecom and cable TV industry, with a focus on services in support of large and small-scale projects for Multiple Services Operators (MSOs), Internet Services Providers (ISPs) and wireless network operators
“CSI is a growing provider of services that are highly complementary to the current business in which SQUAN is engaged,” states Duane Albro, CEO, SQUAN. “Our combined companies will leverage cross-functional skills across each of our service lines as we layer new skills onto our ever-expanding geographical footprint.”
SQUAN has been pursuing the expansion of services in support of a long-term view of Smart City development and the development and operation of heterogeneous networks. CSI fulfills an element of this overarching strategy.
“We share SQUAN’s vision of becoming a complete end-to-end network infrastructure provider,” states Ken Stabler, CEO, CSI. “Together, we form a world-class company providing leading-edge solutions with an emphasis on quality and safety for our customers.”
In the coming months, the CSI brand will transition to SQUAN Fiber Infrastructure Solutions. This division of SQUAN will continue to function from its main office in Fishkill, New York. Stabler will continue to lead this organization as its president and will report to Albro.
March 17, 2016 — SQUAN’s acquisition Osmose Communications Services (OCS) will give the New Jersey infrastructure service provider new services in fiber-optic transport engineering, outside plant delivery and fiber-optic delivery management, as well as a larger geographic footprint.
“We are trying to build a different type of services company with a breadth of services and a distinct geographic focus,” said Leighton Carroll, SQUAN CEO. “As a regional player, service and customer diversity become very important. Getting to scale in the breadth of services offering will be important for our customers.”
SQUAN is a traditional wireless infrastructure service provider, servicing major cellular companies and tower companies with macrocells. In 2014, it expanded in small cells and DAS.
“Fiber is the backbone of our three-pronged [towers, small cells and DAS] approach,” said Carroll. “Fiber is not only important to wireless but it is booming for wireline services. Google has started an arms race between the cable companies, and the legacy wireline telcos [concerning network speeds].”
As a provider of services to telecom companies, SQUAN performs a lot of work connecting the last mile. OCS will add transport capabilities to that last-mile work.
“The acquisition helps us with not only service diversification and customer diversification but ideally with a competitive service offering,” Carroll said.
Over the next few months, the OCS brand will transition to SQUAN Transport Services and continue to function from its offices in Conway, Arkansas; West Monroe, Louisiana; Atlanta, Georgia; Miami and Tampa, Florida; Denver, Colorado; and Durham, North Carolina.
“The acquisition provides us with new avenues to bring our services to where OCS is,” Carroll said. “The concept is to expand down the east coast and to add complementary services wherever possible, which add real value to our end customers.”
In particular, the OCS acquisition will allow SQUAN to provide additional services to carriers and tower companies that have recently expanded through acquisitions into fiber provision.
“The entry of wireless companies into fiber simply reinforces our strategic vision,” Carroll said. “By having really strong fiber-optic engineering and delivery capability, it allows us to add additional services to the three legs that we have already.”
OCS is SQUAN’s first acquisition but it won’t be its last, according to Carroll, who plans to grow in a slow, well-thought out manner. He has scouted 80 companies so far. He currently has another company under a definite letter of intent and is actively pursuing two other companies, which he thinks are “unique and strategic in the space.”
Service diversification and geographic focus are important to Carroll, but they can’t match on his emphasis on personnel.
“Osmose is a leader in the utilities space and we saw value in the talents of the OCS people,” he said. “The important thing is how we identify, develop and retain talent.”