The U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) has approved two new occupations for apprenticeship training through the Wireless Infrastructure Association’s Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP). The new occupations are overhead utility installer technician and underground utility installer technician.
“Not only does this approval from DoL demonstrate that there is a national focus on the need to train for the jobs of tomorrow, but it also offers additional career pathways for those who want to enter the growth industry of communications,” said WIA President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein. “WIA, along with the Power & Communication Contractors Association (PCCA), is committed to launching, promoting and expanding apprenticeships to support workforce development in our high-growth industries. With DoL’s support, we’re able to expand opportunities for underrepresented populations and support long-term careers to cultivate diversity in the workforce.”
PCCA President and CEO Tim Wagner said that overhead and underground utilities are essential to both the national deployment of 5G wireless networks and modern electric power infrastructure. “Our members excel at these endeavors and now seek to build upon our success by partnering with WIA to develop and further expand our workforce to meet growing demands,” he said.
WIA is leading a national effort to expand the size, quality and diversity of the telecommunications industry workforce with partner organization PCCA. DoL has recognized WIA as the national sponsor of TIRAP and as the industry intermediary for telecommunications apprentice programs. DoL is supporting these efforts with significant resources to expand WIA’s TIRAP program. TIRAP offers 11 occupations within its training program. More than 33 employers and 2,000 apprentices are registered in TIRAP.
Graduates of TIRAP apprenticeships receive national, portable, industry-recognized credentials that certify proficiency in specific occupations. The Department of Labor data shows that 94 percent of apprentices retain employment after an apprenticeship program ends and lists additional benefits such as reducing turnover, improving productivity, and recruiting a skilled and diverse workforce.
Speakers gave upbeat assessments of the tower industry on the “View From the Top: Tower Executive Roundtable,” moderated by Jonathan Adelstein, president and CEO of the Wireless Industry Association during its Connectivity Expo earlier this week.
Earlier this week, which has been crowded with wireless news, FCC Chairman Pai announced that to receive approval from the FCC for the Sprint merger, T-Mobile had committed to deploying its 5G network into rural areas, with 85 percent of rural Americans covered within three years and 90 percent covered within six years.
Alex Gellman, Vertical Bridge CEO, said he believed even if the FCC had not required the rural coverage, the New T-Mobile would have done it anyway.
“I always believed that T-Mobile would be aggressive as a standalone wireless company post-merger,” Gellman said. “It will be a positive for the tower industry to have an aggressive, co-equal third carrier, especially one that is focused solely on wireless investment in their network. AT&T and Verizon, on the other hand, have competition from other segments for their capital.”
The previous day at the Connectivity Expo, T-Mobile Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray showed a graphic that depicted a three-layer 5G rollout cake with the bottom, largest layer consisting of 600 MHz spectrum, topped by mid-band spectrum layer with the top, and smallest, layer of millimeter wave spectrum.
David Weisman, president and CEO, InSite Wireless Group, responded to the carrier’s plans, saying he views the T-Mobile 600 MHz rollout as validation for macrocells, but he noted how far the industry still is from understanding what approval of the merger will look like.
“The Department of Justice has not spoken. When they do there will be a whole set of details and concerns as to how it is going to rollout. It may create a three and a half carrier environment. The devil is in the details,” he said.
Jeffrey Stoops, SBA Communications CEO, said T-Mobile’s proposed deployment at 600 hits SBA’s sweet spot, and he sees it resulting in a lot of collocation on existing SBA assets.
“T-Mobile, which is an active services client of SBA’s, will be requiring more services,” Stoops said. “We will help speed the deployment of the network so Neville won’t have to pay any penalties.”
Jay Brown, president and CEO, Crown Castle International, seemed less interested in prognosticating the future of the Sprint/T-Mobile merger. Instead, he noted that fundamentally the tower industry prospers when the carriers are well funded and there is spectrum to deploy, as well as growing data needs.
“The driver is the growth and usage of data. As we progress from a 4G environment toward 5G, we are better off concentrating on the opportunities and the need for infrastructure, regardless of the number of carrier customers in the market,” Brown said.
Speaking of wireless industry growth drivers, the panelists touched on the early stages of 5G development and the ongoing saga of Charlie Ergen, DISH and the deployment of a nationwide IoT network.
The tower industry is barely at the beginnings of what will be a decade long deployment of 5G, according to Steve Vondran, American Tower Executive VP, president, U.S. Tower Division.
“As you see the use cases develop and the usage of the network go up 30 to 40 percent per year, we expect the same evolution of 5G that we saw in 4G,” he said.
Brown pointed to increased number of connections per base station, which will be enabled with the 5G equipment, making Internet of Things applications possible.
“It opens up the business model for lower-use devices, as well as lower revenue devices that should allow the carriers to generate better economic returns for the spectrum that they hold,” he said. “As we see better economic returns, the carriers’ willingness to invest in their networks to improve their networks is a virtuous cycle that we all benefit from.
Stoops noted, and Brown and Weisman later agreed, that since there is little 5G equipment available, the driver for tower growth remains in the future. Weisman has seen some initial demand for supplemental millimeter wave hotspots for venues with heavy demand.
“It is great for our industry in that we are at this very early stage in the evolutionary rollout,” Weisman said. “We are going to see a whole host of rollouts that are going to lead to more utilization of our infrastructure. There is doubt that 5G has the potential to be part of a new industrial revolution.”
Weisman said he is confident that business cases for 5G will eventually be developed, perhaps through using network slicing to provide a premium product with a higher price tag, but until then carriers will need to work on their business model for consumer users. “It will come. There will be an Uber for 5G, but in the meantime carriers will move away from unlimited data. They can’t continue to give data way,” he said.
DISH and other Comm-infra Opportunities
SBA Communications has been doing a lot of business with DISH Network, helping it deploy its nationwide Internet of Things network. Stoops described DISH has appreciative of SBA’s help in its efforts to deploy its technology. Brown called DISH diligent in its buildout efforts, and Weisman referred to the company as a “sleeping giant with an enormous amount of spectrum capacity.”
“One of the things we have been able to help them with is to rely on our roots as a network development company with our services side of the business,” Stoops said. They have a lot at stake. We are working hard with them to see that the [spectrum buildout requirements] get met. There is a lot to be done and we are right in the thick of it.”
Brown said it is important to look beyond the Big Four carriers to find infrastructure opportunities so much spectrum laying fallow and capital flooding in looking for wireless applications.
“I think we are in for a prolonged duration of growth rate. Look at the amount of capital that is looking to convert every type of data into a mobile application. DISH is one of those early players,” he said.
The general trend within the wireless media is to recap conferences and trade show, both as they run and afterwards. That has a great deal of value, both to the attendees, for what they were not able to catch, as well as those that cannot attend. However, rarely do organizations behind such events get recognition for the hard work and maximum effort it takes to, successfully, pull it off. Most of the time this behind the scenes work goes unnoticed. So rather than pen another recap of the today’s happenings at the Connectivity Expo here in sunny Orlando, Florida, I want to take a moment to bring to light more of what the Wireless Infrastructure Association is about and how much they actually do for this industry.
I had the opportunity to have a spot of lunch in the WIA member room while its president, Johnathan Adelstein, talked a bit about all the areas WIA is invested in. I knew about some of them but others I had no idea about.
The fact that WIA has enough esteem to draw speaker from inside and outside of the industry, like Neville Ray and Adam Koeppe of T-Mobile and Verizon, respectively, and Shelly McKinley from Microsoft, speaks volumes. But having Orlando’s mayor, Buddy Dyer show up and speak, is, really, impressive. Orlando’s mayor is one of the more progressive when it comes to issues such as siting. That he recognizes that WIA is the organization that is capable of helping Orlando, as well as other cities, to understand and expedite deployments and smooth over the speedbumps that deploying such new, as well as, expanding existing networks present, speaks for itself.
Tangential to Connect X, WIA events also work at bringing together some of the brightest minds in the industry to move wireless technology forward. One of WIA’s missions is to develop other events, such as the Wireless Hall of Fame to bring people together to generate ideas. Another is to provide platforms, one of which is a new blog, where thought leaders can discuss industry topics and present new or innovative ideas. Another is to provide an information platform to allow industry players to inform other peripheral segments, through white papers, for example, about developments in wireless segments.
There is also their support in forming working groups to further the development of bleeding-edge, evolving industry segments. The smart city working group is a prime example. This group partnered with the Smart Cities Council to bring attention to smart city development though a number of avenues. The idea is to cross pollinate wireless technologies with smart city concepts to come up with a variety of wireless solutions to the challenges of making a city smart.
WIA has also created the Innovation & Technology Council, which focuses creating and disseminating white papers on a variety of issues. Topics include the economic issues that surround broadband wireless network and infrastructure deployment in rural America, for example. As well, they created a report on mobile broadband policy concerns for the 5G buildout. And, this is only the beginning. Such task forces and councils are ideal for tackling the complex issues around wireless deployment.
Peripheral platforms are not forgotten either. A new fiber working group has been formed, chaired by Crown Castle to work on getting transport capabilities for the emerging 5G platforms.
And, WIA has been instrumental in moving heterogeneous networks forward with the creation of the HetNet forums back in 2006, and the small cell forums for a similar number of years. WIA has been a driving force in helping companies deploy small cells by providing a wealth of data pertinent to small cells and HetNets. Without such support, it is unlikely small cells would be where they are today. As well, there are many other directions in which the WIA is moving – too many to mention here.
My motivation for this missive is to let the industry know that there is an organization out there that has its finger on the pulse of wireless and that can only be of benefit to it. I have watched them, over the years, bloom and grow – a credit to Jonathan, Tracy Ford, and the rest of the WIA team, and how hard they have worked to bring the organization to where it is today. I am impressed by the leadership team of WIA and I believe it will be the driving force and a leading organization in the infrastructure space, going forward.
Smart cities and communities are quickly becoming a reality as municipalities look to provide enhanced public-safety services, sustainability and efficiency within transportation, energy, water, waste and other public services, according to a new white paper titled “Wireless Infrastructure as the Foundation of Smart Cities and Communities,” published by the Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA).
The authors of the new report conclude that broadband connectivity is crucial for cities and communities to remain financially healthy and to provide citizens with educational and other opportunities.
“Faced with increased populations, cities are challenged to create more efficient ways to deal with the impact of this growth while being sensitive to environmental, economic and quality of-life issues,” said Jim Lockwood, CEO and founder of Aero Solutions, co-chair of ITC, and chair of the Smart Communities Working Group. “Connectivity and bandwidth are fueling a new gigabyte economy that will rely on smart services. Wireless and fiber-optics are key enablers of that connectivity and will play essential roles in creating smart communities.”
The white paper concludes that aligning government policies with network capabilities is essential to enabling the successful implementation of smart technologies, breaking down departmental and forming partnerships.
“Communities should adopt a forward-thinking and cooperative approach to accommodating infrastructure elements in public rights of way and on existing utility and other structures,” the authors write. “In addition, communities must heed a variety of regulatory guidelines and consider a variety of options to fund the buildout of smart city infrastructure.”
Members of the ITC Smart Communities Working Group who contributed to the white paper include Jim Lockwood, Aero Solutions; Don Bach, Boingo Wireless; Bernard Borghei, Vertical Bridge; Bryan Darr, Mosaik; Ray Hild, Triangle Advisory Group; Rebecca Hunter, Crown Castle; Keith Kaczmarek, inPhase Wireless; Ray La Chance, ZenFi; Jim Nevelle, Kathrein; Peter Murray, Dense Networks; and Sam Rodriguez, Aero Smart Communities.
The new research paper is available on the association’s Online Resource Library, which features a collection of white papers examining new wireless technologies and the issues facing the wireless infrastructure industry. Produced by the association’s Innovation & Technology Council (ITC), the reports cover a variety of topics and aim to educate industry, government and the public.
In addition to white papers from the ITC, the Online Resource Library features other materials created by WIA and its members.
To download a copy of “Wireless Infrastructure as the Foundation of Smart Cities and Communities” and other industry research please visit the WIA Online Resource Library at www.wia.org/resource-library
We talk a lot about paradigm shifts in the communications infrastructure industry. Last week, the Wireless Infrastructure Association effected one of its own in the Connectivity Expo, Connect (x), held in Charlotte, North Carolina. Combining its HetNet conference with its annual conference, the association essentially realized the new reality of comm-infra. The industry is converging, and so must the conferences that educate the industry.
I can’t remember exactly how many sessions WIA had last year, but this year felt like the association went from zero to 60 in 3 seconds with 11 keynotes, 44 breakout sessions, plus the Supplier Diversity Summit.
And it wasn’t just the expansion in the number of sessions but the increase in the breadth of topics that was impressive. Along with macro cells, the topics spanned intelligent edge networks, private LTE networks, connected property, vehicle-to-infrastructure and the enterprise. This was not your father’s tower show.
It was obvious from the very beginning when Satyen Yadan, GM IoT and Edge Services, Amazon Web Services, walked out on the spacious stage, things had changed. But FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly’s interview with Kathleen Abernathy, Wilkinson Barker Knauer, which came next, showed that the conference is still deeply rooted in the advocacy of the communications industry. The next day featured a keynote by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
As WIA expanded the size of its tent, it also invited more people inside. The association’s Partnership Program certainly added attendees from outside WIA’s normal sphere of influence, including the North Carolina Public Safety Broadband Summit, the CBRS Alliance, IoT Charlotte, Government Wireless Technology & Communications Association, Multefire Alliance, the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council, Smart Cities Council. The list went on.
Were the WIA staff happy will all of their programming and partnership choices? I am guessing there will be an in-depth discussion analyzing the sessions, speakers and partners. Diversifying a conference is no different from any business. It’s risky. Once, I asked a tower developer why she hadn’t diversified into small cells. Her answer was short and to the point. “We tried diversifying once and didn’t make any money. We are sticking with what we know.” And there is a lot of opportunity in “sticking” with towers.
However, bringing this discussion back to where I started. With the coming of the paradigm shift that is 5G, there is a greater awareness of the variety of next generation communications opportunities that require towers, small cells, fiber and edge computing. The ecosystem has not shifted away from towers. It has expanded, including towers, which will host CRAN aggregation as well as edge computing facilities, not to mention IoT and FirstNet antennas.
There are three reasons, maybe four, to go to a conference. Learning about opportunities to make money is at the top, following closely by identifying competitive threats and networking. A few go to make deals, too. This conference checked all of those boxes.
I go to conferences looking for news and to cover the comments of the newsmakers. Covering Charlie Ergen’s interview with former FCC Commissioner Rob McDowell was a highlight. Appearances by the C-level tower heads and FCC Commissioner O’Rielly and Chairman Pai were also newsworthy. My conversations in and around the show floor with B+T Group, Black & Veatch, BHC Rhodes, nespa, Cobham Wireless, and others were all informative.
Kudos to the WIA staff for all their hard work in reinventing their annual conference and making it a success.