North Charleston, SC (PRWEB) July 10, 2013
Fueled by dramatic growth in the wireless industry, locally headquartered STEALTH is moving to a larger space at 3034-A Ashley Phosphate Road.
The 68,000 square-foot office and manufacturing facility will house STEALTH’s growing wireless concealment business. Founded more than 20 years ago, the company invented – and continues to improve upon – concealments for all manner of antenna systems. “The world’s voracious appetite for strong signal has fostered dramatic growth here,” said Sean McLernon, STEALTH CEO. “Our shop floor is working over time to keep up with demand.”
The new space, which is more than three times the size of the former location, will house the company’s design, manufacturing, shipping and administrative staffs.
STEALTH Concealment Solutions was founded in 1992, and was the first U.S. company to engineer and construct antenna concealments for the wireless industry. The company has full manufacturing capabilities as well as a nationwide sales network. From rooftop concealments and flagpoles to steeples and towers, STEALTH has experience making every type of concealment and excels at finding solutions for difficult sites. The company’s proprietary StealthSkin™ technology allows signals to pass through the concealment with minimal loss. Today, STEALTH spearheads more than 750 concealment projects nationwide per year for all wireless carriers.
STEALTH has been honored by the Charleston Metro Chamber and the Tower Technology Summit. The company’s work has been featured in RCR Wireless, TIME Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, CBS, AGL magazine and on About.com.
For more information on STEALTH, or to get your copy of our latest Antenna Concealment Handbook, call 800-755-0689.
Todd Hansel survived a fall from a cell tower he was helping construct near Dike, Iowa. That is the good news. However, as a result of his 50-foot fall, he was seriously injured and hospitalized for days. And worse yet, he has significant hospital bills that he cannot pay.
Hansel, 29, was working as an independent contractor for Pegasus Tower Inc., based in Calico Rock, Ark., so he will get no help from his employer in paying the $200,000 in hospital bills accumulated so far in treating his injuries, which include multiple broken bones and torn ligaments in his ankle, three compression fractures in the vertebrae in his lower back and several cracked ribs near his solar plexus.
Hansel has had reconstructive ankle surgery, where a plate and screws were inserted to stabilize the joint. Because he has no insurance, every trip to the hospital goes through the emergency room, costing thousands of dollars per visit.
“Now I am broke and almost homeless,” Hansel said. “My employer’s advice was for me to file for Social Security disability, but I can’t because all of my injuries will heal.”
When the accident occurred on July 17, Hansel was working with two other employees, who only spoke broken English. They were stacking a tower with a crane when there was a miscommunication concerning the adjustment of the J bolts on a ladder that Hansel was standing on. The ladder had been mounted to tower sections and needed small adjustments up or down.
The ladder came loose at the top, swung out and broke away from the tower. Both Hansel and the ladder then fell nearly 50 feet, and seconds later they hit the ground, according to Hansel.
“The ladder got hung up on parts of the tower, which slowed down the fall enough so that the impact did not kill me,” Hansel said. “On a scale of one to 10, the pain was about a 17.”
Hansel said he was wearing a harness but was given only one lanyard, so his only tie off point was to the ladder.
To pay his hospital bills, Hansel is in the process of filing a lawsuit against Pegasus Towers, claiming that he was actually an employee of the company and eligible for workers’ compensation.
While the merits of Hansel’s case cannot be judged, the Internal Revenue Service defines a common-law employee based on whether the employer can “control what will be done and how it will be done.”
Hansel is looking for work in the tower industry again, but he will need three months more of recovery, according to his doctors, which he will spend with cousins in Oklahoma. He has two and a half years of experience mounting and installing antennas and radio heads, RF sweeping, and PIM testing. Hansel had only been with Pegasus Tower for two weeks. Before that he was with Midwest Underground Technologies Inc., and before that he worked for Capital Tower & Communications.
“As soon as my ankle heals, I want to climb again. I am pretty good on top for upgrades and installations,” he said.
OSHA, which is investigating the incident, is no stranger to Pegasus Tower.
On June 14, 2004, OSHA conducted an inspection at Pegasus’ construction of a 1.300 communications tower for the NBC news station in Madison, Wis., levying several fines including exposing workers to falls of 940 feet.
In 2001, the agency inspected Pegasus’ Channel 23 tower erection site in Akron, Ohio, and issued citations for violations including failure to protect employees from a 400-foot fall. The $24,600 penalty was later reduced to $16,500.
As carriers rush to deploy LTE, what waste results from this haste? One thing that keeps coming up is neglected antenna mounts. John Paleski, president, Subcarrier communications, told AGL Bulletin that as the messengers bearing bad news, tower companies are put into a position of conflict with carriers when they discover new mounts are needed after a job is begun.
“You have to fight with carriers, because they don’t want to [swap out antenna mounts]. They have a certain schedule [for LTE deployment] and they want to maintain it at any cost,” he said. “The major reason for [the mounting issue] is when we are putting four TMAs [tower-mounted amplifiers] per sector, some mounts can handle it, but if it is one of the early angle iron mounts that were only intended to handle a couple of antennas per sector, there is no way that it’s going to support more than that.”
Paleski related an incident the previous week where the tower company was put in the uncomfortable position of telling its boss, the carrier, that an LTE upgrade could not occur because the mounts were woefully inadequate.
“We notified the carrier that, in our judgment, the tower mounts were not adequate to support the new antennas and the new TMAs, but we were directed to finish the installation,” he said.
As the Subcarrier crews progressed further and started to put the antennas and TMAs up, the antenna mount actually started to bow out and collapse in the center by a few inches, according to Paleski.
“The crews could see the metal stress caused by the increased weight. The angle iron mounts were never designed for this type of load,” he said.
So, again, the carrier was called and notified of stress issue on the mounts, but it replied that installation should be completed. But three-quarters of the way through the installation, Paleski pulled his crews from the job, risking the ire of the carrier.
“I called the carrier personally and told them I could see the mounts bending from the ground and there wasn’t any wind. This tower needs new mounts. These mounts will never do. They were not happy,” he said.
Several days later, the carrier sent an engineer to the site who came to the conclusion that only one of the three sector mounts needed to be replaced.
“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was exasperated. All the mounts were identical. The only reason one looked worse was that it had more equipment on it. I told the engineer they all need to be replaced, so he reformatted his letter and told the carrier to replace all the mounts,” Paleski said.
Because the antennas, TMAs and old mounts had to be removed from the tower before the installation could begin again, the price tag nearly quadrupled.
Antenna Mounts: The Wild Card
Antenna mounts are the wild card of LTE deployment. Carriers do not have any documentation on what mounts have been deployed on towers because they were installed by third parties, according to Paleski, and that information was never transferred to a database.
“Some mounts are adequate, some are woefully inadequate. We quote these jobs but have no idea what we will be faced with when we get there. It becomes incumbent on us to tell the carrier whether the mounts are adequate,” Paleski said.
Instead of relying on the judgment of tower crews, which may not have a structural engineer on staff, carriers need to send a crew to each site to independently verify the mounts on the towers before the bidding process begins, Paleski said.
“Mount information should be included in the plans that we receive, so we will know before a tower crew is dispatched whether the mounts need to be replaced or not. As a result, the carrier could specify whether the mount needed to be replaced, and we could price our services accordingly,” he said.
With all four major U.S. carriers making major network upgrades, tower companies continue to be the beneficiaries in increased leasing activity. Crown Castle saw revenue from additional tenants double in the second quarter, reflecting the shift in activity to in-fill sites collocation on small cells as well as macrocells, Ben Moreland, Crown Castle president and CEO, told the second quarter earnings call.
“This densification activity is the expected second wave of the LTE network deployment and provides us with a longer runway of expected future growth as carriers strive to improve network quality and to add capacity through cell splitting in the face of continued growth in mobile technology demand, he said.
The cellular industry is seeing a faster adoption of smart phones, compared with the initial uptake of 3G phones, which Moreland said the tower company uses to gauge where the industry is in the technology cycle, as well as the long term growth trends.
“To gain a framework for LTE build-outs, it is useful to compare how the 4G subscriptions is trending compared with 3G subscriptions historically,” he said. “From 4Q 2010 to the 3Q 2012, the first eight quarters of LTE, we have seen subscriptions significantly outpace the initial eight quarters of 3G, which began 1Q 2003.” LTE user growth could top 180 million by the end of 2013 and 260 million by 2017, he added.
Site rental gross margin, adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) and adjusted funds from operations (AFFO) for the second quarter all exceeded Crown’s expectations, according to Jay Brown, Crown Castle’s chief financial officer.
“As a result of our strong results in the second quarter and the significant increase in new leasing activity, we have increased our full year 2013 outlook, which now suggests annual site rental revenue and AFFO per share growth of 17 percent and 35 percent, respectively,” Brown said. “In addition, we continued to invest in activities we believe will maximize long-term AFFO per share, including purchases of our common shares and the construction of small cell networks.”
During the second quarter of 2013, Crown Castle invested $101 million in revenue-generating capital expenditures, including $66 million on existing sites and $35 million on the construction of new sites, primarily small cell networks. Additionally, acquisitions accounted for $14.5 million in capital expenditures.
“CCI’s report is significant in our view in that it should set the tone for the other tower companies’ (AMT and SBAC) reports to follow. As we have written, we continue to believe the overall tone of these reports will reflect a bullish outlook regarding domestic wireless spending,” Jennifer Fritzsche, senior analyst, Wells Fargo, wrote in an equity research note.
Small cells and Het Nets may be all the buzz right now, but Skyway Towers is quite busy themselves building cell towers in strategic locations. The Tampa, Fla., based company averages from 50 to 70 new tower builds annually.
“For the next two or three years, we are going to see a lot of development in the urban and suburban areas, and after that, network expansion will occur in the rural areas,” Skyway’s President and COO Scott Behuniak told AGL Bulletin.
As a matter of course, Skyway Towers has closed a $15 million debt facility with USAmeribank and Raymond James Bank, which follows a $75 million equity commitment from its partners, Tinicum and Permit Capital Private Equity Fund.
The tower segment has not always been seen as a prime lending target for debt, however. Large institutions were not interested in tower companies, unless they had a substantial amount of tower cash flow, Behuniak said. But the stability of the tower market is changing some minds on Wall Street.
“Four or five years ago, even regional banks would not look at [small and mid-tier tower companies]. Now towers are seen as a very safe place to put money. The debt markets are seeing the same thing we are: significant, robust growth in the carriers’ needs for additional towers and additional equipment to go on the towers,” he said.
While he expects tower growth from all the carriers as they compete for coverage and capacity, Behuniak said AT&T has been the most aggressive recently.
“The T-Mobile acquisition attempt put AT&T into analysis-paralysis for about a year, so now they are trying to catch up,” he said. “We are seeing a lot of new builds from both Verizon and AT&T. T-Mobile is going through all of its upgrades now, so we expect them to begin expanding the network next year.”
After a prolonged bidding war, Sprint acquired Clearwire and completed its merger with Softbank this month and it now looks like it is set on a tower growth trajectory.
“Our expectation is that Sprint will emerge from its slumber some time mid to late next year on new builds,” Behuniak said. “They are running with their hair on fire right now trying to get everything modified.”
In a way, it is the best of times and the worst of times for the tower industry. With so much work available, it is difficult for companies like Skyway Towers to get crews.
“In the past we would have four or five construction vendors vying for the job. Now we are lucky to get two,” Behuniak said. “They are so busy doing mods and upgrades for the carriers.”