April 27, 2017 —
Global engineering and construction giant Black & Veatch, of Overland Park, Kansas, entered the cell tower game early on. About 25 years ago, Black & Veatch formed a partnership with Nortel (now part of Ericsson), a telecommunications equipment manufacturer, to help build the Sprint PCS nationwide network. The company provided network site development and construction in nine Nortel markets.
Black & Veatch is known as an engineering, consulting, construction and operations company that specializes in infrastructure development in energy, water, telecommunications, management consulting, government services and environmental markets. The National Center for Employee Ownership ranks Black & Veatch as the 10th-largest majority employee-owned company in the United States. In 2015, the company had $3.2 billion in revenue. Black & Veatch has more than 60 offices in 50 U.S. cities and registered professional engineers in 50 states, with more than 110 offices worldwide and a workforce of more than 10,000.
The company does more than 50 percent of its telecom business work in activity related to wireless network development and upgrades (cell towers). Not a tower owner itself, the company builds them and offers almost every service associated with towers.
“Our focus remains on the construction and services side of the tower business,” said John Janchar, executive vice president of Black & Veatch’s telecommunications business. “We offer a full suite of services to address land use, engineering, construction and other services required to design, build and maintain these critical infrastructure components. We are a nationwide services provider and have several offices located throughout the country. Our local presence allows us the flexibility to expeditiously scale engineering, design, permitting, construction and maintenance services for our clients.”
According to Janchar, Black & Veatch has performed services including land use, engineering, and construction for no fewer than one out of every four cell towers in the United States. Janchar also said that, although Black & Veatch does not provide maintenance services, it provides structural analysis programs to support the continuing upgrading and modification of cell sites.
The company performs most of its preconstruction services in-house. It uses a mix of self-perform and subcontractor professionals to provide construction services. Black & Veatch uses include Ericsson, Nokia, Corning, CommScope, Rosenberger, Communications Components, Radio Frequency Systems, Advanced RF Technologies, Solid, Sabre and Fujitsu equipment.
Janchar points to Black & Veatch’s reputation of being a valued partner within the telecommunications industry. “Black & Veatch has the local presence, contacts and licensing credentials to provide the local touch necessary to evaluate site conditions, meet with local officials and expedite performance nationwide,” he said. “Our team has deployed or modified more than 100,000 communications sites across the country, allowing us to partner with all of the major carriers to deliver turnkey sites nationwide. We also offer our site-development expertise to serve the needs of state and local government agencies. We have experience working directly with state and local jurisdictions or as a subcontractor to the major land mobile radio vendors, as well as with land mobile radio and private Long Term Evolution (LTE) systems used by utilities.”
Robust Cell Tower Business
Janchar is enthusiastic about Black & Veatch’s client portfolio, which he describes as robust and diverse. The company works with all carriers, from the large global wireless carriers to the smaller regional carriers. “We focus on four client segments that use cell site networks: public carriers, private carriers (such as utilities and enterprise), public safety and integrated infrastructure,” he said. “In fact, our client portfolio continues to expand as the industry evolves and the need for data drives network upgrades.”
The strategy Black & Veatch uses to find cell tower clients is simple: Meet your existing clients’ expectations every day, and employ a dedicated and experienced sales and marketing team that achieves growth by seeking new business opportunities through strategic marketing initiatives, industry events, advertising, sales and networking.
“Our sales professionals have years of experience in the telecommunications industry and are experts at recognizing needs, challenges and drivers in the market,” Janchar said. “It is through this knowledge and proactive approach that our sales and leadership teams are able to continuously build strategic and mutually beneficial relationships with existing and potential clients. Additionally, we rely on our entire team of professionals to ensure our clients’ needs are met and that we maintain a world-class reputation in the industry.”
From 2011 to 2016, Black & Veatch partnered with Samsung Mobile to perform a large U.S. network upgrade program for Sprint. Black & Veatch provided a full suite of wireless development services to support Samsung in its vital multiyear program implementing Network Vision, Sprint’s cutting-edge network evolution plan.
Deploying new technology on a competitive first-to-market basis is always a challenge, but in this case Samsung faced another challenge because the existing network had to remain in service while Samsung deployed its new equipment. Black & Veatch helped solve Samsung’s complex challenge in Sprint’s network upgrade deployment with the ability to scale turnkey expertise on a national basis. The company’s established processes, tools and techniques for engineering, procurement and construction deployments provided for effective and efficient execution from project initiation throughout the life cycle, without interrupting the existing network operation or damaging project sites. There was no disruption to Sprint’s existing customers.
Janchar said he believes a challenge facing the tower industry involves continuous modifications of existing structures that have been required to reflect new technology upgrades. Structures are exceeding design capacity, thus becoming more difficult to modify. “The backhaul demand is another big challenge in the telecom industry,” he said. “Backhaul is critical for offering carrier customers the speed and high capacity for the all-you-can-eat data plans and performance. The need to increase capacity in the backhaul network in a cost-effective way is a top priority that drives the building and expansion of fiber networks to accommodate the demand.”
Despite the challenge, Janchar sees the cell tower business booming for Black & Veatch in the foreseeable future. “As the industry continues to proliferate, there will be continued technology development (5G) requiring equipment upgrade to the existing macro sites, and growth in capacity using densification with small cells and oDAS (outdoor distributive antenna system) networks. Several of our other business lines will continue to mature and develop as our clients work to keep up with the insatiable demand on their public and private networks.”
Janchar said that Black & Veatch expects sustained, substantial growth over the next several years, aided by the continued convergence of wireless and wireline technology and the carrier evolution to 5G. In addition, the company will continue to invest in private network markets, such as mining and transportation, as these industries continue to look for security, reliability and ways to integrate distributed networks. “The need for data is driving technological evolution and communications network upgrades across all market segments,” Janchar said. “One of Black & Veatch’s core strengths is that we are organized to align with market conditions and challenges of today and those yet to come.”
Meanwhile, Black & Veatch focuses on creating innovative solutions and developing the services that are in demand to build state-of-the art networks. “Not only do we have the solutions to meet our clients’ needs, we also possess the tools, resources, experience and relationships to tie it all together and move toward the inevitable — a future where all things are connected and communication is as essential an infrastructure resource as energy, water and transportation,” Janchar said. “Because our experience spans various markets, we have the ability to dive into the segmented and unique challenges that our clients face, and also to see the evolving industry from an overall perspective and to prepare for this future integration.”
Mike Harrington is a freelance writer in Prairie Village, Kansas.
From 2011 to 2016, Black & Veatch partnered with Samsung Mobile to perform a large U.S. network upgrade for Sprint. The Black & Veatch processes, tools and techniques for engineering, and procurement and construction deployments provided for effective and efficient execution without interrupting the existing network operation or damaging project sites.
Black & Veatch provided Samsung Mobile with a full suite of wireless development services to support Samsung in a multiyear program to implement Sprint’s Network Vision.