March 5, 2015 — Velocitel had a busy February. Mid-month, the infrastructure engineering and construction services company purchased the assets of FDH, a civil and water, geotechnical, structural engineering and construction company. The newly combined company, known as FDH Velocitel, became one of the largest wireless engineering services companies in the industry.
At the end of the month, FDH Velocitel bought the assets of Stainless, one of the nation’s oldest broadcast tower structural engineering firms, further expanding its engineering team and CAD craftsmen, as well as adding broadcast tower construction crews.
A majority of FDH Velocitel’s business comes from collocations on existing towers, water towers, utility poles and buildings, Jim Estes, chairman of the board, told AGL Link. Only 5 percent of FDH Velocitel’s business is building new towers.
“The growth is in modifications. It is the collocations that are driving why we did these acquisitions, because you want to get the most out of the towers that are there,” Estes said. “Tower owners are asset managers. They want to get the most out of the towers they deployed.”
Of the 300,000 cell towers in the United States, about half are more than 10 years old, and a significant number are more than 20 years old, Estes estimates.
“When the operators go out to the tower, many times there will be no room for new antennas or the addition of the equipment puts the tower over its rated load,” he said. “A lot of those towers were not built to have all the equipment that is on there. You can imagine back in the mid-1990s the carriers never anticipated putting the amount of equipment on the tower that we are doing today.”
When Velocitel goes to put a carrier on a tower today, about 20 to 25 percent of the time the tower cannot handle the load of the additional equipment, and it must then strengthen the tower.
“So a structural analysis is performed and we look at strengthening the tower with additional steel or a reconfiguration of the equipment or a foundation modification. FDH has a patented method for analyzing foundations,” Estes said.
Stainless does tower structure modifications, as well, only for the broadcast industry. Stainless owns 7,500 drawings of broadcast towers it has built, which is about half of that type in the United States. Estes said he likes having the diversification into the broadcast industry, and he sees opportunities that will come as a result of the upcoming broadcast spectrum incentive auction, which will affect 1,000 broadcasters.
“After the auction is concluded, the existing broadcasters will need to move their transmitters to different frequencies, known as re-packing. With the purchase of Stainless, FDH Velocitel will be well positioned to assist the broadcasters by moving their antennas and equipment. Congress appropriated $1.75 billion to reimburse the broadcasters for moving,” Estes said.