Small cell attachments differ from traditional attachments. Distributed antenna system (DAS) network nodes and small cells require utility pole owners to perform more engineering because such installations place so much equipment on the poles. More traditional attachments sometimes only involve cables, maybe with a horseshoe to help with sagging from pole to pole, but otherwise, the equipment is minimal.
Most utilities and other pole owners only allow one small cell attachment per utility pole. A small cell attachment includes at least four pieces of equipment, and there isn’t enough room on most poles for more than one small cell attacher.
There are many ways to attach small cells or DAS nodes to poles.
One example is a cantenna, which is a can or tube that houses a small cell antenna, power source, strand equipment in conduit, and any other related equipment. Installers place cantennas at the tops of utility poles.
Another example is a strand mount, where the installer attaches small cell equipment directly to the wire that hangs between two poles.
A small cell or DAS attachment typically involves:
Wireless carriers and their contractors sometimes send asset owners informal requests for information about potential attachments on certain poles. These requests may let the asset owners learn of the provider’s possible intention to a small cell attachment request.
It takes time for asset owners to respond to requests for data about their assets. However, that data may be out of date the next day if another attacher actually requests to attach and begins the permitting process.
Most of the data that wireless carries need have to determine whether for a utility pole or street or traffic light is a good fit for a small cell attachment includes the following:
After the carrier has submitted a permit to attach, it needs to perform a load analysis if it wants to use a strand mount, or if the asset owner does not already have load analysis data for that particular pole.
Pole owners that lack current asset data may require carriers to perform their own boots-on-the-ground research. Then, the asset owner must verify the data the carrier finds. The process involves a lot of back and forth.
Asset owners that have accurate data about their poles that is easily accessible will be a step ahead of the rest. It will be that much easier for them to respond to a lot of incoming requests from wireless carriers as they ramp up their 5G preparations with small cell and DAS deployments.
If both asset owners and attaching companies were on the same page with small cell attachments, the anticipated increase in attachments could run smoothly. From learning small cell basics to considering whether the attachment is a good fit for the asset, there are many ways the joint-use community can prepare for increasing small cell attachments and the anticipated 5G rollout.
We would love to hear your comments related to small cell and DAS. What is your experience so far with this type of attachment? What are a few ways you think the joint-use owners and attachers can do to prepare for the future? Help us start a dialogue within the joint-use community.
Mary Ashley Canevaro worked with Dianne Costello on this article. Costello is the product manager of managed services and client training at Alden Systems. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.aldensys.com.