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May 4, 2015
Vertical realtor Crown Castle makes a $1 billion bet on going horizontal
Crown Castle International’s appetite for a fiber rich footprint in major cities across America expanded last week with the acquisition of Sunesys for approximately $1 billion. The wholly owned subsidiary of Quanta Services, Inc. owns or has rights to nearly 10,000 miles of fiber in major metropolitan markets across the U.S. such as Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, Silicon Valley, and north New Jersey.
Approximately 60% of Sunesys’ fiber miles are located in the top 10 basic trading areas.
The Sunesys acquisition will strengthen Crown Castle’s leading position in small cell networks by more than doubling the company’s fiber footprint available for small cell deployments.
Whereas American Tower Corporation holds the bragging rights as being the nation’s largest tower owner, by a couple hundred structures, Crown Castle is clearly the leader in its small cells business and fiber footprints.
In 2012, Crown Castle invested another $1 billion when it acquired distributed antenna systems provider NextG Networks, Inc., kick starting their fiber ownership with approximately 4,500 miles.
Crown Castle currently owns or has rights to approximately 7,000 miles of fiber supporting approximately 14,000 nodes, which contribute 7% to each of Crown Castle’s site rental revenues and site rental gross margin, a percentage that CFO Jay Brown shared for the first time during an April 23, 2015 earnings call.
Brown and CEO W. Benjamin Moreland appeared to be setting the stage for the Sunesys announcement.
“Three years ago when we acquired NextG Networks, the then leader in the field of small cells or distributed antenna system deployment, we had a thesis that this architecture of fiber-fed deployment will play an important role in adding capacity to networks of the future as carriers seek to monetize the data opportunity,” Moreland told analysts.
Handsome margins on second fiber tenant
“With the colocation of the second tenant on the initial fiber investment, we typically see incremental margins of 80% to 90%, bringing IRRs above the 20% level. We believe investing in small cell builds upon our core competence — builds on our core competency as the leading provider of US wireless infrastructure, leveraging our existing relationships with the wireless carriers,” said Brown.
“We are thrilled with the agreement we have reached to acquire Sunesys,” said Moreland, “We pursued this transaction based on our view that the unique location of Sunesys’ high-quality fiber assets will help to accelerate and extend the runway of growth in our small cell deployments. Small cells are playing an increasingly critical role as wireless carriers pursue fiber-fed deployments to add capacity and density to their networks to accommodate the significant growth in mobile data.”
“We’re seeing capacity needs in so many urban and suburban areas that you can quickly start to figure out that we’re talking about a universe here, I think, of hundreds of thousands of nodes over time,” said Moreland.
In the fiber space a recurring question is whether it’s better to build or to buy?
Crown Castle believes it’s better to buy, if the fiber footprint fits like a glove such as in the Philadelphia market where Sunesys’ fiber supports almost all of the company’s nodes.
They also make the case that Sunesys’ fiber complements their Crown Castle-owned fiber on the West coast of California.
Was Crown Castle’s $1 billion offer a good deal?
Trying to use multiples and napkin analyses to assess whether a fiber deal was in line with other known purchases is as difficult to quantify as trying to measure the sale of towers.
Last week, Lightower acquired Fiber Networks for $1.9 billion, adding 12,000 route miles. The combined company will own and operate a high-performance, fiber-based network throughout the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest. The company will offer customers over 30,000 route miles of fiber network providing access to nearly 5,000 wireless towers and almost 13,000 on-net service locations.
Although on the surface it appears that Crown Castle’s $100,000 per route mile was a far better deal than the $155,000 per route mile paid by Lightower, it doesn’t mean that the Fiber Networks sale was an expensive transaction.
Location densities, the portion of business attributable to Lit fiber, markets covered, and a number of other factors must be considered.
However, on the surface, it appears that Crown Castle didn’t overpay, according to Brown.
“Typically, when we’re building new anchor builds, we’re spending about $100,000 per node. The majority of that cost is associated with building the fiber, to build the system, where those nodes are going to go,” Brown said.
May 4, 2015
Industry veteran “Tam” Murray takes the reins of PCIA’s Board of Directors
The Board of Directors of PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association elected new officers during its conference in Hollywood, Fla. last week, selecting Thomas “Tam” Murray, the founder and managing member of Community Wireless Structures, as the new PCIA Board Chairman; Steven Marshall, the Executive Vice President & President of the U.S. Tower Division of American Tower, is the new Vice Chairman & Secretary; and David Weisman, the President & Chief Executive Officer of Insite Wireless Group, is the new Treasurer.
“As evidenced by the attendance and enthusiasm at our annual show this week, the wireless infrastructure industry continues to grow rapidly to meet the burgeoning consumer demand for data,” said PCIA President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein. “PCIA is honored that these immensely successful executives will serve our association to help the industry sustain and diversify that growth.”
Also serving with Murray, Marshall, and Weisman on the previously elected PCIA Board of Directors are: W. Benjamin Moreland, President & Chief Executive Officer of Crown Castle International who just completed his tenure as Board Chairman; Richard J. Byrne, Founder & Chief Executive Officer of TowerCo, LLC; Marc Ganzi, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Digital Bridge Holdings, LLC; Kathleen Ham, Vice President, Federal Regulatory, of T-Mobile US, Inc.; Vonya McCann, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, of Sprint Nextel Corporation; Jeffrey A. Stoops, President & Chief Executive Officer of SBA Communications; and Adelstein.
Murray joined PCIA’s board in 2003. Prior to founding CWA he worked in commercial real estate brokerage leasing and selling office buildings in Northern Virginia. He holds an MBA from the University of Virginia’s Darden School and a degree in history from Williams College.
April 29, 2015
PCIA’s ‘view from the top’ shows a little bottoming out; tall tower crew shortage possible
A common thread throughout yesterday’s PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association’s Hollywood, Fla. conference was that AT&T has pulled back on their builds, Sprint is almost in a holding pattern and T-Mobile is providing a number of opportunities. Verizon, however, is seen as a steady engine that is assisting a slower than expected build in the second quarter.
Offering their industry outlook are; (from left) Steven Marshal, Executive V.P. and President, U.S. Tower Division, American Tower Corporation; W. Benjamin Moreland, President and CEO, Crown Castle International; Jeffery Stoops, President and CEO, SBA Communications; and Jonathan Adelstein, PCIA President and CEO.
“Verizon continues to be the steadiest in their levels of spending,” said SBA Communications President and CEO Jeffery Stoops at the View from the Top session where the nation’s three largest tower owners’ executives provided their insight. He said that “there is so much activity out there and so much to be done,” but he believes it will not hit in 2015.
The session also focused upon climber safety and industry initiatives that are being taken.
Although as late as last October trade associations and others were heralding the need for additional tower technicians to fill a serious workforce shortage, Stoops said that “The labor shortage was resolved a year or two ago.”
W. Benjamin Moreland, President and CEO, Crown Castle International, agreed, stating, “We don’t have the labor shortage we had a few years ago.”
The need for adequate training and how PCIA was working with TIRAP and Warriors for Wireless were also discussed.
Steven Marshal, Executive V.P. and President, U.S. Tower Division, American Tower Corporation, said “it’s almost inconceivable” that the industry doesn’t have adequate training.
Broadcast installation crews and ‘Twilight towers’ a concern
During a keynote session, Federal Communications Commissioner Michael O’Rielly emphasized that spectrum alone will not benefit this nation’s wireless consumers without networks and infrastructure.
FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly
“Without infrastructure, the latest innovations and offerings will not be available to meet the demands of American consumers. Without infrastructure, the U.S. does not maintain its position as the leader in wireless and Internet technologies. Without infrastructure, the economic growth of the wireless sector and its corresponding benefits to the U.S. economy comes to a halt,” he said.
O’Reilly said that the Commission is in the process of releasing more spectrum into the marketplace.
“We recently completed the AWS-3 auction, raising almost $45 billion in gross revenues, demonstrating the great demand for exclusive use licenses. Similarly, we will have the broadcast incentive auction, currently scheduled for early 2016, which will reallocate broadcast spectrum to wireless use.”
O’Reilly said he believes that crews that work on tall towers may be limited.
“This workforce shortage could be exacerbated if these crews also happen to work on broadcast towers, because the incentive auction repacking process will be occurring simultaneously with AWS-3 and 600 MHz buildout. If this skilled workforce is insufficient for the number of required jobs, work orders may get backed up. This may conflict with meeting the 39-month repacking deadline and create a domino effect for wireless,” said O’Reilly.
Industry insiders also believe that there might be a shortage of tall tower and antenna manufacturers available to meet the deadline.
O’Reilly emphasized that the Commission should tackle the problem of ‘twilight towers,’ structures constructed between March 2001 and March 2005 that were not specifically required to go through historic preservation review process.
“I know that Commission staff, industry and other stakeholders have been working together to resolve this issue that affects somewhere between 4000-7000 tower structures. Until this review is concluded, these towers remain in regulatory purgatory; no antennas can legally collocate on these structures.”
“We need networks to be deployed; we cannot afford to have towers that are not filled to capacity. Is it really preferable to have antennas not installed or duplicative towers built while we sort out this quandary? And one final note, it would seem to make sense that this process be done collaboratively, without the need for enforcement action against these tower owners, who are trying to resolve the issue in a productive way,” he said.
April 27, 2015
New unraveled electromagnetism theory will not unhinge the tower industry
As PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association kicks off its conference with an infrastructure developers meeting this afternoon in Hollywood, Fla., it’s unlikely that the demise of cell towers will be a hot topic, but media pundits frequently disagree, citing new technology that will replace them with palm size transceivers.
One industry editor recently said, the traditional cell tower infrastructure could be headed for obsolescence as a result of Google’s foray into balloon transceivers. And not to be outdone in trying to throw big steel under the bus, a competing media said that cell towers will be phased out, based upon what they read in a CNBC article, and their readers could respond to a Twitter hashtag that would allow them to guess at how many more years it will be before towers become obsolete.
Another omen being cited by the media for the replacement of “antiquated” towers is a new understanding of how electromagnetism waves are generated that could enable the design of antennas small enough to be integrated into an electronic chip, potentially a massive leap forward for mobile phones as well as communication tower antennas, according to research published in the journal Physical Review Letters.
Don’t sell your tower stock just yet
“However, it would be a little premature to assess how it could change today’s thriving tower industry through future innovations,” said Lawrence Behr, CEO of LBA Group, an RF and wireless applications company that has explored wireless technology advances since 1963.
“Antennas, or aerials, are one of the limiting factors when trying to make smaller and smaller systems, since below a certain size, the losses become too great,” said Professor Gehan Amaratunga of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, who led the electromagnetism research. “An aerial’s size is determined by the wavelength associated with the transmission frequency of the application, and in most cases it’s a matter of finding a compromise between aerial size and the characteristics required for that application.”
“In dielectric aerials, the medium has high permittivity, meaning that the velocity of the radio wave decreases as it enters the medium,” said Dr. Dhiraj Sinha, the paper’s lead author. “What hasn’t been known is how the dielectric medium results in emission of electromagnetic waves. This mystery has puzzled scientists and engineers for more than 60 years.”
Sinha’s team believes it has unraveled that mystery.
Sinha proposes that electromagnetic waves are generated not only from the acceleration of electrons, but also from a phenomenon known as symmetry breaking – observations of radiation resulting from broken symmetry of the electric field may provide some link between the two fields.
“In short, the research paper appears to be stating that physicists have a novel new theory for why our everyday cellphone antennas can work, as small as they are,” said Behr who believes that this could lead to even further miniaturization of those antennas in the future.
“It’s actually a very simple thing, when you boil it down,” said Sinha. “We’ve achieved a real application breakthrough, having gained an understanding of how these devices work.”
“Although Sinha’s research adds to the knowledge of how micro scale antennas work, I don’t foresee any impact on macro scale antennas, such as those in use on cell towers today,” said Behr.
The research was partly funded by Nokia Research Center
Should tower techs start ordering quarter-inch antenna alignment devices?
Although the breakthrough research will surely help to develop smarter and smaller antennas, it’s unlikely that Wall Street will open the bailout valve on tower stocks due to the possibility of smaller antenna footprints.
In 2011, Alcatel-Lucent announced a working base station the size of a Rubik’s cube, their 11-ounce lightRadio.
At that time a Forbes analyst said it was destined to replace 200-foot cell towers and the media ran with that unsupported analysis as if it was gospel. Some anti-siting advocates even used the AL press release to persuade zoning officials to ask applicants why they couldn’t just dump their base station in a box instead of building a tower.
LightRadio proved to be a valuable addition for filling in coverage voids, especially for indoor applications, entertainment venues and transportation hubs, but towers are still the backbone for a greater percentage of all network development.
“All antenna sizes can be reduced right now, but only with tradeoffs in critical design parameters such as power handling, gain, efficiency, and bandwidth. Even with antenna size, there is no free lunch!” said Behr.
April 25, 2015
NATE Trade show innovator is retiring while companies continue hiring
Included in this week’s Business Briefs roundup, Ken Meador, who kindled the National Association of Tower Erectors’ trade show’s explosive growth, is retiring; Telforce Group has picked up Paul Barone to head its Dallas office; Mark Nellis joins B+T group as its controller; Christopher Felder joins the ranks of Maser Consulting; and Mitch Bateman will be leading obstruction lighting manufacturer Flash Technologies’ Southeast sales.
Industry trade show innovator Ken Meador set to retire
Ken Meador, President Emeritus of TWR Lighting and President and COO of Pharos Marine Automatic Power, Inc., has announced that he will be retiring at the end of this month from a long and successful career in the wireless infrastructure industry.
Meador, who had been in the obstruction lighting industry for 22 years, has been credited with being the engine that successfully drove the National Association of Tower Erectors’ trade show in its busiest period of growth during its first 17 years as the event’s chairman. He also served on the NATE Board of Director for nine years.
His marketing skills were honed 20 years before joining TWR, creating successful advertising campaigns on both the agency and client side of the business.
His work, which oftentimes involved extensive international travel, prevented him from enjoying what he will be able to appreciate shortly, less than an hour’s drive from his home in Houston, Tex., “Going to Surfside Beach and relaxing.”
“What I will truly miss,” said Meador, “is the energy and the camaraderie we all shared at NATE’s annual event that brought us all together.”
Paul Barone Joins TelForce Group as it announces its new Dallas office
TelForce Group, a national provider of human capital, has announced their continued expansion with the opening a Dallas-based office as well as Paul Barone joining the company as Vice President, Business Development.
Barone brings over 25 years of sales and management experience in the wireless industry to Telforce.
He started in the wireless telecommunication Industry in 1987 with Southwestern Bell Mobile Systems in Dallas. Over his career he’s worked directly for Sprint, Cingular, Bell South Mobility, and has strong relationships with AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, US Cellular, NSN, Samsung, Ericsson, MobileComm, American Tower and Crown Castle. He transitioned to the staffing industry in 2011 where he worked for Fusion Solutions in Dallas.
Ron Deese, founder and President of TelForce said, “TelForce is excited to have Paul join the team. The breadth and depth of his industry knowledge and personal relationships with carriers and general contractors will be key to the added success of our company.”
Barone currently resides in the Dallas area and enjoys sports and spending time with his family.
B+T’s new controller, Marc Nellis, joins other new hires
B+T Group, a leading full-service engineering, construction and technical services firm specializing in the wireless industry, has announced the hiring of several employees in its offices across the country, including two at its Tulsa, Okla. headquarters.
Marc Nellis joins the company as the Controller for B+T Group. Nellis, who is a Certified Public Accountant, will be based at the company’s headquarters in Tulsa.
David Schatzmann comes to B+T Group as a Senior Network Engineer in the company’s headquarters. Schatzmann, who most recently worked at Cox Business, also worked for EasyTEL Communications, Inc., and has his Master of Science in Accounting.
Marcus Emfinger joins B+T Group as an RF Engineer in the DAS|Small Cell Group in the company’s Alpharetta, Ga. office. Emfinger comes to B+T Group from CTS, LLC, and in his 15-plus years working as an engineer in the telecommunications industry, also worked at Verizon Wireless, Trilogy and Cellular South.
Brandt Dozier joins B+T Group as the Regional Vice President of Sales, and will office in Houston, Tex. Dozier comes to B+T Group from his own firm, Development Solutions Partners Inc., and previously worked for LFC, Bechtel, and SBA.
Justin Mulhall joins the B+T Group team as a Southwest Region Account Executive, and will operate out of the Phoenix office. Mulhall comes to B+T Group from Pinnacle Wireless, and his prior work experience includes AT&T and Black & Veatch.
Doug Brooks is an Account Executive for B+T Group in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area. Brooks most recently worked as an account manager and IT recruiter for TEKsystems.
Christopher Felder brought on board to assist Maser Consulting
Maser Consulting P.A., a multi-discipline, engineering firm with a unique balance of public sector experience, has announced that Christopher Felder has joined the firm as its Telecommunications Geographic Discipline Leader at their Tampa, Fla. office.
Employing over 500 professionals nationally, the company has consistently been recognized by Engineering News Record as a Top 500 Design Firm, and ranked on The Zweig Group Hot Firm List of fastest growing companies.
Maser Consulting offers a wealth of in-house resources and capabilities that continually provide quality, innovative and cost effective telecommunication services, nationwide, including site acquisition, zoning/permitting and related support, construction design/drawing preparation, structural design/analysis, land survey and measurement services, small cell design, geotechnical engineering, and environmental engineering.
Flash Technology promotes Mitch Bateman to key sales position
Flash Technology, a premiere obstruction lighting manufacturer, has announced the appointment of Mitch Bateman as the Regional Sales Manager for the Southeast.
Bateman works out of the corporate office in Franklin, Tenn., and will have sales responsibilities for all major markets. He began his career with Flash Technology in 2001 and has served in several positions including Manager of the Network Operations Center, and Product Manager.
Bateman is a graduate from Western Kentucky University with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and a minor in Marketing.
April 24, 2015
Subcarrier’s Houston expansion bolsters its ever increasing tower and rooftop count
Industry veterans Dudley Norman, left, and Greg Weger will assist Subcarrier Communications in expanding its tower and rooftop business. To ensure the immediate availability for a co-location, Subcarrier is known for designing and installing towers that are capable of accommodating more tenants than competing structures. The 300-foot self-supporting structure pictured above is being fabricated this week for a new site location. The base section legs are 8-inch diameter solid steel.
An industry pioneer in high performance wireless infrastructure services, with a portfolio of some of the country’s best towers in high demand locations, New Jersey-based Subcarrier Communications, announced its Southwest market expansion and the hiring of key executives Dudley Norman and Greg Weger to lead market operations from their new Houston, Tex. office.
As demands for wireless connectivity prove to be essential to the operations of nearly every industry, Subcarrier Communications identified a need to expand operations into a market noted for its strong energy and technology presence.
“During this time of rapid expansion, Subcarrier Communications maintains a strong financial condition and continues to grow. Our decision to enter the Houston market was based upon better serving clients, and to increase our presence in the south Texas region. We look for opportunities to expand our tower and rooftop management business to provide our current and future clients with the support and customer services that Subcarrier has become known for over the past 29 years,” said Subcarrier Communications President John Paleski.
Norman will be responsible for the acquisition of tower sites and the procurement of rooftop management contracts in the Southwest region. Prior to accepting a Vice President role at Subcarrier Communications, Norman served as Vice President for Lockard and White, and Vice President of American Tower Corp. Norman brings with him decades of experience and a proven track record of success in the tower and rooftop management field. Among his career highlights, Norman has secured over $46 million in sales for various telecommunications infrastructure projects throughout the U.S.
Weger is an industry veteran with over 25 years of experience in key managerial executive positions in the telecommunications industry. Weger is involved with significant local projects including the protection and relocation of currently operational Radio Frequency systems during the replacement of the rooftop dome for Williams Tower (formerly Transco Tower) in Houston. Weger’s professional experiences features a 20-year tenure with Motorola, Inc. where he managed various key projects throughout the Southeast U.S. In addition, Weger has served with the Mississippi Army National Guard where he has held various leadership roles as an intelligence and logistics officer.
Founded in 1986, Subcarrier Communications is one of the country’s largest independent builders, owners and operators of high capacity co-location towers.
April 22, 2015
Former EHS Sprint chief Slagle joins National Wireless Safety Alliance efforts
Former Sprint executive Chuck Slagle
The National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA) announced today that they have entered into a professional consulting agreement with former Sprint Environmental Health and Safety Executive, Chuck Slagle. Slagle, who recently retired from Sprint after nearly a 38 year career, will be tasked with spearheading several NWSA project initiatives and assist in getting the NWSA national assessment and certification programs to market.
“I am excited to be involved with the National Wireless Safety Alliance and believe that the national assessment and certification programs currently under development will ultimately raise the bar on safety and quality. The NWSA will have a positive, transformational impact on the industry long-term,” said Slagle.
Prior to his retirement from Sprint, Slagle held various positions within the Sprint EHS department, including Director of EHS. He holds certifications in Safety, Risk Management and Business Continuity. Slagle has also held leadership roles with the Environmental Health and Safety Communications Panel (EHSCP) and Wireless Industry Safety Task Force. He serves on the Crisis & Disaster Management Degree Advisory Board at the University of Central Missouri and the Safety Degree Advisory Board at Purdue University. He is a past member of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and served as a member of the NFPA 76 Standards Committee for Fire Protection of Telecommunication Facilities.
The mission statement of the NWSA is to provide thorough, independent assessments of knowledge and skills and provide verifiable worker certification in order to enhance safety, reduce workplace risk, improve quality, encourage training, and recognize the skilled professionals who work on towers and other non-standard structures.
“Carriers and other parties will have a set of NWSA standards for training and certification requirements that they can incorporate into their contracts that will ultimately level the playing field for the industry’s workforce and provide greater assurances that only qualified contract workers are performing the network build-outs that are so vital to our nation’s economy,” said Slagle.
The NWSA organization is a by-product of collaboration between a broad coalition of the industry’s leading subject matter experts, companies and stakeholders representing wireless carriers, tower owners, OEM’s, turnkey management firms, small contractors and tower climbers. Industry leaders have pledged to provide timely and relevant updates to the industry as key benchmarks are achieved
April 14, 2015
As it mulls new tower safety rules, OSHA strongly urges everyone to comment
For the first time in the long history of the wireless construction industry, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is reaching out to all stakeholders, especially tower climbers, to assist it in obtaining information about the causes of employee injuries and fatalities that are occurring among technicians working on communication towers.
OSHA is also seeking comments on safe work practices for communication tower activities, training and certification practices for workers, and potential approaches the agency might take to address the hazards associated with work on elevated structures. The Request for Information (RFI), Docket No. OSHA-2014-0018, is available here.
Module will play a lead role to ensure widespread participation
To assist in providing as great a response as possible to the 38 questions OSHA is pursuing answers to, Wireless Estimator has taken an active role in promoting the RFI by providing an easily navigated and informative module that will ensure more comprehensive narratives to ensure that everyone’s valued opinions are reviewed by OSHA.
The RFI will most likely be used for rulemaking and it’s important that the industry’s collective voices be heard, from tower climbers to engineers, manufacturers, safety professionals and everyone else whose focus is communication tower safety.
The leadership of OSHA and the Federal Communications Commission on October 14, 2014 participated in a workshop for communication tower safety at which time Assistant Secretary of Labor Dr. David Michaels said, “We are developing a request for information to engage all stakeholders, including everyone here today, in a collaborative effort to prevent more of these senseless tragedies.”
“Wireless Estimator saw an opportunity at that time to assist Dr. Michaels’ efforts by creating an effective module that would ensure greater participation within the industry,” said WirelessEstimator.com President Craig Lekutis.
“A thousand or more RFIs are introduced every month, and we didn’t want this strategically important request for information, that will most likely result in some type of rules promulgation, to not get the attention it deserves.”
“One of the key advantages of our tool is you can filter, review and comment upon specific questions without having to reference a 20-page document for guidance.”
“Although Regulations.gov is where you can also publish your comments, we wanted to go a step further and provide a resource that made it easier for interested parties to provide their remarks and have the opportunity to see question-specific replies which is not available elsewhere,” said Lekutis who was a media panelist at the Washington D.C. stakeholders’ meeting.
All comments submitted through the Wireless Estimator module will be in compliance with the RFI’s requirements for review and will be submitted electronically at scheduled periods for inclusion in OSHA’s RFI.
“We understand the importance of this industry, but workers’ lives should not be sacrificed for a better cell phone signal. OSHA is inviting the public to tell us what we can do to better protect these workers,” said Dr. Michaels in a statement.
The comment period will end 60 days after the RFI is published in the Federal Register.
April 12, 2015
Lawsuit win sees contractor’s claim doubled and ownership of 32 towers up for grabs
This 179-foot monopole in Wayland, Mass., is one of the 32 towers that the court said must be returned to the bankruptcy trustee.
A court decision requiring the owners of tower consolidator Horizon Towers of Marblehead, Mass. to have 32 of their towers “liquidated and distributed or otherwise used to satisfy the creditors of debtor Eastern Towers, Inc.,” also awarded Timberline Construction of Canton double its owed $264,774 for new site builds due to an unfair or deceptive act.
The open market will decide the value of the 32 structures once the company’s book is available to prospective buyers, but one broker informed Wireless Estimator that many of them have been around for a while and presuming each of the structures had tenants, they might be worth well in excess of $500,000 each given their desirable locations.
The court also declared that former Eastern Towers minority shareholder and employee John W. Strachan will be awarded $141,346 for his loss of salary and be provided with a 25% equity interest in Eastern Towers, a former company owned by Horizon Towers’ principals.
In November 2001, Strachan, who had been let go by American Tower Corporation during the company’s massive downsizing efforts, and Matthew Sanford saw the need to build an independent tower development business.
“They had little experience operating a business, and did not have substantial financial resources or access to capital,” U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV wrote in his 205-page ruling.
Both men met with Edward T. “Ted” Moore, a real estate developer with a J.D. and MBA from Harvard who was already entrenched in the tower business since he owned one in Marblehead. Moore then brought in entrepreneur Lawrence Rosenfeld.
Short of cash, two owners worked for free
They formed “Eastern Towers” with all four men having equal ownership, according to court documents.
Cash strapped Sanford and Strachan said they would work for free for six months and contribute the rights they had already acquired for a tower in Beverly. Moore and Rosenfeld ponied up $520,000 for seed money.
Unbeknownst to Sanford and Strachan, Moore and Rosenfeld were creating a new entity, Eastern Towers LLC.
Then Moore and Rosenfeld informed Sanford and Strachan that they wanted to change the business ownership to a 60-40 split because they were doing “more work than they had originally planned.”
Without legal advice, and since Eastern Towers, Inc. was running out of cash, Sanford and Strachan agreed. They also believed that Moore’s plan to have his and Rosenfeld’s company, Glover Property Management, Inc. purchase the towers on behalf of Eastern Properties would allow them to raise cash.
Judge Saylor said the tower purchase agreement bound Eastern Towers to sell to Eastern Properties any towers it had acquired at an amount “less than half their fair market value,” while provisions that might appear to be favorable to Eastern Towers, including rights to repurchase towers and receive commissions, were “essentially worthless,” given their difficult terms.
In December 2003, a Wayland landlord wanted to terminate a recently signed lease and sent a letter to Strachan to terminate the agreement, but the issue was later resolved. However, Strachan didn’t make the letter immediately available to Moore and Rosenfeld and they used the incident as a reason to terminate Strachan on February 26, 2004.
Seven tower sites in development sold for $50,000
However, Judge Saylor wrote that the “principal reason that Moore and Rosenfeld terminated Strachan was to freeze him out of the business, in order to remove a troublesome minority shareholder and permit them to assert greater control over the affairs of the business and reap a greater share of the rewards.”
Eastern Towers, LLC sold the seven tower sites in development to Moore and Rosenfeld’s newly formed Horizon Towers for $50,000. The payment check, however, was made payable to Eastern Towers, Inc.
The Wayland tower site, one of the seven, was considered by Sanford to be the potential crown jewel in the business, as a virtual-monopoly tower with coverage over some of metropolitan Boston’s wealthiest suburbs.
Contractor strung along with false promises
During the period in which it was constructing towers, Eastern Towers used the services of Timberline Construction to erect the towers and perform site work and in earlier projects had paid the wireless contractor.
But in a June 2004 meeting, the firm’s President, Steven Kelley, informed Moore, Rosenfeld and Sanford that the $264,000-plus in overdue payments was having a severe impact upon his company and that he needed payment because he was concerned about their solvency.
Moore and Rosenfeld said that they had a $1 million construction line of credit and other resources and assured Kelly that he would be paid.
“Moore and Rosenfeld knew those promises were false, as they did not intend to make sufficient funds available to pay all of Timberline’s invoices. Moore and Rosenfeld made the promises knowing, and intending, that Timberline would rely on them to its detriment,” wrote Judge Saylor.
At a December meeting, Moore and Rosenfeld initially offered to pay Timberline 25%, and later increased the offer to 50% of the outstanding invoices. Kelly said no.
Moore and Rosenfeld countered that Eastern Towers was out of money and could declare bankruptcy, and if that occurred Timberline would end up with nothing.
Kelly didn’t accept this and future offers and sued.
Judge Saylor awarded Timberline $529,548.48 plus prejudgment interest and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.
In addition to Moore and Rosenfeld losing all interest in their towers, Judge Saylor said that they will be required to pay $520,000 to the bankruptcy trustee as damages for the wrongful withdrawal of money from Eastern Towers, Inc. and Eastern Towers, LLC., in violation of fiduciary duties.
April 7, 2015
Vertical Bridge, InSite Wireless, Poole, SBA, TI and TSC are in the news
With today’s Business Briefs, iHeartMedia delivers its first set of towers to Vertical Bridge, InSite Wireless jumps to being the 7th largest tower owner in the U.S., the sale of California’s iconic Mt. Wilson towers is near, SBA’s new board member is entrenched in everything telco, Tower Innovations gets a new chief and TSC Tower Specialists takes on Michigan.
Vertical Bridge picks up first group of IHeartMedia towers while defects are fixed on others
IHeartMedia Inc. has closed on the first group of towers it’s selling to Vertical Bridge Holdings. The total sale involves 411 towers and related assets for up to $400 million.
In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Friday, iHeartMedia said they have completed the sale of 367 towers for approximately $369 million and will now be leasing the towers at a cost of $20.8 million per year. The company says it will also lose about $10.7 million worth of annual tenant revenue.
IHeartMedia has told the Securities and Exchange Commission its first closing involves 367 tower sites and related assets for approximately $369 million.
The initial lease deals cover 15 years followed by three additional periods of five years each.
The remainder of the tower sale closings will occur as site “defects” are fixed, iHeartMedia informed the SEC.
“We are excited to add this high quality tower portfolio to our existing assets,” said Alexander L. Gellman, CEO of Vertical Bridge Holdings, pictured at right, when the deal was announced in December.
InSite’s buy makes it the nation’s 7th largest tower owner
InSite Wireless Group, LLC’s acquisition of 294 communication tower sites from CTI Towers, Inc., a company in which Comcast Ventures is majority owner, elevated the Alexandria, Virginia-based company to the 7th largest owner of communications tower in the U.S., according to Wireless Estimator tracking data.
The assets purchased include communication towers, related tower site equipment and infrastructure, related real property interests, and wireless carrier and customer agreements related to the tower
“InSite, its investors, and its employees are enthusiastic about closing this transaction with CTI Towers, Inc.,” said David E. Weisman, President and CEO of InSite, pictured at left. “We view this acquisition as an important addition to our current tower portfolio and as clear evidence of our investors’ ongoing commitment to grow InSite’s platform of wireless infrastructure assets.”
Weisman told Wireless Estimator that the company now owns approximately 1,100 tower structures in the U.S.
Deal reportedly near for the sale of California’s historic broadcast towers
The multi-tower Poole tower complex on Mount Wilson in California could have a new owner soon, according to an individual knowledgeable about ongoing negotiations.
Last February, Media Services Group announced that it had been retained by Poole Properties Inc. to explore the sale of their historic sites rising almost 6,000 feet above sea level.
The complex was developed in the 1950s by legendary Los Angeles broadcaster John H. Poole who passed away in 2004.
The iconic location, which was almost decimated by a fire in 2009, is the tower site of choice for television and radio stations servicing the Los Angeles market.
Although American Tower Corporation owns structures on Mount Wilson, one media consultant said he believes that they might not be actively seeking Poole’s portfolio.
“American tower is pretty consumed with integrating the Verizon assets and may not be as aggressive in this transaction if they’re interested,” he said.
New SBA board member, Mary Chan, brings a wealth of telecom experience
SBA Communications Corporation has announced the appointment of Mary S. Chan, 52, to its board of directors. Chan brings to the SBA Board over 25 years of extensive experience in telecommunications and wireless technology industries, including roles at General Motors Corporation, Dell Inc., Alcatel-Lucent and predecessor Lucent Technologies, and AT&T Network Systems.
“We are delighted to appoint Mary Chan to our Board of Directors,” commented Steven E. Bernstein, Chairman of the Board of SBA. “Mary’s expertise in wireless networks, products and services will allow us to better anticipate the future network needs of our customers and help guide our future growth. Her background in both wireless equipment and consumer offerings will be an invaluable addition to the skills and capabilities of our current Board.”
Chan’s appointment will be effective May 1, 2015. Ms. Chan will serve as an independent director and, concurrent with her appointment, SBA’s Board will be expanded to eight members.
Industry veteran Duane MacEntee to lead Tower Innovations
Tower Innovations Distribution, LLC., a privately owned tower fabrication company serving the U.S. and international markets, has announced the appointment of telecom industry veteran, Duane MacEntee, who has joined the company as its Chairman and CEO. In this role, MacEntee will lead the continued development and expansion of Tower Innovations’ new tower and tower reinforcement steel offerings.
With over 25 years of experience, MacEntee, pictured at right, has enjoyed a successful career in telecommunications, transportation and aerospace industries.
He was most recently at Conterra Ultra Broadband where he was a partner and Executive Vice President of the Conterra Tower Group. In that role he helped position CTG’s tower site assets for development and colocation marketing while expanding existing landlord relationships. Prior to CTG, MacEntee was Senior Vice President of Operations at Velocitel, a leader in wireless engineering and project management services. He also previously served as COO and President at Stainless LLC, a respected provider of tower engineering, manufacturing and project management services. Prior to that, MacEntee held various Vice President roles at American Tower Corporation.
TSC Tower Specialists opens another location in Grosse Ile, Michigan
New York-based TSC Tower Specialists has opened the doors of another new location on April 3, 2015 in Grosse Ile, Mich. The location will be staffed with 12 additional line and antenna crews and project management. The company is also planning to add EF&I technicians in the future.
With over 10,000 square feet of warehouse space and plans to expand, and over 1,100 square feet for administration, the latest new office location is poised to be a key regional location for expansion. In a key central location, this office will enable TSC Tower Specialists to market their services to Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Western Pennsylvania and Western New York.
James Gatt, at right, will be the senior project manager and site manager of the Michigan location. With over 15 years of industry experience, his knowledge and qualifications have helped him rise quickly within the TSC organization. Throughout his tenure, Gatt has gained experience in tower climbing, civil work and as an electrician.
For additional information, email email@example.com or call 734-301-3382.
April 6, 2015
Near electrocution of two techs requires a review of safe practices
Update: April 6, 2015 – According to an individual knowledgeable of the incident where two tower technicians were shocked as their lift came in a contact with a power line on April 1, 2015, the techs did not have to jump to the ground as stated by a Beloit, Wisc. fire official, but were lowered to the ground by the operator. Both men were employed by Frontline Communications Contracting, Inc., according to OSHA’s open investigation.
In addition, only one of the men had a small burn mark on his side and forearm from leaning on the lift when it came in contact with the line.
However, the two workers were shook up from the scare and said they were physically fine, but as a precaution they were sent to the hospital to be examined for any other injury as a result of the electrical shock.
According to information that was being provided while OSHA was investigating the incident, the lift placement was 25-feet away from the lines and while the operator was booming up, he was also telescoping out which brought him into the range of the power lines. The men were in the basket facing away from the power lines as they were being lifted to their work location.
It appears that although the operator had been trained how to use the lift and operates one on a regular basis, he wasn’t being observant during the lift, and agrees that on all future lifts there will be a spotter on the ground as well as in the manbasket whenever they are within any proximity to power lines.
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April 2, 2015 – OSHA is investigating the near electrocution of two tower technicians yesterday while they were working on a cell tower in Beloit, Wisc. when their aerial lift came in contact with a 75,000 volt line to the rear of the monopole, Beloit Fire Department Lt. Keith Lynn told Wireless Estimator. He also stated that the men had been working for a Chicago contractor, but he could not release the company’s name or the names of the employees.
The techs were working on a U.S. Cellular Corporation 100-foot multi-tenant tower on Park Ave. when their bucket truck came in contact with transmission lines and set the tires on fire shortly before 9:00 a.m.
According to fire authorities, the two men jumped from the bucket at approximately 20-30 feet. They suffered electrical burns to their torso and arms and were transported to Beloit Memorial Hospital where they are expected to fully recover.
Lynn could not immediately identify whether the bucket truck physically made contact with the wires or if there was an arc flash because the vehicle was too close to them.
Preventative measures need to be assessed
“When the job safety analysis is performed, overhead power lines near the work site must be identified. Tower professionals evaluating the proximity of power lines should contact the electric utility to determine the voltage and mandatory minimum approach distance specified by OSHA and the state’s high voltage safety laws,” said Jimmy Miller, President and CEO of MillerCo, Inc., one of the nation’s leading wireless contractors with 10 operational centers in the country.
“OSHA’s minimum distance is 10 feet and it increases as the voltage increases. Work inside of the OSHA or state minimum is prohibited. A good work practice is to mark the minimum approach distance on the ground with stakes, flagging, cones or physical barriers to assist the tower professional in maintaining a safe distance away from the power lines,” said Miller who also serves as a board member of the National Association of Tower Erectors.
“Our entire electrical system is referenced to the earth, which we call an electrical ground. An electrical ground is the earth or any conductor, or series of conductors, in contact with the earth. The electricity in power lines is constantly looking for the path of least resistance to the earth. Death by electrocution or a serious electrical shock injury occurs when a human being is one of the conductors. Between 300 and 500 people are electrocuted every year with thousands injured in electrical contact accidents,” said Miller.
The NATE Safety and Education Committee has developed a set of six new safety posters, one of which is an Electrical Safety Hazard poster.
April 2, 2015
April Fools’ news caught many off guard including site’s server
April Fools’ Day is the Super Bowl Sunday for internet pranks, and since it’s not common for wireless infrastructure media to join in, Wireless Estimator thought it might be something that could work. It did. In fact, so much so, that after a news bulletin was sent out to over 27,000 subscribers yesterday with bogus, but believable article headlines, the web site crashed for 18 minutes as they and other viewers attempted to make sense of the stories.
The American Tower lawsuit against AT&T proved to be the most popular with viewers shaking their heads after a few paragraphs as they caught on that it was a parody on site development and America’s insatiable appetite for frivolous lawsuits.
An initial serious reaction in an email from one viewer said, “Where are we taking this country?”
Dozens of emails, from major tower-owner CEOs to attorneys and construction managers said they had a good laugh from the three articles which can be read here.
Facebook posts were unanimous that they enjoyed the fictitious articles, except for one person that thought that levity should be left out of media. “I depend on this page. Come on guys!!!,” he complained, threatening to unlike Wireless Estimator.
Coincidentally, American Tower, after the announcement that they won $132 million in a lawsuit, closed yesterday up 2.5%. But the credit should go to Ric Prentiss of Raymond James after he upgraded their shares to a strong buy from outperform, based upon his belief that wireless company rollouts should restart revenue growth in 2016.
April 1, 2015
American Tower takes AT&T to court and wins a $132 million judgment
American Tower Corporation stood behind a New Jersey construction manager who used a creative approach to comply with an AT&T program manager’s directive on a new monopole cell site’s location, while suffering with hurt feelings, and was awarded $132 million by a Sloatsburg, Tex. jury today.
In a statement issued by the Boston-based tower owner following the verdict, the company said, “We were certainly hesitant to take our largest customer to court, but we felt that it was important to show that all employees are important to us, even if they have only been with us for less than a week and have little or no experience.”
American Tower had filed the lawsuit against AT&T on April 1, 2014 after their newly hired project manager, Thomas Wingfield Watson, received an incorrect set of construction drawings from AT&T that showed the foundation for a Monsey monopole was abutting Union Pacific Railroad tracks.
In a cross complaint, AT&T said that Watson’s “wild mouse” method for resolving an obvious error was “an unfathomable fix for following construction drawings that typically have an industry-wide 76% error rate,” and that American Tower should move the structure back to its intended location that complies with NEPA and Religious Freedom and Hurt Feelings Restoration Acts.
Watson, in emotional court testimony that saw some jurors openly crying and clutching their tear-stained notepads, said he contacted his AT&T program manager and explained the problem, “But he was callous, vulgar and rude, and I vividly recall him shouting – and there’s no need for that in construction – to just ‘Get ‘er Done’ ”.
The jury found that Watson’s creative design of rerouting the tracks around the concrete foundation was an acceptable alternative to “Get ‘er done” as long as there were adequate closeout photographs.
“More importantly,” said jury foreman Mathew Loy, “We hope this sends a loud and clear message that it’s okay for land surveyors and architects to royally $*#! up, but there is no need to yell at anyone on a construction site.”
During the six week trial, two jurors had been discharged after admitting that they looked up the definition of a “greenfield” site and viewed at least 37 photographs depicting their aftermaths, and disclosed that they found them to be morally repugnant.
Watson didn’t receive any of the $132 million, but in order to rebuild his life after the trauma of the trial, he was given the option to work from home on any day that he could document having worked 16 hours in the field.
April 1, 2015
From broadband to a blues harp, PCIA Chief splits his time with Broadway
Whereas some vertical realtor executives spend their limited free weekends volunteering at ice cream socials with their employees to put easily detonated protective dye packs in their tenants’ leasehold agreements, PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Industry CEO Jonathan Adelstein finds playing to sold-out crowds on Broadway and at Carnegie Hall to be the answer for achieving a perfect work-life balance.
The former FCC Commissioner and amateur musician had played at a number of venues when he was a staff member in the U.S. Senate for 15 years, but it wasn’t until he became Administrator of the USDA Rural Utilities Service that his musical talent was discovered along with his $60 billion budget.
“Had he not come up with the cutting edge idea of providing thousands of bicycle, spectrum and ASCAP license-sharing stations in my home state of Nebraska, I’m sure that I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of meeting and promoting Jonathan to weekend stardom,” said American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers President and Chairman Paul Williams.
“I was thunderstruck by his raw talent,” said Williams. “When I first heard him segue into a an upbeat improvisation with, Where have all the towers gone?, and jump back into a rousing and seemingly endless harmonica riff of Black Sabbath’s Iron Man, I knew he’d be a huge success.”
“The only advice that I offered was that he should wear a suit and power tie during his performances so that critics didn’t become immediately despondent, and possibly comatose, thinking that they were going to have to listen to another sappy James Taylor serenade,” said Williams.
From Judas Priest to Cher, farewell tours are in vogue
“America’s penchant for farewell nostalgia sells,” said Minskoff Theatre public relations manager Alan Schneider. “It’s the reason we’re calling Jonathan’s current engagement ‘The FCC and USDA Farewell Tour,’ even though he’s been gone from those organizations a number of years now.”
“I think Phil Collins has had around 2,200 farewell tours. We just saw LightSquared come back last week, without lead singer Charlie Ergen, after what we thought was their final tour,” said Schneider.
Adelstein, who is a huge fan of R&B artist Bruno Mars, oftentimes calls meddling Washington bureaucrats “Uptown Funk,” and was once seen in a hallway, according to a PCIA staffer, nailing Mars’ dance moves while singing:
Stop, wait a minute
Fill my cup, put some liquor in it
Take a sip, sign a check
Build a site, it’s not my neck
April 1, 2015
Anritsu’s global success tagged to God and one misspelled word in 1844
On May 24, 1844, Samuel Morse dispatched an experimental telegraph message from the U.S. Capitol to Alfred Vail at a railroad station in Baltimore, Md. The message – “What hath God wrought?” – was telegraphed back to the Capitol a moment later by Vail.
It only took a small amount of saliva to delay Samuel Morse’s (standing, center) plans to provide a national telegraph network, but it helped to propel Anritsu to its current status as a global provider of test equipment.
Unfortunately, members of Congress witnessing the event began drooling over the opportunity to heavily tax the new invention, and their saliva short-circuited the telegraph key which ended up sending the message: “What hath God bought?”
The Madisonian charged in an editorial that the message was “a blasphemous vituperation unworthy of reflection,” but its flashy competitor, The Alexandria Gazette, seized the opportunity to increase its flagging circulation by asking its readers who weren’t offended by the idea that God might buy something, especially if it was on sale, and in 144 pt. wood caps printed: “WHAT HATH GOD BOUGHT?”, offering a prize for the most “prospective celestial redemption”.
Although the newspaper was showered with thousands of suggestions such as pleated Khakis, a team-building ark, and products that weren’t even invented yet such as Bakelite nativity scene figurines, the winner was: He bought off President John Tyler whose Attorney General was actively seeking to break God up into smaller deities.
AG John Nelson said that God had a stranglehold on religion, and if there were more divinities, Americans would see less theological throttling and quicker prayer response speeds.
However, after a handsome donation was made to the Whig party, Tyler quickly altered his U.S. Attorney General’s position, stating, “If you like God’s plan, you can keep God’s plan.”
The new test equipment ensured that luminaries like Marie Antoinette and Brigham Young wouldn’t have their statements misquoted on the new electromagnetic highway. Had Young told young men to incorrectly head East, they would have been chased by the Five Points Gang, Dead Rabbits, Daybreak Boys, Bowery Boys and other gangs to as far West as Utah.
Anritsu saves the world from similar situations and gets a leg up
Following their initial test, Morse and Vail’s idea of connecting the nation with the new telecommunications system moved at glacial speeds due to investors’ concerns about the accuracy of the transmissions that could mistakenly have Brigham Young telling folks to go East or Marie Antoinette aloofly telling peasants to eat something phallic during a famine.
“In all dear earnest,” Morse told The New York Knickerbocker in 1845, “I can cognize why Mr. Bell would not want to invest in this inventiveness knowing that he could have his buttocks bitten by some bottom-feeding barrister.”
Anritsu, a startup company working out of a South Bronx, N.Y. basement, decided to diversify as they were buying up leases from underneath Morse’s telegraph poles, and assembled the country’s brightest electromagnetic engineers to design and manufacture revolutionary test equipment that would ensure that the keypad, stylus, electromagnet and lever were functioning properly, and the operator would always be prevented from accidentally ending a sentence with a preposition.
“It was what America needed to take the lead in building out the world’s communications networks, and we’re proud to have provided that assistance,” Anritsu archivist Walter T. Wittlinger told Wireless Estimator.
Form follows folk art function
Anritsu’s first telegraph test unit, pictured above, looks very similar to their current day Site Master antenna analyzer, and there’s a reason for that, said Wittlinger.
“When the first prototype was introduced it had to have a strong, but texturally pleasing lightweight wood carrying case. We knew immediately that Pennsylvania Dutch settlers would fill that production need for two reasons. First, they brought with them superior crafts and woodworking skills; secondly, at some point the company thought that they might benefit from hiring minority companies.
“They had a little extra space on the front of the carrying cabinet and decorated it with miniature Pennsylvania Dutch barn signs and minimalistic wood reliefs.
“It caught on, and today with every new unit of sophisticated network test equipment we introduce to the industry we try to maintain that iconic look by modeling our buttons in the same positions,” said Wittlinger.
The only known existing Pony Identification Metrics (PIM) tester was assessed to be worth $342,000 at an Antiques Roadshow program in 2012. The owner, a 54-year-old normally reserved British woman who found it in her late aunt’s Devonshire cottage, exclaimed after learning its appraised value, “Well, that’s quite good. Yes, thank you.”
Betting on the ponies crippled Q4 1861 cash flow
Using fourth generation abacus-based technology, Anritsu introduced its new line of test equipment on April 1, 1860 that would accurately compute the weight of the saddle, rider and mail pouches for the Pony Express so that the horses could gallop 10 to 15 miles without tiring along the 2,000-mile route from St. Joseph, Mo. to Sacramento, Calif.
Anritsu’s business model made sense, 184 stations, 80 riders and between 400 and 500 horses; plus inside knowledge that this broad plan was going to be expanded throughout the nation with federal funding.
Neither Anritsu nor Pony Express executives could anticipate the looming dangers such as Uber horses, Zip-line infrastructures and the Civil War, and the Pony Express ceased operations within six months.
“That cut deeply into revenues,” said Wittlinger. “They had to restate their earnings because they had already booked $167,000 for an additional month’s calibration fees.”
March 30, 2015
Woman’s death linked to her boyfriend’s tower tech profession in Texas
It is not known why 28-year-old Stephanie Gurney of San Angelo, Tex. was on or fell from an SBA Communications 500-foot tower in a rural area 10 miles east of Eden on Saturday at approximately 11:15 a.m., but it is has been established, that her boyfriend, Stephen Butler, who met Stephanie in September of 2014, was a tower technician for an Abilene tower contractor and started climbing in 2012.
The young woman died after falling from approximately 200’, according to the Concho County Sheriff. Both the Sheriff’s Office and OSHA are investigating the fatality.
A rash of rumors on Facebook and tower blogs said that Gurney, whose occupation on her Facebook site said she was a housekeeper at a Super 8 motel, said she was being evaluated by Butler to see if she might be a viable candidate for climbing or was working for a tower company, have not been substantiated by any authority at this time, according to SBA Vice President, Risk Management David Sams.
Butler did not respond to a request for additional information.
“We offer our sincere condolences to Stephanie Gurney’s family and her many friends. We are aware of an accident on that site and that authorities and OSHA are investigating, as we will also be doing to assess what happened. We’ll be working with every agency to assist in their investigations. To our knowledge, there was no activity to be scheduled or occurring at that time at that site on Saturday,” said Sams.
A photograph of Gurney in climbing gear, at right, appeared on Facebook.
If she was working for a wireless installation contractor at the time of her death she will be the first fatality in 2015 and the second known woman to have died after falling from a communications tower.
On Oct. 29, 2000, 39-year-old Los Lunas, N.M. resident Carla Valencia was working on a tower about 20 miles from Pecos, Tex. when she fell with a co-worker almost 500 feet as they were being hoisted to the top of KKYL-FM’s tower to repair a power divider and six bays that were burned out, according to an AP report.
The article identified that the workers were employed by Tower Network Services, but OSHA’s incident report identifies Valencia’s employer as Jesse Craig Painting, Inc.
Valencia and Grant Rutledge were being hoisted up the tower by a pulley connected to the axle of a small pickup truck, and operated by an unnamed foreman, according to the Ward County Sheriff’s Department.
The two were connected to the rope by one harness holding both when the rope slipped and both fell. The foreman, suffered severe rope burns to his hands while trying to hold onto the rope.
The company was cited with two Serious, two Willful and one Other violations with fines totaling $34,000.
Wireless Estimator will provide additional details as they become available.
March 26, 2015
Goodman Networks lays off 340 as construction managers’ lawsuit advances
Following a layoff of workers in December, Goodman Networks, a family-owned end-to-end wireless network deployment firm, let go an additional 340 employees on March 10, 2015, according to information reviewed by Wireless Estimator. It is not known, however, whether the downsizing was necessary due to a cutback in AT&T’s capex since a company spokesperson said Monday that Goodman Networks will not provide information as it relates to its customers or employee reductions.
Goodman Networks’ March 10, 2015 downsizing totaled 340 employees.
Although Goodman’s web site states that the Plano, Tex.-based company has 4,900 employees, and 340 terminations could be considered as an expected workforce adjustment due to business cycles, the layoffs appear to have been made primarily in Goodman’s wireless network division which employs approximately 1,900 employees or less, identifying it as a high 18% workforce reduction.
Goodman’s web site said it had 1,700 employees in 27 offices in September 2013, but it now states that there are 4,900 employees in 62 offices, the large increase coming from the company’s acquisition of Multiband in 2013, a company with 3,000 employees that primarily services DirecTV customers in 28 states.
Their DirecTV business appears to be prospering and Goodman last week was named DirecTV’s first-ever home service provider of the year for 2014.
But some projects were slowing in wireless on Sprint and AT&T contracts, according to company managers, and staffing revenues were losing pace with company projections.
Executive changes are numerous in past months
In December, Goodman appointed Ernie Carey as its new chief operating officer. Carey, who was previously AT&T’s senior vice president of construction, was seen by industry insiders as an excellent choice to further increase Multiband’s business after AT&T announced in May of 2014 that they signed an agreement to acquire DirecTV.
In addition, Carey’s ties at AT&T would most likely position the company as a key player in AT&T’s build-out and maintain its level of projects, even though the carrier had drastically cut its wireless capex spending immediately following the DirecTV merger announcement.
In a 2011 Turf Program Agreement, which expires August 31, 2017, AT&T assigned wireless work to Goodman in 9 of 31 markets.
Carey’s employment agreement provides for a $450,000 salary and a $225,000 annual retention bonus.
AT&T is Goodman’s largest customer. For the period from January 1, 2009 through June 30, 2014, according to a company filing, Goodman has generated approximately $2.73 billion of revenue from subsidiaries of AT&T Inc., including AT&T.
On March 5, 2015, Goodman, in an SEC filing, said that the company’s co-founder, John A. Goodman, in an agreement, stepped down as the company’s Executive Chairman and Chairman of Goodman’s Board of Directors.
As part of the transition, the Board appointed Ron B. Hill, the company’s Chief Executive Officer and President, to that position.
Effective March 13, 2015, Craig E. Holmes tendered his resignation as Goodman’s Chief Financial Officer. The company said that Holmes’ departure was not the result of any disagreement with Goodman’s operations policies or practices. Holmes had held the position for three months. His annual salary was $350,000.
Managers were heavily cut in layoffs
Sixty-three construction managers, at an average age of 48 years, many of them employees for a number of years, were terminated. Thirty site acquisition personnel were also let go this month.
Most likely because Goodman manages subcontracted tower personnel, tower climbers, top hands and crew leads terminated only totaled eight.
Employees were not given prior notice of their termination and were escorted from their offices or from their job sites on March 10, 2015.
The federal Worker Adjustment Retraining Notification Act (WARN), requiring employers to provide notice to employees 60 days in advance of mass layoffs if the employee reduction is 33% or more of all employees, was not mandatory for Goodman due to their 3,900 employee count.
Overtime lawsuit filed by construction managers
Last August, a class member lawsuit was filed against Goodman in Texas, demanding a jury trial, to decide whether a number of construction managers were due overtime pay for the hours they were required to work in excess of 40 hours per week.
The complaint, made by Louis Vassallo on behalf of himself and other plaintiffs, alleges that Goodman violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by requiring them to work six and seven days a week without paying them overtime.
The lawsuit reasons that the construction manager’s primary duty is “to inspect worksites and report to supervisors who hold decision making authority.”
The complaint said the construction managers were not exempt employees because their routine inspection duties did not require significant discretion or independent judgment.
“If we told anyone on the site to do something differently, it was solely because that was what we were required to do so that they were in conformance with specifications,” said one construction manager.
“Any decision to plan or delay projects, budget, coordinate or pay is not within the discretion of Construction Managers,” the complaint said, stating that other than a title of “manager” attached to the plaintiff and class members’ job title, no basis of an exemption had been offered by Goodman.
The complaint said construction managers were required to work over 60 hours per week and they should be compensated for the overtime they should have received as well as liquidated damages and attorney’s fees.
The complaint is also asking for issuance of notice to all similarly situated construction managers during any portion of three years preceding the filing of the lawsuit.
Layoff severance would prevent employees from joining lawsuit
Dismissed workers were compensated for their accrued personal time off and final pay, and were also provided with two weeks of their regular weekly base salary as a severance payment.
However, some workers have not taken the severance package since it precludes them from ever recovering any money or other relief that they might be entitled to in a class action suit, and it waives their right to recover any money in connection with an administrative agency investigation.
The eight-page agreement also prevents the former employee from filing a lawsuit, discussing the agreement with the media, criticizing policies or practices of the company and its officers and employees, and many other restraints.
It also stops the employee from making any claims that they did not know or suspect existed in their favor when they signed the agreement.
In addition to the two weeks of severance pay, Goodman said following the signing of the agreement, the employee “may have the right to continue certain benefits pursuant to COBRA after the Separation Date…”, and “Company agrees it will not disparage or defame employee.”
March 26, 2015
Oklahoma tornado takes out a part of broadcasting and defense history
An AM tower array that was designated to be an emergency broadcast station in the event of nuclear war, collapsed yesterday evening in Moore, Okla. after tornadoes ripped through the area, causing what the National Weather Service believes to be the first tornado fatality in 2015 in Sand Springs.
The three Blaw-Knox towers had been built to also support an emergency broadcast station housed three stories below the station’s transmitter building in case of a nuclear war.
Two of the square KOKC Blaw-Knox 327-foot towers constructed in 1947 were completely leveled and a third one folded over, crippling Tyler Media News Talk 1520 radio’s 50,000 kW talk radio station.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, it was the home of KOMA, the definitive rock station.
The U.S. government built a three-story bomb-proof basement under the transmitter building with an emergency transmitter capable of feeding the three-tower directional system, or a single vertical tower in the event two of the structures were destroyed from a then omnipresent threat of a nuclear blast.
It also had a buried dipole in the event that all three structures were destroyed. The 700-foot trench running parallel to the towers is said to have been shored up on three sides with concrete and a wood cover that protected the four-foot wide enclosure that protected a thick steel cable running down the center that was suspended on insulators.
KOKC’s website is stating that their programming has been moved to 1560 AM until further notice.
March 25, 2015
Safety group begins branding its approaching skills-based training efforts
The National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA) unveiled the organization’s official logo during a presentation last week at the 2015 International Wireless Communications Expo in Las Vegas, Nev. The NWSA is a non-profit assessment and certification organization that is being created to serve as the governance entity of the Wireless Industry Safety Task Force’s National Wireless Skills-Based Training Standard.
The mission statement of the NWSA is to provide thorough, independent assessments of knowledge and skills and provide verifiable worker certification in order to enhance safety, reduce workplace risk, improve quality, encourage training, and recognize the skilled professionals who work on towers and other non-standard structures.
The NWSA official logo consists of a green, white and gold color theme and depicts a silhouette image of a tower technician climbing safely on a communications tower. The NWSA logo will be branded and featured prominently on all NWSA certification cards, website applications and other resources the organization produces.
“I believe the logo is bold and I like the fact that it projects a tower climber working on a tower,” stated Corie Fontenot, Safety Manager and Trainer at TowerMRL, Inc. in Sun Prairie, Wis. “A national assessment and certification entity has been needed in this industry for a long, long time and I believe that the NWSA brand will ultimately represent a badge of honor for the industry workforce who achieves the various NWSA certification offerings,” added Fontenot.
March 24, 2015
200-plus tower deal floats Vertical Bridge to 5th largest U.S. tower owner
CiG Wireless Corp., a leading owner and operator of wireless communications infrastructure in the U.S. has announced the signing of an agreement to be acquired by an affiliate of Vertical Bridge Holdings, LLC, a wireless communication towers company. Vertical Bridge is acquiring the company’s tower assets, including a geographically diverse group of more than 200 tower sites, in a transaction structured as a merger. The all-cash deal is valued at approximately $143 million.
However, interested suitors still have the opportunity to provide a counter offer.
The deal will raise Vertical Bridge’s owned towers to approximately 1,461 structures, according to company documents. Vertical Bridge’s web site identifies their current tower count at 219 concrete poles, 298 guyed towers, 568 monopoles, 152 self-supporting towers and seven stealth structures, in addition to rooftop and other locations throughout the country.
The CiG acquisition puts Vertical Bridge as the 5th largest tower owner in the U.S.
“This transaction brings together two complementary cellular tower operators, and the combined business will have a broad geographic presence across the United States,” said Paul McGinn, CiG CEO.
“We have known Paul and the rest of the CiG Wireless team as competitors and partners over the course of many years, and we look forward to them joining our team,” said Alexander L. Gellman, CEO and Co-Founder of Vertical Bridge. Upon closing, the Company’s current employees will become employees of affiliates of Vertical Bridge Holdings, LLC.
If McGinn stays with Vertical Bridge for a period of 12 months he will receive a retention bonus of $900,000, according to a SEC filing.
“Go-shop” provides an opportunity for others to look at CiG
The agreement contains a “go-shop” provision that permits CiG to solicit alternative acquisition proposals from third parties until May 4, 2015. If however, an acquirer is found and the agreement is terminated, there will be a $4 million termination fee.
Go-shops are primarily found in transactions with private equity buyers, who tend to have a stronger preference for avoiding a full-blown auction. It’s seldom used in tower sales, according to two industry brokers contacted by Wireless Estimator.
In addition to the 224 towers acquired by Vertical Bridge, the company will also benefit from 20 towers with a construction permit, 3 others in construction, 13 in zoning, 22 with no zoning required, 10 with zoning approved and 52 with zoning prepared.
CiG’s 4th quarter and annual report is expected to be filed next week.
Revenue for their 3rd quarter was approximately $1.8 million, which was an increase of approximately $0.8 million or 87% compared to the same period of the prior year. The increase was primarily attributable to revenue generated from acquisitions completed during 2013 and 2014.
Their loss from operations for the quarter was approximately $2.1 million.
In October of 2012, CiG’s stock reached a high of $5.00 and had plummeted to $0.19 last week. It closed today at $0.032.
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