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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.

Cell-Tower-Death-PCIAOne 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 22, 2015

Former EHS Sprint chief Slagle joins National Wireless Safety Alliance efforts

Chuck-Slagle

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 OSHA-Tower-Safety-Commentsof 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.”

David-Michaels-Tower-Safety“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

Horizon-Towers

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 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.
Tower-Tech-Injuries-Wisc
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.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
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.

NATE-Safety-Poster“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 April-Fools-Wireless-Estimatornews 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.


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, Tower-Climber-Fatality-SBAthat 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.

Tower-Climber-Fatality-SBA-2“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.

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

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 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 Vertical-Bridge-CiGmillion.

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.

For additional information from well-respected tower and business brokers, click here.


March 12, 2015

New tower standard expected in 2016, ANSI/TIA-322 participation invited

Following ANSI/TIA-222-G’s introduction in 2006, and after four addenda, the national structural standard for communications and small wind turbine support structures will see Revision H being introduced next year, according to a TR-14 Engineering Committee report.

ANSI-TIA-Rev.HChanges being assessed in Rev H
The committee is reviewing issues for Revision H which is expected to be completed by Spring 2016. Areas being considered for introduction or change are topography, mounts, potential fatigue, exposure and load factors.

They are also looking at changing exposure definitions to be consistent with ASCE7-10, which includes evaluation of surface roughness.

Standard turned 55 years old in 2014
Shortly before Revision D’s introduction in 1987, tower manufacturers provided a host of information to their customers to assist them in understanding the reasons for the considerable design changes and how the revision would affect their new structures in capacity, engineering and pricing.

Revision G’s considerable changes also required extensive consumer and governmental awareness. The standard was first published in August 1959. It was just 11 pages. It’s now 432 pages.

For addition information regarding Revision G, click here.

Call for assistance put out to stakeholders
The TR-14 Engineering Committee issued a call yesterday for assistance with document ANSI/TIA-322 initially titled “Loading Criteria, Analysis, and Design Related to the Installation, Alteration and Maintenance of Communication Structures”.

The committee voted to transition the ANSI/TIA-1019 Standard for Installation, Alteration and Maintenance of Antenna Supporting Structures and Antennas into the ANSI/TIA-322 Standard which will become the construction design engineering standard. It will contain technical information regarding loading criteria, analysis, and design related to the installation, alteration and maintenance of communication structures.

The intent of this standard is to provide appropriate engineering criteria related to construction of communication structures and to transfer related means and methods criteria into the forthcoming ANSI/ASSE A10.48 Standard, Criteria for Safety Practices with the Construction, Demolition, Modification and Maintenance of Communication Structures.

The TR-14 Engineering Committee is developing the new ANSI/TIA-322 Standard based on the engineering criteria in the ANSI/TIA-1019-A Standard.

TIA is actively seeking participation in this project from the user and general interest communities.

For more information about TR-14 and how to participate in standards development with TIA, contact Marianna Kramarikova at standards@tiaonline.org .

Wireless Estimator to assist in explaining the changes
It is expected that Revision H will require a considerable review of the ANSI/TIA-222 standard’s changes since there are currently 11 total task groups and over 50 change proposals to date.

When the revision is ready for release, as the web site did in 2006 with Revision G, Wireless Estimator will assist in detailing the changes.

Additional information will also be provided on the ANSI/TIA-322  and ANSI/ASSE A10.48 standards.

The ANSI/TIA-222-G standard along with all revisions can be purchased here for $831.


March 7, 2015

AT&T kayos its 40,000 small cell build-out in half

AT&T’s 40,000 small cell deployments projected to be completed by the end of 2015 took a sharp cut in the carrier’s network plans since its goal may now be 20,000, about half the original number.
ATT-small-cells
The company said its March 2014 acquisition of Leap Wireless required it to reconsider those plans.

“Small cells remain a key part of our advanced network toolset but we’re also finding that other technology advancements are helping us reach our goals in reliability and performance so we may not need to deploy as many small cells in our current deployment cycles as our initial plans from more than two years ago before the Leap acquisition indicate. That’s part of the technology business,” said AT&T in a statement provided to Fierce Wireless.

Verizon, the nation’s largest carrier, which has been less upbeat than AT&T in the past about small cells, recently said that it was allocating $500 million to small cells.

Over the years, numerous small cell articles have identified that “next year” will be when the proposition really kicks off for widespread installs of LTE small cells.

With AT&T’s pullback, 2015 isn’t shaping up to be that “year.”


March 6, 2015

Climbing higher for techs will not be possible in Google’s grand plan

Although Google is currently developing wireless service plans that will prohibit tower technicians from climbing to maintain the transceivers – because they’ll be at an elevation between 23,000 and 65,000 feet in the stratosphere – this week’s announcement that the company intends to offer MVNO wireless connectivity to customers in the U.S. will also exclude techs from working on Google-owned terrestrial structures. There will be none available.

Google-MVNO

Although one analyst said that Google’s MVNO would require new equipment on existing cell towers, Marc Ganzi, CEO of communications infrastructure investor Digital Bridge Holdings, LLC, said that may not be true.

Google’s entry into the wireless industry will be as a virtual network operator (MVNO), which buys wireless space from the big four carriers, then resells it to customers.

Following Google product chief Sundar Pichai’s announcement earlier this week, a number of  industry articles suggested that Google’s market entry will provide a considerable upside for tower owners and the construction industry, but it appears to be a “small-scale” experiment, as Pichai promised – especially since their goal to let users switch between cellular service and local wi-fi networks more easily will only work on one phone, the Google Nexus 6, according to The Wall Street Journal.

‘Junk’ on towers may be a stretch
Before Pichai’s announcement reached the back of the cavernous Mobile World Congress 2015 hall in Barcelona, Spain, analysts were scrambling to assess the impact upon the industry.

Wells Fargo telecom analyst Jennifer Fritzsche jumped to the airwaves stating that if a new competitor comes in: “That means there are more antennas on the tower to support more usage and the tower companies like American Tower, Crown, SBA are paid on more kind of ‘ junk’ seen on the towers themselves.”

Not necessarily so, said Marc Ganzi, CEO of communications infrastructure investor Digital Bridge Holdings, LLC.

Ganzi doesn’t necessarily see the need for more equipment on existing sites, but he does perceive that a new MVNO capable of ramping up, such as cash-rich Google, will directly and indirectly contribute to more CAPEX being spent for new sites and densification of the networks to manage the potential for network congestion on Google’s wholesale partners.

“Historically, MVNO consumer plans have unlimited usage and in turn that hurts the primary carrier’s network, requiring them to re-invest in it as capacity becomes constrained. This inevitably means cell splitting in congested areas and adding new collocations or greenfield tower sites,” said Ganzi.

Google said it will provide additional details on its MVNO plans in the coming months.

The sky is not limiting Google
Google is also working on building wireless connectivity in sections of the world where there’s no existing infrastructure. Project Loon, which employs balloons that lift transceivers in the air to provide coverage on the ground in remote and rural areas are currently being successfully tested.

Although the concept isn’t new since other companies have had live tests to provide balloon connectivity in rural areas of America, Google appears to have flattened out the numerous kinks for making it a near-term reality.

After two years, the balloons can now keep cellular radios in the air for as long as 200 days, Pichai said.

From its early days of R&D when a styrofoam beer cooler was used to house Loon’s high-tech payload, to today’s sophisticated systems that have floating cell towers in the sky, crisscrossing the globe, by riding global wind currents like rivers, climbing and sinking to find the right flow.

Google-MVNO-2

Google’s cell tower in the sky, Project Loon, is proving that it can be a viable option in remote areas of the world. The company is getting ready to launch Project Titan, a drone internet network. Although Google inferred that it was not going into a large scale plan for its MVNO, the company said the same thing when they launched their first fiber-optic business which is now being expanded to 18 more cities.

For an intriguing inside look at the project, see The Verge’s The sky is almost open for business.

Pichai also touched upon Project Titan, where a lightweight drone aircraft is outfitted with transmitters. He said that the drones could be deployed quickly to an area in need of extra capacity, like a disaster zone.

The high stratosphere drones can fly for long periods. They act as an alternative to a satellite by beaming internet onto a target area – much like satellite TV companies such as Sky do from geostationary satellites.

Pchai said that they will be flying and testing the drones this year.

Last year Google bought Titan Aerospace, a drone manufacturer that was also being courted by Facebook.

Whereas the drones will stay in one area, according to Google, the balloons provide an almost opposite  network design used by cell towers. A stationary individual on the ground using their LTE phone will be handed off from balloon to balloon as it moves overhead so that the call is not dropped.

The company, which got its start on the internet, and is now providing it, envisions a mesh network stitched together by drones and balloons.

Getting back down to earth with fiber
A Google experiment five years ago, building a fiber-optic gigabit internet in Kansas City, with speeds up to 100 times faster than today’s basic broadband, is transforming how that city is able to use technology to improve the life of their citizens

Although at that time, like the MVNO initiative, it too was described as an unobtrusive program. But based upon its success, Google has announced that it is going to provide the same fiber network in 18 more U.S. cities.

An early access program is offering companies the service for just $100 per month, and in the words of Provo, Utah Mayor John Curtis, small businesses can “kiss loading bars goodbye.”

“We want to break down the barriers on how connectivity works,” said Pichai in Barcelona, not mentioning that for every Google initiative that the company experiments or invests in, it must have a strong business model ensuring financial success.


March 4, 2015

Competitive spirit can be cutthroat in leasehold ground wars of towercos

Although the nation’s major tower owners present a public face of spirited friendly competition and collective initiatives to ensure worker safety, when it comes to protecting their interests it can be a no holds barred battle between them to keep their most valuable assets, their long-term leases. One clash got so nasty that the counter-complainant wanted a leasehold aggregator’s executives charged under the RICO Act.

AmericanTower-TriStarIn a lawsuit filed in 2012 requesting a jury trial that was settled last year between lease aggregator TriStar Investors, Inc. and American Tower Corporation (ATC), TriStar alleged that ATC representatives made false statements about their company to landowners to discourage them from conveying their lease to the Pittsburg, Pa.-based company.

It was also found during discovery that two major tower owners were aligned with TriStar to impede ATC’s growth.

According to court documents, TriStar alleged that ATC described TriStar’s method of operation as “highway robbery” and that the company was a “dirty, rotten, stinking outfit,” and a landowner testified that ATC’s statements left him “no options” but to stop “entertaining the thought of anything else other than ATC.”

TriStar said that rather than competing fairly and acquiring sites through superior offers, ATC systematically deceived landowners across the country, threatening to tear down or relocate towers of landowners who did business with TriStar, and telling landowners that TriStar was going to go bankrupt.

TriStar claimed that it lost property to ATC or paid more to secure a property interest because of ATC’s actions at 28 sites.  TriStar claimed that as the number of incidents of misconduct by ATC increased, TriStar’s close rate decreased, despite the fact that TriStar increased its marketing expenditures and made allegedly superior offers.

In a court filing, ATC said, “Conspicuously absent from TriStar’s Complaint is any reference to the fact that TriStar pursued this lawsuit only after American Tower rejected TriStar’s and its bankers’ attempts to sell its portfolio of easements to American Tower…”.

Crown Castle and SBA sought to keep their ownership silent
In a counter complaint against TriStar, ATC alleged that Crown Castle International and SBA Communications Corporation (SBA) were acting in concert with TriStar to acquire easements under towers operated by them in order to bundle and sell those easements back “at a handsome profit.”

ATC said that SBA had made a $2.4 million investment for 9% of TriStar’s stock and Crown subsequently bought 14% of it for $13 million and were funding TriStar which ATC said falsely represented itself as “a small feisty competitor to the big tower companies.”

ATC also alleged that both SBA and Crown requested that TriStar not disclose to anyone the fact that they had invested in the company that had an acquisition program that was directed entirely at ATC.

In their court testimony ATC alleged: “Crown specifically sent [an email] to TriStar and said, hey, TriStar, to the extent that any landowner with a Crown site approaches TriStar and asks if you’re interested in competing for that site, don’t tell the landowner about the standstill, or that we’re — that we, Crown, are now an investor in TriStar. Instead simply tell them that TriStar is not interested.”

The Boston-based tower company also charged them with false advertising and unfair competition.

ATC claimed that TriStar was sending a fraudulent message to ATC leaseholders by telling them that they were a tower operator and when their ATC lease expired, they would share a substantial percentage of revenue being provided by tenants.

There was never an intent to operate the tower sites, ATC claimed, presenting emails to the court where executives from TriStar said “We won’t be around in 18 months.” ATC said that land grab exit strategy established in 2009 was by design.

In December of 2013 they also stated that TriStar’s business model could see the 40-employee business closing their doors by April of 2014 because they were going to run out of cash.

ATC said TriStar had no intention of being a long-term operator since it had been trying to sell its portfolio of easements to ATC and had previously “sold a bundle to Crown.” TriStar later admitted that they had also sold easements to SBA.

ATC-TriStar-Lawsuit-2And ATC said that TriStar’s commitment to the land owner that they would share in revenues following the lease expiration could not be accomplished because they were going to “either move towers or relocate tenants to neighboring towers wherever possible.”

Court document identify that by Aug. 11, 2013, TriStar had acquired property rights, usually in the form of easements, in land on which 594 cell towers were operated by ATC .

TriStar paid approximately $50 million, or $85,000 per site, for these property rights, which allowed TriStar to operate cell towers on these sites when ATC’s current leases expired, some as distant as 20 years.

In previous years they had provided a lump sum purchase price to acquire the leases, but in later negotiations offered  the landowner a supplement to their monthly lease rate.

Two towercos invested in land lease protection
Documents were provided by ATC alleging that Crown and SBA had signed a standstill agreement that TriStar would not go after easements under Crown and SBA sites.

ATC said when SBA CEO Jeffrey Stoops was deposed, he said the primary motivation in the transaction was to buy away competition.

Crown’s Senior V.P. of Corporate Development & Strategy, Phil Kelley, said, in his deposition, the primary reason for doing the deal, was it allowed Crown to eliminate its “most aggressive vulture competitor.”

Antitrust injuries were being sought by ATC and it produced for the court a document from one of TriStar’s investors  stating, “I want to hear from TSI management that we are prepared to go to war with AMT, as we will be somewhat single threaded with our targets.”

ATC said that Crown and SBA …”would have been interested in weakening one of their stronger competitors by turning TriStar loose and giving TriStar some money.”

TriStar would operate in stealth mode, according to ATC discovery.

“They would use Skype so they would have local phone numbers. They would have subsidiaries with names that weren’t TriStar. That way American Tower would never know what TriStar was actually doing,” ATC informed the court.

When David Ivy, the founder and CEO of TriStar, was speaking to his investors at Wood Creek in 2009, ATC said he stated: “You double, triple, quadruple your acquisition efforts quickly to refocus entirely on American Tower.”

ATC said in a court hearing, “The whole point of the scheme to defraud, which, again, must be assumed to be true based upon the evidence, was to acquire fraudulently — fraudulently acquire a critical mass of our tower sites so that they could leverage that into a buyout — a takeout with another standstill agreement. Or better yet, that we would just Tristar-versus-American-Tower-2buy them out completely.”

Antitrust violations dismissed

Both TriSTar and ATC alleged antitrust violations in their lawsuit, but the court found that ATC lacked standing to pursue a counterclaim antitrust claim against TriStar, and that there was no dangerous probability of ATC successfully monopolizing the national market, given the competition from TriStar, Crown, and SBA.

The court also agreed that ATC’s trade secret counterclaim could move forward, but their argument that “promises made with no intention of performing” were not actionable against TriStar’s executives under the RICO Act.

While depositions were being taken of dozens of employees and executives, from ATC CEO Jim Taiclet to TriStar CEO David Ivy, who used to serve as Crown’s President until 2000, and hundreds of thousands of emails and documents were being requested and reviewed, both parties were unable to settle the case through mediation.

A trial date was set for July 21, 2014, but as it approached, ATC and TriStar agreed to settle the case on July 10, 2014 and absorb all legal and court costs that they incurred, upwards of six figures or more per claimant, according to an attorney familiar with the lawsuits.

By agreement, terms of the settlement were not  disclosed.

Crown might be TriStar’s new owner
Last December, Newton, who helped found TriStar in 2005, left the company, according to his LinkedIn page. TriStar did not answer a request for additional details on the settlement. A call to their office last week to inquire if they would be interested in acquiring an American Tower lease was not returned.

An American Tower representative said that it is the company’s practice not to comment on litigation.

A number of industry professionals have said that Crown had acquired TriStar in December. A request to the Houston, Tex.-based company for verification has been made by Wireless Estimator.

Earlier this month a landowner with a tower lease received a solicitation from a sales representative with a TriStar email address that identified why working with Crown Castle represented “an excellent opportunity to increase your financial benefit.”

The request said that unlike other companies that may have contacted him, Crown was “not here to buy and ‘flip’ your lease.”

The signature block identified that the individual was from Crown Castle at TriStar’s Pittsburgh, Pa. address.

Coincidentally, following the TriStar lawsuit, Taiclet, a perennial fixture during PCIA’s “View from the Top” conference panel session was replaced by Steven Marshall, EVP and President of American Tower’s U.S. division in 2013; the following year Rodney Smith, CFO of American Tower’s U.S. tower division represented ATC.

It is not known if Taiclet will join this April’s Hollywood, Fla. campfire chat, that is typically bolstered by a bullish future, with the CEOs that attempted to hold his company’s leasehold interests hostage for a handsome ransom through TriStar.


February 26, 2015

Sarah Palin’s topics ran from ‘wimps’ to net neutrality at NATE confab

Former Governor of Alaska and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s keynote speech at NATE UNITE 2015 on Wednesday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. provided a folksy and entertaining 36-minute reprieve from industry-related discussions that have highlighted what is being identified as the organization’s largest and most energized conference in the trade group’s 20-year history.

An avid hunter, Sarah Palin told the overflow crowd that she was used to some of her food  coming wrapped in fur, not cellophane

An avid hunter, Sarah Palin told the overflow crowd that she was used to some of her food coming wrapped in fur, not cellophane

As expected, Palin lampooned President Obama numerous times; her first concern being his administration’s introduction of 1,200 new regulations in 2015 that she said will cost America’s taxpayers $181 billion.

She also criticized President Obama for pushing the FCC to approve new rules that were passed today on net neutrality that she believes will smother the internet with unnecessary regulation, although she may not be aware that it could provide a benefit to the industry.

It will most likely jettison completely the arguments of municipalities that DAS or small cell services offered by third party providers are not “telecommunications” and therefore are not entitled to the protections of federal or state laws.

“Do you want the same bureaucrats that run the Obama care web site to regulate the internet? I dare say no,” said Palin.

Palin received multiple ovations for her support of America’s veterans and especially her involvement in the ‘American Sniper’ Chris Kyle Foundation.

Answering a question from NATE Executive Director Todd Schlekeway as to how the siting community can work with local government to ease deployment roadblocks, she briefly talked about her involvement in community politics when she was Mayor of Wasilla, but offered no advice, instead segueing into the corruption that she found in the oil industry.

She received considerable laughter when she said, “There were too many politicians in bed with big oil, and granted, I was married to an oil worker that I was in bed with.”

Governor Sarah Palin with Wireless Estimator publisher Craig Lekutis

Governor Sarah Palin with Wireless Estimator publisher Craig Lekutis

But then there was a wave of groans from the audience, the majority of which were company owners, executives and managers, when she continued with, “He wasn’t in management, he actually worked.”

Palin said that harsh weather conditions in Alaska would have tower techs working in temperatures 60 to 70 degrees below zero.

She took the opportunity to discuss the recent New York and Northeast blizzards, joking that compared to what folks are used to in Alaska that those folks complaining recently were “wimps”.

Palin’s handlers would not allow national media to attend the luncheon.


February 24, 2015

Doty, Reski honored at NATE’s largest conference in 20 years

The National Association of Tower Erectors today honored Don Doty, Vice President of Operations at Velocitel, Inc. in Cedar Hill, Tex. and Kevin Reski, President of Great Plains Towers in West Fargo, N.D., during the Founding Member Luncheon at NATE UNITE 2015 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The conference, which began yesterday, has topped attendance records for the premiere event for the wireless infrastructure construction community, according to the show’s planners with almost 1,700 attendees.

Don Doty and Kevin Reski

Long-time NATE members and safety advocates Don Doty and Kevin Reski were honored today during the Association’s annual convention for their dedication to ensuring that workers return home each evening safely.

Doty was honored as the recipient of the Bill Carlson Lifetime Service Award. This prestigious honor recognizes an individual who has made a significant and long-term contribution to the success of the NATE mission and has served the Association continually for a minimum of 15 years.

He began his career working on broadcast towers in 1974 and has been working in the industry for over 40 years. Doty has been an active member of NATE since it was founded in 1995 and has served the Association in leadership roles that include Chairman, Vice Chairman and Executive Board Member. Doty is also an active member of NATE’s Legislative & Regulatory Committee, OSHA Relations Committee, A10.48 Committee and Wireless Industry Safety Task Force.

“Mr. Doty is a tireless advocate for developing standards and promoting a culture of safety in the tower industry,” said NATE Executive Director Todd Schlekeway. “Don is one of NATE’s leading subject matter experts who selflessly contributes his time and talents to advance the Association’s mission of safety, standards and education.”

Kevin Reski was honored as the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award. This prestigious award recognizes a past or present standing committee member who has demonstrated direct and individual contributions to the mission of NATE and whose performance has proven so exceptional that it profoundly affects the success of the Association.

Reski joined his family’s business in 1974 and was instrumental in positioning the company for growth as a prominent tower erection and maintenance company. In 1990, Reski changed the name of the company to Great Plains Towers and his leadership has enabled the company to provide services in projects throughout the upper Midwest and as far away as Argentina and Antarctica.

Reski is a long-time NATE member having served two terms on the Association’s Board of Directors and various roles on NATE standing committees, including his current service on the Member Services Committee. Kevin is also well known in industry circles for being featured on the popular Dirty Jobs television show with Mike Rowe.

“The word loyalty comes to mind when talking about Kevin Reski,” stated NATE Member Services Committee Chairwoman Pat Miller. “Kevin is a passionate supporter of NATE and is relentless in promoting the Association to everyone he crosses paths with in the industry,” shared Miller.

The Bill Carlson Lifetime Service and Distinguished Service awards were made possible due to the contributions made by the NATE Member Services Committee and the awards are an annual fixture at the NATE UNITE event. For additional information on NATE, visit www.natehome.com.


February 23, 2015

NWSA is final component for issuance of national training certifications

Although it might be eight to 12 months or more before tower techs or foremen will be able to proudly show their training and skill-set certification card, an announcement today by the leadership of the Wireless Industry Safety Task Force identified that certification in the future will be a reality and will enhance tower safety, reduce workplace risk, improve quality, encourage training and recognize the skilled professionals who work on towers.

National Wireless Safety AllianceAccording to National Association of Tower Erectors Executive Director Todd Schlekeway at NATE UNITE 2015 this afternoon in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., the National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA) has been formed as a non-profit agency to assess and certify, through an NWSA-credentialed practical examiner’s (PE) evaluation and third party computer-based testing, that workers meet the criteria established in the National Wireless Skills-Based Training Standard.

In a somewhat confusing alphabet soup of new training initiatives from different public and private sectors announced in the past six months, today’s presentation provided a clearer picture of what appears to be the largest and most developed plan for industry education, training and national certification to date, although it was emphasized that the full structure remained a work in progress such as deciding not to use the acronym “PE” for a practical examiner since it’s a title normally associated with a professional engineer.

The skills–based training standard, which currently details the minimum competencies for three foundational industry positions, Telecommunications Tower Tech l, Telecommunications Tower Tech ll and Lead/Foreman, was developed by a subcommittee of the Wireless Industry Safety Task Force (WISTF), an organization comprised of almost all of the major wireless players, from carriers to tower owners and construction companies, and significantly supported by NATE.

However, an official national assessment and certification arm was required and the NWSA organization was incorporated recently.

The NWSA model encourages workers and companies to continue utilizing the training pathways of their choice. For example, companies and individuals who currently utilize private training options, offer their own internal training programs or go to a local community college for their training will continue to be able to do so.

It will also allow trainers to enhance their current offerings to provide technical training for what has been termed Triple-Tl and Triple-Tll certifications in addition to Lead/Foreman.

“I want to make it clear, we’re not in the training business,” Schlekeway said, emphasizing that NWSA only “provides the framework for competency.”

He said that the NWSA was “providing a playbook for all existing training companies to utilize.”

Although the NWSA hasn’t fully developed the PE registration process for practical examiners, it is expected that the method will allow training companies and contractors to have their on-staff employees become qualified practical examiners so that the assessment exam can be taken at the end of the training session, even before the computer based testing is done.

It is not known what testing agency the NWSA will use for the computer-based examination. It is likely that the governance arm will consider PSI or a similar organization. PSI currently has approximately 500 test centers throughout the country and is used by the FAA and other public agencies and private certification associations.

Wireless-Safety-Alliance-2A Board of Governors representing a broad cross-section of industry stakeholders will be appointed in the near future to provide oversight for NWSA. Schlekeway said that tower climbers will be represented on the Board.

“Their inclusion might stifle some people who believe that this is just another attempt to treat climbers as second class citizens,” said a company owner following the luncheon session. “There are always those who are shouting that ‘we need a union’. What we need is this program so that we can elevate climbers to the trained certifications status that they deserve.”

Board member Jim Tracy, who co-presented the initiative’s progress, explained that once an individual  becomes certified that the NWSA will have them listed in their national database so that the worker can easily log into their web site and identify that he or she is trained and up to date with other required certifications.

Because of all of the moving parts that have to be corralled before certifications will be able to be issued, Tracy said he was not comfortable with providing a time frame, but said that all of the stakeholders were working at a feverish pitch to get it out as soon as possible.

“This is an exciting day in the industry,” said Pat Moore, Vice President of Operations at Velocitel, Inc., in a press statement.

“Creating a national assessment and certification entity is the next logical step in order to ensure that industry workers in the future will be trained in accordance to the various worker categories outlined in the National Wireless Skills-Based Training Standard,” Moore said.

Greg Corbitt, construction manager for Bechtel’s communications business, said that his company, which championed the need for 100% tie off in 1995, is fully behind the initiative . “We look forward to continuing our involvement and bringing the NWSA assessment and certification offerings to market”.

“Ericsson has been a proud member of the Wireless Industry Safety Task Force since its inception and believes this free-market national assessment and certification organization will ultimately help raise the bar on industry safety and quality,” said Dieter Schifferdecker, an Environmental Health and Safety Manager for Ericsson.

Members of the Wireless Industry Safety Task Force said that they will provide “transparent, timely and relevant updates to the industry as key benchmarks are achieved in the establishment of the NWSA assessment and certification program.”

“NATE is excited to play a leadership role in the establishment of the NWSA,” said NATE Chairwoman Pat Cipov. “There is a lot of work in front of us, but we have the subject matter experts and industry partners to develop a first class national assessment and certification organization.”

PCIA’s certification program’s progress unknown
Another training initiative, the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship program (TIRAP), launched in October, is in the formative stages of rolling out a Department of Labor-credentialed apprenticeship program available to qualified employers for the training and career development of the telecommunications workforce. PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association said in a statement that it is taking an active role in advancing TIRAP’s program.

PCIA has previously stated that they were working on a training and education initiative, which will seek industry-consensus to establish and launch a “certification program and develop a database so employers can track those credentials,” but has offered no details as to their progress or industry support.

In January, they hired John Harrison, a former Sprint executive as a consultant to the workforce program, and last week announced that former Verizon executive Marissa Mitrovich joined the association as Vice President of Program Development. In that role she will also be involved in the association’s training initiative and certification program.


February 18, 2015

Safety climb system failure seriously injures tower tech in 50-foot fall

A Kentucky tower climber who had been in an induced coma for the past 10 days had additional surgery yesterday, and this morning for the first time was able to talk, but he is unable to remember his traumatic fall off of an Ohio tower that required him to be airlifted to St. Elizabeth Hospital in Youngstown to be treated for multiple leg fractures, according to associates knowledgeable of the incident.

Safety climb system failure investigatedHowever, two co-workers, one his son-in-law, have informed authorities that Taylor J. McDonald, 32, of Sturgis, Ky., had been on his way down from rigging a Crown Castle International 250-foot self-supporting tower when he reportedly slipped from a step bolt at about the 50-foot level and his cable grab did not restrain him on the climbing cable and he fell to the base of the tower still connected to the wire rope.

According to a representative of Crown Castle, McDonald was employed by Allstate Tower, Inc., a tower manufacturer and contractor located in Henderson, Ky., that was under contract to reinforce the tower located in Center Township on Freeman Rd. just west of Lisbon.

Following McDonald’s fall on Feb. 7, 2015 at approximately 2:30 p.m., his co-workers immediately ran to assist him and disconnected his carabineer from his front D-ring and laid him on the ground as they awaited emergency workers.

Some personnel at the scene said that the DBI cable grab appeared to have been attached to the wire rope correctly.

A representative from Crown Castle, Capital Safety and Allstate Tower were on site following the incident with an inspector from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration to assist in the investigation. They removed the lower 50 feet of the climbing system, which, according to one observer, appeared to have fresh shiny gouges that might indicate the possibility that the cable grab was unsuccessfully attempting stop McDonald’s descent.

OSHA will be identifying whether the fall was caused by improper usage of the safety cable grab, or whether the cable grab or the wire rope was defective or not compatible.

There appeared to be no identification markings on the cable system to indicate who the manufacturer was, explained an individual familiar with the investigation.

McDonald had been using his company-supplied cable grab. A co-worker said that he had seen McDonald take a break and was using the cable grab to take a stretch before completing his descent. A representative of Allstate Tower said the cable grab was fairly new and that investigation photographs indicate that it was properly maintained.

He said that all of their DBI Sala cable grabs would be taken out of service until OSHA provides their findings as to the cause of the accident.


February 17, 2015

Over 29,000 tower climbers identified in extensive wireless workforce survey

According to a comprehensive study released today by WirelessEstimator.com identifying how many wireless technicians routinely work on elevated structures in the course of their employment, the number of tower climbers has dramatically increased to over 29,000 workers, almost triple from the last available analysis undertaken in 2006 by Wireless Estimator which put the total of tower technicians at approximately 9,800.

29,000 cell tower climbers identified
The significant increase comes with a slightly positive upshot for the industry’s safety ranking compared to other high risk professions. Whereas tower construction is often tagged by the media as the most dangerous job in America – and it clearly had been in 2006 – based upon the number of deaths per 100,000 workers used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for View Wireless Estimator Forumanalysis, the wireless infrastructure industry, reaching an unacceptable 14 deaths in 2013, was the fourth deadliest profession under aircraft pilots and flight engineers.

Read how the 29,000 tower climber count was compiled and view survey findings


February 15, 2015

Sarah Palin will certainly not liken climbers to caribou at NATE keynote

When former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks before trade groups she typically tailors part of her presentation to industry-specific concerns, and most likely will touch upon tower climber safety when she talks at the industry’s largest wireless View Wireless Estimator Foruminfrastructure conference for contractors and suppliers on Feb. 25, 2015 at NATE UNITE 2015 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

There is also a possibility that she’ll address the need for less government oversight for Americans and small business entrepreneurs.

But you can be assured that as the industry rolls out 4G and other wireless services she’ll want it to be done accident and fatality free; well, unless you’re a caribou.

Sarah Palin to provide keynote speech at NATEAt a keynote speech in Texas for NAPE last week, she informed the North American Prospect Expo that if caribou died as a result of oil pipeline expansions they would just have to “take one for the team.”

She told the enthusiastic crowd that concerns over the “moose and caribou” were blown out of proportion because the Trans-Alaska Pipeline “has not been adverse at all.”

In fact, “the animals mate under the pipeline,” the former Republican vice-presidential candidate remarked, admitting that she hadn’t ever seen any moose making whoopee under crude oil pipes.

In an interview in 2008 when Palin was asked about Russian foreign policy, she stated, “They’re our next-door neighbors. And you can actually see Russia, from land, here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.”

If she would take up a training company’s invite to safely climb a tall tower, she’d be amazed at what thousands of climbers see every day, possibly even caribou copulating.

Palin celebrates SNL’s 40th and NATE’s 20th

Palin should be an interesting keynote speaker for NATE’s 20th anniversary event, no matter what side of the political fence you’re on.

The unflappable and unpredictable Palin showed up for Saturday Night Live’s 40th Anniversary Special  tonight in a leggy mini dress.

In a skit with Jerry Seinfeld, she asked how much the show would pay her to run for president in 2016.

Seinfeld comically flinched for a moment and said, “No figure is too high, Sarah!”

She raised the stakes: “Hypothetically, then, what if I had Donald Trump as my running mate?”

SNL’s Tina Fey developed a popular skit impersonating Palin during her vice-presidential campaign alongside John McCain in 2008, which reached a climax when Palin herself made a cameo.

The sketch drew in the show’s highest overnight rating since 1994, with about 17 million viewers.

Although NATE’s attendance is expected to reach a record high, Palin’s audience will be a slight bit less.

The NATE UNITE 2015 Pre Show Planner highlights the educational sessions, certified courses, networking opportunities, exhibitors, exhibit hall activities, event sponsors, and the Lake Buena Vista area.


February 13, 2015

OSHA cites wireless contractor with $114,800 fine following painter’s death

The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration has issued a $114,800 fine for an Indiana wireless contractor, which it charges did not provide adequate protection for a 49-year-old worker who fell about 90 feet to his death while painting a communication tower on August 10, 2014.

Thomas Lucas of Toledo, Ill. fell 80 to 90 feet while painting a communications tower south of Stockton, Ill. at 13072 E. Morseville Rd. OSHA investigated the fatality and cited James Michael Sherwood, dba Sherwood Tower Service for two Thomas-Lowe-Lucaswillful and one serious safety violation. The agency has placed the Terre Haute contractor in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP).

Sherwood is the second industry company making what has been termed a “black list”. Wireless Horizon Inc. of St. Peters, MO. was placed on the list last September.  SVEP companies typically have previous citations issued, but according to OSHA’s establishment search database, Sherwood has had no citations in the past 10 years.

It is not known if Sherwood was providing an incorrect NAICS code to the company’s insurance carrier, or if OSHA incorrectly listed it as:  238320/Painting and Wall Covering Contractor.

“Three children are without a father because of a preventable tragedy,” Jacob Scott, OSHA’s area director in North Aurora, Ill. stated in the agency’s news release on Thursday. “No one should have to endure such a painful loss ever. Inspecting and making sure protective equipment is in use and working properly is a common-sense safety procedure that saves lives and prevents injuries. Companies that ask their employees to work above the ground have a responsibility to provide adequate fall protection to workers. OSHA has seen a disturbing trend in preventable deaths and injuries in the telecommunications industry.”

In addition to the lack of personal fall protection during tower climbing activities, OSHA inspectors found that the positioning lanyard used by Lucas should have been replaced because it was heavily painted and showed visible signs of wear, damage and deterioration.

These failures resulted in the issuance of two willful violations with proposed penalties of $42,000 and $70,000. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

Sherwood Tower Service had no safety and health program, resulting in the issuance of a serious violation and received a proposed penalty of $2,800. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Sherwood Tower Service, according to OSHA, has five employees.

The company began operations in 1986 and specializes in painting, antenna and line installation and tower lighting installations and repair, according to its web site.

The citations are available here.


February 12, 2015

February 13 is the last day to register online for NATE UNITE 2015

Online registration for the National Association of Tower Erectors conference, NATE UNITE 2015, ends tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 13, 2015. But if you can’t register today and suffer from Paraskevidekatriaphobics – those afflicted with a morbid, Register for NATE UNITE 2015irrational fear of Friday the 13th - don’t be alarmed, you can register on site for what could very well be the largest attended conference in the trade group’s 20-year history.

The event, from Feb. 23 through Feb. 26, 2015, will feature dynamic educational sessions, inviting receptions and an exceptional show experience. Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort will serve as the host property for NATE UNITE 2015. With its beautiful scenery, rich history, endless activities and friendly residents, Lake Buena Vista, Fla. will be a wonderful host city for the association’s annual event.

Former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin will be the keynote speaker.

The NATE UNITE 2015 Pre Show Planner highlights the educational sessions, certified courses, networking opportunities, exhibitors, exhibit hall activities, event sponsors, and the Lake Buena Vista area.


February 5, 2015

ATC leads slightly over Crown with their $5 billion 11,324 Verizon tower deal

American Tower Corporation today announced that it has been the successful suitor in acquiring the rights to approximately 11,324 wireless communications towers and purchase approximately 165 American-Tower-Crownadditional towers from Verizon Communications, Inc. for $5.056 billion.

Under the agreement, American Tower will have the exclusive right to lease and operate the Verizon towers for a weighted average term of approximately 28 years. In addition, American Tower will have fixed price purchase options to acquire the towers based on their anticipated fair market values at the end of the lease terms.

Verizon shares rose as much as 1.1 percent to $48.41 in late trading, and American Tower added less than 1 percent in late trading in New York.

Deal struck for $1,900 per month rent
Verizon has contracted to sublease space on the towers for a minimum of 10 years with monthly rent of $1,900 per site and fixed annual rent escalators of 2%. Verizon will have customary renewal options that could potentially extend the full term of its sublease to 50 years.

Verizon will also have access to certain additional space on the towers for its future use, subject to certain restrictions. American Tower will have the right to sublease other available capacity on the towers to additional tenants, according to a statement from American Tower.

The average term of the lease rights is about 28 years. As the leases expire, American Tower will have fixed-price purchase options to acquire these towers based on their anticipated fair market values at the end of the lease terms.

Jim Taiclet, American Tower’s Chief Executive Officer stated, “The Verizon tower portfolio is a unique asset. Due to outstanding design and management by the Verizon Wireless network operations team, the portfolio boasts a number of key attributes that we believe will facilitate robust leasing opportunities under our focused management.”

These attributes include average tower heights approaching 200 feet, ample structural capacity and ground space, very attractive transmission locations with relatively few competing sites, a solid ground lease profile, and excellent documentation and technical information.”

Although Taiclet said Verizon’s tower portfolio, in combination with American Tower’s legacy footprint, will establish the largest wireless communications real estate portfolio in the United States with over 40,000 tower sites, Crown Castle International is almost equal to them with their published 40,000 tower count.

Verizon was advised by TAP Advisors, Guggenheim and JP Morgan.


February 5, 2015

Pilot is killed after his aircraft crashes into a Lubbock, Tex. TV tower

A Texas physician is dead after he piloted his small aircraft into a TV tower’s guy wires as he approached an airport in West Texas, causing the 814-foot guyed tower to collapse in Lubbock, Tex. last night at about 7:25 p.m., Lubbock-Tower-collapseaccording to authorities.

Dr. Kenneth M. Rice was killed after his single-engine Piper PA-46 crashed into Raycom Media’s KCBD tower while he was approaching Preston Smith International Airport on a flight from Carlsbad, N.M.

The crash knocked the station off the air and cut power to the surrounding neighborhood. KCBD personnel were told to evacuate their building but the station was back on the air this morning, broadcasting from a studio provided by the Lubbock school district.

The plane landed in a field on the north side of KCBD’s studio and transmitter building. After Rice’s plane hit the ground some station personnel attempted to rush to the crash site to see if they could offer assistance, but realized that there were downed power lines and returned to the studio until emergency workers could take over.

When the structure fell, its guy wires whipped around power lines, lighting up the area with sparks as a substation’s lines started arcing.

Although local weather reports indicated that cloud cover was above 1,000 feet, a KCBD reporter who ran outside the studio to investigate what happened, said she didn’t immediately notice that over half of the tower had toppled since fog was covering that area.

Approximately 240 feet of the structure remained standing supported by two guy wires, according to authorities.

Emergency services personnel were seen in local broadcast videos working in proximity to the fall zone of the remaining tower.

It is not known if their incident commander conducted an initial size-up and risk assessment of the scene before beginning operations. Last year, an emergency worker was killed when a second tower collapsed in West Virginia and landed on his head as he was attempting to rescue an injured worker.

The National Institute of Safety and Health provided a detailed analysis of the incident.


February 4, 2015

Terrible Mississippi tower marking amendment is killed in committee

Mississippi Speaker of the House Philip Gunn took the ice bucket challenge late last year, but it didn’t shake loose any logical reasons why he introduced legislation last month to require all Cell-tower-markingscommunications towers in his state to be marked for aviation safety purposes if they were 50 feet high or taller, and were located outside of municipality boundaries.

As required in the Mississippi Code of 1972, along with other tower marking regulations, anemometer towers must be marked as follows: “The top one-third (1/3) of the anemometer tower shall be painted in equal, alternating bands of aviation orange and white, beginning with orange at the top of the tower and ending with orange at the bottom of the marked portion of the tower.”

The code was put in place to provide for greater aviation safety since pilots frequently complained about their inability to see thin-faced meteorological towers.

However, Gunn wanted all towers to conform to anemometer regulations, even if they had a combined girth as round as Sally Struthers, Chris Christie and Aretha Franklin in a communal embrace, seemingly visible from space, and he introduced a revision that added “telecommunications tower or telecommunications antenna” to the amendment.

He also threw in a retroactive clause that required all communications towers to be marked within one year that were constructed prior to the bill’s effective date of July 1, 2015.

The hasty legislation didn’t address monopalms which in compliance would have painted green fronds that would appear to be advertisements for Sbarro’s pizza restaurants.

Fortunately for the industry, Gunn’s bill died in committee yesterday.


January 29, 2015

NIOSH issues report on tower collapses that killed two techs and a fire fighter

In a detailed summary by the National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH), the federal agency investigated the collapse that killed two tower technicians last year in West Virginia in addition to a volunteer fire fighter who died after two towers collapsed at the SBA Communications site.

Although the focus of the report was to ensure that fire NIOSH-Cell-Towersdepartments should certify that the incident commander conducts an initial size-up and risk assessment of the scene before beginning operations, it did provide additional details that were not immediately known following the February 1, 2014 incident.

When the second tower, which appeared to be the size of a 25G from a NIOSH photograph, collapsed as a result of the initial collapse of the tower that the two deceased technicians were working on, it barely missed an injured tower technician on the ground that was being dragged by three other fire fighters to safety. But another firefighter was struck in the head by the tower, breaking his helmet, and he died from his injuries.

In part, the NIOSH report recommended that fire departments, especially volunteer departments, should consider limiting their special operations functions to those that they are properly trained and equipped for.

The technicians were employed by S&S Communication Specialists, Inc. of Clarksburg, W.Va. The company was cited by OSHA for two violations totaling $14,000 in fines as a result of the incident. They contested the charges on Aug. 15, 2014.


January 28, 2015

Two technicians injured after a tower section collapses in Nebraska

Update – 1.28. 2015, 5:55  p.m – Two tower techs that were erecting a new cell site tower for their employer, Viaero Wireless, were transported to the hospital after they had been trapped under a collapsed structure in Scottsbluff, Neb.

In a prepared statement, Viaero Executive Vice President Mike Felicissimo said a wind gust caused a section of the tower to shift. He says one man injured his leg and the other had shoulder pain, but both are doing well after receiving treatment.

Viaero-Wireless-AccidentScottsbluff Fire Chief Dana Miller says responders were told one man fell about 10 feet, and the other fell more than 20 feet in the collapse.

The Star-Herald reports  the two techs were trapped under a self supporting tower section that collapsed Wednesday at noon. The Scottsbluff Fire Department responded to the scene.

It appears from available photographs that the men might have been working on a tower section that was standing vertical on the ground and it may have fallen over.

Miller says the collapse occurred while the area is under a wind advisory, which states winds could reach 25 to 35 miles per hour and gusts could reach 50 miles per hour.

Wireless Estimator has contacted Viaero’s corporate offices in Colorado for additional information regarding the incident.

The injuries were reportedly not life threatening.

A Viaero Wireless crew member was killed in 2005 when he fell from a mounting frame while installing an antenna. The company was fined $125,000 by OSHA following their investigation.

That fatality played a pivotal role in Eric Steinmann and Don Evans contributing $400,000 to get the Tower Family Foundation funded after they witnessed the struggles that families go through following a serious injury or death.
Photo: Maunette Loeks


January 23, 2015

Varied opinions surface regarding Grain’s nTelos tower buy for $41 million

David-J.-Grain

Although many media aggregators picked up an analyst’s report that David J. Grain might have overpaid on the cattle car tower buy, many industry observers believe that the veteran tower consolidator knows the industry too well to purchase towers at an inflated price.

Although conversations at a Florida Wireless Association networking social of over 200 attendees last night ranged from carrier cap ex expenditures to planned business expansions of a number of key players, one frequent topic was Sarasota Fla.-based Grain Management’s purchase this week of 103 nTelos Wireless’ cell towers for $41 million.

However, opinions differed regarding whether the $398,000 per-tower-deal made financial sense.

“I’m not sure they got a good deal. It looks like they overpaid,” said one executive of a major tower consolidator. “It’s my understanding that some of those sites were just wood poles,” he said.

Another industry manager standing with a small conversation group alongside the Intracoastal Waterway in Ft. Lauderdale said he believed that they should have paid half that price, but did not offer how he arrived at that price point.

Nor did Wells Fargo analyst Jennifer Fritzsche, who wrote in a research note this week that, “The price per tower of $400K, however, is higher than we expected, as we previously had assumed $100K per site when estimating NTLS’s core asset value.”

But after FierceWireless published Fritzsche’s statement, media aggregators ran with her comments, not provided with any foundation, and they became fact in many conversations Thursday.

Did Grain overpay?
Established in 2007, private equity firm Grain Management owns and operates communications towers across the U.S. and largely through its founder and Managing Partner, David J. Grain, is well-connected with government agencies and wireless carriers and their tower and spectrum needs.

Bypassing his former employment  roots, Wall Street, Grain raised over $100 million in capital by personally contacting investors, many of them from the academia investment community within a little over two years. In founding the company Grain had invested $6 million of his own money.

“David knows exactly what he’s doing and I can assure you that he didn’t overpay for the nTelos towers,” said another tower site developer.  “She [Fritzsche] has no inkling about the deal. She didn’t see the book and she didn’t see the agreement. When these deals are made everybody has an opinion. I guess I fall in that category as well, but I’m immersed in this business and there is no way that someone is going to overpay for a tower by 300K, especially on a $40 million deal,” he said.

One more tower company executive also agreed that Grain would have employed considerable due diligence efforts before committing funds to the purchase.

“I worked with David and I can tell you, he is one of the brightest, most charismatic individuals in this business,” he said.

Grain’s business model also includes buying and leasing spectrum
In 2002, Grain was hired by private equity investors to lead Pinnacle Towers from bankruptcy through its successful operational turnaround. In June 2004, under Grain’s stewardship, Pinnacle Towers was renamed Global Signal and was later sold in 2006 to Crown Castle for $5.7 billion, a return for Global Signals’ private equity investors of 15 times their original investment.

It showed a clear track record of success that strains credibility of Fritzsche’s statement that the towers were only worth one quarter of what was paid for them.

Grain has also found what appears to be a successful niche that hasn’t been picked up by other tower owners, buying and leasing spectrum.

Last October, Cincinnati Bell closed its agreement to sell its spectrum licenses to Verizon Wireless for $194 million, but a part of the deal was an agreement that Verizon was assigning its rights to the licenses to Grain and is leasing spectrum back from Grain.

In 2013, Grain paid $189 million for Verizon Wireless spectrum and then leased it to AT&T.

Media Venture Partners represented Grain in both spectrum transactions. However, according to AGL Magazine, MVP served as exclusive financial advisor to nTelos on this week’s transaction.

To assist in maintaining and capturing additional government contracts, Grain has an office in Washington, D.C.


January 19, 2015

NATE issues update on the National Wireless Skills-Based Training Standard

The National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) today provided a progress update on the Wireless Industry Safety Task Force’s NationalTower-Tech-Classification Wireless Skills-Based Training Standard that is currently under development. The Task Force’s Skills-Based Training Subcommittee has completed development of a Skills-Based Training standard that outlines the minimum competencies and skills required for five foundational categories of workers in the industry:  Helper/Ground Worker; Ground Technician; Telecommunications Tower Technician I; Telecommunications Tower Technician II; Lead/Foreman.

Additionally, NATE announced that the Task Force is making tremendous progress developing three specialized foreman tracks that will be added to the National Wireless Skills-Based Training Standard. The three specialized foreman tracks include the worker categories of Antenna & Line Foreman, Tower Construction (Stacking Foreman) and Structural Modifications Foreman.

The positions mirror those being considered by the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP).  NATE and the Wireless Industry Safety Task force have been working with the U.S. Department of Labor-credentialed organization to provide standardization in position titles.

“Upon completion, the National Wireless Skills-Based Training Standard will serve as the foundation for what future tower technicians at the designated worker categories outlined in the standard need to be trained to in order to work in the industry,” said Executive Director Todd Schlekeway. “This premier skills-based worker standard is being developed by NATE’s leading subject matter experts and has been a by-product of collaboration between the Association and the wireless carriers, tower owners, OEM’s and turnkey management firms who are represented on the Wireless Industry Safety Task Force,” Schlekeway stated.

A comprehensive update on the National Wireless Skills-Based Training Competencies Standard and the various ongoing initiatives of the Wireless Industry Safety Task Force will be provided to Task Force members at a meeting scheduled for Feb. 26, 2015 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. in conjunction with the NATE UNITE 2015 Conference and Exposition.

Participating Wireless Industry Safety Task Force companies and organizations include Alcatel-Lucent, American Tower, AT&T, Bechtel, Black & Veatch, BlueStream Professional Services, Crown Castle, Ericsson, General Dynamics, Goodman Networks, Jacobs, MasTec Network Solutions, Motorola Solutions, National Association of Tower Erectors, Nexius, Nokia Networks, SAI Communications, Samsung, SBA Communications Inc., Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Velocitel, Verizon Wireless.


January 16, 2015

RF could have been the real killer of a BASE jumper who fell to his death

Although it will not be able to be identified until a coroner examines tissue samples, there’s a strong possibility that a Michigan BASE jumper might have died, not becaBase-Jumper-Diesuse his parachute’s canopy didn’t open, but because he might have been unconscious before he ever had the opportunity to pull his ripcord as he fell from the 1,000-foot WLAJ-TV tower he was attempting to jump from in Jackson County on Wednesday.

According to Kevin Reski, President of West Fargo, N.D.-based Great Plains Towers, 31-year-old Josh Sheppard, a seasoned BASE jumper and skydiver, might have been overcome from the effect of the site’s radiation and he might never of had the ability to pull his ripcord since his body may have been overcome by the heating effects of the multiple tower top broadcast antenna emissions.

Reski  reflected upon his personal experiences throughout the years when he was accidentally exposed to over a quarter million or more watts of power.

“It can definitely put you in a personal panic with breathing distress, inability to rid the internal body from heating up and the mental distress of attempting to exit the antenna proximity that ensues.”

Whereas tower technicians are aware of the extreme dangers when a lock-out tag-out is accidentally violated, Reski said, at least they’re aware of needing to immediately move from the antennas as quickly as possible.

“A BASE jumper has no training or RF experience and will most likely freeze in front of an RF element, thinking that his sudden weakness might disappear if he remains calm and in place,” said Reski.

“He will quickly lose consciousness and fall”

Reski said that broadcast antennas, like the one above, look to be benign supporting structures to the general public, but have the potential to cause a climber’s death when they’re at full power.

He said he is hoping that his message hits home with the BASE jumping community so that they will seek out other structures to use in their sport, “ones that can’t easily kill you before you even get the chance to push that envelope on the way down, even with your chute deployed.”

“The ‘no trespassing’  antenna signal radiation warning signs and tower perimeter fences at broadcast tower sites are in place for good reasons,” said Reski.


January 15, 2015

PCIA chief to sit on TIRAP’s Board and assist with setting job positions /skills

PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein has been selected by the U.S. Department of Labor-credentiTIRAP-Tower-Techaled Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP) to replace board member Jonathan Campbell, PCIA’s former Director of Government Affairs who left PCIA last Friday to take a position with the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau.

“PCIA has the expertise and resources to help TIRAP achieve its objective of understanding the industry’s needs in regards to training a highly skilled, safe, and motivated wireless workforce,” said TIRAP Board Chairman Scott Kisting in a statement published by PCIA.

TIRAP has been pooling resources from the National Association of Tower Erectors, the Wireless Industry Safety Task Force and others to identify and set criteria for skill levels and job classifications for industry workers. PCIA will be assisting in their continuing efforts.

Reportedly under consideration are: Helper/Ground Worker, Ground Technician, Telecommunications Tower Technician l, Telecommunications ll, and Lead/Foreman Tower Worker.

Additional positions such as Antenna & Line Foreman, Tower Construction Foreman and Structural Modification Foreman are expected to be reviewed by TIRAP for possible inclusion as it further develops its apprenticeship program.

Outlining skillsets required for standardized workforce job classifications, such as Telecommunications Tower Technician l, has been a long-sought industry challenge.

Although the industry could see multiple skills-based training outlets, from current safety training companies that might want to expand their curriculum, or colleges and universities who have or are currently setting up training programs, it is anticipated that they would be required to observe the same competency requirements so that carriers and tower owners could be assured that their scopes of work were being performed by experienced personnel.

$3.25 million grant will turn out 346 graduates
By having concise national proficiencies required for different job titles from collective energies of TIRAP and other associations, PCIA will be able to jumpstart their efforts to assist Virginia State University in developing their wireless training program that is expected to graduate 346 participants in three years.

VSU announced in October that it had won a $3.25 million grant from the DoL to develop a wireless infrastructure career program, a new direction for four-year institutions that was typically courted by two-year schools.

As part of the award, the DoL approved $750,000 which is specified in the application for PCIA, according to the association, to help create nationally recognized competencies and credentials in the field of wireless infrastructure deployment.

“VSU intends to be that national center for wireless education and the TAACCCT grant provides the resources to achieve that objective,” wrote Keith Williamson, associate vice president for research and innovation and dean of the College of Engineering and Technology at VSU, in an email to Diverse, explaining that the center will become the nation’s “central repository for wireless training and education.”

Williamson said that he expects 420 participants over the three-year grant period and that 346 will actually complete the program. He says the $3.25 million grant will be used to cover costs “far beyond instruction,” according to Diverse.

“The goal is to develop infrastructure to sustain the program far into the future,” Williamson said. “For example, other associated costs include costs for developing the curriculum, establishing a national registry for the wireless workforce, establishing prior learning assessments for awarding college credit, providing online instruction and assessing program outcomes.”

The grant will also provide for training towers and safety equipment.

Other  TIRAP Board  members include: David Sams, SBA Communications Corporation; Beau Aero, GME Supply; Dave Anthony, Shenandoah Tower Service; Richard Cullum, Crown Castle USA Inc.; Kelley Dunne, Warriors 4 Wireless; Dale Heath, CommScope;  and Paul Roberts, American Tower Corporation.

Advisors assisting TIRAP are: Jim Maddux, OSHA; and Stephanie Brewer, Midwest Underground Technology, Inc.


January 15, 2015

Michigan tower BASE jumper is killed after chute doesn’t deploy

Base-Jumper-Death-Michigan-1A well-known and highly skilled skydiver plunged to his death off a television tower yesterday when his canopy failed to open during a jump. Authorities say that Josh Sheppard, 31, was found dead at the bottom of the 1,000-foot WLAJ-TV tower in Jackson County west of Detroit, Mich. at 5:30 p.m.

Sheppard, who was from the Detroit suburb of Southfield, was alone on the tower and his fall was unbroken, Caldwell said. Sheppard was wearing the parachute when he was found, Michigan State Police Sergeant Kevin Caldwell said.

“This wasn’t his first try, according to family and friends,” Caldwell said. “He has done this all over.”

Sheppard’s fatal jump from the tower, which is surrounded by fencing and no-trespassing signs, is still under investigation, Caldwell said.

Sheppard, in sky diving circles, was well known for his years of hundreds of successful jumps, many of them using a wingsuit, a relatively young sport.

BASE is an acronym standing for building, antenna, span or earthen feature, such as a cliff, that are used as jumping locations.

Sheppard had previously jumped off of broadcast towers as seen in photographs from his Facebook page.

It is not known if Sheppard was influenced to make yesterday evening’s jump after viewing a popular YouTube video of a man doing nine front flips from a broadcast tower.

Many parachutists have been injured following jumps from broadcast towers and a number of jumpers have been killed.

In 2005 a Haywood, Calif. man got caught on a guy wire at approximately 200 feet when he jumped from a 2,000-foot tower.

His frenetic, near death, 16-minute 911 call to an operator can be heard here.


January 14, 2015

CTIA castigates Obama for his drive for more government-owned networks

President-Obama-CTIA

Baker said the President’s focus today on using taxpayer money to compete with commercial providers, which are pouring billions in private capital every year into U.S. broadband infrastructure and jobs, is the wrong path forward.

Although President Obama didn’t lock arms with heads of states in France on Sunday in a unity march, today he locked private versus public sector horns with CTIA’s President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker after he said he will ask the Federal Communications Commission to assist in repealing laws in 19 states that prevent local governments from creating municipal internet services.

In a visit to Cedar Falls, Iowa, Obama said that governments should help expand access to high speed broadband internet. He said that that he visited their community because it has long had its own broadband network.

“That was a really smart thing you guys did,” he told the Cedar Falls crowd.

“I believe that a community has the right to make its own choice, and to provide its own broadband if it wants to,” he said in seeking to repeal laws in other states.

He also said that the federal government would provide financial and technical assistance to local governments that want to improve internet services for their citizens.

Baker, a former FCC Commissioner cried foul.

She said the President’s focus on using taxpayer money to compete with commercial providers, which are pouring billions in private capital every year into U.S. broadband infrastructure and jobs, is the wrong path forward.

“The wireless industry has invested $100 billion in the last four years alone. In such a vigorously competitive market, government-owned networks would only serve to chill private sector investment, tilt the competitive playing field, and harm consumers, Baker said in a statement issued shortly after Obama’s comments.

“While the President’s stated goal is robust, high-speed broadband for all Americans, his administration’s own policies are at odds with that objective. It was only two months ago when the President urged the FCC to apply antiquated, public-utility regulations to the dynamic mobile ecosystem, which if enacted, would inhibit future capital investment and hinder the deployment of new wireless broadband infrastructure and consumer offerings. Consumers would be further harmed by additional fees and taxes on broadband services under Title II,” she said.

In addition to Baker, key industry leaders have the FCC as a common thread in their careers. President and CEO of PCIA- The Wireless Infrastructure Association Jonathan Adelstein was a former FCC Commissioner. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler used to serve as CTIA’s CEO.


January 14, 2015

Five years later, SCOTUS settles T-Mobile’s siting dispute with Georgia city

Supreme-Court-T-MobileThe United States Supreme Court gave a wake-up call to municipalities today as to how government agencies must inform wireless carriers, tower owners and the siting community at large when they reject a tower construction request.

In its 6-3 ruling the Justices said that local governments like Roswell, Ga., that is at the center of the case must provide a written explanation in a timely manner about why they are denying a wireless structure request. However, that explanation doesn’t need to be included in the initial denial letter.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined a dissent by Chief Justice John Roberts that says nowhere in the telecommunications siting statute does it say that a municipality must provide its written record on roughly the same day as the denial.

Justice Clarence Thomas dissented separately and joined as to Part I of the Roberts dissent. His opinion takes to task the court’s apparent “eagerness” to reach beyond the statute.

“We have been unwilling to impose procedural requirements on federal agencies in the absence of statutory command, even while recognizing that an agency’s failure to make its decisions known at the time it acts may burden regulated parties,” the dissent states.

The majority of Justices held that a municipality’s denial of an application to build a cell phone tower “shall be in writing and supported by substantial evidence contained in a written record,” and requires localities to provide the reasons for such denials in writing.

“In this case, the city provided its reasons in writing and did so in the acceptable form of detailed minutes of the City Council meeting,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the majority. “The city, however, did not provide its written reasons essentially contemporaneously with its written denial. Instead, the city issued those detailed minutes 26 days after the date of the written denial and just 4 days before petitioner’s time to seek judicial review would have expired. The city therefore did not comply with its statutory obligations. We do not consider questions regarding the applicability of principles of harmless error or questions of remedy, and leave those for the Eleventh Circuit to address on remand.”

The case involved petitioner T-Mobile South’s application to build a 108-foot cell tower on a vacant lot in a residential neighborhood in Roswell. The carrier proposed a “monopine”—a monopole designed to look like a pine tree, which was approximately 20 feet taller than surrounding trees.

Roswell’s zoning department found that the application met the requirements in applicable city ordinances, and recommended approval of the application subject to several conditions. The city then held a public hearing at which a T-Mobile South representative and members of the public spoke.

Five of the six members of the city council then made statements, with four expressing concerns and one of those four formally moving to deny the application.

That motion passed unanimously. Two days later, the city sent T-Mobile South a letter stating that its application had been denied, however the correspondence did not provide reasons for the denial, but did explain how to obtain the minutes from the hearing.

At that time, only “brief minutes” were available; the city council did not approve detailed minutes recounting the council members’ statements until its next meeting, twenty-six days later.

A federal trial judge sided with T-Mobile in its initial lawsuit, arguing the municipality violated federal communications law that says government officials need to provide a denial “in writing and supported by substantial evidence contained in a written record.” But the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overruled that and said that the city met the federal requirement by issuing a general denial letter and then, later, a transcript of hearings that led to the denial.

In a statement regarding the decision, Jonathan Adelstein, the President and CEO of PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association said, “PCIA is pleased that the United States Supreme Court agrees with our assessment that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires localities to provide clear, written reasons when applications to build wireless facilities are denied. Today’s decision in T-Mobile v. Roswell vindicates PCIA’s conviction that wireless providers must be informed in a clear-cut and timely manner when siting applications are turned down. In reversing and remanding the Eleventh Circuit’s incorrect holding, PCIA applauds the Supreme Court for recognizing that the City of Roswell had not complied with its statutory obligation to inform PCIA member T-Mobile of its rationale for denying a siting application. PCIA is gratified that the Court has once again handed down a decision that will help the industry build out broadband networks across the country. On the heels of today’s decision, PCIA will continue to alleviate burdens on wireless broadband build-out wherever they may be.”

The opinion in T-Mobile South, LLC v. City of Roswell is here.

When Justice Roberts was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit his sole tower siting vote involved a BellSouth 185-foot monopole in Georgetown, SC. The procedural error article is available here.


January 12, 2015

Blue Book’s popularity surges with over 54,000 ad views in just three months

Wireless=Buyers_GuideThe nation’s largest and most effective buyer’s guide, Wireless Estimator’s Blue Book, hit a record number of ads viewed since its October launch of over 54,000 as of Jan. 8, 2015. The popular resource lists over 1,100 wireless contractors employing elevated workers, the most accurate listing ever available to the industry for networking and sales opportunities.

The Blue Book also provides the industry’s largest resource of suppliers and service companies targeting the wireless infrastructure market.

From Supply Chain Management to Safety Suppliers, you’ll find the nation’s leading companies. All of these suppliers have numerous dynamic web pages with up-to-date information that can be easily navigated on smart phones, tablets and computers.

“We knew that printed buyer’s guides were struggling for relevancy and digital directories provided no opportunity for companies to stand out against their competitors,” said Craig Lekutis, President of Wireless Estimator.com.

“One of the key benefits of the guide is its lightning-quick capability, similar to other modules on the site, to immediately provide any information the industry is seeking regarding the contractor and supply-side of wireless development and construction.“

“Our team effort to develop the Blue Book, which included input from many contractors and suppliers, was driven by a sole directive that it could have no resemblance to ‘Your Father’s Buyer’s Guide’,“ said Lekutis.

For additional information regarding user benefits of the Blue Book and how vendors and contractors can easily capture new business, click here.


January 12, 2015

PCIA eyeing every opportunity to expand its niche in wireless safety/training

Update – 1.12. 2015, 12:20 p.m. – Jonathan Campbell, who is listed on TIRAP’s web site as one of or the organization’s executive board members and PCIA’s Director of Government Affairs, left PCIA on Friday to take a position with the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. It is not known if PCIA will be asked to fill his position with another association executive.
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PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association’s single sentence mission statement: “Help our members succeed in enabling wireless communications,” has surpassed its membership as the trade organization eyes opportunities to train and educate the nation’s wireless workforce and also meet the safety needs of the industry. It’s also looking to develop and manage a national database to track credentials.

PCIA-Wireless-Association

PCIA is eyeing numerous areas where they can become involved and help lead safety and training initiatives. They recently hired a former Sprint executive to assist them in their efforts.

Marc Ganzi, who was Chairman of the PCIA Board of Directors, met U.S.D.A. Rural Utilities Service Administrator Jonathan Adelstein at the signing of an executive order in June of 2012 aimed at accelerating broadband. At that time he reportedly began courting Adelstein to consider becoming PCIA President and CEO, a position that was being vacated by Michael Fitch who said he wanted to pursue other opportunities in telecommunications consulting.

Adelstein, a former FCC Commissioner with serious ties to Washington’s movers and shakers, considered the top post and three months later was appointed to lead the organization. He also considered additional ways the association could become more relevant in the wireless development and construction sector.

Safety and training focus is relatively new to PCIA
Although worker safety and specialized training was never a central focus of PCIA, under Adelstein’s direction they became core concerns of the Alexandria, Va.-based association as it continues to contribute significant funding and manpower to develop them.

In 2013, Adelstein was mapping his training initiatives and reached out to Phil Larsen, then national director of operations for Nexius Fusion, to assist him with his efforts. Larsen came on board in January of 2014 and assisted PCIA in its collaboration with Virginia State University to submit their successful U.S. Department of Labor $3.25 million grant application to provide training programs for the wireless workforce.

As part of the Sept. 2014 award, the DoL approved $750,000 for PCIA to help create nationally recognized competencies and credentials in the field of wireless infrastructure deployment.

Last Wednesday, PCIA announced that it was strengthening its on-staff roster with the appointment of former Sprint executive John Harrison as a senior advisor. In the newly created role, Harrison will assist PCIA’s ongoing workforce training initiatives.

Adelstein said that Harrison, who spent 30 years at Sprint and ran their Network Vision buildout, will help guide PCIA’s training and education initiative, which seeks industry-consensus to establish and launch a wireless workforce certification program and develop a database so employers can track those credentials.

But seeking industry consensus may be challenging for the former Sprint executive.

Recognized third party being sought by task force
In a collaborative effort, the Wireless Industry Safety Task Force and the National Association of Tower Erectors are reviewing their 43-page draft of a National Wireless Training Standard that has been a joint effort of carriers, contractors and other companies, many of which are PCIA members.

However, their governance working group is moving forward on assessing a nationally recognized third party regulatory firm to administer or govern the subject matter, according to a company executive familiar with the group.

PCIA has expressed their interest in being the nation’s regulatory compliance agency, but according to individuals knowledgeable about the skills-based training subcommittee’s efforts, they’re not a key candidate for consideration.

PCIA currently has a number of individuals on their coordination team that assist, for a fee, companies filing an application for a new Federal Communications Commission mobile radio license or modifying an existing FCC license, and is seeking to expand their organization by managing data collection of wireless workers’ credentials.

NCCER could be on task force’s radar
One of the nation’s leading third party accreditation organizations that NATE and the safety task force might be considering is NCCER which currently manages Associated Builders and Contractors and the Associated General Contractors of America’s testing.

The workforce development organization on Thursday will launch its newly developed testing management system which is designed to make module testing easy with a process where tests are created, launched, scored and electronically stored.

Both NATE and PCIA did not respond to requests for additional information about collaborative efforts between the two associations.

How TIRAP will engage with other initiatives is not known
PCIA has also been active in TIRAP, the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program, a public-private partnership aimed at developing apprenticeships to improve workplace safety, address industry workforce needs, and provide workers with greater employment and advancement opportunities.

Although the U.S. Department of Labor-credentialed program will help fill the industry’s need for skilled workers that have a safety-first mentality, it is not known how their programs will dovetail with PCIA, NATE and the Wireless Industry Safety Task Force’s initiatives.

One of TIRAP’s executive board members is Jonathan Campbell, Director of Government Affairs for PCIA and a former law clerk to Adelstein when he was an FCC Commissioner.

A DoL and FCC Fact sheet handout at an Oct. 2014 workshop in Washington, D.C. states that “Both TIRAP and NATE are aligned to ensure the quality of the work, and standards and training are sufficient for a safe working environment for all workers in the industry,” but NATE’s “alignment” appears to be more of a general endorsement for any program that will assist in elevating training and skillsets, and it’s not an organizational statement, said two active NATE members.

Sonya Roshek, Director and Vice President of Construction, Telecom at Black & Veatch, an energetic member company of both NATE and PCIA, serves on the National Association of Tower Erector’s Safety Task Force and acts as liaison between TIRAP and the Task Force.


January 11, 2015

Nine front flips off of a broadcast tower is newest foolish YouTube entry

Whereas last week’s video of a tower technician climbing 1,500-feet to relamp a guyed tower almost served as a tutorial for safe 100% tie-off practices, a video uploaded Friday of a BASE jumper doing nine front flips on the way down personified that if brains were dynamite some folks wouldn’t have enough to blow their Go-Pro helmet off their head.

Base-Jumping-Tower

The location and tower owner weren’t identified as one parachutist captures another’s nine front flips off of the structure. Although it seems like the rolling exhibitionist finished his flips shortly before hitting the ground, it appeared that the video was edited and the front flips occurred higher up on the tower.

Regardless, having to safely thread guy wires on the way down that could easily serve as a human egg slicer, provides for a foolish and dangerous BASE jump that can only invite someone else to attempt a more extreme jump.

The video, as of Sunday morning, had over 183,000 views, compared to Todd Thorin’s South Dakota video (see below) which has almost 2 million views from multiple web sites. Tower climber Kevin Schmidt’s routine lamp replacement went viral and has been promoted on dozens of major media outlets.

The most recent, was a mention on an Aljazeera broadcast immediately following a news report on the Charlie Hebdo shootings in France.


January 9, 2015

Cold snap guide offered as Artic air blast brings bone-chilling temperatures

If tower techs from JMA Wireless of Liverpool, N.Y. were going to be heading north to Watertown yesterday, chances are they were praying that it would be one of their in-building wireless projects and not a bone-chilling outdoor installation where thTower-Climber-Cold-Weathere temperature hit a national low of -30.1 °F.

The waves of Arctic air coming in this week have been painful for those tower techs and civil workers who have to spend time outdoors, unless properly dressed. In addition to the below-average temperatures forecast, they can be 15-30 degrees lower than the actual temperature at times due to wind chill and elevation factors.

Two companies not concerned about the cold snap were SC Wireless Solutions and Tricom Networks whose projects yesterday near Palm Springs, CA had workers performing them under a punishing national low temperature of 90 °F.

To ensure that you and your co-workers stay safe during cold temperatures, Wireless Estimator has provided a Cold Weather Work Guide to ensure your safety when it’s so cold that it’s the only time that you wish the boss was on your back so that he could appreciate what it’s like to work in sub-zero temperatures.


January 7, 2015

Long-awaited FCC streamlined wireless facilities siting rules finally published

The Federal Communications Commission provided wireless siting professionalsFCC-Tower-Siting-Rules with a post-holiday present today: the final rules for acceleration of broadband deployment by improving wireless facilities siting policies. But its ultimate impact upon municipalities and siting professionals may not be known for weeks to come as interested parties scour each word in the 121-page document that has changed some of the FCC’s report and order’s content released on October 21, 2014.

State Wireless Associations are assessing how the newly published rules will impact the industry. The California Wireless Association will be holding an educational session on the rules on Jan. 15, 2015.

Two siting attorneys contacted by Wireless Estimator said it would take them some time to compare the newly released rules to see what changes have been made from the original report and order, and how they affect the siting community.

The Commission, in its final rule which was published in the Federal Register today, provides long-sought definitions and clarifications.

The Commission concluded that “transmission equipment” should be broadly interpreted to ensure coverage for all wireless broadband services, including future services not yet contemplated.

It stated that “transmission equipment” will encompass antennas and other equipment associated with and necessary to their operation, including power supply cables and backup power equipment.

The commission also adopted the definitions of “tower” and “base station”.

A tower, according to the FCC, includes any structure built for the sole or primary purpose of supporting any Commission-licensed or authorized antennas and their associated facilities.

The Commission stated that the term “base station” includes any equipment associated with wireless communications service including, but not limited to, radio transceivers, antennas, coaxial or fiber-optic cable, regular and backup power supply, and comparable equipment.

The Commission also ruled that “base station” encompasses the relevant equipment in any technological configuration, including DAS and small cells.

The FCC also adopted a standard for determining when a proposed modification will “substantially change the physical dimensions” of an existing tower or base station if the modification meets any of the following criteria:

(1) for towers outside of public rights-of-way, it increases the height of the tower by more than 10%, or by the height of one additional antenna array with separation from the nearest existing antenna not to exceed twenty feet, whichever is greater; for those towers in the rights-of-way and for all base stations, it increases the height of the tower or base station by more than 10% or 10 feet, whichever is greater;

(2) for towers outside of public rights-of-way, it protrudes from the edge of the tower more than twenty feet, or more than the width of the tower structure at the level of the appurtenance, whichever is greater; for those towers in the rights-of-way and for all base stations, it protrudes from the edge of the structure more than six feet;

(3) it involves installation of more than the standard number of new equipment cabinets for the technology involved, but not to exceed four cabinets;

(4) it entails any excavation or deployment outside the current site of the tower or base station;

(5) it would defeat the existing concealment elements of the tower or base station; or

(6) it does not comply with conditions associated with the prior approval of construction or modification of the tower or base station unless the noncompliance is due to an increase in height, increase in width, addition of cabinets, or new excavation that does not exceed the corresponding “substantial change” thresholds identified above.

Today’s publication will trigger effective dates of 30 days for most rules, and 90 days for items related to Section 6409(a).

Some rules may require additional Office of Management and Budget approval.


January 7, 2015

South Dakota tower tech’s climb to 1,500 feet heads north of a million views

YouTube is littered with many hundreds of climbers that are captured as they ascend a tower. Oftentimes their videographers weep at view counts struggling to break double digits. But a mundane drone-shot bulb replacement video in South Dakota recently went viral, and it’s expected to surpass over one million views this week.

Dronie-Taking-A-SelfieFilmed in September, eight-year industry worker Kevin Schmidt was captured climbing a 1,500-foot decommissioned analog tower near Salem that required its obstruction lighting bulb to be replaced.

A drone piloted by Prairie Aerial caught the Sioux Falls Tower & Communications employee as he climbed the structure on a picture-perfect autumn day, unlike today’s -4°F with a  -40°F wind chill factor at ground level.

At the same time, a dronie caught Schmidt taking a selfie.

A bootlegged copy of the tower climb appeared on Facebook and was picked up by CNN, the New York Daily News, the Daily Mail, among many other media outlets. As of early this morning it had reached over 930,000 views.

Todd Thorin, who owns Prairie Aerial, directed the video on his off time when he was not performing his day job as Director of Safety and Training for Sioux Falls Tower & Communications. His sons, Joseph and Michael, assist in piloting the drones.

And for those who will surgically inspect the video frame-by-frame for safety violations, it appears that they’ll find that Schmidt was double hooking and tied off 100% of the time and not violating any OSHA regulation.

However, Thorin might be gingerly sidestepping one FAA requirement as Schmidt fulfills another FAA lamping obligation.

FAA regulations say drones shouldn’t be flown above 400 feet. Higher than that, drones start to interfere with the national airspace.

But Thorin believes he’s in line with the “spirit of the law” even if he’s violating the “letter of the law,” he told Wireless Estimator. Regular aircraft, he said, are prohibited from flying within 500 feet of the tower.

“We’re not interfering with them and they’re not interfering with us,” he said.

Entrepreneurship runs deep at Sioux Falls Tower & Communications. Its president, Craig Snyder, a former Chairman of the National Association of Tower Erectors, and Bart Roberts, the tower erector’s Vice President, founded Pomegranate Market along with two other men in 2010.

The successful venture provides local and natural organic foods and has a 40-seat bistro.

Thorin joins many other videographers who are capable of taking exciting aerial shots that used to be the domain of Hollywood or big budget projects with drones and ever-changing video cameras. For the Salem shoot he used a customized Phantom ll drone and a GoPro camera. He founded Prairie Aerial in June of 2014 and has enjoyed providing video at less challenging heights and locations such videoing a marketing overview of the campus of the University of South Dakota.

He said that the Salem video has seen an additional 600,000 views after a pirated copy was placed on a ham radio Facebook page. He had the video removed due to copyright infringement. “Our YouTube video had close to 30,000 views on Friday and I couldn’t believe that within three days it was heading towards a million,” said Thorin.

At a keynote event yesterday afternoon at the Consumer Electronic Show, Intel’s chief executive Brian Krzanich unveiled Nixie, a wristband that transforms into a selfie-snapping flying camera drone.

Although Intel may lay claim to inventing the most unique wrist-worn drone, Thorin will most likely be credited with identifying the long-sought answer to: How many millions of people does it take to watch a light bulb changed?


December 24, 2014

New York State Troopers ticket technicians for taking an illegal smoke break

Tower-Climber-PotTwo tower technicians responding to a T-Mobile trouble ticket in Upstate New York ended up with a ticket of their own from Wappinger, N.Y. State Troopers on Tuesday for unlawful possession of marijuana.

Authorities say a rental truck drove through the rear parking lot of the barracks in the Dutchess County town of Wappinger around 8 a.m.

As the truck headed into the wooded area around the communication tower at the rear of the property an investigator thought it looked suspicious and asked uniformed troopers to accompany him to check it out.

Police learned the workers from Brooklyn, N.Y. and Paterson, N.J. were authorized to work within the tower compound, but during questioning, troopers noticed a strong odor of marijuana. A search turned up several bags of pot on the men and they issued a ticket.


December 24, 2014

Happy holidays! May 2015 be the safest year ever.

Happy-Holidays


December 19, 2014

South Carolina technician, 44, is 10th industry worker to die this year

Tower-Climber-Death-TN

Authorities said that the technician who died was a member of a three man crew working on a cell site off of West Vann Rd. in Greeneville, Tenn. The 44-year-old man was 2014’s tenth industry fatality.

UPDATE: Authorities have identified the tower technician who fell approximately 100 feet from a cell tower in Greeneville, Tenn. yesterday as 44-year-old Allen Lee Cotton of Sumter, S.C.

Two of his co-workers from Central USA Wireless did not see him fall, according to Greeneville Police Officer Shawn Hinkle’s report which provided information regarding the 12:25 p.m. incident.

“Mr. Cotton was wearing safety equipment but it is unclear whether it was working properly,” the report said.

Co-worker Michael Gooch was also working on the opposite side of the tower and did not see him fall, according to the report.

Another co-worker on the three man crew, Richard Wright, was working on a computer in his truck at the time of the incident, which remains under investigation by Greeneville police and the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Wireless Estimator has identified that the workers were performing a project for Ericsson for their client, Sprint. The 197-foot monopole is owned by Crown Castle International.

Cotton is the 10th technician that was performing professional elevated services to die in 2014.

Central USA Wireless, based in Cincinnati, Ohio,  did not return a request for additional information.

Although OSHA identifies that there have been 12 fatalities this year, their total includes a ham radio operator who was assisting a friend with his backyard antenna when he fell. In addition, they are also counting a fireman who was killed while on the ground when a tower collapsed upon him, according to an OSHA spokesperson.


December 18, 2014

Technician succumbs following a 100-foot fall in Greeneville, Tennessee

A tower technician fell to his death this afternoon in Greeneville, Tenn., according to Greene County EMS Director Robert Sayne, who said he was at approximately the 100-foot level when the incident occurred. Sayne did not have any additional information. An individual familiar with the worker’s death, said the tech was working on an Ericsson project for Sprint on a 197-foot monopole owned by Crown Castle when he fell. His employer, reportedly an Ohio-based company, did not answer their phone late this afternoon. Wireless Estimator will provide additional information as it becomes available.


December 17, 2014

Falling fuel prices providing early holiday gifts, especially to American Tower

Jim-Taiclet-American-Tower

American Tower President and CEO Jim Taiclet’s early Christmas present was a reduced operating expense, especially in the REIT’s India operations

Contractors and other infrastructure companies have seen free-falling fuel prices prop up their bottom line as gasoline continues to drop across the nation to its lowest prices since 2009.

Although diesel fuel’s drop hasn’t been as dramatic, it too is showing a steady decline.

Even though Spectrum Antenna Service and 23 other Missouri-based contractors can get gas today for as little as $2.04 per gallon, the company that may reap the biggest benefit from oil’s increasing supply is American Tower Corporation.

In addition to enjoying lower prices at the pump, the company had replaced their aging fleet of vehicles and cut their fuel consumption by approximately 14%. They said that this equates to 53,000 fewer gallons of fuel consumed, or roughly having the same impact as removing 25 trucks from service.

But where the international tower owner will really benefit is in a drop in their operating expenses of their 12,000 towers in India.

Since India’ national electricity grid meets less than a third of ATC’s tower site energy needs, the majority of structures are powered by generators, although the company is exploring renewable energy sources.

Shaving their fuel operating expenses even further was the country’s deregulation of fuel prices in October.

If reports are correct that ATC is going to invest $1 billion to buy 51% of Viom, a tower company controlled by Tata Teleserves, the Boston-based REIT will most likely merge Viom’s estimated 42,000 towers into their portfolio.

Off the electric grid sites will then increase to approximately 18,000.


December 16, 2014

Corroded anchor may have contributed to a South Dakota tower’s collapse

SD-Tower-Collapse-1

This 300-foot guyed tower reportedly collapsed after a corroded anchor shaft snapped off

A guyed tower in Mitchell, SD collapsed on Monday on West Havens Ave. due to severe winter weather conditions, but a corroded anchor rod may have contributed to the structure’s failure.

The anchor shaft on one of the tower’s outer foundations separated from its deadman foundation  due to severe corrosion, according to an individual knowledgeable about the collapse.

Following the anchor snapping off, the top half of the 300-foot tower folded over.

Nobody was at the tower site when the collapse occurred.

TIA-1019-A requires workers to perform an inspection of the anchors to ensure the safety of personnel prior to climbing and performing any work.

Although the standard’s structural safety check list requires answering: Did you check all guys and their associated anchors for corrosion?, it is not a common practice for crews to dig below the surface to identify whether there are corroded shafts.

The tower supported FM station KVCF’s antenna. The Christian radio broadcast station is owned by VCY America.

In 2012, KSMQ-TV’s tower collapsed in Austin, Minn. during a severe wind and rain storm. The public television station’s insurance carrier refused to pay for a replacement because they said a corroded anchor rod was responsible for the collapse.


December 15, 2014

Report: 5G growth won’t be introduced as quickly as 4G networks

If you’re looking to cash in on increased contractor opportunities that will become available as America moves towards a still undefined 5G network, seen as the mobile interface on which the network of the 2020’s and 2030’s will be based, you might have to reevaluate your business plan, according to a new market data forecast released by ABI Research.
5-G-Wireless-1
Research director Philip Solis said it will take more than five years for 5G to reach 100 million subscribers in the world, two years longer than the 4G rollout.

Equipment manufacturers have previously stated that the commercial operation of 5G telecom services would start globally by 2020, and it is estimated that it will provide 1,000 times more capacity than current mobile broadband networks.

Although there is still a large extent of debate on what 5G is exactly about, last month, Megafon and Huawei said it will be developing a 5G network in Russia and a pilot program would be available by the end of 2017. Huawei and SingTel also announced that they were collaborating to launch a 5G program.

“4G subscriber growth was much faster than with previous generations, fuelled by the capabilities of increasingly powerful smartphones and the availability of 4G devices. 5G subscriber growth will likely be a bit more muted at first due to the increased complexity of 5G cells and networks, but will pick up in 2023,” said Solis

The report stated: “There are a number of commonalities between countries that are early builders of 5G networks. They have a large population, of which a large percentage is living in urban areas. They also have many companies pushing the envelope with IoT strategies. These countries will drive 5G subscriber volumes. These are the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom in order of 5G subscribers in 2025.”

A 5G network will be a network of small cells and will be practical in urban and industrialized environments for the population density and the reflections in urban canyons; however, Solis said, you can expect a scaled down version of 5G to use existing spectrum for macrocells as well in the longer term.

5G will encompass spatial division as the foundation of the air interface, leveraging techniques like massive MIMO—achievable in devices because of the high frequency of spectrum that will be used—and 3D beamforming to form narrow beams that divide the space around a 5G base station. Client devices will have links to multiple cells simultaneously for robust connectivity. Spectrum will be used flexibly and shift as needed between access and fronthaul and backhaul. The waveform and modulation scheme are the least clear aspects of 5G currently, said Solis.

Although capabilities beyond those defined in the current 4G network are under consideration, 5G does not describe any particular specification in any official document published by any telecommunication standardization body.

In a statement, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler recently said, “The possibilities of 5G are very intriguing. The technology is certainly intriguing, but even more intriguing is what it means for the future of communications. It promises new user experiences, new deployment models, potentially even new industries. 5G will not be just better, faster, and cheaper; it likely will be something fundamentally different from what is possible today.”

Data will be one of the key drivers for 5G and its introduction may for the first time see no dedicated voice service. In 5G, voice is expected to be handled as an application, using the data connectivity provided by the communication system.


December 14, 2014

After two years of sparring, KSMQ settles tower collapse claim

When KSMQ-TV’s tower collapsed on Sept. 5, 2012 in Austin, Minn. during a severe wind and rain storm, the public television station turned to their insurance carrier to assist them in covering their anticipated cost of $620,000 to replace their 444-foot tall guyed tower.
KSMQ-Tower-Collapse
Then The Hanover Insurance Group threw them a curve ball, stating that they weren’t going to cover the claim since the tower fell not because of the storm, but because one of the 30-year-old tower’s anchors was faulty.

For two years KSMQ and Hanover’s experts sparred over the cause of the collapse, but they took off the gloves, went to a mediation hearing, and reached an agreement on Thursday that will have Hanover providing an undisclosed amount of money to rebuild the tower.

Hanover had originally said that their engineering firm’s report indicated the anchor was badly corroded for most of its length and broke off during the storm.  Their expert suggested this corrosion would have been noticeable for at least the past 10 years.

KSMQ countered that the corrosion would have been about two feet below the ground, which would prevent the corroded anchor from being spotted during routine maintenance. In addition, their structural engineer identified that high-line winds were the likely cause of the tower’s collapse.

Although many major tower consolidators will dig around the exposed anchor rod to identify whether it is corroded, KSMQ had submitted testimony from industry professionals who stated that it was not a normal process to check anchors for corrosion under the ground by digging them out.

A state investigator and a forensic meteorologist came to Austin in June to investigate the dispute. KSMQ has an agreement through 2017 to broadcast through towers owned by television station KTTC.


December 14, 2014

Four miraculously survive crash after aircraft clips Verizon tower in Missouri

Excellent emergency piloting, luck or a combination of both on Friday evening allowed a pilot and his three passengers to live and recount their harrowing experience after their aircraft clipped a self-supporting tower in Springfield, Mo. and Cell-Tower-Plane-Crash continued for a mile and a half before crashing into a vacant lot.

The pilot, Bill Perkins, was well-aware of the obstruction hazards towers present. Perkins owns KSPR-TV which broadcasts from a 1,997-foot guyed tower in Fordland, Mo.

Two passengers walked away from the scene of the crash at 5:30 p.m.; Perkins suffered a couple of bones broken and another passenger received minor injuries, according to authorities.

A witness, also a pilot, said he saw the six-seat craft come in from the west and hit the tower.

“It came right over this building, headed toward this tower and it hit the tower,” Steve Moore said. “It looked like probably the left wing hit it. Big thud, great old fuel trail behind it,” Moore told KOLR 10.

Brenda Hill, a public relations manager for Verizon Wireless, confirmed yesterday that the plane made contact with a Verizon-owned cell tower near Chestnut Expressway and the Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge.

Hill said there was no loss of service, but Verizon representatives were on the scene Saturday to assess the damage to the tower and determine what repairs were needed, if any.

Investigators from the FAA and NTSB are continuing to investigate the crash.


December 13, 2014

New year will usher in eased FAA lighting failure reporting requirements

FCC-Lighting_Rules_ChangeThe Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), through coordination with the FCC and other federal stakeholders, expects by mid-January 2015 to streamline the online process for submitting Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) to alert pilots to tower lighting outages.

The FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau issued an advisory earlier this week announcing the FAA’s new process which will permit tower owners to individually select the active period for each NOTAM in lieu of the current default requirement of 15 days.

Under the current system, tower owners are required to notify the FAA, either via telephone or through a web-based form maintained by the FAA’s US NOTAM office, within 30 minutes of discovering a lighting failure and then  take steps the repair the outage as quickly as possible.

The agencies recognized that some lighting outages cannot be addressed within the 15 day period and having a default period may create unnecessary burdens and inefficiencies on tower owners forced to make repeated filings and the agencies that process them.

To streamline the process, the FAA plans to revise its web-based form by mid-January to allow tower owners to self-select an expected repair date and not be required to conform to the current 15-day shotclock.

Aggressive enforcement on the horizon?
While the change will allow tower owners to self-select the repair deadline, every outage should be corrected as soon as possible, but the FCC said it will respond aggressively if they discover tower owners are abusing a system designed to protect aviation safety.

The FCC said its staff may investigate cases where a tower owner selects an unusually long time period to make a repair, where multiple NOTAMs appear to have been submitted for a single tower within a relatively short period of time; where a tower owner repeatedly fails to cancel NOTAMs after repairs are complete; or where other circumstances suggest a need for closer scrutiny.

Few citations issued in 2014
Either tower owners are maintaining their lighting systems more effectively or the FCC’s enforcement agents are attending to other priorities since only a handful of citations were made in 2014.

The last tower lighting-related notice of liability was issued on Oct. 17, 2014 to American Tower Corporation in the amount of $10,000 for a lighting failure on a structure in Oak Park, Mich.

On Aug. 28, 2014, the FCC reduced the fine given to Telava Wireless to $7,500 from $17,000 because the company said it couldn’t afford the fine and the FCC agreed that the reduction was in order for the lighting failure that occurred in 2012.

The more common FCC violation cited by the agency to tower owners is for not having their gate locked. They also carry some of the highest fines.

– – –  If you have any questions regarding obstruction lighting, contact one of Wireless Estimator’s lighting suppliers and/or manufacturers in the Blue Book Obstruction Lighting Category


December 13, 2014

Wind speed tower ruling in Oklahoma sets new lighting standards

The Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission (OAC)  has adopted emergency rules designed to protect low-flying aircraft from towers over 50’ in height used to measure and record wind speed.

met-tower-pic[1]The new lamping law requires companies who erect wind speed measurement towers to mark them according to the Commission’s rules.  It is presumed that it would also include all of the State’s meteorological towers since the rule states: “ ‘Anemometer tower’ means a structure, including all guy wires and accessory facilities, on which an anemometer is mounted…”.

The structures must be painted with seven alternating bands of aviation orange and white, and marker balls and safety sleeves will have to be attached to the guy wires. Towers erected prior to the date the Commission adopted the rules will have until Nov. 13, 2015, to comply with the new regulations.
Failure to do so could result in a fine of up to $3,000.

The rules are a result of legislation passed by state lawmakers earlier this year. They must be approved by Governor Mary Fallin before they go into effect.

Stronger calls for improved markings of anemometer towers have increased recently from the National Transportation Safety Board and agriculture community following several deaths involving crop dusters.

According to the OAC, one such incident occurred in the Oklahoma Panhandle in the summer of 2013 and another in California, which resulted in a $6.7 million wrongful-death settlement. In both cases, the pilots collided with towers that were not marked in a manner that made them readily visible.

Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) suggested that the governors in every state should take action and require the marking of the towers so that risks of collisions with aircraft would be minimized.


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