Is it worth the shortcuts? When I work on a project we have to balance costs with time to market. That is very important in today’s wireless rollouts. The problem is there are so many delays that the carriers and customer don’t anticipate. This also applies to small cells. RF design is the first step, there has to be a design in place to decide where to put the sites. Then you may need to do a survey to determine if the site ir location is viable. In the case of small cells you may want to measure the existing macro signals to get a baseline of the existing signal. When you do a design, clutter data isn’t always accurate.
The real time killer is site acquisition. This is where the leasing, permitting, zoning, and approvals all take place. Let me tell you, the zoning and permitting are very painful. The townships and cities you have to deal with could drag everything out because they may not have a proper procedure in place for approvals. They don’t understand RF or in most cases structural engineering. They are only thinking of aesthetics and income. They want more money, like when they raise taxes, they seek a revenue stream. This has been a holdup in so many projects that I have worked on. Not only for carriers, but for public safety. Sometime they only hold meetings at night that you have to attend, and they may only have one meeting a month so it takes at least 2 months for them to make the decision. This seems to be getting better but with the growth of small cells it may get backlogged again. Sometimes, it’s all in who you know to get something done in some cases. It’s a shame that this process cannot be speeded up.
I think the reason companies put all the pressure on construction is because they feel it’s something they can control. The actual installation of the equipment is something that the project managers think they can completely control. There are issues at play that revolve around safety and hardware. If you don’t have the hardware then it may stop everything. Unfortunately safety is overlooked in some of these cases. That is because when people start working all they are thinking about is the finish line.
The way it works is when the approvals come out of Site Acquisition and the hardware is ready, then the deployment moves full speed ahead. To save money most contractors will try to get as many site staged in the warehouse as possible so the crews will dedicate their time to the one project. This is great if they have the manpower and equipment to handle it. As the PM gets pressure to roll out then the crew will get pressure to perform. Unfortunately this is where we could have problems. Most crews drive so far to do the installation that they don’t get to rest before they start. This is an issue because they have to be aware of potential delays. Weather is a big one, they may want to beat the rain. The job is probably flat fee so they know the sooner they get done the sooner they get paid. They may be missing hardware or the survey had an error on the type of tower, the height, the leg sizes, the mounting brackets, or anything. This is where the problems begin. The crew on site has to compensate for anything that was missed, overlooked, or forgotten. They also have to work around the bad weather, the hazards, or anything else.
More to come later.