Small Cell Deployment: 10 tips you need, especially #6.

Hello wireless workers in the wireless world! OK, this is long, but full of good information! Listen to the podcast here and downloaded here. I also have some notes at the end.

Small cells, small cells, small cells! Are you tires of hearing about small cells? They have been hyped but they are slow to roll out. However, many of the obstacles, mostly permitting and leasing, will be overcome at the end of 2014, yay! So now what, will the carriers go to the lowest bidder? Maybe, because they need to have the learning curve, that is except maybe Verizon and AT&T. They already learned that there are skills involved in deployment. So they should have the requirements listed when they put the installations out to bid. Why? Because they want to do it once, not twice! Luckily they learned a lot in their trials. So let me share some of what I know with you.

I want to give you some insight as to what will set you apart from other deployment companies in the business. It all comes down to skills! Skills that make you valuable so your company can honestly answer the RFP or RFQ without saying, “We can learn that if we win”. Now, don’t be naïve, it will come down to price if you qualify. The key thing is that they will try to hire crews in local markets to save any per diem costs. Remember that they put it out to bid to serve their purpose, not yours.

  1. Mounting options – knowledge of mounting options. I am talking about wall mount on a building, pole mount on a wood pole, light pole mount on a light pole, and strand mount on a cable. Know what you are mounting to and how to properly mount to each of them. It matters that you know what you are getting into and that you do a quality mount job. If the unit falls down in a year due to weather or vandals then you may not get another chance to deploy for that company again. Remember that they invite you to that bid offering.
  2. Antenna options – knowledge of how to mount antennas will play a key role in deployments. What does that mean? Do you know that the antenna will need to be vertical or horizontal? Will you need to point it at a bearing of 187 degrees? Does it matter? Yes, use your head and be aware of what you are mounting and how you mount it. Make sure it’s weather proof.
  3. Fiber termination – do you know how to terminate fiber. It will matter. You will need to connect the fiber to the router and or the small cell, it will need to have the proper connector and it will need to be done on site. Make sure your fiber skills are up to date.
  4. Training on the product – did you get trained on the product? Do you know the OEM? Do you have a clue or do you think you will wing it. Training matters, it will be so important if something goes wrong and the warranty is impacted. Do you think the customer will be happy if you do anything wrong? Do you see the payment from the customer fading away because you were not certified to mount that product and now someone else has to go out and fix your screw up? Training will matter!
  5. Backhaul connection options – do you know the difference between fiber connections? Do you know how to terminate CAT5 copper? Do you know what the DOCSIS interface is? I expect the cable companies will play a part in small cell deployment. Why? Because they have access to so many poles that they will be ready to assist in deployment if they don’t decide to deploy their own systems which would mean more work for you! So make sure your team has all the right tools, what will they be terminating? Will it be fiber, copper, or cable? It could be all three depending on the situation. Don’t show up with only fiber tools when you may need to be ready for CAT 5 and coax? Read the SOW!
  6. Street pole mounting locations – do you know the difference between a telecom zone and the power zone on a street pole? If you want to deploy, don’t be stupid and know the mounting locations and the rules. Strand mount has size and weight limitations, know them. Just ask the owner and do some research. Small cells are being designed to meet these specifications, so it may be in your best interest to know what can be mounted so if the OEM sends you the wrong unit then you can point it out once instead of replacing it later. If you mount something too big and too heavy the problems start with permitting and maybe a citation from the city and they could grow into the strand coming down or a truck catching the small cell and ripping the small cell and the strand out of the pole (it happened). That would be ugly and involve a lot of finger-pointing. It pays to arm yourself with some knowledge. Size and weight matter, in this case. Poles are filling up quick, or they will so if you see someone else on the pole then you may want to let everyone know. I don’t know how many small cells can be mounted on the pole but it seems to me that the first one to mount there wins.
  7. Router skills – this may be important to the deployment people in case there is a problem or if they have a script file that you need to load. It will help if you can do it. You may be able to do this in the warehouse prior to deployment, but it is something that can set you apart from your competition. If you do it in the warehouse make sure you label the units for the designated location if they each have a unique IP, it matters to the NOC so they know where you installed it. That is usually determined ahead of time. When they integrate it into the network they need to know exactly where it is if it doesn’t have a GPS or if it is in a large building.
  8. Grounding – so do you think because it is a small cell that it doesn’t need to be grounded. You should learn in your OEM train how to ground each unit properly because if anything is wrong they will blame grounding. They just do because no one really knows how it affects the base station, so do the grounding per the specification.
  9. RF knowledge – this will help in case they try to mount a small cell in a metal box, (this did happen) and then they wonder why it doesn’t work. It was a small cell with integrated antennas. This is something you could point out immediately. Not rocket science, but when the NOC is working on it they can’t see it, you can. Point that out.
  10. Acceptance testing – chances are they will ask the deployment team to do the testing when they turn it up. The plan is to have them come live immediately and with SON (Self Organizing Network) systems taking over along with plug and play technology, the installers should be able to use a special phone for the final test. This is something that you should be ready to learn and familiarize yourself with this. The OEM training should cover this so pay attention in class!


OK, that’s all I have for small cells. I have some cool things coming up. I have an interview with Vicky Kaseorg who wrote the The Tower Builderavailable on Amazon and it’s about the towers that were taken out by a hurricane and rebuilt by a tower builder and all the effort put into it as well as the life of Tony, the tower builder, and beacons. Yes, beacons, read it to learn more!

I also have an interview with a guy who is turned his toy drone helicopter into a tool to do tower inspections. He has a camera on it and he has the soft touch to control it around towers to take pictures. It’s really cool and when I get the information I will have Greg on my podcast and some of his pictures on my blog.

Someone reached out to me about rigging tags, and they offer free samples on that site. I am not getting anything for this word of mouth but I thought some of you may be interested. Someone sent me the link on LinkedIn and I thought I would share. It seems like a good way to mark your cables, shackles, and wire rope as well as your safety gear. They have guides here, if you’re interested.

If you’re interested, my books are “Field Worker’s Aid for Tower Work” and “Tower Climbing: An Introduction”.

Be safe, be smart, and pay attention! Robert T. Kiyosaki said focus – follow one course until successful which I think really applies to the communications work on the tower and off the tower. We all need to focus until the job is complete. Each job requires us to focus on it until it a success. Unfortunately many of you blame the schedule but if you look at the schedule and not the job at hand something may slip. If something slips on the tower then it may hit someone below. Then the schedule just doesn’t seem important anymore.


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