I want to go over the Large Wireless Network Deployment process. It is something that takes a long time to plan out and there is so much to consider. We often just see one phase of it, out in the field. The planning and preparation that goes into it can be a meticulous process, especially for the government roll outs. The carriers are better at it because they continuously do it and the entire company is on board with it. The challenges that utilities and governments have to deal with are politics and payback because they build their networks for different reasons, not just to generate income but to save money and lives.
So while I was at IWCE I sat in several sessions that they had. There were so many so I had to focus on a few. I attended FirstNet sessions but in addition I wanted to concentrate on the tower work, DAS, and Small Cell. I sat through a session on deployments that were geared to get the states, cities, and other government entities prepared for a large deployment.
Listen to the podcast for much more detail, there is too much to list here.
For this scenario I am going to present a large deployment. This is a bird’s eye view of the process. Of course many of you are involved in the specifics. I just want you to see the perspective from the end customer’s vantage point.
So in deployment the plan to be more thorough in the planning of the deployment. I see the way that consultants are going to be more and more involved in future deployments. They will be involved in the deployment planning. This is the initial work up front, usually 1 or 2 years before anyone really has a plan. They will be working with the customer to plan out what they will do. This is something that most deployment people get involved in but business development might be listening for something like this. A great example of this, which you can follow, is the FirstNet deployment. They have been planning the system out for years to make sure it is the system that will be working for years. They intend to have a broadband system to support public safety, utilities and other government entities to have access to.
Next will be the RFI, Request for Information. This is where the people doing the deployment will request information about the equipment, hardware, and timelines. I have been involved in many of these and they are very time-consuming because it’s the customer’s vision, but it may not be attainable or it may be unrealistic or it may be too soon to implement, meaning that they equipment is not ready for prime time. There could be several RFIs to clarify the expectation and to make sure all the contractors and OEMs are synced up.
Then will be the actual plan for deployment and then the RFP, Request for Price, or RFQ, request for Quote. These are where the customer will send out the refined system, the goal, the actual system that is set to be built with the expectations of the customer. This is where the larger contractors will respond with an answer for all of this. Then they will put RFQs out to the contractors to do the work or they will build a budget around your past pricing. Trust me, they don’t always have time to complete the RFQ process. This is where the larger contractors need to have good documentation on past projects. They also need to confer with the front line to make sure that pricing does not change.
Then, the evaluation process happens. This is where the customer and maybe their consultants review everything. This is where they need to decide who has the best answer for the best price. I know all of you think the response is solely on price, but if the customer is smart, they balance the responses out. Then the decision to install a system that meets all (or most) of their needs for the best price. This takes time and based on how they structured the RFP is it may be a long process to get to comparing apples to apples.
Then the award! Oh that sweet award. Actually the award may not be until after a long grueling questioning process to determine if the contractor can actually do what they said they could. It matters to make sure that they are all on the same page.
Just because you won the bid doesn’t mean you will get the work, you need to go through the qualification and then you may move ahead. Big jobs are tough, it’s more about the high level up until now. If the qualification took place and there were no objections, then the next step. Qualifications will take some time because you will need to lay out the plan and provide detail on how you will reach the customers expectations in not only the technical aspects like coverage and loading, but also the timeline for deployment and a plan.
Timelines are an issue. Remember that if you plan to build new sites or acquire new sites, that takes time! The structural may take time, but not always, if you have paperwork from a previous structural, which most tower owners should have, then it doesn’t take long at all, unless you need to improve the structural integrity of the tower, then that will have to be done. Remember to be realistic, set expectations, and allow for possible delays. This is a big step though, you start the design and then you do the surveys and build the BOMs. Here is where the site engineering takes place, oh boy!
Now, when all of that is completed, then the deployment or migration or upgrades. Whatever you may be doing in this case. There is always an opportunity for more work after the win. It’s up to you to decide if it’s what you want to do or not.
Be smart, be safe, and pay attention!