Strategies to handle the 5G rollout
The September 27, 2018 release of FCC-18-133A1: Accelerating Wireless Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment will have significant impacts to utilities of all sizes over the next few years. Nationwide cellular companies and other users of 5G broadcast services are currently exploring options to place their “Small Wireless Facilities” on existing utility structures via Joint Use applications.
How can utilities position themselves to respond to an onslaught of applications?
It is advantageous for utilities to take a proactive approach to engaging with applicants for small cell wireless joint use. One of the most compelling reasons: it’s likely that the first 10 percent of locations requested for joint use will be on the easiest poles for the applicant. The remaining 90 percent will increase in difficulty and costs, for both the utility and for the applicant. As opposed to the 3G and 4G cellular rollout, there are approximately 10 times the number of installations required to make the 5G system work. The sheer volume of locations required means that any and all locations will be considered in order to meet the density and spacing requirements for the 5G rollout.
For example, applicants may be well into the process of design or installation before realizing that there is inadequate power available in a particular location. In areas with underground supply to light poles, this can be an expensive issue (approximately $10,000 or more per location) that can be avoided by working together to identify the most cost-effective solutions ahead of time. Anecdotal evidence also indicates that the majority of existing streetlight poles will likely be structurally inadequate to handle the additional approximately 10 percent increase in load applied to them as a result of the 5G equipment. Structural analysis of proposed locations is an important step in the process.
As a means to managing the volume of applications, utilities will likely lean on the applicant or the applicant’s engineering vendors to correctly fill out the applications and provide all engineering input. Utilities will need robust processes to review and ensure that the applications meet their requirements.
It is in the best interest of a utility to develop a standardized application that enables the applicant and the utility to work together in a collaborative manner. The following are suggested steps in that process:
- Develop a standard application for all requestors to use
- Applicant information
- Name of applicant
- Desired location
- Construction drawings
- Structural analysis report (if desired)
- Visual depictions
- Specific locations
- Certifications for new poles
- Provide specifications and standards (some utilities are using decorative dual use street light poles with internal cavities for each utility)
- Determine if metering is required at each pole
- Develop a handbook for applicant use
- Provide examples of “good” applications, maps, and standards
- Applicant information
- Consider if the existing secondary mains are sized adequately for additional load
- Decide if pole analysis will be required
- What software are you going to accept?
- Are you going to require a PE stamp?
- Will you perform the PE work for the requestor if they are unable to do it?
- Determine the primary stakeholders by asking:
- Who is doing the Make Ready Engineering work?
- Who is doing the Field Verification? And when?
- Who is doing the as built drawings?
- Who is responsible for updating the mapping software for your utility?
- How many agencies/authorities are involved in the ROWs?
- Consider rearranging the agreements to block exclusive agreements
- Establish guidelines for batching applications
Utilities are also challenged in determining what regulations apply to pole owners, and what regulations apply to local authorities. Making it even more complex: one solution may not fit all. Some Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs) operate in multiple state jurisdictions. Larger utilities will likely publish the guidelines they will be using to make decisions, which should help the applicants know what rules and procedures to follow.
- The Federal Pole Attachment Act governs 30 states, and applies only to incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs), and electric, gas, water, steam and other public utilities (IOUs). It does not apply to poles owned by railroads, co-ops, and municipal utilities.
- States that govern themselves are: AK, AR, CA, CT, DE, ID, IL, KY, LA, ME, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OR, UT, VT, WA, and the District of Columbia.
By taking the time to understand what regulations apply in their territories, and to develop a standard application, a utility will reduce their workload as they process the large number of submitted applications. This is also an ideal time to make sure that standards are up-to-date and easy to access by the applicants.
With more than 70 years of experience in the utility industry, Leidos has a proven history of helping its clients successfully assess their readiness to support new regulations and requirements, as well as developing longer term strategies for continued success. Leidos helps utilities develop and implement solutions to their unique challenges by evaluating existing systems, assessing where improvements need to be made, and developing solutions that are uniquely tailored to meeting the challenges that each utility will face.