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Insights for the Joint Use Sector in 2019

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The joint use community faces several changes in the coming year, as the nation prepares for 5G and attempts to remove existing barriers to deployment. The joint use industry includes professionals in the utility, communications, or broadband sector. It refers to those who jointly use infrastructure to supplement their services. These professionals are facing rapid change as the new year brings heavy volumes of small cell and DAS attachments, fiber installations, and FCC deployment policies. Because of these changes, the joint use community will face several variations in their daily processes, roles, and responsibilities.

5G

While there are no defined parameters around what to expect with 5G, the latest generation of cellular communications is motivating service providers to deploy promptly. The next generation of wireless service promises lightning-fast speeds and aims to support the most reliable connections to date.  To support 5G, the communications industry is deploying a mass volume of new attachments to supplement the existing wireless infrastructure. 

 Small Cell & DAS

Because of the 5G preparations in place, joint use departments of electric utilities are facing an exploding interest from wireless carriers to attach small cell equipment to their infrastructure. Small cell and DAS are being installed in metro areas, large event venues, and rural areas. In both 2017 and 2018, utility pole owners were flooded with small cell attachment requests.

The number of small cell attachments in the United States was around 13,000 in 2017. Last year, the number grew to around 150,000. According the FCC, 2020’s numbers are expected to grow to over 450,000 attachments.

Fiber Deployment

Small cell and DAS attachments are both powered by fiber. As consumers demand for faster speeds and better performance becomes louder, service providers must meet these needs with fiber. The IoT is creating a new tech landscape for the world, and its foundation is fiber. Additionally, broadband providers seek to close the digital divide and are laying fiber optic cable to deploy internet service to all Americans.

The powerful economic incentives for extending fiber are creating new routes for deployment among providers. Creativity and innovation within government programs, grassroots organizations, and other businesses are helping broadband move forward.

 

One Touch Make Ready

Currently, the joint use community is busy transitioning to the new rules and timetables established by the FCC in the August 2018 One Touch Make Ready order. States regulated by the FCC must adhere to the new practices in the utility pole communications space. The rule changes are designed to encourage reliable and safe access to poles. The Report and Order has outlined several changes and new policies to encourage swift deployment.

The new OTMR guidelines require shortened timetables for all steps of the make-ready process. The joint use parties involved (asset owners, existing attachers, and new attachers) have new roles and responsibilities. The biggest change is that new attachers will be allowed to handle all make-ready work in as little as one visit, attempting to reduce the previously long process by more than three months.

What’s Next for Joint Use?

The high-volume of rapid changes will require all parties in the joint use community to work together in 2019. These changes ask professionals in the utility and communications sectors to adjust current processes in business in order to successfully deploy broadband. Because of this, the need to ensure the quality and safety of their work is as great as ever. The coming months and years will be challenging, but valuable solutions are available to help the joint use community navigate the unfamiliar requirements.

One recommendation to joint use parties is to go the electronic route for all their data and processes. Utilizing a system that contains all asset data, contracts, billing and invoicing documents, pole history, GPS data, and attachment information is essential to moving forward. Utilities should take interest in using a joint use platform system that will work for their data; one that automates joint use processes and keeps them compliant with FCC policies.

To learn more about a joint use system that centralizes data and automates process, visit: www.aldensys.com/aldenone

Mary Ashley Canevaro's picture

Thank Mary Ashley for the Post!

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