2018 was an important year for the wireless industry, with progress in fiber, small cells and standards development setting the stage for the coming wave of 5G deployments.
Sitetracker, a telecom project and asset management provider, has a unique perspective on the work that is being done in the wireless infrastructure industry. Its platform helps telecom companies manage network and equipment deployment projects.
In a retrospective report about activity during 2018, Sitetracker said it observed an increasing volume and variety of updates, tasks, milestones and projects among its clients last year, and it expects this activity to increase 15 percent in 2019. The company’s platform tracked 192.4 million project updates last year, reflecting the massive scale of telecom infrastructure projects underway.
“2018 was really a year of laying the foundation for 5G,” said Sitetracker CEO Giuseppe Incitti. “There’s so much work to be done and there’s definitely more groundwork ahead of us in 2019. I think, though, that we will see a more intense focus on efficient deployment — particularly around operational infrastructure — that will pave the way for 5G.”
Network densification will prove to be crucial this year as 5G deployments become a reality. This includes new tower builds as well as DAS and small cell deployments, Sitetracker said. According to Sitetracker’s report, site selection and permitting processes were largely completed for 4G LTE sites in 2018 and will continue into 2019, laying the groundwork for an upsurge in future modification projects that will migrate these sites from 4G LTE to 5G technology during the next few years.
“Network densification is only accelerating,” said Incitti. “Soon we will have 500 cells per square mile in densified areas, so the demand is only going up. With this demand, the carriers and their service providers need to address the significant operational needs created by this increasing project volume.”
Wired infrastructure backhaul, including fiber optic cable, will also prove indispensable in supporting future connectivity, the company said. Deployment of fiber is expected to be one of the largest ongoing, high-volume projects for the telecom industry as these backhaul and transport links will need to cover thousands, if not millions, of miles to support 5G. Sitetracker said its customers completed 12,000 fiber projects last year and it expects an exponential increase in fiber projects among its clients this year.
Adopting processes that allow carriers, vendors and infrastructure providers to be efficient and flexible will be key to success in the rapidly changing and fast-moving wireless infrastructure industry, Sitetracker said.
“If we, as an industry, don’t address the need for optimizing our project processes, we have a difficult path ahead of us,” said Incitti. “It’s time to start evaluating technology solutions to address the growing volume, velocity, and variety of projects. It comes down to this: Innovate or be left behind.”