The promise of 5G is immense: a better quality of life for our country and our world. With far-reaching beneficial impacts on the economy, education, and healthcare, the swift and smooth deployment of 5G for all communities is now widely recognized as imperative. Access to reliable high-speed broadband is no longer a luxury—it’s a necessity to participate in the twenty-first century digital economy.

We've already begun to see progress as 5G has ushered in an era of more reliable, low-latency service and incredible fast-speed downloads to cities across the US Despite progress, a Broadband Now study stated that "based on new research conducted in 2021 on more than 58,000 addresses, we are confirming our estimate that at least 42 million Americans lack access to terrestrial broadband internet."

With the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in 2021, the federal government has promised that $65 billion will be earmarked for broadband infrastructure expansion. States also are stepping up to close the digital divide. Funding in the next few years will create many opportunities for state governments and their local partners to find innovative solutions for deployment.

But funding doesn’t address our industry’s biggest challenge: executing the work.

Greater numbers and new types of assets, rapid changes in technologies, and more frequent joint use interactions and requests make the job of 5G deployment more complex. Companies are having to do more with limited resources and shortages of skilled labor under tight timelines. Technology makes it possible to gather more data on assets than was practical in days past, but the sheer volume of data can be overwhelming. The need for closer and increased coordination among stakeholders, many of them new to the industry, only complicates things further.

A deployment this extensive puts a premium on efficiency.

In this guide, we’ll discuss the progress our industry has made, challenges that remain, strategies for managing these issues, and how to create efficiency in your processes.

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Chapter 1– The Status and Deployment of 5G Explained

To understand the 5G landscape, let’s first pause and examine some basics. What is required to deliver a top-level 5G rollout?

Deployment requires a dense cellular network to deliver high-speed, low-latency mobile service, and this kind of network requires time to build. Top-tier 5G relies on thousands of short-range small cell installations on utility poles, streetlights, buildings, and stand-alone structures to fill gaps in coverage.

Common Delivery Methods of 5G

Ultimately, a seamless and comprehensive 5G experience aims to blend low-band, mid-band, and, to the extent it’s practical, mmWave, or high-band. Here’s a quick look at the technologies:

  • Low-band: This type is the easiest to provide and is already accessible across much of the US. Speeds are somewhat better than 4G, but not at the high level consumers may expect when they think of 5G.
  • Mid-band: Many believe that accelerating mid-band coverage may ultimately be the key to consumer satisfaction with 5G. Mid-band provides much higher speeds than low-band and carries much farther than mmWave. Large providers are moving to expand it throughout their networks. The increased emphasis on mid-band, however, has led to some shifts in deployment strategy: some providers are giving macro towers priority over small cell in current infrastructure orders.
  • High-band, or mmWave: This type requires a dense network of small cell equipment along with macro towers. This configuration provides the highest speeds but is more arduous to maintain because of the short-distance signals. Currently, it’s mostly limited to large cities.

5G Rollout Timeline: An Update

Though we are now a few years into the rollout, 5G remains in the initial stages. Let’s examine where we are now through the lens of access, subscribers, and speed:

  • Access: A PwC report estimates that 80% of the country had access to some type of 5G service by July 2021. However, only a fraction of that total represented top-level mmWave, the fastest form of 5G (and the one that can best deliver the technology’s most-hyped benefits). For example, AT&T offers low-band 5G service in more than 14,000 cities and towns, but mmWave is in over 35 cities, including Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Dallas, Atlanta, Orlando, and Jacksonville.
  • Subscribers: Global technology intelligence firm ABI Research reports that by the end of 2020, there were 264 million global 5G subscribers. In November of 2021, they forecasted that the 5G market will continue to accelerate and reach 2.6 billion subscriptions by 2026. The research firms predict that mobile traffic will expand more than five times in 2026 compared to 2020, with more than half of that generated by 5G networks.
  • Speed: What about the promise of increased download speeds? 5G has improved this: according to Android Authority, 5G is anywhere from 5x to 10x faster than current 4G networks, but for consumers, the reality is often speeds in the 50Mbps to 100Mbps. In the future, 5G could end up 20x faster than 4G, or even higher. But speeds are highly variable and often impacted by patchy coverage.

What’s Driving Demand

Consumer expectations for speed and reliability continue to be driving factors in the demand for 5G. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, household need for better broadband and more bandwidth has evolved beyond high-definition streaming video, sophisticated gaming, and other bandwidth-hungry applications. The past two years have increasingly demonstrated how essential fiber is to the entire fabric of our lives—from remote work to telehealth to distance learning. Experts forecast that these trends will only grow in the coming years.

In addition to consumer demand, there’s the issue of volume: simply put, internet traffic is increasing exponentially every year. According to a report from CommScope, global internet traffic doubles every two years.

While companies have already recognized that they must proactively prepare for the changes ahead by installing more fiber, the reality is that the amount of work that needs to be done is now exceeding the resources available to take it on. Adding to these complications, the pandemic also caused equipment shortages, which hindered installation of cellular equipment that would have helped make the transition smoother.

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Rising to the Challenge: What’s Underway

Getting reliable 5G service into the hands of American consumers as quickly, safely, and efficiently as possible is a huge undertaking, involving many players and hundreds of thousands of small cell installations.

Small cell is an essential part of 5G networks, especially for high-band service. Communications companies are counting on small cell deployment to support new technologies, eliminating coverage drops in dense urban settings, and providing seamless access to 5G’s ultra-fast speeds. By blanketing an area with small cell attachments on utility poles, streetlights, and other joint use assets, carriers are forming dense networks that can improve network capacity up to 1,600 times and improve network performance by 315 percent.

As the 5G rollout progresses in cities across the US, the number of applications for small cell attachments to utility and streetlight poles is growing. According to the Small Cell Forum, during 2022, deployments and upgrades will total 3.95 million for the year, representing 16% growth over the pace in 2021. This increase in attachments has certainly impacted the joint use community.

In the past, joint use management primarily involved telephone and power companies, as well as municipalities. Often, it was difficult to know exactly how many attachments were on each pole and whether the attachers were paying for the space they occupied. Historically, field asset inventories had been notoriously time-consuming, expensive, and not as important as revenue-generating projects. Furthermore, insufficient or inaccurate data only complicated the problem. Now, these companies are facing exploding interest from wireless carriers to attach small cell equipment to their infrastructure, but they are still facing the same issues that they had in the past.

Certainly, joint use challenges remain, but the introduction of new stakeholders and new technologies has ushered in a new era in which the need to be more strategic cannot wait any longer. Today, forward-thinking companies are adapting in order to become more competitive. Electric power providers, telecommunications companies, and broadband providers have found that consolidating joint use data within one asset management system can streamline the attachment processes, especially for small cell.

Fiber to the X

The extensive deployment of high performance fiber is crucial to successfully deploying small cell and thus the ability to deliver on the promise of 5G to consumers. Fiber-optic cable is built for speed and reliability. It's flexible, durable, water-resistant, and ideal for carrying multiple signals over long distances without degrading.

Before the first fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) connections around 2005, networks used fiber-optic cables to carry signals over long distances, but they relied on copper cables to handle the final leg of the journey, taking those signals into individual neighborhoods and to individual homes.

Since then, fiber to the x—which includes FTTH as well as fiber-to-the-node, fiber-to-the-neighborhood, fiber-to-the-curb, fiber-to-the-cabinet, and other degrees of extension—has become common, although still far from universal. Fiber to the x means extending fiber into the final mile before the signal reaches its destination, which is widely viewed as the best way to deliver high-bandwidth, low-latency service. For that reason, fiber is being deployed deeper and deeper into many networks.

Fiber is ideally suited to meet the growing demands placed on wireless services, such as faster upload speeds to accommodate the growing number of sensors connecting automobiles, home systems, and devices. While fiber is positioned to be dominant now, several other forms of backhaul are available as practical alternatives, including copper ethernet, mmWave, microwave, and satellite.

In locations where fiber is already in place, it is likely to be used, even if it must be upgraded. The cost of upgrades can be justified by the competitive advantage and potential profits for companies that can quickly and smoothly supply reliable 5G service.

Looking Ahead

By now you’ve no doubt heard of the Internet of Things (IoT). With the ability to access much faster speed for internet service and video uploads, the IoT will enable interconnection and automation throughout society, including home systems, health devices, autonomous vehicles, and public functions such as traffic, energy, and public safety.

Extensive fiber is crucial to enabling cutting-edge technologies such as the IoT and smart cities to develop and flourish—not to mention supporting the everyday exploding use of technology by the ordinary consumer.

Imagine the full potential of smart cities: sensors will perform a multitude of functions that increase efficiency, save money, and improve public safety. For example, here are just a few of the advancements that the IoT can provide:

  • Smart lighting: Sensors in smart cities will automatically dim public lights on empty streets and turn them back on when a person or vehicle appears.
  • Improved traffic flow: To reduce congestion, traffic lights will be able to respond to actual traffic with sensors.
  • Better public safety: Sensors can measure a number of public safety indicators. For instance, gunshot detectors will lead to quicker, more informed police response (possibly even identifying the type of firearm used). Severe weather warnings will improve, and sensors will communicate which streets to avoid during flash floods.
  • Smart power: Power grids are critical to health and safety. With sensors monitoring power output, power outages will be detected and relayed immediately, helping responders get essential services restored sooner.

The deployment of small cell is key to this future reality. But progress must take place consistently and for all consumers, which brings us to the next point: What can be done to encourage closing the digital divide?

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Chapter 2 – Closing the Digital Divide

The advantages ushered in by 5G are thus far uneven. And it’s not just about accessing faster service. At the beginning of 2021, it was estimated that at least 3.8 million households with school-aged children lacked home internet access part or all of the time, according to a report from the National Governor’s Association.

With such a large gap, this basic inequity is expected to have continuing ripple effects in those communities. In essence, the efforts to close the digital divide have become an economic and social imperative. Solving this problem is a complex task, and even federal investment alone won’t make it disappear.

One reason behind the gap: businesses typically focus technological expansion on densely populated areas where the return on investment is highest, which is a sound financial decision. With that in mind, extension of those much-needed services to rural areas lags, if it happens at all.

The stakes are high. Without affordable high-speed internet access, whole swaths of the country will fall behind, without reliable and swift internet access to healthcare services, distance learning, and remote employment opportunities. In terms of significant community benefits, the more robust and comprehensive the 5G rollout is, the greater the gains will be for people who rely on mobile devices for internet.

Just as the timely, efficient deployment of 5G can reduce inequalities, a lurching, disjointed, inefficient rollout will only increase them. That’s why it is in the public's best interest that the responsible parties work together to get it right.

For this and many other reasons, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has made closing the digital divide a key goal and plans to spend billions of dollars over the next decade on efforts to meet that goal. Making broadband expansion cost-effective for providers is the key to actually closing the gaps in access.

However, federal and state initiatives alone will not be enough; companies must continue to find ways to identify and capitalize on efficiencies. To better understand how to tackle the challenges that lie ahead, let’s review some of the existing initiatives to facilitate deployment.

Efforts to Help Streamline Deployment

The FCC has two main strategies to make high-speed broadband deployment happen swiftly and more equitably: increased funding and regulation.


An FCC rural broadband initiative made funding available in 2021 to selected electric cooperatives across the country to help them provide broadband to the communities they serve. The agency’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) will supply $20.4 billion for these efforts over the next 10 years.

This program recognizes member-owned cooperatives’ long tradition of providing critical modernizing services to people in areas that many for-profit utilities were not serving. The FCC is requesting that co-ops take role in broadband expansion similar to the role they served in rural electrification during the first half of the twentieth century.


In 2018, the FCC approved several regulatory measures that sought to help control service providers’ costs and remove obstacles to wireless broadband deployment. These measures took effect in 2019. While municipal governments have challenged some of the regulations in court, a 2020 ruling by the Ninth Circuit upheld most of them, including the following:

  • Shot clocks: This order reduced the amount of time allowed for municipal governments to rule on permit requests from communications providers that want to install small cell equipment on streetlights or in the right of way (ROW). The periods are now 60 days for requests to attach and 90 days for requests to erect free-standing structures. The order also set time limits for various segments of the application and permitting process.
  • Fee restrictions: The FCC specified that permitting fees should not exceed the actual expenses incurred by asset owners during the process. It also required that the costs be “reasonable”; for example, the asset owner may not hire what is considered to be a high-cost consultant and pass that cost on to the applicant. The agency supplied guidelines for what it considered reasonable fees but declined to cap the fees at those amounts.
  • Moratoria: City governments are not allowed to enact blanket moratoria that put all deployments on hold.
  • One Touch Make Ready (OTMR): This order empowers a company that is attaching its equipment to another company’s assets to perform all the necessary work itself unless the asset owner chooses to do the work within a certain timeframe. This order also allows the attaching company to move and reattach third-party companies’ equipment as needed. The order requires the attaching company to notify the other companies of when the work will be performed. An analysis by McLean Engineering outlines some of the requirements and benefits of OTMR.
  • In addition to FCC initiatives, more than 25 states have enacted legislation to streamline regulations in a way that facilitates deployment of 5G small cell equipment, as summarized by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

In many cities, residents have pushed back against new equipment that they say will clutter their cities. Still, many cities are welcoming the new technology, accepting the costs, and working on ways to keep the extra equipment from being an eyesore. Aesthetic considerations are the basis for many of the municipal disputes that have arisen over 5G small cell deployment. Though many city officials want 5G service for their residents, businesses, and public spaces, and have accepted that deployment is inevitable anyway, they want to make sure it’s done in a way that is aesthetically acceptable, especially in residential neighborhoods and historic districts.

Finding a solution acceptable to all parties should be a common goal for all stakeholders. One key to finding that path is acknowledging the challenges so that innovative solutions can be implemented. Let’s take a look at the most pressing challenges for service providers and utilities.

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Chapter 3 – Challenges for Industry Stakeholders

Shortage of Skilled Workers and Materials

Even in the early stages of deployment, an insufficient workforce prevented 5G small cell deployment from moving at optimal speed, the FCC’s Brendan Carr explained in 2020. Some potential causes for the shortage of labor include:

  • Lack of public awareness about job opportunities
  • Potential workers’ aversion to heights or travel
  • Competition from other industries and trades
  • Lack of community college or technical training programs
  • A graying workforce approaching retirement

Fast forward to today, and there’s no doubt that more recent pandemic-related changes have not been kind to the 5G rollout. Hiring challenges continue to provide hurdles to progress. S&P Global Market Intelligence notes that during a January 2020 Senate committee hearing, lawmakers testified that tens of thousands more US technicians and tower climbers will be needed if providers are to deploy the fiber, small radio equipment, and antennas needed to support next-gen networks. This is compounded by supply chain disruptions. Above Ground Level reports that shortages of fiber-optic cable, semiconductor chips, and skilled labor will likely hinder the booming rollout of broadband and wireless networks with no relief in sight as we wait for the funds from the Infrastructure Bill to begin flowing in 2023.

New Stakeholders and Increased Coordination

It’s widely acknowledged that the successful rollout of comprehensive 5G requires a pace that is unprecedented in a time when resources are short. But this is not the sole challenge at hand.

Project complexities have given rise to new entities in the industry who must coordinate with other project stakeholders. Modern broadband deployment involves a variety of stakeholders: asset owners, attaching companies, construction contractors, engineering firms, local governments, and regulators.

Communications and broadband companies, central to the fiber market, are facing competitive pressures to continue elevating their game to keep pace with society's expectations for faster, dependable service.

The booming demand for fiber is also bringing new players into the market. Utilities, especially electric cooperatives, are getting more involved in providing fiber to their customers. Larger utilities serving urban areas are laying fiber to boost revenue.

Meanwhile, new companies are emerging that focus solely on fiber or that provide support services for fiber deployment. Companies with unused capacity are making their fiber networks available to other providers in a typical joint use scenario. New alliances, including public-private partnerships, are forming to extend the benefits of fiber to more people in areas that are less densely populated.

Then, consider that all of these entities must closely collaborate to meet swift timeline requirements under increased regulatory scrutiny.

That’s why it’s important that all stakeholders be able to easily share data, meet deadlines, and identify efficiencies that save time and money while also minimizing conflict to improve relationships. By automating processes, including those applying to data collection, analysis, and sharing; applications and permitting; communications; and even billing, the parties involved can work together in a more streamlined way. As much as some companies would like to maintain their independence, collaboration is no longer optional in this time of rapid transformation.

Cost of Rural Deployment

For providers, the cost to deploy in rural areas still stands as a major deterrent, even with incentive funding from federal programs. Though the FCC has taken major steps in the past to speed up the process, without the ability to identify and capitalize on efficiencies, companies will continue to find building on those efforts a challenge.

Companies who will succeed should explore the answer to a single question: “What is the one cost variable to 5G deployment that we can positively influence?” The answer lies with using good data to drive business process automation to create efficiency—specifically micro-efficiencies. Without enough resources to do all the work that needs to take place, companies have to maximize the output of those resources.

In this case, the maxim applies: necessity is the mother of invention. In fact, there are even more paradigm shifts that industry stakeholders can make to set themselves up for success.

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Chapter 4 – Key Mindset Shifts to Overcome 5G Challenges

For those directly involved in the rollout–electric utilities, communications and broadband providers, municipalities, contractors, and engineering firms–overcoming challenges begins with recognizing that we all share a common objective. Everyone wants to serve our communities and help them prosper and we need everybody working together to help these new services get deployed, which will benefit us as the public.

A Common Objective

In order to satisfy the needs of stakeholders—including consumers—successful deployment of 5G technology needs to meet three essential criteria. It must be:

  • Safe: Owners of existing infrastructure, such as electric power providers and municipal governments, must be certain any new equipment attached to their assets does not create a hazardous condition for their employees or the public.
  • Swift: Consumers want improved services yesterday. Timely deployment is a key for service providers to remain competitive. The FCC has also identified success in the race to 5G as a priority for the US to remain competitive technologically with China.
  • Effective: 5G service has to be smooth and seamless to live up to its promise and to adequately support the burgeoning IoT.

This is a big job, and it simply cannot be accomplished by doing things the way they’ve always been done. A new way of thinking about stakeholder interactions is necessary for success.

While all the companies and governments working on the 5G rollout have a shared interest in providing the best possible service to their communities to help close the digital divide, this must be balanced with an understanding of each other’s priorities.

Distinct Goals and Constraints

The various 5G players must learn to respect one another’s distinct goals and constraints as they move through the deployment process. Let’s review the major stakeholders to better understand the landscape:

  • Communications: The companies that offer 5G service and own the new equipment necessary to provide it are driving the changes.
  • Utilities: Electric power providers own much of the existing infrastructure, primarily utility poles, to which the majority of 5G small cell equipment will be attached.
  • Municipal governments: Government-owned streetlight poles and ROW are part of the infrastructure needed for small cell attachments. Local officials also are guardians of community standards, such as aesthetics.
  • Other companies: The huge deployment effort involves many additional businesses such as engineering firms, installers, contractors, and other service firms.

Safety and reliability are the top concerns for utility pole owners when considering any attachment request. Proposed attachments must not damage existing equipment, must not overload a pole or compromise its stability, and must not be positioned in a way that obstructs traffic visibility. Furthermore, installation work must not unreasonably disrupt service.

On the other hand, communication and broadband providers are trying to deploy enough equipment to ensure reliable 5G service quickly and efficiently enough to remain competitive in a highly energized market. For them, any obstructive delay can carry a hefty cost.

At the same time, municipalities have their own legitimate concerns. Along with guarding public safety, they are expected to uphold community aesthetic standards. These competing priorities of the major stakeholders are a recipe for conflict, which makes balancing them essential to effective 5G deployment.

Once this is accomplished, companies are poised to tackle the crucial job of harnessing the power of data for more effective coordination.

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The Need to Be Data Driven

In this pressure-cooker environment, a spirit of cooperation is necessary. And such close cooperation relies on accurate data that can be readily shared. Consider that a process that involves attaching hundreds of antenna units to utility poles throughout a community requires decision-making at a pace many companies have simply never faced before. That pace can be met only if those involved have accurate, up-to-date, actionable data.

Traditional methods of joint use data management are just not up to the task. As the scale of the job changes, solutions must change as well.

Years ago, a company could collect the data necessary for joint use decisions simply by sending a technician into the field with a notepad and a measuring stick. Today, with the rapidly increasing number of attachment requests flowing into many utilities, decision-makers require comprehensive, current data on all assets at their fingertips.

The first step forward is improved data collection. Fortunately, technological tools—both hardware and software—are available to meet the demands of the moment. The next important tool is a platform for utility data management that handles enough of the legwork to enable company personnel to make informed, well-grounded decisions on an increasingly tight schedule.

Lastly, a successful data-driven company in a joint use environment requires one thing more—the willingness and ability to share relevant data, both internally and with external joint use partners.

Ultimately, stakeholders who embrace the need to be data-driven will be positioned for success—but only if they take it one step further: adopt a project-based approach.

Shifting from a Project to Process Mindset

A process-based approach is critical to propel the power, communications, and broadband industries into a new way of doing business, with better technology and growing opportunity. To achieve this, companies should understand that data must be shared and flow easily to the right people. Multiple internal and external stakeholders need to easily access data to act quickly.

Traditionally, providers have approached work as disparate projects, viewing each one separately with a focus on the end goal; this is what we call a project-based mindset. Each job is perceived as having a finite lifespan. Once the project is complete, it’s time to move on to the next one. Any data captured or data analysis for that project may be tracked on a spreadsheet or a department’s system that may be visible only to the group who performed the project.

When you make the intellectual shift to a process-based mindset, you move from thinking about only the job at hand to thinking about how the steps of that effort could be repeated at scale to accommodate a volume of similar work. In other words, you begin to consider how this effort needs to be integrated into the company to benefit other parts of the organization—or other players with whom you collaborate.

By its very nature, this shift to a process-based mindset disrupts the decision-making process that companies use when deciding how to invest their time, dollars, and resources. For example, instead of collecting data for the singular purpose of successfully completing one project, you’ll begin to consider how to get value from the data you are collecting for as long as possible. In essence, it’s about seeing the bigger picture so that you can save time and resources by avoiding duplicate field trips or missed opportunities for data collection. And what’s more, a comprehensive dataset that is accessible and delivered to the right parties enables better judgment calls.

A process-based approach is essential for the companies tasked with creating the infrastructure for all 5G. The enormous task at hand requires scalable, repeatable ways to keep the large volume of jobs, like individual attachment permits, transfers, and required make-ready work moving through the pipeline. Those taking a project-by-project approach may find themselves too slow to meet these challenges and stay competitive.

Armed with this knowledge, you might be asking yourself what actionable steps you can take to support this kind of new strategic approach. It starts with creating efficiencies.

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Chapter 5 – Managing 5G Deployment Challenges: Steps to Take

Service providers, utilities, and other 5G stakeholders are facing an incredible challenge, but there is good news. With challenge also comes great opportunity—for companies that choose to adapt.

Considering that the competitive landscape is still relatively young, service providers who become more competitive and can edge out the competition stand to “own” their geography for a substantial period of time. And all stakeholders that choose to adapt will be best prepared to capture more business in the future—even beyond broadband deployment.

The very first step to take after making helpful mindset shifts is to drive efficiency in your processes. But this may not look the way you think. To meet the challenges of 5G, industry veterans recommend carving out incremental “micro-efficiencies” every place you can rather than enacting broad, sweeping overhauls.

Create Micro-Efficiencies

Any savings is a big savings if it justifies the cost of implementing a change. For example: did you know that the average time to select a given utility pole and deploy a traditional landline fiber strand on that structure is up to 180 days? Imagine if companies could trim even 10 days off that timeline for every pole—the overall savings would be incredible.

Creating opportunities to build micro-efficiencies into your workflow may seem like a small choice, but these subtle shifts can amount to significant gains. For instance, look for ways to remove redundant steps that are time-consuming or outdated—like automating rote tasks such as data entry or email.

New technologies can deliver business process automation to eliminate waste. Historically, companies have resisted broad-scale automation and sweeping change, especially in times of transition. However, automation can be applied selectively to only certain processes to eke out the kind of small gains that can really add up.

Automation of tasks helps to mitigate resource and staffing challenges but won’t replace the need for humans—it just frees up your existing staff to work at their highest potential. Consider, for instance, the employee who tracks and communicates crucial data using multiple spreadsheets. Eliminating the need for that tracking allows employees to contribute their time to other tasks.

Managing the increasing amounts of data necessary for a 5G rollout should not require more human capital. Companies can no longer afford to move data manually “from here to there.” With business process automation, data can be tracked, shared, and aggregated for analysis with the touch of a button, leaving your team members to concentrate their attention on the parts of their jobs that require their expertise.

However, the effectiveness of this strategy must be underpinned by accurate, timely, and comprehensive data.

Refine Data Collection Methods

Data is the key to unlocking potential efficiencies throughout the asset management process. Let’s examine one of the many scenarios that can play out in 5G deployment, which can either lead to smooth coordination or a costly bottleneck. 5G frequencies require an antenna every 300 to 700 feet. Many of the units being attached range from the size of a backpack to a small refrigerator with an antenna protruding.

With the average utility pole spacing, an attachment is required on roughly every fourth or fifth pole to support 5G. This process requires coordinating with other asset owners like utility companies and municipalities and filing permit applications to attach communications equipment, which means gathering a lot of data first.

Companies have to determine precisely where poles are available, which poles are already loaded with attachments, and where new poles may be needed to fill in gaps. They also need to be aware of any possible obstructions in the vicinity that could interfere with 5G signals.

With so many moving pieces, it’s easy to see how 5G deployment is driving asset data collection at a level we have not seen before. Just as service providers need to figure out where they can place equipment, utilities need up-to-date data to make sure the proposed attachments do not cause safety issues or overload poles. Add to this the need to move quickly, and you can understand the potential for error or detrimental lag times, and there’s simply no room for error. That’s why it’s important to choose your data collection wisely so that you’ll have the data you need at your fingertips downstream in the process. Plus, how you collect data directly impacts accuracy and speed.


The need for accurate intelligence on infrastructure to deploy the 5G network is critical. A valuable tool to help gather data quickly, Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) has been the technology employed for decades by the military and law enforcement, but as the costs gradually decreased it has been utilized in the utility and telecom industries as well.

LiDAR devices can be handheld or attached to a vehicle, drone aircraft, helicopter, or fixed-wing aircraft. Often, multiple forms of LiDAR, as well as more traditional data collection methods, will be used for any given mapping job. LiDAR data is usually supplemented by ground crews gathering additional information, but the process overall remains much faster than relying on hand-gathered data alone.

When combined with digital photography, LiDAR can efficiently map miles of utility and municipal infrastructure to provide an accurate picture of where opportunities for attachment exist and where additional structures are needed.

Hand-Held Imagers Using Photogrammetry

Companies can take advantage of new technologies that can efficiently create a reliable, nimble asset database. For example, field technicians can use tools such as hand-held imagers to gather large amounts of asset data reliably, quickly, and efficiently through photogrammetry technology. This is another opportunity to improve and streamline data capture.

Photogrammetry can simplify data collection by creating measurable photographs of poles, attachments, transmission and distribution lines, and, if desired, surroundings such as buildings, curbs, and vegetation. When paired with robust software, this method of data collection can save time and multiple trips to the field.

Using compatible software, a field technician with a handheld imager can quickly and efficiently gather large amounts of data and transmit it to the back office. There, it can be loaded into an automated platform for more effective management. When changes are made, such as the addition of new attachments, the asset record can be updated easily, reducing the likelihood of unwelcome surprises when employees arrive on site to perform work. Removing the risk of outdated data equals improved efficiency. Plus, photogrammetry allows for everything within the frame to be electronically measured and recorded for both immediate and future use—a move that supports the process-based mindset necessary to excel in the competitive 5G environment.

Finding ways to create efficiency and improve data collection is a starting point. But what really separates the 5G market leaders from the crowd is what they do with those improvements next.

In other words, once you eliminate redundant tasks and accelerate data collection, how can you capitalize on those gains? The answer lies with business process automation and seamless data sharing.

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Chapter 6 – Choosing an Asset Management Platform

The role that business process automation plays in helping our nation realize the goal of widespread 5G interconnectivity is paramount. It is foundational to furthering efficiency gains and provides the path to transforming those gains into a long-term competitive edge.

A better approach to asset management can help this transformation happen faster. This begins with software that automates business processes.

Historically, companies were promised that if they made a large time commitment and financial investment in technology on the front end, they would reap tremendous future benefits from implementing whole-scale automation. However, in today’s climate where the amount of work outpaces staff, such a hefty investment on the basis of a hopeful return isn’t prudent. That’s why many companies decide to invest in incremental automation.

For example, instead of trying to automate an entire process at once, they begin by automating very specific steps in a process workflow exactly where they need them. Other times, processes can’t be automated, but the nudge for people to act can be. Using software to automate notifications at precise workflow steps increases accountability, as well as your chances for a prompter response.

An exceptional asset management platform should be able to automate business processes to make data management, asset tracking, permitting, internal and external communications, and reporting less time-consuming, confusing, and labor-intensive. Consider these ways asset management software can help with tasks that are mission-critical to the 5G rollout:

  • Selecting Assets to Work On: Choose a software platform that can be designed around your workflows so that the right data is collected in the first place. Then, ensure that reporting functions are nimbly designed to serve up just what you need without additional input required. You should be able to filter and present data in a way that satisfies each stakeholder’s needs at any given moment. That flexibility tees up the data so that your experts can interact with it in the most meaningful way.
  • Processing Permits: Successful management of the permit process is a key to meeting 5G rollout timeline targets. With the number of permit requests on the rise, streamlining this process can save time and money while preventing unnecessary conflicts. Much of the permit process lends itself to automation. From request, to review, to approval, to billing, to scheduling and monitoring equipment installation, good software can keep things on track. The process can be automated to remind essential personnel of deadlines and can communicate efficiently with all the concerned parties when each step in the process is completed.
  • Accessing Up-to-Date Data: The number of permitting requests associated with the 5G rollout is often overwhelming. The number of projects is multiplying, but the need remains to ensure attachment work is done safely. The right software helps keep crucial information up to date and easily accessible, enabling stakeholders to speed up permitting and deployment without compromising quality and safety. It’s expensive to deploy construction crews and equipment to the field, but with good data updated in real time and at the ready, companies can make sure that the right people and equipment are on the job. Leveraging data insights to drastically reduce multiple unnecessary trips to the field is equivalent to a substantial gain in profit.
  • Reporting: Your company must report to a variety of entities: management, executives, outside agencies, customers, and more. Why spend time cobbling together spreadsheets and requiring your experts to input data? With business process automation, ideally, you can push a button to produce a report. Carefully evaluate the flexibility and deep functionality around the reporting function of any enterprise software solution.
  • Completing Financial Transactions: The work required to deploy broadband relies on multitudes of contractors and often subcontractors. Billing can quickly become complicated. When payment is delayed, the work is, too. Software platform solutions like Alden One® allow you to automatically generate receivables, verify payables, make and accept payments, and ensure adherence to contracts using e-signature features.
  • Internal/External Data-Sharing: Flexible, sophisticated software supports data management on multiple levels, making it easy to customize data fields and share the data among internal departments, as well as with outside entities when desirable. Companies inevitably want and need to keep certain information to themselves. But in today’s fast-paced joint use environment, the ability to share data effectively can be almost as important as the need to protect private data.

Modern Asset Management Relies on Collaboration

Never before has communication and collaboration mattered so much. That’s because we have never had so many stakeholders with competing priorities working together under increasingly tight timeframes with so many regulatory requirements differing from state to state.

To say that the deployment of fiber and 5G wireless infrastructure increased the need for collaboration along with opportunities for conflict would be an understatement.

Eliminating the “white space,” or gaps in information-sharing is necessary for success.

The right asset management platform is essential to breaking down these siloes among internal and external entities. Simplified, automated data-sharing among departments within a company also saves time and helps avoid confusion. And it allows personnel to compile necessary reports much more quickly and easily.

More effective work coordination also means more ways to ensure compliance obligations are met—and documented.

As the 5G rollout timeline grows more pressing, facilitating collaboration and utilizing business process automation will no longer be optional. Companies that take a strategic approach today will reap the benefits tomorrow.

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All industry players stand to gain from a robust 5G rollout timeline, as does our society as a whole. Alden Systems takes pride in playing a unique role in delivering essential services to support the smooth deployment of 5G.

With our asset management software, Alden One, we can help you automate many of the time-consuming tasks of data management and mitigate staffing challenges by freeing up engineers and other skilled staff to focus their expertise on analysis and data-driven decision-making.

At Alden, we offer a range of data collection methods to suit your needs, from “boots on the ground” manual collection to LiDAR, or a combination of methods. Our platform, Alden One, provides a great advantage in sharing data you collect to improve interactions with all stakeholders, internal and external to your company.

In such a massive undertaking, you need a sophisticated tool to break down information silos and disrupt the 5G bottleneck. Alden One ensures everyone involved—attaching companies, asset owners, contractors, and multiple departments within a company or city government—is on the same page.

Let us show you how Alden One can automate business processes to make data management, asset tracking, permitting, internal and external communications, and reporting less time-consuming, confusing, and labor-intensive. Contact us today and get on the path to improved efficiency.

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A Guide to Navigating the Challenges of 5G Deployment