5G Promises, Impacts, and Solutions


5G: The What, Why, and How 

Wireless telecommunications networks interconnect the nation's machines and systems, fuel national economic growth, and allow millions of people to communicate. To enable the high speed, low latency broadband services needed for today's wireless networks, telecommunications carriers are deploying the fifth generation (5G) of wireless services.

This 5G network is expected to provide technological and economic benefits to consumers, businesses and municipalities. Critical infrastructure including utilities, hospitals, schools, transportation systems and first responders will be profoundly impacted by the new world of 5G.

5G is forecasted to create an estimated three million new jobs and pump $500 billion into the economy. Cable television multiple system operators, telephone, and wireless providers are positioned to spend more than $250 billion while building 5G infrastructure.

Much of the 5G network will be deployed using low level small cell antenna systems which provide wireless signal coverage over a 150’-500’ range. Small cell equipment, due to its small size, can be attached to utility structures such as stand-alone streetlights, traffic signals and utility distribution poles.


Regulatory Requirements Driving Broadband Growth and Impacting Utility Pole Owners

Utility distribution poles are the backbone of the nation’s critical infrastructure and provide the pathway for the electric and telecommunications lines and equipment that power and connect the nations homes and businesses. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has enacted regulations requiring that investor-owned utilities and incumbent telephone local exchange carriers provide non-discriminatory access to the poles, conduits, and right of ways that are owned or controlled by the utility.

In many states, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has reverse pre-empted the FCC and certified that the state will assume responsibility for the pole attachment process. Those “certified” states tend to follow the FCC provisions.


The Impact to Pole Owners

The FCC has implemented two new orders to accelerate broadband deployment that will impact pole owners in the upcoming months. The “Accelerating Wireline” (one-touch make-ready) and “Accelerating Wireless” (small cell) orders may require that some utilities change processes, add more resources, and train personnel in new skill sets to remain in compliance with current rules and regulations.

  • Due to the vast increase in incoming pole attachment requests, pole owners will need a more disciplined process for submitting 5G pole attachment requests and a more organized and transparent way to track and share the status of applications with the attachers so they can plan next steps
  • Additional field resources to perform field surveys in a timely manner to identify potential make-ready work and location for ground furniture
    • Safe and effective approaches for measuring available clearances in the power space and communication space to ensure NESC compliance, adhere to construction standards, and keep the pole safe for climbing
    • If a pole load assessment is required, accurate methods for capturing attachment heights to the top of the pole to feed pole loading software and perform the load analysis
  • Additional engineering resources to review the application and proposed design, and determine how to feed power to the new antennas

Some or all of these factors will require additional resources and tools, and in some cases, changes to current application processes to support the expected volumes within the prescribed timeframes.


The Osmose Solution

An organized, efficient approach to pole attachment management will ensure that pole owners meet the increased activity expected with the new pole attachment rules. Osmose implements a pole attachment management solution using skilled personnel and proven technology.

  1. The approach begins with a review of existing pole attachment agreements to determine compliance with the new regulations, responsibility for payment, and costs including audits.

  2. An audit of attachments is the second step in the Osmose best practices solution and should be done as frequently as experience has shown is necessary by qualified inspectors who understand both electric and telecommunications infrastructure. Osmose skilled technicians are equipped with the best field tools available to collect and analyze the data captured during the attachment audit. Osmose technicians use highly accurate Digital Measuring Technology to collect pole and attachment attributes and analyze the data using Osmose industry leading O-Calc® Pro software. The data is then posted to the Osmose 360 Joint Use portal, a robust online portal with role-based access that allows all participants in the audit to view and interact with the data relating to their attachments. Pole owners can control access levels to the portal. The Osmose sophisticated data collection process delivers a faster, more accurate audit which allows the utility to assess the state of their pole plant and manage their risk exposure effectively.

  3. Remediation of discrepancies found during the audit is the third leg of the Osmose Joint Use Management solution. One item discovered in many attachment audits are replaced poles remaining in the right-of-way after the pole owner utility has transferred to a new pole. These "double wood” or “buddy poles” are a sore spot with regulators and represent an unnecessary safety risk for the pole owner utility that should be addressed urgently. Osmose national corps of “boots on the ground” technicians and scores of engineers and project coordinators can expedite resolution of this unsightly hazard by performing make-ready engineering, pole loading analysis, and coordinating the movement of attachments to ensure transfers to new poles are performed expeditiously and safely.

  4. Following remediation of non-compliant construction and double wood, the pole attachment processes must be managed effectively to ensure the safe and timely provisioning of attachment requests and compliance with regulations. Budgeting for hiring and onboarding new employees can be a time-consuming process and the fluctuation of attachment requests may require a fast ramp up of personnel to address a broadband project only to see those fulltime employees idle or reassigned when the project ends and the work slows down. Osmose can turnkey manage a program focused on ensuring that joint use administration is performed efficiently so the utility can focus on its core business of delivering safe, reliable, and affordable service to its customers.

For more information on how Osmose can help protect and maximize the use of your pole infrastructure and underground substructure please go to www.osmose.com, call 770.631.6995, or email poleinfo@osmose.com.