Water utility managers can spend up to 60 percent of their time on telecom. And time equals money. Here’s how to organize your telecom and return your focus to water utilities.
Cell phones and internet access are everywhere. And so is their infrastructure. With the spread of cell phones and Wi-Fi internet, carriers are looking for more places to place their telecom equipment. Often, they lease space on city properties like water towers or light standards in parks or city buildings.
All this means, if you’re a water utility manager, your time and attention is getting split between two different worlds.
“It can get overwhelming,” says Dan Zienty, SEH project manager. “Water utility managers can end up spending 40 to 60 percent of their time working with cell phone carriers.”
Most installations have more than one company’s equipment installed on them, and that equipment is often updated. Changes in technology trigger regular updates. Plus, new companies are always looking to add to the mix. When telecom providers update and install their equipment, they have to work with the city to get it done, and the process can take a lot of time.
Your time? It’s valuable — spend it managing more than just telecom and return your focus to water. Develop a strategy to cut the time and budget spent dealing with administration, permitting, review and inspections of telecom equipment.
Here are a few tips to help streamline that process.
“Many cities have more than one water tower, so it’s important to make sure you talk about each of those towers in the same way,” says Zienty.
It’s easy to mix up the installation location if you don’t refer to it in the same way on documents. Often, the carriers refer to a site by their own corporate ID, which may differ from the what the City calls it.
It can get confusing if the same water tower is referred to in different ways in different documents. Develop a naming convention for all aspects of each of your telecom sites, and stick with it. That way, in the long run, communication will be seamless and things will get done faster.
There are nearly as many upgrading designations as there are carriers. With each comes changes in the type of equipment; 3G, 4G, 2.5, fiber, dark fiber, antennas, backhaul antennas and hybrid cables. And the same carrier could have multiple projects happening at the same site simultaneously. Cities need to know what is being installed in what location.
"Using an all-inclusive Site Application form to begin the process identifies the project scope," says Zienty. "Knowing the specifics of each type of equipment can save a lot of time down the road when you're reviewing plans and making comparisons to past installations by the carriers."
Will the carriers be replacing an existing antenna or adding a new one? What about associated equipment? Will equipment need to be welded to the tower? Will utilities be involved? Should it be considered carrier maintenance, or is it actually a technology upgrade?
"You have to know what kind of work they will be doing," says Zienty. "The process, and how it’s done, is reflected in the City's agreement with the carrier."
Your life will be easier if you keep everything documented. And keep it documented consistently. From the agreement and renewals, to Site Application and design review, to setting up the escrow, to project close-out and as-builts — there's a lot of documentation to keep track of. A simple system is a must for any water department or City Administrator to keep their telecommunications information in order.
"Because carriers contract with different companies on each project for engineering, site acquisition, project management and construction, management by the City is key," says Zienty. "Again, this starts with two basic documents, a Site Application and Site ID sheet."
"Those two pieces of information allow us to keep track of everything we need, in terms of project to project comparison and working within the terms of the carriers’ agreement with the City."
Download these FREE templates to start making the most out of your telecom leases.
Dan Zienty is a water engineering project manager dedicated to developing solutions for the complex processes that utility managers face. Contact Dan