Data management, permitting, and internal and external communications become less daunting with the right technological tools
As optimism grows that the United States will emerge from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2022, efforts to roll out 5G wireless service across the country will continue. Those efforts will likely be able to accelerate in the coming years as pandemic-related supply chain and labor issues subside. Not that telecoms have been sitting still for the past two years—they have steadily added metros to their 5G networks. But the pandemic inevitably created a drag on some deployment.
Electric utilities will be an increasingly crucial partner for communications companies as the 5G rollout continues to gain momentum. People are getting tired of waiting. Extending the highest level of 5G service (mmWave) to more Americans will depend heavily on small cell technology. 5G demands a denser cellular network than previous generations of wireless tech required. In the next decade, hundreds of thousands of small cell units will be strategically placed to provide the necessary signal strength. Much of this equipment will be attached to assets owned by electric utilities (largely utility poles) or municipalities (street light poles).
A deployment this extensive puts a premium on efficiency. Utilities stand to gain from a robust 5G rollout timeline, both in revenues from permits and in the technological benefits the burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT), powered by 5G, will continue to bring to the electric power industry. A smarter grid awaits. A better approach to electric utility asset management can help this transformation happen faster.
Time and Technology
The time-honored methods of using manually created spreadsheets to track assets, whether on paper or spreadsheets, are proving inadequate to meet today’s needs. For example, the number of permitting requests associated with the 5G rollout is becoming overwhelming. The number of projects is multiplying, but the need remains to ensure attachment work is done safely.
Software that automates business processes can help keep crucial information up to date and easily accessible, enabling stakeholders to speed up permitting and deployment without compromising quality and safety.
How? Use your Data
Reliable, accessible data is the foundation of good asset management. Up-to-date information is necessary to make decisions on attachment requests. For example, if a telecom wants to attach to a utility pole, utility personnel need to know the dimensions, age, and condition of the pole as well as the placement and size of any equipment already attached. New equipment must not compromise the safety of the pole or damage other equipment.
Modern technology can help a company create a reliable, nimble asset database. Technologies such as 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.
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 new attachments, the asset record can be updated easily and efficiently, reducing the likelihood of unhappy surprises when company employees or contractors arrive on site to perform work. Outdated data can become a thing of the past.
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. It’s also one of the areas where an automated business platform can help keep things from getting bogged down.
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.
With a greater number of projects at various stages of development going on simultaneously, an asset management platform can make it easier for asset owners to keep the whole picture in sight and avoid bottlenecks.
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.
Much of the information used in operations is essential to multiple partners—asset owners and attaching companies as well as engineers, construction contractors, and government officials and agencies. Ease of sharing is a crucial function.
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. Such sharing facilitates collaboration because it keeps everybody working with the same set of facts.
A Better Way to Work to Meet 5G Rollout Timeline Targets
As the 5G rollout timeline grows more pressing, the main way for the companies involved to save money is with improved efficiency. Collaborating takes less time and money than disagreement and available technology can make it easier for companies with their own priorities to work together more smoothly. And, of course, companies, communities, and consumers alike benefit from faster access to the latest technology and efficient electric utility asset management.
At Alden, we pride ourselves on being part of the solution. We have a culture of cooperation and an outstanding asset management platform for joint use, Alden One. It automates business processes to make data management, asset tracking, permitting, internal and external communications, and reporting less time-consuming, confusing, and labor-intensive—and therefore less costly than it might otherwise be.
Alden One can make the 5G rollout easier, book a meeting here.