The Association’s diverse membership, comprised of contractor companies, engineering firms, wireless carriers, tower owner/vertical realtors, public safety entities, equipment manufacturers, structural manufacturers, distributors and training firms, are the backbone of the communications infrastructure industry. The network upgrades and broadband deployments NATE member companies perform on a daily basis are having a transformational impact on industries as diverse as health care, financial services, higher education, agriculture, energy, aviation, utilities, public safety, government and the military.
At the same time, as new technologies come on the scene, NATE is evolving to meet the global connectivity needs and our society’s unquenchable thirst for data consumption. This enhanced technology is vital to meet both our present and future broadband needs and society’s insatiable thirst for data consumption. According to annual survey results released by CTIA – The Wireless Association, Americans used 9.6 trillion megabytes (MB) of data in 2015. This data usage is three times the 3.2 trillion MB of data utilized in 2013. The CTIA data compared this growth to the equivalent of consumers streaming 59,219 videos every minute or roughly 18 million MB!
Given NATE’s prominent role within the wireless ecosystem, it is important to highlight some of the valuable contributions of the Association as well as future opportunities our organization is leveraging in order to meet the evolving needs of the industry.
The NATE STAR Initiative, currently in its 5th program year, is the Association’s signature program designed to help companies operate safely and recognize tower contractors, tower owners and carriers who voluntarily adhere to higher safety standards. The NATE STAR Initiative emphasizes Safety, Training, Accountability and Reliability by asking participants to commit to requisite levels of training, site safety audits and the implementation of safety programs while adhering to industry best practices.
In 2015, the official STAR Initiative smartphone APP was unveiled. The STAR Initiative APP provides tower-site field personnel with a convenient means to enter and report audit data in real-time from the palm of their hands! Thanks to the leadership and attention to detail by the participants, the data provided from the implementation of the STAR Initiative practices will continue to provide valuable benchmarks and continue to increase the level of safety and vigilance in the industry.
U.S. Department of Labor OSHA Susan Harwood Training Grant Program
This fiscal year, NATE was also selected by the U.S. Department of Labor to receive a Susan Harwood Targeted Topic Training Grant. The Susan Harwood Training Grant Program awards grants to nonprofit organizations on a competitive basis. Awards are issued annually based on Congressional appropriation.
As a result of this grant, NATE has developed curriculum that focuses on the hazards in the communication tower industry and includes employee rights, employer responsibilities, whistleblower protection, high angle rescue, principles of fall protection, principles of safe climbing, tower systems, testing safety climb systems, and testing personal protective equipment (PPE). Additionally, the grant has also been utilized to develop curriculum for a comprehensive “train-the-trainer” program.
These specific grant-enabled training programs are having a nation-wide impact, helping small businesses establish a culture of safety and ultimately enhancing worker safety and quality.
Climber Connection Campaign
The Climber Connection campaign was developed by the NATE Member Services Committee in conjunction with the NATE Safety & Education Committee and is designed to provide specific resources and communicate the Association’s message directly to the industry’s elevated workforce.
A central element of the campaign is the official release of monthly Climber Connection safety videos; each focused on a unique safety topic or issue involving working at heights. As part of the campaign, NATE debuts one Climber Connection video each month and publicizes it utilizing the Association’s social media platforms and other communication mediums.
The NATE Climber Connection safety videos include breathtaking drone footage of tower climbers working safely at elevation. The practical safety tips featured in the videos serve as a great resource to the industry’s workforce and ultimately ensure they return home safely each and every night. The Climber Connection videos can be viewed on NATE’s YouTube channel accessible at the following website link: Click Here
Legislative and Regulatory Policy
Through NATE’s legislative and regulatory efforts, the Association continues to work diligently with officials from OSHA, FCC, FAA, NTIA, FirstNet, members of Congress, Congressional Committee staff, and other federal and state government entities in order to advance our mission of safety, standards and education in the policy and regulatory arenas.
In February of 2016, NATE was an active participant at the 2nd Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Tower Climber Safety Workshop at the FCC Headquarters in Washington, D.C. A delegation consisting of NATE’s Board of Directors and Legislative & Regulatory Committee members were in attendance at the event.
NATE’s legislative and regulatory efforts have also recently included a focus on issues including the 600 MHZ Incentive Auction and the subsequent repacking of spectrum currently owned by broadcasters, paving the way for 5G technologies, Unmanned Aerial Systems, transportation, infrastructure, small businesses, taxes and promoting the streamlining of tower siting and zoning requirements to make broadband deployments at the state and local level more efficient.
Public Safety Contributions
The Association recognizes and values the life-saving contributions of the public safety community. NATE’s Public Safety Agency Membership category was established as the logical next step for the Association to take as many NATE member contractors work in the public safety arena on a daily basis and the public safety community continues to play a vital role in rescue operations and responding to incidents that occur at tower sites. Additionally, with the authorization of FirstNet, the first nationwide broadband network devoted exclusively to public safety, NATE member companies will be helping provide the wireless infrastructure services and equipment necessary to make this network a reality. FirstNet will ultimately help save lives and provide law enforcement officials, fire fighters and EMS personnel with the critical communications capabilities and resources they need to respond to emergency situations.
The NATE EXCHANGE continues to be a “go-to” website platform for tower construction and maintenance companies and individual tower technicians to gain access to training courses in the tower industry.
The EXCHANGE is a valuable benefit as NATE member companies qualify for discounted rates on designated training courses offered on the website portal. Additionally, the NATE EXCHANGE allows course participants to submit online evaluations upon completion of their courses; which allows the Association to assess the quality of the courses offered on the EXCHANGE. The NATE Exchange platform can be accessed at the following website portal: www.natehome.com/nate-exchange.
The Association annually hosts NATE UNITE, long regarded as the premier conference and trade show in the wireless infrastructure industry. NATE UNITE is a resounding, annual success due to the tremendous sponsor, exhibitor and attendee support provided by so many companies, stakeholders and individuals from throughout the wireless industry. The record-setting accomplishments of the recently concluded NATE UNITE 2016 are also a testament to NATE’s ability to evolve along with the wireless industry.
Tower Family Foundation
NATE is also taking care of the tower industry workers and their families through our leadership role in the establishment of the Tower Family Foundation. The Foundation is a 501c-3 non-profit organization that has been established to help provide financial assistance to family members of a severely injured, permanently disabled, or deceased tower worker injured or killed in an accident stemming from working at heights on communication structures or other on-the-job related activities that tower workers are involved in on a daily basis.
NATE encourages all industry stakeholders to help us spread the word about the resources the Foundation has available and consider a donation in order to ensure that we are able to fulfill our mission of supporting tower workers and their families during times of need.
National Wireless Safety Alliance
NATE recently collaborated with wireless carriers, tower owners, OEM’s, turnkey management firms, public safety entities, contractors and tower technicians to formally establish the National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA). The NWSA is a non-profit assessment and certification organization that has been established to provide thorough, independent assessments of knowledge and skills and provide verifiable worker certification in order to enhance safety, reduce workplace risk, improve quality, encourage training, and recognize the skilled professionals who work on towers and other non-standard structures. The NWSA’s standardized wireless worker certification programs have been needed in the industry for many years and will be transformative from a safety and quality perspective.
FCC 600 MHZ Incentive Auction
As everyone in the wireless and broadcast industries are acutely aware, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently conducting a 600 MHZ Incentive Auction in order to free up valuable low band radio waves spectrum currently held by broadcasters. This 600 MHZ spectrum is often referred to as “beach front property” because airwaves operating in this band can travel longer distances and provide better in-buidling coverage.
Upon the conclusion of this innovative auction, NATE’s contractor companies and equipment supplier members will be called on to “repurpose” the spectrum by deploying the new antennas and wireless equipment on communications structures located across the United States. This important infrastructure work will help pave the way to enable emerging technologies and networks that are capable of meeting the country’s connectivity and data needs moving forward.
Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Technology
NATE is also playing a proactive role in monitoring the trends and regulatory environment associated with rapidly evolving Unmanned Aerial Systems (drone) technologies and making recommendations to the wireless and broadcast infrastructure community on best practices when it comes to UAS integration. UAS technologies, if integrated appropriately, can play a supplemental role in enhancing safety and quality in the industry as well as contribute to the vital economic, public safety and national security benefits associated with broadband network deployments in the United States.
The Future: 5G Networks
According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), it is widely anticipated that 5G (5th Generation) commercial networks will be in the marketplace by 2020. Wireless carriers like Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile are already in the process of planning 5G trials in the United States in order to pave the way for this technology. The ITU states that 5G networks will have a peak speed of 20 Gbps (billions of bits per second), or 20 times the peak speed specification of today’s 4G LTE networks, which stands at 1 Gps.
Additionally, according to a report from the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), next generation wireless networks have the potential to add roughly $2.7 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product by 2030. This figure equates to an average annual growth boost of 0.7 percent or an overall increase of 11 percent in economic output.
NATE member companies have developed and maintained every generation of communications networks and will help make 5G networks a reality in the future. The next time you utilize your smartphone to watch a YouTube video or stream a movie on Netflix, remember that NATE is on the forefront of making these next generation technologies and modern day conveniences possible.
NATE will continue to relentlessly pursue a culture of safety and professionalism in the wireless infrastructure industry. NATE’s mission statement that was drafted 21 years ago when the Association was founded still remains the guiding principles of today. We look forward to continue to display leadership in the industry as the wireless technologies of tomorrow become reality.
Todd Schlekeway is the Executive Director of the National Association of Tower Erectors.
Company Name: National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE)
Location: 8 Second Street SE Watertown, SD 57201-3624
On the Web at: www.natehome.com