DFN: Good overview of the ‘components’ that make up the wireless industry and the major players in each segment.
The Infrastructure Ecosystem
The cornerstone for today’s wireless communications networks
March 1 2010 – 4:30 pm ET | Tracy Ford | RCR Wireless News
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in RCR Wireless News’ January Special Edition Wireless Infrastructure: The Engine for Economic Recovery. Look for our March Special Edition, coming soon.
Wireless networks are the cornerstone of the wireless industry. These capital-intensive investments are a key building block to the success story that is the wireless communications industry. Networks are key growth drivers to the nation’s economy as well. CTIA estimates wireless operators collectively spend about $20 billion a year on their networks, which drives the $75.8 billion in revenue generated nationwide on wireless services for the first six months of the year. The industry association also estimates nearly 246,000 base stations are connecting the nation’s wireless networks.
The ecosystem surrounding infrastructure is extensive and includes everything from major telecommunications equipment manufacturers to maintenance grounds keepers at tower sites.
Following is a brief description of the major sub-segments within the wireless infrastructure ecosystem and some of the players that offer products and services in the sector:
Telecom equipment manufacturers/Original equipment manufacturers – These multinational giants build the physical networks using their own equipment and components from a wide range of suppliers. Networks consist of the core and radio access network. Companies in the space include Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia Siemens Networks, Alcatel-Lucent, Motorola, Juniper, Cisco, IBM, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Fujitsu and ZTE, as well as smaller players including Proxim, Redline, Alvarion, Airvana, Bridgewave and Ciena.
Component suppliers – These companies are a diverse group; some of them offer solutions for certain segments of the network, while others offer products that focus on a specific area. Some of the products they sell are RF components, switches, repeaters, routers, power amplifiers, subsystems, duplexers, antennas and cooling filters. Players in the space include ADC, Commscope/Andrew, Ceragon, Deltanode, Powertel, Rohn, Sabre, Summitek Instruments and Valmont Site Pro 1.
Tower companies – Led by the large tower companies and the carriers themselves, towers are the backbone of the wireless networks. American Tower, Crown Castle International Inc., SBA Communications Corp., Global Tower Partners and TowerCo are the top independent tower firms in this space, but there are hundreds of small and medium-sized tower companies across the country. Besides the traditional outdoor tower sites, distributed antenna networks – that work both indoor and outdoor – are a subsector of this group, as are rooftop towers.
DAS providers – A subset of antenna towers, these distributed antenna systems use a combination of RF and fiber-optic technology to transfer the RF signal in hard-to-site areas, both indoors and outdoors. Players include most of the major tower companies, as well as independent firms like NextG Networks, ExteNet, Mobilitie, NewPath Networks and others.
Service providers – These site acquisition and construction shops manage the actual network buildout for the carriers, working in close contact with the carrier and the sub-contractors. In this space, companies can be one-stop shops or just specialize in certain subsectors of the ecosystem. Indeed, some carriers and infrastructure companies use staffing firms for a variety of positions. Players in the space include BCI Communications, Bechtel, Black & Veatch, Computer Science Corp., General Dynamics, Goodman Networks, KCI Technologies Inc., the Lyle Company, Mann Wireless, MasTec, nsoro, SiteMaster, Smartlink, Tectonic Engineering & Survey Consultants, TEKsystems and TowerSource.
Backhaul providers – Backhaul providers take the signal and route it back to the switching station using fiber Ethernet, microwave and coaxial cable technologies. Players in the space include Redline, Dragonwave, Fujitsu, FiberTower, Level 3 and NEC, as well as local exchange carriers and cable companies.
Cabinets/Enclosures – More than just the physical shelters that house components at the tower site, shelters include climate control systems and power and backup power supplies. Some players in the space include American Products, Accu Air, Adtran, Emerson Network Power, Powerwave and Tessco.
Distributors –These companies help get products out to the field. Some of the companies in this subsector include Hutton, Primus Talley and Tessco.
Telecom Shelters – These shelters house equipment at the site. Some of the companies in this space include – American Products, Fibrebond Corp., Reliant Shelters (a division of mobile Modular Express), Sabre Industries and Tuff Shed.
Tower manufacturers –These companies make the fiberglass and steel structures that house the cell sites. Companies in this space include Caterpillar, Fiberglass Specialties, Fred A. Nudd Corp., FWT Inc., Glen Martin, Rohn, RSI, Sabre, TransAmerican Power Products, Valmont Structures and World Tower Co.
Generators/Power Products – Power is a significant portion of every network and backup power needs are increasingly important during times of crisis, as demonstrated during powerful hurricanes the last few years. Some of the companies that operate in this space include Caterpillar, Cummins Power Products, DC Group, Generac Power Systems Kohler and Jadoo Power.
Lighting – Federal law requires cellular sites to be properly lighted, and it also makes good business sense. Some of the companies in this space include International Tower Lighting, Lighting Flash Technology, an SPX Division, Specialty Tower Lighting, TWR Lighting and Unimar.
Professional services –This group encompasses everything from law firms that represent companies on zoning and land-use laws, as well fixed as site-acquisition and environmental assessment and compliance experts, as well as permitting and utilities coordination experts. Some of the companies in this space include Davis Wright Tremaine, Patton Boggs, Phillips Lytle, Saul Ewing, and Venable, although there are countless businesses that specialize in certain practices and certain geographic regions of the country.
Associations, professional groups — PCIA represents the infrastructure association and coordinates with state wireless association programs, or SWAPS as well as the DAS Forum. In addition, CTIA, which represents carriers at the national level, also comments on tower issues and the like. The Telecommunications Industry Association represents hardware manufacturers, while the Wireless Communications Association connects wireless broadband initiatives. In addition, certain investment banks and venture capitalists also specialize in the wireless infrastructure space. Media Capital Advisors, RBC Daniels and RBC Capital Markets, Raymond James and Co. and Macquairie also watch the wireless ecosystem. Numerous research companies also cover specialized areas of the technology space, including ABI, IDC and Yankee Group, to name a few.
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