Engineering Firm Gears up for 5G

BY J. SHARPE SMITH, SENIOR EDITOR - AGL eDigest

The fifth generation of cellular communications is not only changing expectations of wireless speeds, but it is also having an effect on how corporate resources are being marshalled to meet the opportunity. Recently, as John McGrath looked forward to 5G, the CEO of Advantage Engineers decided to focus his firm on building out small cells and sell its division that provides geotechnical, environmental and construction materials testing.

“There are far fewer new towers than there were five years ago,” McGrath told AGL eDigest. “The business of the geotechnical, environmental business was focused on general commercial construction. We want to focus on telecommunications exclusively and really optimize that business as we go into this 5G buildout.”

Within the realm of telecommunications, Advantage Engineers is still diversified across tower modifications, fiber, in-building wireless and small cells. The firm provides program and project management, site acquisition, construction management and all engineering related to wireless site development.

“With the 5G buildout, we are going to continue to see an increase in small cell, in-building and venue opportunities. We are focusing on that,” McGrath said. “Macrosite modifications are still a significant part of our business. Our fiber-optic business has been growing for the last five years. We see a ton of opportunity there, as well.”

Capitalizing on Convergence

The advent of small cells has accelerated the convergence of two ecosystems, wireline and wireless, according to McGrath. “They used to be very separate. Wireline used to be seen as a necessary evil by the wireless folks, but now it is all co-mingled,” he said.

Advantage Engineers has capitalized on the convergence of the wireless and wireline spaces in its operations. Essentially, small cells are fiber dependent, and there is a lot of crossover of resources. The fiber-optic group works closely with our wireless group on certain projects.

“We see a lot of synergies between our small cell and fiber-optic businesses,” McGrath said. “We have a very collaborative environment where our project managers and engineers can seek out the expertise. It happens daily. People working on completely different projects are huddled around the same table working out a problem.”

Concerning infrastructure deployment in the right of way, Advantage Engineers may work with the same municipal officials on a fiber run and then a small cell deployment.

“At a jurisdictional level, where we have done fiber-optic routing in the right of way, it makes it a lot easier to go back to the municipal officials to deploy small cells,” McGrath said. “Still, a lot of the backhaul work is done by separate, small, independent fiber providers and I don’t see that changing in the near future.”

Growing West

Two years ago, Advantage Engineers merged with Synergy Development Services and Synergy Engineering Services, a wireless telecom engineering and consulting firm, giving it a number of locations in the west, including Van Nuys, Santa Rosa, Irvine and Ventura, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Bozeman, Montana.  Synergy operates as a division of Advantage Engineers.

“We are still optimizing that merger,” McGrath said. “Further geographic expansion will depend on the resolution of the Sprint/T-Mobile merger and the deployment of Dish Network as a 5G provider.”