With 5G deployment in hyper overdrive, an effective and efficient site acquisition strategy is critically important. In part 1 of this 2-part series, we compared the top-down vs bottom-up approaches of site acquisition. With this post, we introduce a hybrid solution that reduces inefficiencies without sacrificing proper network coverage. In particular, this approach combines the bottom-up benefits of a decentralized network with top-down controls to ensure effectiveness. And with the proper tools, this framework can help you optimize your site acquisition strategy.
An Example That Frames The Solution
Before diving into the solution, let’s frame the concept with a hypothetical example of a neighborhood Wi-Fi network. Instead of looking at WiF coverage within an individual home, we capture a drone’s view of a neighborhood. Looking down at a cluster of homes, you can imagine seeing a larger network of individual Wi-Fi hotspots. Not only that, there are likely many overlaps in coverage across the neighborhood. Putting it all together, this is an example of a bottom-up network that propagates on its own but does not have benefits outside an individual home. Now, what if there was some top-down coordination across the neighborhood? It could involve standardizing equipment and access protocols, as well as filling in coverage gaps with a few new hotspots. With this hybrid approach, it’s easy to imagine staying connected within the neighborhood without needing handovers from Wi-Fi to cellular.
Using this example, we can extract several recommendations to create efficiently and effectively acquire sites for local networks. And with some modifications, such as leveraging cell towers to bridge the gaps between neighborhoods, this framework can scale well.
Rule #1: Establish a Minimum Distance Between Sites
With 5G technology and fiber backhauls, a single wireless access point can support multiple homes. Using the neighborhood hotspot example, there’s no need for every home to have its own wireless equipment and hard-wired internet connection. Therefore, a minimum-distance rule between small cells cuts down on costs without sacrificing data speeds. However, this doesn’t mean that redundancy is removed altogether. Rather, sufficient overlap is allowed and even required for a decentralized network to function properly.
Based on frequency and range, RF planning can estimate a minimum distance between sites to prevent redundant coverage.
Rule #2: Enforce a Maximum Number of Sites Per Cell
When building networks, site acquisition can easily cause budget overages. A preventative tactic is to limit the number of sites per coverage area, as well as the recurring costs per site. However, it is often difficult to enforce these cost limits for top-down site acquisition because of traditional processes. From surveying the right sites to negotiating lease rates, there is a risk of exceeding predetermined budgets and deadlines. But leveraging online platforms like Airwaive to minimize inefficient workflows can significantly lower these risks. Furthermore, reverse auctions or right of first refusal agreements can also contribute to time and cost savings.
RF planning can also inform a maximum number of sites per coverage area to avoid diminishing returns in site acquisition.
Rule #3: Leverage Local Knowledge to Deploy Efficiently
Home-field advantage is real. Applying that to site acquisition means having local site acquisition partners or team members who know the local area. Having the right information and connections facilitates critical workflows such as zoning, permitting, lease negotiations, finding fiber-end points, and more. Furthermore, local knowledge doesn’t just help the bottom line, it can help the top line as well. For example, understanding the local market can also help optimize marketing efforts to acquire new customers.
Collaborating with local partners or teams can help with marketing and operations, contributing to the top & bottom line.
Putting It All Together
Creating a set of rules is the easy part. And each recommendation is independent of the other, so it’s not difficult to get started. However, the full extent of the benefits happen when all three rules are working in concert with one another. And putting it all together is not practical without centralized coordination and programs to recruit and activate sites. This is analogous to using Uber, which does an incredible job aggregating data and coordinating resources in the back-end. But to the end-user, their platform automates complex workflows to provide a seamless front-end experience.
Similarly, online platforms can provide innovative ways to build and scale networks. With automated rules and workflows, coupled with a database of 6M+ potential sites, the Airwaive platform streamlines the site acquisition process. Most importantly, the network builder (aka operator) maintains full control of the process. This includes setting the minimum distance, maximum budget, equipment model, and final approval of each site. Lastly, the platform ensures that all potential sites adhere to operator requirements before activation. This facilitates site preparation and activation without getting too far ahead where the cart is leading the horse. Putting it all together, Airwaive enables an innovative site acquisition strategy that would otherwise be difficult to cobble together. To learn more, please click the button below to schedule a demo with our team of site acquisition experts.