As cities across the country slowly adopt 5G wireless and broadband technology, and as the FCC’s broadcast repack continues on, tower inspections are getting more attention. These inspections are a necessary step to ensure that these critical broadcast assets are safe, durable, and able to deliver the performance necessary for a frictionless transition; but are tower operators properly educated on what to look for?

On this episode of FDH Tech Talks, FDH Infrastructure Services’ Don Doty, director of broadcast services for the Stainless division, and Gregg Fehrman, vice president of field operations, return to share their insights on an essential but little-discussed component of the 5G rollout.

Fehrman informed listeners that a general inspection is a high-level examination of a tower that identifies obvious damage or issues, while a condition assessment is a more thorough, in-depth review of the structure and all its components. Conducting these inspections takes special skills, or as Fehrman put it, “Experience is the number one factor that makes for a good inspector.”

In his view, without experience in field operations or inspections, it’s tough for someone to deliver a meaningful assessment of a tower’s health.

Doty added that tower inspections are physically challenging, so an inspector must possess the ability to ascend and descend structures as high as 2,000 feet and do it in a reasonable amount of time. The reality is that there remains a lack of qualified personnel across the industry who have the experience, credentials, and physical agility necessary to be an effective tower inspector.

5G wireless deployment is going to take a massive addition of people to the workforce, and getting that many qualified people will require tremendous resources and education. However, this need presents great opportunities for young people to start a career.

“It’s a good field to be in and you’re always going to be in demand if you do a good job,” Doty said.

Part of the reason for the high demand is that insurance companies and jurisdictions are requiring more regular inspections to verify the safety and integrity of communication towers. Identifying problematic corrosion in advance of it becoming a significant issue can prevent a more serious problem like tower collapse, and so while these inspections are reactionary to the repack, they’ve done a good job of reminding operators why they’re so necessary.

“[When companies] catch things in advance, the fix is a lot cheaper now than it would be ten years from now,” Fehrman said.

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