The construction of 5G networks continues at a steady pace, with large-scale deployments in much of the developed world. Yet one of the biggest challenges in bridging the gaps in coverage maps is the constraints on 5G transmissions. Due to the spectrum used by 5G technology compared to 4G, telecom operators have to install several times as many towers to provide the advertised bandwidth with the same signal quality that users expect.
Installing cell phone towers, however, is a daunting proposition. An operator needs to find exactly the right location in terms of line-of-sight for users, then make sure the location has power and internet access, then negotiate a contract with the owner to maintain the tower there. for a decade or more. Now repeat tens of thousands of times (and maybe even more).
Sitenna, which will debut next week as part of Y Combinator’s 2021 Summer Demonstration Day, wants to dramatically speed up the process of selecting tower sites and securing contracts, creating a market for owners, tower operators and telecommunications operators.
The location of towers and access to poles have in some cases become national infrastructure priorities. In the United States, the challenges of installing new towers – and new towers quickly – became a top priority for the FCC during the Trump administration, which launched a 5G FAST plan to try to ease regulations. concerning the installation of towers.
Sitenna founders Daniel Campion and Brian Sexton saw an opportunity with such programs to help the movement. Over the past year or so, they’ve built what is essentially a marketplace that, on the one hand, helps homeowners determine if they own an asset that is worth investigating for telecom use and, d on the other hand, helps tower operators select and digitally sign installation agreements.
The company was launched in the UK in June and “it kind of resonated,” Campion said, noting that 65,000 real estate assets and around 15% of towers in the UK are now on the platform. The company has launched two pilots with Vodafone and its tower supplier Cornerstone. He said the company intends to enter the US market in the first quarter of next year.
As the business starts with a market, like many startups today, it is also expanding that market with B2B SaaS tools. In his case, that means tools for telecom operators to manage the process of onboarding a new tower location and then manage the asset. “Once they find the site, they send ping pong emails,” Campion said. “So we created tools to help them with their workflows. “
While there is certainly a big wave of tower installations going on with the transition to 5G wireless, that wave doesn’t mean tower installation will suddenly dry up in a few years. Campion notes that there is a “continuous 15-20% refresh on the operator side” due to everything from changing usage patterns and redeveloping buildings to simply replacing standard equipment.
And of course there’s still 6G, which, while completely amorphous today, is a real thing I get conference invitations for. There will always be a next generation of wireless, and Sitenna wants to become the management center of this infrastructure.