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The Wireless Industry’s Not So Well-Kept Secret

By Mike Collado
April 11th, 2013

Photo: val.pearl

The not so well-kept secret within the wireless industry is that the wireless technicians who install multi-million dollar Distributed Antenna System (DAS) networks often do not possess the necessary basic skillsets to successfully deploy them.

And it’s causing not only headaches for building owners, carriers, DAS OEMs, integrators and installers; it’s costing them big money as well.

Economics 101

You know the law of supply and demand. Whether it’s Xbox, real estate or talent, a hot market drives demand which in turn affects supply.

As the wireless industry continues its migration toward upgrading wireless infrastructure to 4G technologies, the talent pool of well-qualified wireless technicians and RF engineers is increasingly becoming strained because these resources are spread across multiple projects.

So rather than turn away business, what happens? Those who are available get hired: junior or novice wireless technicians. And everyone hopes that it works out.

The justification is the legitimate concern of overhiring or losing investments in training should there be a work reduction.

ISO Skillsets

Fact is, most novice wireless technicians don’t possess the scientific principles of RF nor the pragmatic best practices required for In-Building Wireless coax and fiber compared with Cable TV or CAT 5 cable pulling.

But it’s not their fault. Most training schools do not provide education on wireless technology nor RF basics.

Thankfully that’s starting to change. Slowly.

Training & Certification Initiatives

There’s a conversation within the industry that’s steadily getting louder.

To whit, training and certification was the #1 topic of discussion among members of the DAS Forum during its Annual Meeting last September.

DAS Manufacturers and Integrators are starting to insist on basic RF “101-Level” training for field technicians. And they’re investing in training programs.

Carriers are similarly requiring best practice standards such as PIM Testing (a key topic during last week’s Verizon IBTUF). In effect, if installers want to dance with the carriers, they need to invest in PIM Testing equipment.

Visitors at SOLiD's Booth at CIBET II

The CIBET Initiative

Dr. Ken Baker and Phil Ziegler are addressing the need for RF 101 Training through CIBET (Certified In-Building Engineering Technologist Training).

Now in its second iteration, CIBET provides an introductory overview of topics in DAS science fundamentals, leading to more advanced training and certification for engineers and project managers. At the conclusion of either the Basic or Advanced RF Tracks, students sit for a certification exam and are awarded continuing education credits.

SOLiD has been a sponsor of CIBET since its inception. It’s been positive to see more participants this week in Atlanta than the first iteration held last September in Denver.

We’re similarly encouraged that industry vertical events such as next week’s ACUTA Annual Conference are also including DAS Training on their agendas.

SOLiD’s Role

In our last post, we shared that we’ve invested in a live demonstration showcase and SOLiD University™ training classroom for our customers and partners.

Our commitment is to create the gold standard for training and service excellence. The SOLiD training center vision is to provide hands-on, instructor-led training that utilizes the latest, proven training and retention techniques.

We’re excited to do our part to ensure that the people who install today’s sophisticated DAS networks are armed with the skillsets to deploy and manage them.

Your Turn

How is does RF training affect your business? Is the industry doing enough to address it? What are you doing to create best practices?

Let us know in the comments. Thanks!

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