Celebrating 20 Years of Dewberry Telecom Services

Happy New Year! This year marks 20 years of Dewberry telecommunications services. Personally, we've been in this industry since Verizon was Bell Atlantic Mobile, before Sprint was even selling phones, and when the wireless devices that did exist looked more like bricks.

Dewberry's presence in the telecommunications industry started in 1994, before we were even here. While most of the country was focused that year on Major League Baseball's canceled season, Dewberry was concentrating on breaking into the telecom industry. Showing an impressive amount of foresight, Dewberry arrived on scene two years before the Telecommunications Act of 1996 ushered in the dawn of the digital mobile phone age.

Being Present to Write the History Books

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was the only amendment to the original Communications Act of 1934. It set forth zoning and permitting requirements for antenna work and was the first inclusion of the Internet into federal broadcasting law. Since then, the industry has grown, shrunk, grown again, shrunk again, and then boomed - and we've been there through it all.

Dewberry's telecom services began with Cellular One, BellSouth (which later became Cingular), and Bell Atlantic (which later became Verizon). Since we've been here from before the start of the new telecom era, it's hard to find a situation that we haven't experienced.

Antennas atop Overlook Hospital in Summit, NJ, a project that began in 1994.

How Technology Has Changed Telecom

20 years ago, historic venues, like Fenway Park or Washington, D.C.'s National Mall, did just fine hosting events for massive audiences. Nowadays, they serve as prime examples of high traffic areas in need of better coverage. In both cases, large numbers of people congregate for short periods of time and send out massive amounts of data.

Tablets and smartphones are increasing this data usage. Climbing adoption of Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media sites are causing large amounts of data to be transmitted across an infrastructure originally built for voice communication. We've moved from mass-broadcasting cellular sites placed miles between each other, to targeted digital data communications spaced out by mere feet.

A caveat to having wireless sites sit so close to the end user is the need to conceal them. Often mounted above roof lines or directly to building facades, wireless antennas can detract from a structure's natural look. To accommodate this, we've replaced whole steeples, windows, and other architectural features with exact fiberglass replicas; created faux-penthouses, chimneys, exhaust vents, pipes, columns, screenwalls, even evergreen trees; and designed concealing light poles, flagpoles, or billboards.

These new concealed support systems are so important because yesteryear's towers and building-top mounts were never designed to support the loads of today's more powerful antennas. Evolving to LTE and 4G networks has doubled antenna length and width, while the switch from radio frequency to light, utilizing fiber optics, requires even more antenna cabinetry. This is pushing the existing infrastructure beyond its capacity, requiring structural redesign and modification.

A cellular tower disguised as an evergreen tree in Mendham, NJ (2013)

Here's to the Future

We're in a telecom boom right now, and we have every reason to believe this boom is going to last. The leading carriers are already focusing on setting up networks that offer the pristine level of coverage needed for complete mobile voice over internet protocol (VOIP). The engineering and design hurdles we've encountered while improving the industry are growing more difficult and diverse, but we're rising to the challenge. We're using our experience to find solutions not just for our cellular company clients, but their clients as well - the smartphone dependent public.

On behalf of all Dewberry telecom engineers and staff, thanks for a great 20 years – we are all so excited to be a part of this industry's future evolution.

For more information on Dewberry's telecommunications services, click here to view the telecom portfolio.