The telecom industry always moves fast, and 2023 was no exception. The broadband market continued to boom in part due to the large-scale expansion of access to federal funding. Although the wireless sector saw a significant downturn in construction and site deployment, construction companies embraced new and emerging technologies. As a full-service network design-build and information system professional services firm, Tilson has a first-hand and deeper understanding of telecom trends, emerging technologies, and customer preferences that we anticipate will drive telecom forward in 2024.
2023 laid the groundwork for the implementation of historic broadband infrastructure investments. Tilson’s broadband consulting work grew by a staggering 80% as we led state and local organizations through accessing and utilizing federal funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program (BEAD). Traditionally, plans to expand access to broadband have been highly localized and dependent on scarce public funding that rarely provided enough money to fund more than basic planning activities. That changed last year as state-wide grant programs across the country began providing support for wide-scale projects.
In 2024, we anticipate a nationwide increase in post-award services, which are the activities that ensure these grant programs are compliant and meet requirements. Companies with expertise in designing and administering grant programs will be in high demand to help state and public entities utilize federal funding from the IIJA of 2021 which put $65 billion into broadband funding nationwide. Tilson’s broadband consulting team continues to support several states in the deployment of grant programs that will fund impactful projects and expand access to broadband.
“Tilson is the first firm to successfully deploy post award services that include field verification. Our telecom experts meet with grantees directly in the field to inspect construction on behalf of the grantor.” Jay Ford, VP of Telecom Consulting, Tilson
This influx in funding for broadband projects, together with the public demand for reliable, high-speed internet, will require continued infrastructure investment and accelerate network buildouts in 2024.
In 2023, Tilson broke ground on major fiber network projects aimed at entire cities and communities, many of whom have never had reliable internet access. We designated 2023 as “The Year of the Microtrencher” by adding the addition of microtrenchers to Tilson’s growing fleet of underground equipment. Microtrenchers deploy fiber cables faster and more safely to entire neighborhoods. We expect this technology to be a key deployment method in 2024, along with new techniques such as improved GPR utility locating.
Workforce training and recruitment will take center stage as BEAD initiatives drive outside plant opportunities in 2024. Tilson’s workforce doubled in 2023, marking a year of unprecedented growth. Our safety, recruiting, and training departments all increased in size and footprint driven in large part by growing aerial and underground construction.
A term we expect to reference more in 2024 is “microlearning,” or short bursts of learning content directly where and when needed. Instead of long training sessions prepping for multi-step work with hazard variability, Tilson is putting an emphasis on mobile or hands-on microlearning to improve material retention and to improve employees’ access when they need it.
“In 2024, Tilson is focusing on making training more accessible to all team members. This means focusing on the mobile experience coupled with hands-on opportunities. Microlearning content is quick and repeatable and can better reinforce what people have learned.” Darrin Martin, Director of Training and Development, Tilson
While major competitors shrunk their wireless work and experienced major layoffs last year, Tilson’s wireless work grew by 25%. As companies evolve and adapt to new technologies, we see automation and digitization becoming major initiatives in 2024 in support of future growth for expanding 5G and Wi-Fi 6/6E networks.
In 2023, we witnessed construction companies increase adoption of digital platforms to streamline work and gain a competitive edge. This resurgence in digitization resulted in growth for our Construction Technology Consulting division. Tilson’s in-house construction technology consultants have witnessed this digitalization firsthand and expect 2024 to be the year that many clients embrace cloud-based solutions. Having led multiple clients through cloud solutions, Tilson recognizes just how powerful cloud platforms can be, leading to robust document management, enhanced analytics, and improved collaboration between departments. This type of change can be challenging for companies to navigate in ways they may not understand before an implementation begins. Tilson’s teams are unique in that they help clients understand how to think about this aspect of change management, not just the tech side.
We can’t talk about technology trends in 2024 without mentioning artificial intelligence. Contractors are looking to AI for advanced algorithms, automation, and predictive analytics. The integration of AI should be done with intention and care to get usable, accurate results that is best suited for its utility, not all utilities. Your people are still your most valuable asset.
“AI can fuel decision-making and free up resources to focus on other work, but it should be implemented in strategic and well-thought ways. Tilson’s construction technology team stands ready to help partners embrace AI as the most efficient part of their technology strategy in 2024 and beyond.” Trudi Fenster, AVP Construction Technology, Tilson
One final trend we are seeing moving into 2024 is the need for telecom and wireless experts to guide the design and construction of America’s developing EV charging grid. Tilson is already on the ground building charging stations connected to reliable networks and will be leading the charge to build this critical infrastructure. Electric vehicle adoption is driving increased demand for a robust, nationwide network of stations and our teams are ready to provide program management, network design, site permitting, engineering, construction, maintenance, and monitoring solutions to support the transformation of America’s energy network.
As more homes, businesses, and municipalities connect to high-speed broadband internet, we expect 2024 to be another critical year for America’s information infrastructure in the telecom sector. This means managing network demands, optimizing infrastructure, strengthening security and more – all of which could present challenges for the year ahead. Since 1996, Tilson has a long track record of pushing technology forward by listening first to its clients, then implementing strategies that enable our teams to adapt to change, maintain service continuity, and preserve financial stability. Reach out to our team to learn how we can help you stay ahead of the competition in 2024 with our full suite of in-house services. From strategy, engineering, and design to the construction, management, and maintenance of networks, Tilson is your ideal partner for the coming years.