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Integrated Tower Solutions: Young Guns Rising Above the Competition
Integrated Tower Solutions (ITS) fulfills cellular and broadcast tower design, repair and construction needs throughout Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. From the main office in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and a small warehouse in Edmonton, Alberta, the close-knit, highly trained group of 23 ITS employees excels at tower erection, antenna and transmission line installation, tower and site maintenance, civil construction, and emergency services throughout Canada, consistently satisfying clients as the company’s revenue grows each year.
The company expertly installs cutting-edge “long-term evolution” or LTE technology, the next-generation cell phone and wireless standard introduced in 2009. The need for higher bandwidth signal generates plenty of business for ITS. “Anything that the carriers implements, they have to build more sites, amplify it and make their footprint larger just to meet demands, so the growth potential is endless,” says Curtis Pippin, P.Eng., cofounder and current president of ITS. “Tower workers are very sought after right now!”
Corner of the Sky
Pippin has 18 years of hard-won telecommunications tower experience, starting after high school when he began his career as a tower rigger. “But I decided that minus 40 degrees Celsius up a tower wasn’t very much fun in the wintertime and went back to school,” he shares. Pippin earned a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Saskatchewan in 2002, just in time to capitalize on telecom industry expansions.
At that juncture the enthusiastic Pippin decided he was ready to take advantage of industry opportunities that would provide him long-term benefits, not just funnel them into someone else’s company, and he cofounded ITS in 2009 along with five other shareholders. “I was running a competitor’s operation in Saskatchewan and Manitoba; I was looking for an equity position in that company and they weren’t open to that, so I looked into starting my own,” he says matter-of-factly. After some research, ITS was a go, offering engineering services, project management and field/construction, technical, and emergency services for cellular and broadcast towers for telecommunications/wireless data, television and AM/FM towers.
Gradually growing its capabilities, ITS can handle everything from property acquisition to full site construction. The company partners with Pippin Technical Services to troubleshoot and repair antenna systems. ITS constructs guyed towers, self-supporting towers and rooftop sites, and also provides custom antenna mounts. The company’s central location, multilayered skills and innovative mindset, also puts it in a unique position to respond to emergency situations effectively.
For those unfamiliar with the industry, the word “antenna” may conjure up images of rabbit ears or old car radio antennas. But, this isn’t your father’s TV antenna. Broadcast antennas often weigh upward of 10,000 pounds, and working with them can involve some innovative aerial techniques. As a smart solution to a tower issue in Edmonton, Alberta, in March 2012, ITS removed a 17,000-pound broadcast antenna from a 700-foot tower using an Erickson Skycrane (the dramatic lift can even be seen on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1p_J-JLjgQ).
Tower work by its nature occurs at great heights. ITS relies on – and is especially proud of – its specialized staff of aerial technicians, also known as tower riggers. Pippin says, “It’s hard to find workers capable of doing this type of work. We hire general laborers and train them to do the work. It’s a niche trade.”
ITS keeps design work in house, as well as foundation, installation, steel installation, and antenna and transmission line installation. It subs out metals manufacturing and fabrication to specialists. “We use a couple different full tower manufacturers in Ontario, and for antenna mounts we use local suppliers in Saskatchewan,” relates Pippin.
And ITS keeps these strategic partners busy, as the biggest problem the company has experienced is not having enough people to get all the potential activity covered. “The demand is so much higher than supply, and we’re continually booked,” confirms Pippin. “The oil field can suck up all the labor at times, though. The global need for energy from Saskatchewan and Alberta won’t stop anytime soon! So it’s hard to attract laborers to train; it’s a hard market to tap into.”
Still, the company has plenty of cellular-related projects on the horizon, and Pippin confirms future initiatives include adding more resources in the Alberta market. As the thirst for bandwidth gets larger, the amount of business ITS does increases. Pippin expects more callers will require telecommunications carriers to build new sites and update existing towers. Luckily, thanks to the work of ITS, Pippin will be able to field those work calls on his cell phone, and with excellent reception.
“The growth potential within this industry over the next several years is huge,” Pippin beams. “The thirst for bandwidth keeps getting larger and larger. People want more data, and they want to continually upload and download data.” Filling a void within the broadcast and telecommunications tower market, Integrated Tower Solutions will be there with solutions and a dedication to customer satisfaction.