The Federation of Communication Services (FCS) has launched a new code of practice, which aims to set the quality benchmark for site installations in the business radio sector. The move has been welcomed by the UK communications regulator Ofcom (see below).
Introducing the FCS 1331 Code of Practice for Business Radio Site Engineering: 2013 at the London regional Business Radio event last week, FCS CEO Chris Pateman (pictured) said: ‘This is a new industry standard to set the best practice benchmark for radio site engineering. It is a generic document that can be adopted by every serious practitioner in the industry. It also provides a benchmark for customer tender requirements and gives clients something to fall back on if their radio installation goes wrong.’
Explaining the context behind the revision Pateman said that there are increasing concerns about the poor quality of some radio equipment site installation work. He noted that this was particularly concerning at a time when many other voices are clamouring for spectrum. The industry cannot therefore afford to appear sloppy or disorganised in its installation work, he said.
‘The reputation of the industry is being seriously questioned,’ Pateman said, ‘and we need something we can push back on and refer to. We’ve begun a process. Here is a reference point against which the industry’s performance can be measured.’
The FCS has gone back to first principles and completely revised the previous MPT1331 code ‘from the ground up’. The Code provides a series of key points, such as encouraging customers to apply for spectrum licences as early as possible; technical parameters; service continuity; maintenance requirements; masts and passive infrastructure; ventilation and so on.
Pateman was at pains to stress that the Code does not reinvent the wheel. The code provides generic statements rather than prescriptive instructions. It codifies what should be happening anyway by capturing acceptable and professional installation procedures that are fit for purpose.
‘But how do we differentiate ourselves from those who do not adhere to these standards?’ asked Pateman. ‘There is no value in this if it puts extra cost into FCS members’ businesses and allows less reputable installers to undercut on price. We need datum that allows good installers to differentiate themselves against lesser quality work.’
One way of differentiating good quality is through an accreditation scheme, which the FCS is now proposing to its members.
A proposal for an accreditation scheme for radio site engineering
‘If we don’t want cowboy radio installers, we need to specify a standard benchmark for professional installers for which customers will be prepared to pay a premium for that professionalism,’ suggested Pateman.
‘Can we as an industry take control of getting our own house in order and can we collectively bring our customers with us?’ asked Pateman. ‘We want to be able to expose bad workmanship, but without fuss, without adverse publicity and without the threat of Government legislation or regulatory interference.’
The FCS has put together a number of principles under which an accreditation scheme might work, including:
- Differentiate FCS members on the basis of quality (and not price) and directly address this at the customer base
- Voluntary scheme – it should not be difficult for those who adhere to the quality standards already
- Formal self-declaration of adherence to FCS 1331 – a certificate could be granted on application after notification to members
- Participants listed on FCS website – with a link to participants’ websites
- Voluntary inclusion of customer references
- All relevant documents included on the same page.
Potential FCS activities
- Notification to members of new applications or re-applications
- Press campaigns – notes to procurement professionals such as CIPS, EIPM, LGPN, BCECA etc
- Maintaining list of participants in the scheme
- Addressing challenges from other members or end customers.
Pateman concluded by saying it is up to the industry to say how it wants to go forward and whether an accreditation scheme is workable.
FCS chairman Roy Pierce said: ‘Hopefully we can get more added value into our systems by doing some of these things.’
For more information on the new FCS 1331 Code go to: http://www.fcs.org.uk/FCS%201331/1331%20Intro.aspx
Ofcom Statement on the new FCS 1331 Code
A statement issued by Mark Walls, Director of Spectrum Engineering & Enforcement, Ofcom, said: ‘Ofcom is required to secure the optimal use of the electro-magnetic spectrum for wireless telegraphy. In performing this duty, Ofcom pays close attention to the efficiency of the use of radio spectrum. A key contributory factor to spectrum efficiency is the standard of the installation of the apparatus at the radio site.
‘Whether it is a very simple deployment of a single base station for an on-site service, or a complex radio communications system for a number of users over a wide area, the quality of the installation can, and generally will, affect the service the customer experiences. More importantly, poor site engineering is very likely to have a detrimental effect on the services of other users – potentially with serious consequences.
‘As the radio spectrum becomes more and more congested, the amount of harm that poorly engineered sites can cause to other user increases. That is why Ofcom continues to be involved in field enforcement duties, including examination of radio communications sites to ensure that they satisfy licence conditions.
‘The FCS initiative to improve the quality of site engineering through the Industry Code of Practice is therefore very much welcomed by Ofcom.’