Utilities need reliable, robust communications networks to support the health, security and reliability of the electrical system and many other critical applications. When the utility network calls for a new tower site to provide the necessary communications path, the complex process of site planning is introduced. Once the site planning and design decisions are made, it’s time to purchase the new tower asset. Utilities require clear, accurate and complete procurement requirements to achieve the network assets on which the electrical system and the community will come to rely.

Towering Needs

Whether a self-support, guyed or monopole tower is chosen for a new project, a strong set of procurement specifications helps utilities meet service needs and create a level playing field for bids. Taking the time to craft precise technical specifications helps see that it is designed and delivered for each utility’s specific application needs.

Consider the individual aspects unique to the project and incorporate them into the procurement requirements. For example, if the tower must fit within a defined footprint or it must be designed to fall within a specific radius in the event of a structural failure, these needs should be stated within the procurement specifications. Being upfront and clear with unique details within the general specifications helps get the bids needed and keeps a project on track.

Technical Requirements

As specifications are developed, consistent procurement requirements should be included in bids. In addition to special design preferences, tower steel procurement bid proposals should detail: 

  • Soil bore and geotechnical report: By providing a soil bore and geotechnical report, vendors can design to site-specific conditions instead of using presumptive ones. Don’t rely on standard soil bore results and geotechnical reports that might be used for a substation, for example, but instead provide vendors with the analysis that makes sense for communications tower manufacturing. These reports often result in differing design variants among vendors, which leads to options for projects with varying cost and schedules.
  • Structural specifics: Include site-specific requirements that have a bearing on bid development. For example, including a desire to use the current revision to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA)-222 standard will see that the tower is designed to account for wind and ice loading, the predominant external loads that towers bear over their lifespan. Consider including additional requirements that provide some percentage of spare loading capacity to accommodate future needs, in addition to known appurtenances.
  • Mechanical specifications: Be clear if there are preferences for the mechanical structure such as solid or hollow legs, galvanization details or specifics based on industry standards for steel and bolts.
  • Feed line routing: Make note if there is a preferred feed line routing method, such as the use, quantity and/or location of feed line ladders with a minimum number of feed line positions per ladder.
  • Safety requirements: Standard safety rules for communication tower projects should be included. Safety climbs inside the tower leg, along a specific air terminal length and climbing pegs on legs requirements should be stipulated.
  • Appurtenance specifications: Think ahead about future utility needs and include these details in procurement requirements. Be specific about required appurtenance by adding a table or diagram that addresses immediate and future need antennas from the outset that may be used at a future date. This advanced planning allows accommodations to be included in the initial structural loading design.
  • Vendor submittals: Defining what a bid should include helps all parties be more efficient. Include specifics that will serve as a document of record for the new tower structure going forward and as a good reference document for future analysis and modifications. At a minimum, request foundation drawings, erection and installation drawings, and tower loading calculations.

New tower site planning should be methodical and follow best-practice guidelines. Being prepared for the actual tower procurement is part of this process to facilitate successful project implementation.


Identified project objectives and best-practice planning guidelines help utilities execute new tower sites to meet these growing needs and prepare for future requirements.


Jonathan Conway is a project manager at Burns & McDonnell, focused on supporting the upgrading and expansion of various power delivery communications for electric utility companies in the U.S. He has over 15 years of experience in the telecommunications market, specializing in telecommunications and network engineering.