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Utility Pole Data for Telecom Attachments

Pole information is necessary for make ready engineering, which is how we bring communications services to underserved communities across America.

Utility pole data identifies the pole, what work needs to be done, the safety conditions, and more. This data informs engineering decisions and helps to maintain good records. 

Plus, it’s a must for any type of pole audit or inventory count, which helps keep records up-to-date and improves grid safety for joint use. 

Collecting data is a tough job. It’s in high demand. It is repetitive. It increases liability and field exposure of your teammates. But it’s also essential for joint use management and building a robust grid. If we don’t have proper visibility and good data (and data management!), we’re going to struggle to create processes that result in reliable utilities. And it all depends on data collection.

Types of Utility Pole Data 

Every pole owner has their own process, but these three things are needed to submit attachment applications in nearly every market: 

Pole IDs/Locations

Pole tags ensure that we’re all talking about the same pole. These unique identifiers, state coordinates grid locations, or sequence/branch numbers also identify who owns the pole. 

True geolocations help calculate span lengths, determine break angles, and approximate elevation changes. They can be designed using aerial imagery but need to be confirmed in the field to ensure they're correct. 

Both IDs and location help ensure the master records are accurate and up to date. 

Attachment Type 

The type and weight of new attachments need to be accounted for during pole loading analysis to make sure the pole will meet safety standards. 

Guying Plan

Providing pole owners with a clear guying plan ensures that the final engineering design honors your original intent even if obstacles pop up along the way.  

This information may be collected during route selection, but will definitely be done by the team performing make ready engineering: 

Pole Measurements and Attachment Heights  

We use pole height photos to calibrate and measure the heights of existing attachments on the pole and to calculate additional space left for a new attachment. A photo captures defensible evidence of existing conditions on the pole and allows designers to easily build 3D models for pole loading analysis. 

Midspan Clearances 

Midspan photos are captured to show cable and conductor heights for safety reasons. These are taken at critical clearances—driveways, roadways, yards, bodies of water, etc. We take these photos perpendicular to the span to help minimize back-office errors and to ensure make ready moves don’t create new safety issues.

Birthmark Information

Birthmarks are usually branded onto the pole and show the pole's height, class, and species. You may also see them as medallions on a pole. 

Birthmark info is used to calculate the pole spec for loading. Note - Combining groundline circumference and measured pole height can provide an approximate pole spec.

Power Maps 

While communication cables can be measured using a midspan height photo, teams need either an extremely keen eye or utility-provided records to classify the specifications of conductors (primaries, secondaries, and neutrals) to perform accurate pole loading analysis. 

Guying Info

Guying information is collected in the field to ensure poles and anchors aren’t already overloaded. This helps designers determine if there is available space to share an existing anchor and what make ready is needed to ensure the pole is safe. Occasionally, teams may have to collect non-applied-for poles to provide more data so that good engineering decisions can be made. 

Grounding Information 

The status of a groundwire helps to inform which make ready guidelines are applied to the pole. When effectively grounded, make ready standards can be slightly more lenient. Knowing if the groundwire is missing or broken gives designers the freedom to make decisions that can help save attachers time and money without sacrificing safety or grid reliability.

At Katapult, we think more is needed to perform good engineering:


Context Photos 

Zoomed-in photos and zoomed-out photos both provide helpful context that tells the full story. Zoom photos look closer at the power and comm space for back office identification of equipment specs and comm ownership. Span photos zoom out farther to show the neighboring poles. This helps the back office trace attachments for make ready and pole loading.

Collection Data and User 

Tracking who collected data and when they did helps to keep data relevant. It allows teams to receive feedback for improvement promptly and provides valuable info on run rates and team growth. 

Inspection Tags

Pole inspection tags show the inspection date and inspecting company from the last pole health inspection. Pole owners track this information as part of the make ready process. 

Utility pole data is the foundation of pole attachments. It informs everything from attachment permits to inventory audits to post-construction inspections. 

That’s why it’s so important to collect good data. Understanding why you’re collecting pole attachment data aligns teams on their purpose and reveals the deeper value behind their work. 

Thanks for reading! Contact us today to learn more about our data collection process! 

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