NATE Unite 2024 Recap: Wireless Industry Optimism on Display in the Home of the Blues

Sitetracker had the pleasure of exhibiting at the NATE Unite 2024 conference in the home of the blues—Memphis, TN—last week. This year’s event brought together over 2,500 attendees from leading tower and digital infrastructure owners, contractors, and wireless industry suppliers, along with nearly 200 sponsors and exhibitors. The event was marked by a robust agenda that covered everything from technological innovations and safety advancements to market trends and strategies for growth. Here are some key themes and insights from the conference, providing a glimpse at the current state and future direction of the wireless telecommunications ecosystem in 2024.

Elevating Safety & Education Standards

Safety training and education were as prominent as ever at NATE Unite, with a track of sessions dedicated to reviewing the latest updates to standards like ANSI/ASSP A10.48 and ANSI/TIA-322, and how commitments to these standards provide the foundation for delivering high-quality, efficient work in the field. Site audits using dynamic forms and templates were just one area that stood out as a logical place for software to enhance how quality and safety standards are implemented and deliver meaningful ROI from field safety programs. The conference also highlighted the need for a significant expansion of the workforce to support upcoming projects, pointing to the importance of education and training programs in developing a skilled workforce capable of implementing diverse infrastructure projects successfully.

Innovation and Technology Advancements

Another central theme at NATE Unite 2024 was the critical role of innovation and technology in driving the industry forward. Discussions around the integration of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) into training programs highlighted how emerging technologies are enhancing operational efficiency and safety. Technologies like digital twins, drones, LiDAR, and software for tracking and managing assets were also highlighted in digital transformation-focused sessions and demonstrations in the exhibition hall.

Diversification & Navigating CapEx Downturn 

Many educational sessions, workshops, and conversations on the tradeshow floor at NATE also reflected on the industry’s navigation of the downturn in carrier CapEx, focusing on strategies for diversification and resilience. The diversity of the digital infrastructure—encompassing fiber, small cells, data centers, and in-building solutions—was underscored as essential for supporting the scaling back up of operations. These components are viewed as the “many legs” of digital infrastructure, with fiber described as the “critical connective tissue” necessary for the seamless integration of wireless and wired networks. Of particular interest were discussions around new revenue streams, such as electric vehicle charging station infrastructure deployment, DAS and in-building wireless solutions, and OSP fiber rollout for fiber operators, utilities, and co-ops. These discussions provided valuable perspectives on how companies are adapting to changes in the market, and laying the foundation for growth despite the CapEx downturn via a shift towards a more integrated approach to deploying telecommunications infrastructure.

Sitetracker contractor marketplace graphic

On a related note, Sitetracker was excited to offer attendees a glimpse of the new Sitetracker Contractor Marketplace. Contractor Marketplace is a new way for NATE members and those serving the wireless industry to create relevant and quality connections, find work, hire your next partner, and gain visibility for your company. What’s more—it’s FREE and open to Sitetracker customers and non-customers alike. Pre-registration is now open, the perfect opportunity to gain additional visibility for your business and highlight new service offerings. Learn more here:

Market Trends & Future Outlook

Taking a long-term view of strategic planning and a nuanced understanding of market context was the name of the game when many discussions around the trends that will impact 2024 wireless work. For the tower market, business remains ever-steady, with valuations still nearing historical highs. Much discussion of 5G and mobility focused on fixed wireless access (FWA) initiatives undertaken by the major carriers, and expectations for continued growth in that segment. Overall, the speakers, particularly those on the 2024: Communications Infrastructure and Services Market Outlook panel, expressed cautious optimism given the diversity of work available – from the continued expansion of small cell networks to BEAD funding and fiber installation projects. One central talking point was carrier spectrum allocations – and the high carrying costs around the yet-to-be-deployed spectrum that could drive deployment as pressure mounts to monetize that spectrum.  Convergence of digital infrastructure between wireless and wireline work was another trend expected to continue offering a potential boon for contractors and services providers already planning how to diversify their project revenue streams. 

While the overall tone at NATE Unite 2024 offered a departure from the heyday of initial 5G rollouts, there was a definite sense of optimism with the diversity of opportunities on the horizon from fiber and FWA to EV, small cell, and in-building wireless solutions. The conference underscored the telecommunications industry’s resilience and adaptability, showcasing a clear path toward innovation and strategic growth. As the industry continues to evolve in response to trends in digitization and diversification, and evolving market dynamics, the insights from NATE Unite 2024 will undoubtedly play a crucial role in the year ahead.

Thank you to NATE and all who made NATE Unite 2024 a success – we can’t wait to see you in Raleigh next year!

Ready to learn how Sitetracker can deliver the operational efficiency and flexibility necessary to diversify your business – and get paid faster? Reach out for your personalized demo today!