What is critical infrastructure and why does it matter now more than ever?

What is critical infrastructure?

Critical infrastructure encompasses much of what most Americans take for granted, including wireless connectivity and constant availability of power sources. These resources require reliable infrastructure to run. Wireless connectivity requires cell towers, small cells, and Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS), to name a few. Utilities, such as gas and electric services, require meters and transmission and distribution (T&D) channels. This infrastructure is critical because business, governments, and private citizens cannot function without them — they are critical to the way we live our lives and to the organizations that enable us to do so.

Critical infrastructure projects are increasing across the country and the world. The volume, variety, and velocity of these projects are rapidly rising. These projects, which are all site-based and largely repeatable, have many steps that are all integral to the daily lives of every single citizen — think of gas lines, cellular towers, and fiber.

Why does critical infrastructure matter now more than ever?

The rise in critical infrastructure needs is leading to an unprecedented challenge in managing these types of projects. As this inflection point, it is crucial for every critical infrastructure provider to manage their projects in a way that minimizes risk, expedites completion, and, ultimately, save resources.

Telecommunications Infrastructure

Telecommunications infrastructure, or wireless and cellular infrastructure, is now integral to daily life, business, and government functions. Cell towers enable us to communicate with each other and wifi makes so much more possible. In order to keep the lines of communication open, we need to keep towers, small cells, and distributed antenna systems (DAS) up and running.

Network Densification

Not only do we need to keep these critical infrastructure systems in working order, but we need more of them now than ever. According to the latest Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, mobile data traffic has been growing 60% to 100% per year and total traffic will increase sevenfold by 2021 from 2016 levels. In addition, the demand for ubiquitous connectivity is rising due to the rapid adoption of wearable and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Telecom infrastructure is more critical now than it has ever been and this means that not only do we need to maintain and protect the infrastructure we already have, but we need to build more. Network densification is a requirement as we move forward. The number of cell sites in the U.S. will rise to more than 1.1 million in 2026, up from around 323,000 at the end of 2017, according to the CITA.

Network densification requires a higher number of smaller cells, which means more projects and sites. To keep track of each project and the steps and milestones within them, telecom project managers will need to enlist a modern critical infrastructure project management solution.

This increase in connectivity is driving a need for more reliability in another critical infrastructure sector: utilities.

Utility Infrastructure

The telecom industry, which is driving ubiquitous connectivity, is also driving a need for constant and reliable power sources to enable users to power on connected devices. We rely on cloud services, which run on physical servers that rely on the grid. The internet and the networks that enable access to it, run on our electric grid.

The need for constant and uninterrupted power

Energy consumption is increasing for the first time in over a decade after a long period of relative decline. Electric vehicles, smartphones, computers, and similar devices are everywhere, and these devices don’t just need available power to work, they need constant and uninterrupted power.

To ensure grid reliability,  or the ability to reduce the frequency and duration of power outages, as energy consumption and human dependence on an uninterrupted flow of power increases, utility companies across the U.S. need to ensure that their physical assets are in working order around the clock. To do this, they have to have a top-notch outage management system (OMS) and be able to meet demand by ensuring the electric grid is managed by a workforce that works efficiently and safely. They also need to manage projects, whether circuit repair or pole replacement, efficiently, to ensure asset work quality, and ultimately, decrease outage occurrence and duration.

Now, more than ever, delivering infrastructure projects requires a more modern and more efficient approach.

What is the role of critical infrastructure project management?

Critical infrastructure projects are different than any other type of project. Whether setting out to maintain, upgrade, or build new infrastructure assets.

With so many critical infrastructure project types across sectors like utilities and telecommunications, it’s imperative that infrastructure providers such as network operators and power companies,  manage their projects in a way that minimizes risk, expedites completion, and, ultimately, save resources.

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