Helicopter helps TDS deliver improved internet speeds

TDS Telecommunications Corp. used a helicopter to install a microwave pole atop a mountain in a remote area of western Colorado. The pole, which eventually will support microwave equipment enabling 20 more microwave locations to be networked, is at an altitude of 7,424 feet at the top of Youngs Peak in the West Elk Mountains.

When the microwave technology is operational, the equipment will support broadband to about 3,000 locations in Delta and Gunnison counties. Service in the counties is funded, in part, through the FCC’s Alternative Connect America Model (A-CAM) program.

The pole was delivered last fall, but site work and construction were limited from December 1 to April 1 due to weather issues and the use of the area for migration by elk and mule deer. Work was delayed until the snow melted.

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Site work was completed on May 17 and the helicopter placed the first pole two days later. The helicopter flew the pole directly into the hole. The site was compacted and plumb to complete the operation, Greg Fitch, a TDS network specialist in microwave technologies, said in a press release.

The use of the helicopter is quicker and far less disruptive than the traditional alternative. “Renting a helicopter is more efficient than spending nine months building a road to get to the top of the mountain,” Fitch said in the press release about the TDS helicopter installation. “Using a helicopter is quick and it’s done all in one morning. During our research for this project, we found the helicopter to become the most viable solution.”

The pole has an 80-year lifespan. The overall project still is underway. Later this year, some TDS customers will see download speeds of 25 Mbps or more, the press release says.

TDS reported its first-quarter results last month. It reported a customer base that for the first time exceeded 500,000 subscribers, including both residential and business customers. The service provider is seeing gigabit penetration of 17%.

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