Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Twilight Towers on Tap For FCC Vote December 14

The FCC’s solution for so-called “twilight towers” has been circulated among all five Commissioners for a vote. If approved, the change could open up thousands of towers for wireless broadband deployment. The item will be on the agenda for the agency’s December 14 meeting.

The towers in question were built between 2001 and 2005 and did not necessarily go through review under the National Historic Preservation Act because back then, the FCC had not yet provided clear guidance on how to comply with that provision. Those towers cannot accept co-locations. Now, newest FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr announced yesterday, that if approved, the Commission’s approach means the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation would adopt a “Program Comment” document to exclude co-locations on twilight towers from routine historic preservation review. Continue Reading

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Rural Telcos Ask FCC to Help Close Digital Divide

A group of 21 rural telecom providers urged the FCC to help close the digital divide by adopting light-touch regulations that provide companies confidence to invest in network upgrades and expansions that can help close the digital divide between urban and rural households.  

“As executives of broadband companies serving rural and small-town America, we are writing to express our shared concern about the economic divide in our country evident in the slower growth and progress in many of the economically distressed communities we serve,” the companies wrote in the letter, adding that they are equally “concerned by the technology divide separating the digital ‘haves’ in our nation from the ‘have-nots,’ especially in our country’s rural areas.”

Returning broadband service to the light-touch framework under Title I that provided the foundation for the growth and success of the broadband enabled internet is essential to this effort, the companies wrote. “Broadband has traditionally been considered an interstate service, which is why it is important that states and localities not impose common carrier-like regulations on broadband providers.”  Continue Reading

Monday, November 20, 2017

WIA’s Adelstein Testifies Before Congress For More Support For 5G

The nation needs more spectrum and wireless infrastructure to support the data needs of 5G, according to Wireless Infrastructure Association President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein. “The massive growth in the number of connected devices will strain the capabilities of the infrastructure we have today,” he told members of the House Communications Subcommittee Thursday in a hearing on 5G. 

Others who testified included David Broecker, CEO of Indiana Biosciences Research Institute, Dr. Coleman Bazelon, Principal, The Brattle Group and Chris Pearson, President, 5G Americas.
“Supporting the demand for more infrastructure will require major investments. We need additional cell towers and poles and more antennas of all types and sizes that attach to structures of all sizes,” he testified.   

And that infrastructure can take many forms. In addition to antennas on towers, poles and the sides or tops of buildings, new networks will rely on “street furniture.” Bus stops, manhole covers, park benches, mailboxes, the lights at a local high school or even a gazebo in a public park are all candidates to host cellular antennas, he told lawmakers, adding that policies need to recognize that all types of infrastructure are needed. Continue Reading

Friday, November 17, 2017

FCC’s O’Rielly Cites “Commission Ineptitude” If U.S. is Late on 5G

The FCC took steps to free up more spectrum above 24 GHz for broadband; Commissioners are keenly aware the U.S. is in a worldwide race to deploy 5G first. This high-frequency spectrum will support innovative new uses enabled by fiber-fast wireless speeds and extremely low latency, according to the agency.  
“I will not let the U.S. lose the 5G race due to Commission ineptitude,” said Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, as he voted for the changes yesterday. The FCC needs to keep working on making other spectrum bands available as well, he said, adding he hopes to follow-up with an item for a vote in the first half of next year.

Continuing with the 5G race theme, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel urged colleagues to commit to deadlines. “We are not moving fast enough,” she said, saying the agency should hold its 28 GHz band spectrum auction “before our counterparts in Asia” hold theirs.  Continue Reading

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Indoor Wireless 911 Call Location Accuracy Takes a Step

Locating where someone is when they call 911 using a wireless phone inside a building has taken a step forward. The FCC has approved a privacy and security plan for the National Emergency Address Database (NEAD) submitted by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and NEAD, LLC. The database will enable carriers to use the media access control (MAC) address and Bluetooth Public Device Addresses (BT-PDA) information of fixed indoor access points to locate wireless devices being used to call 911.
Carriers have been working on technology to support the provision of dispatchable location information (such as street address, floor level, and office or apartment number) to Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) when indoor wireless customers place 911 calls. The database must be used only for 911 location and the FCC prohibited its use for commercial purposes. 

Wireless association CTIA created the non-profit NEAD which the carriers appointed to oversee development and operation of the database platform. The NEAD plan submitted in February explains when someone calls 911 from a wireless phone equipped with WiFi or Bluetooth, the carrier network automatically collects data from the handset about nearby wireless access points. The network then queries the database to determine whether the MAC address or BT-PDA information is in the database and associated with a street address. If so, the carrier provides the street address plus other in-building information to the PSAP as part of the 911 call.  Continue Reading

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

FirstNet Part of a “Perfect Storm” for Tower Workers

NATE Goes to Washington  (Part One of Four)
National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) representatives came to Washington, D.C. recently to lobby Congress, the FCC and other government agencies. Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief Leslie Stimson sat down with the six members of their lobbying team to discuss NATE’s regulatory priorities and get a sense of their 30 meetings. Sitting at the table were: NATE Board Director John Paul Jones, Board Chairman Jim Tracy, COO Paula Nurnberg, Board Director Randy Scott, Executive Director Todd Schlekeway and Director of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Jim Goldwater.

IT: Why did you come to Washington?
Tracy: We came here to explain our legislative and regulatory priorities, to members of Congress and their staff. At the end of the day we might do towers, we might do certifications, antenna swaps, new builds, DAS, small cell — all of the incredibly complex ecosystem that wireless has become, but we’re still the “elevate wireless safety people.” We elevate wireless and it’s safety first, safety always.

Worker Shortage
IT: Is it new to the people you’re meeting with that there aren’t enough workers to do the television repack work?
Tracy: It’s not just the repack. We talked about the perfect storm. We’re not done with 4G yet. We’ve got 5G right around the corner, FirstNet, tower marking and broadcast work. The public safety work alone that we’re looking at in terms of FirstNet, there’s 100,000 towers that are going to need to be somehow altered. Continue Reading

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

AT&T, Verizon Plot New Towers to Avoid Traditional Leases

AT&T, Verizon and Tillman Infrastructure said they’ve reached a deal to build “hundreds” of cell towers, in an arrangement the parties say is more cost-effective than traditional tower lease deals.
Tension over traditional tower lease arrangements has popped up in the past year during earnings calls and other finance discussions with both towercos and the major carriers. In Monday’s announcement, AT&T SVP Susan Johnson said, “We need more alternatives to the traditional tower leasing model with the large incumbents,” saying the current model “is not cost-effective or sustainable.” Verizon Chief Network Officer said the carrier is reviewing all of its long-term contracts as they come up for renewal “and we are excited to develop new vendor partners to diversify our infrastructure providers.”

Tillman owns and operates macro towers, small cells and smart cities infrastructure; it will build these towers to suit. AT&T and Verizon will lease the towers that will be co-located and co-anchored by the two carriers. Construction is slated to begin in the first quarter of 2018.  

The carriers confirmed to Inside Towers the deal is for macro towers only. Verizon said this is the first agreement of its kind with another large carrier and tower company in its history. AT&T told Inside Towers: “All of our desired site locations are being considered” with the Tillman agreement. Continue Reading