Thursday, September 19, 2019

AT&T CEO Says Selling Towers Will Help Pay Down Debt

Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T, told investors the carrier may soon divest itself of AT&T’s 5,600 tower inventory to continue to pay down debt following the acquisition of Time Warner. Stephenson made the comments at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference in New York where he discussed the company's strategy going forward in 2019.

AT&T has paid down $9 billion in net debt in the first half of 2019, reducing its net debt by $18 billion since the acquisition was completed. The company, in a recent quarterly statement, increased its full-year free cash flow target by $2 billion to $28 billion in an effort to reduce its net debt-to-adjusted EBITDA ratio to the 2.5x range by the end of 2019.

Stephenson cited increases in demand for connectivity and bandwidth as a growing trend where the carrier would like to focus their assets. A direct path to the consumer, he said, gives AT&T a competitive advantage now that it’s a content provider. Continue Reading

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

FCC Authorizes SAS Deployments in 3.5 GHz CBRS Band

The FCC, in coordination with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Department of Defense, on Monday certified that five Spectrum Access Systems (SAS) satisfied the Commission’s laboratory testing requirements and are approved to begin their initial commercial deployments in the 3.5 GHz CBRS band (3550-3700 MHz ). The approved SAS are operated by: Amdocs, CommScope, Federated Wireless, Google, and Sony.

The companies will conduct field tests and the Commission will assess whether each SAS can operate under actual deployment conditions. Each company must tell the agency when its deployment begins and whether it will operate with an approved Environmental Sensing Capability. The notification must include a primary point of contact for incumbent operators to report potential interference issues to the SAS. Initial commercial deployments must last at least 30 days and test several CBRS devices. The companies must report results to the government for final review. Stakeholders plan full commercial launches to begin in the fourth quarter of this year.

The promise of the CBRS band is that new entrants will use dynamic spectrum sharing to co-exist with federal U.S. Navy radar systems operating along the coasts. Using SAS to let them know when a channel is occupied will enable new entrants to operate on different CBRS channels to avoid interfering with naval operations. The news opens the door to a market opportunity for operators, enterprises and industrial players, according the CBRS Alliance, an industry organization focused on driving the development, commercialization, and adoption of OnGo™ shared spectrum solutions. AT&T, Charter Communications and Verizon have developed technology and services to support the use of OnGo. Commercial services are planned for thousands of sites. Continue Reading

Monday, September 16, 2019

FCC Acts on Industry Requests Concerning Macro Towers, Small Cells

UPDATE There’s FCC movement on two requests from the wireless industry relating to towers and small cells. The agency has invited public comment on a Petition for Rulemaking and a Petition for Declaratory Ruling, both filed by the Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA). The association asked the Commission to adopt new rules or explain existing ones regarding Section 6409(a) of the Spectrum Act of 2012. The Commission is also seeking public input on a similar request from CTIA.

WIA asked the FCC to amend its rules to reflect that collocations requiring an expansion of the current site—within 30 feet of a tower site—qualify for relief under Section 6409(a) and to require that fees associated with eligible facilities requests under Section 6409 be cost-based. WIA also asked the Commission to clarify:

  1. that Section 6409(a) and related rules apply to all state and local authorizations;
  2. when the time to decide an application begins to run;
  3. what constitutes a substantial change under Section 6409(a);
  4. that “conditional” approvals by localities violate Section 6409(a); and
  5. that localities may not establish processes or impose conditions that effectively defeat or reduce the protections afforded under Section 6409(a). Continue Reading

Friday, September 13, 2019

FCC OKs Over $112 Million in Rural Broadband Funding

The FCC Thursday authorized over $112.2 million in funding over the next decade to expand broadband in nine states. The awards are the fifth round of funding from last year’s Connect America Fund Phase II auction. Broadband providers will begin receiving the money later this month.

In total, the auction last year allocated $1.488 billion in support over the next ten years to expand broadband to more than 700,000 unserved rural homes and small businesses nationwide. The action brings the total authorized funding to over $1 billion. Additional rounds will be authorized in the coming months.

Funding applications approved by the agency Thursday include:

  • Cal.net is receiving over $50.5 million over ten years to deploy service to 20,859 homes and businesses in California. Most of them will get speeds of at least 100 Mbps downstream/20 Mbps upstream, using fixed wireless technology
  • W.A.T.C.H TV is receiving nearly $53.4 million over ten years to deploy service to 23,957 rural homes and businesses in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Speeds of at least 100 Mbps downstream/20 Mbps upstream are anticipated, using fixed wireless technology
  • Four rural phone companies are receiving $1.8 million to offer gigabit-speed fiber service to 536 rural homes and businesses in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin Continue Reading

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Industry, Government, See a Path Forward to Fix Broadband Maps


From left: USTelecom’s Jonathan Spalter, NTCA’s Shirley Bloomfield and
U.S. Cellular’s Grant Spellmeyer testify Wednesday.
The House Communications and Technology Subcommittee is considering five bills to improve the accuracy of the FCC’s broadband location maps. Bi-partisan lawmakers heard from industry experts on Capitol Hill Wednesday about what they suggest are doable, fast and cost-effective fixes before the maps are used to direct federal subsidies to rural broadband providers.

“The lack of clear data has been a sore spot. Accurate maps of who does and who doesn’t have access to broadband [are needed] to close the digital divide, said Subcommittee Chair Mike Doyle (D-PA) during the hearing. “We can’t solve the problem if we don’t know the scope of the problem.”

The bills being considered would standardize the data submission process so all providers are submitting the same information the same way. The legislation also includes a challenge process so companies can have a chance to correct inaccuracies before funds are dispersed. Continue Reading

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

From Tragedy Comes Progress: How 9/11 Impacted Public Safety


Eighteen years ago, tragedy struck the U.S., and during the attack on 9/11, radio systems used by emergency personnel could not operate competently across agencies. In the aftermath, an investigation by the 9/11 Commission revealed gaps in emergency communications across the country, prompting the need for a nationwide network for law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical personnel.

In 2012, Congress authorized the creation of the First Responder Network Authority (now FirstNet) and allocated 20 megahertz of spectrum, known as Band 14, to a dedicated first responder broadband network. The estimated $54 billion needed to build out the network was raised by selling television spectrum in the FCC’s broadcast incentive auction and by entering a 25-year public-private partnership with AT&T. The telecom is now building out and funding FirstNet, which went live in March 2018. The effort in the U.S has also created and inspired new public safety systems worldwide.

The ultimate vision for public safety is a converged network, a dedicated, public safety wireless broadband infrastructure capable of offering mission-critical services; these services will include voice, data, and video. LMR and LTE networks are coming together to make this vision a reality, albeit slowly. Continue Reading

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Bahamas Carrier Aliv Buys Into COWs and Survives the Storm


25 COWs purchased from Landa Mobile Systems LLC by Aliv pulled in their towers prior to the storm and says all are back in operation with no losses or damages.
When Michael Landa of Landa Mobile Systems LLC sold Bahamanian carrier Aliv on the benefits of buying COWs that can retract during a storm and redeploy afterward, he didn’t think his sales pitch would have such a dramatic demonstration. But Mother Nature brutally and relentlessly backed his claims. Other than a few standing monopoles, and those mostly non-functioning, the tower inventory across the islands were rendered inoperative by Hurricane Dorian last week.
“It’s nice to be part of the story that’s helping the island get back on its feet,” Landa, a service diabled veteran, told Inside Towers. Aliv, billing itself as “the Bahamas’ newest LTE network”, purchased 25 COWs from Landa, 15 of which were deployed in Nassau, with systems that serve the island and the Port of Nassau, supplying communications for all container and cruise ships. Landa said he had just air-freighted eight sets of guy wires to re-erect towers that were demolished by the sustained 180-mph winds. His systems will also help reconnect NASA and top-security U.S. missile defense sites.