Monday, December 30, 2013

What Should Telecommunicators Know About Spectrum?

If you are part of the telecommunications industry, it’s likely that you’ve heard the word “spectrum” a few times, especially lately; but what do you need to know about spectrum? “It’s a finite and valuable resource, all spectrum holders must use their bands for the best and highest purposes,” according to the CTIA. When it comes to towers, they are needed to enhance coverage, increase capacity, decrease network load, and enhance spectral efficiency. This is why expedient tower siting is necessary. The FCC has been working to improve spectrum efficiency by: allocating more public safety frequency bands, increasing available communication channels within limited spectrum bands, improving spectrum management processes to enhance efficiency, and promoting technology advancement, such as software-defined radio and cognitive radio. (Source: Understanding the Basics: What Telecommunicators Need to Know About Spectrum” by Christine Phelps.)
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Friday, December 27, 2013

AT&T Speaks Out About Government Surveillance Position

Along with Verizon, AT&T will be publishing a semi-annual online report that will provide information on the number of law enforcement requests for customer information. The company expects to publish the first report, covering information received in 2013, in early 2014. “The debate about government surveillance programs and striking the right balance between protecting personal privacy and providing national security is a healthy one. It’s important that policymakers worldwide get it right so that people can continue to enjoy the benefits of technology and communications with confidence,” said Wayne Watts, AT&T Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel. 
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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Stealth Towers Can Be Aesthetically Pleasing and Environmentally Friendly

One of the major complaints about cell towers is their appearance and one of the minor complaints of cell towers is the effect they have on the environment. However, towers that are disguised as other structures can eliminate both of these problems. According to STEALTH, a tower concealment company, “Recently, STEALTH completed two projects on Kiawah Island with Osprey nests, or birds of prey, platforms. The monopole concealments were designed to match the wooden appearance of the original poles.When designing the concealments, Kiawah, being a naturalistic island located on the coast of South Carolina, wanted to provide endangered birds, especially Osprey, a place to build a safe nest. 

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Dish Considers Making a Bid for T-Mobile

Just when industry professionals thought Sprint and Dish were getting along due to their agreement to work together to test a fixed wireless broadband service in Corpus Christi, Texas, news broke that Dish may be putting in a competing offer against Sprint to purchase T-Mobile. This will be the satellite TV provider’s second attempt in two years at acquiring a major wireless operator. 
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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Technology Analyst Jeff Kagan Weighs in on Sprint T-Mobile Merger Possibility

The possibility of Sprint and T-Mobile merging raises a lot of questions from the major tower companies to the tower technicians; everyone is wondering how this might affect them. “If Sprint does acquire T-Mobile, it would transform them into a larger and stronger number three competitor to both AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless, virtually overnight,” says Tech analyst Jeff Kagan. “Whether the US Government would allow it is the question.” Because AT&T Mobility tried to acquire T-Mobile two years ago and the government said “no” in order to keep four competitors in the industry, many believe that this will be the outcome of Sprint seeking to acquire T-Mobile. 
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How Would A Sprint/T-Mobile Merger Affect Professionals in the Industry?

After the announcement that Sprint was considering making a bid for T-Mobile, Crown Castle International and American Tower Corporation released statements regarding this potential merger and many people are wondering how this change with affect them. The Wall Street Journal reported that Sprint may place a bid within the next six months to acquire T-Mobile for more than $20 billion. With Sprint and T-Mobile sharing spots on many of the same towers, the tower companies are worried about what this will do to business. American Tower released on Monday that after the quarter ended September 30, 2013 Sprint and T-Mobile accounted for 16% and 10% of the company’s operating revenue. American Tower currently has separate leases for antenna space with Sprint and T-Mobile on the same site at approximately 5,500 communications sites. Crown Castle announced that Sprint and T-Mobile represented approximately 23% and 22%, respectively, of CCI’s consolidated site rental revenues. Crown Castle also owns about 8,000 towers on which both carriers reside, with approximately six years of current term remaining on all lease agreements with Sprint and eight years left on all lease agreements with T-Mobile. 
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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Why Are Officials Using Fake Cell Towers to Access Information?

After the Supreme Court made the decision that federal investigators and other law enforcement agencies were no longer allowed to use information from GPS tracking without a warrant, officials found another way to keep an eye on potential criminals. They did this by using a device that mimics the technology of a cell tower. Clarence Walker of Global Research explained that, “The new surveillance technology is the StingRay (also marketed as Triggerfish, IMSI Catcher, Cell-site Simulator or Digital Analyzer), a sophisticated, portable spy device able to track cell phone signals inside vehicles, homes and insulated buildings. StingRay trackers act as fake cell towers, allowing police investigators to pinpoint location of a targeted wireless mobile by sucking up phone data such as text messages, emails and cell-site information.”

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Is Sprint Working on a Bid for T-Mobile?

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Sprint Corporation is working toward a possible bid for T-Mobile US Inc. If these two giant telecoms merged there would be three major carriers in the wireless game, reducing competition and dominating the industry. “Sprint is studying regulatory concerns and could launch a bid in the first half of next year, the people said. A deal could be worth more than $20 billion, depending on the size of any stake in T-Mobile that Sprint tries to buy. A bid would cap a period of extraordinary consolidation in the U.S. wireless market, coming just months after SoftBank Corp. acquired Sprint and T-Mobile merged with MetroPCS Communications Inc.,” The Wall Street Journal explained. 
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Friday, December 13, 2013

A Strong Wireless Infrastructure is Imperative to Public Safety

With the major mobile carriers updating their 4G LTE equipment and constructing new towers to fill in gaps, people may believe that because cell service is improving then other problems will be solved as well. The FCC has been issuing reports about how location data from 911 calls isn’t being translated to the emergency responders, and delaying their response time. Alcatel-Lucent, French global telecommunications equipment company, discussed the necessity to build a strong public wireless infrastructure in LifeTalk: Public Safety Communications E-Zine. In this article, Bill Schrier, Chief Technology Officer for the City of Seattle, explained why we are unable to use the system that already in place by the major carriers. “The most common question — especially from cash-strapped legislators and city counselors — is, ‘Why can’t we just use the commercial carrier services? They’ve got 3G wireless service offerings with data capabilities. They’ve got 4G wireless offering with significantly more data capabilities. They’ve got these technologies. Why don’t we just use those commercial services? That’s what we do now for nonmission critical applications!’ The answer, of course is that you don’t want to have mission-critical public safety data communications competing with every teenager’s ‘LOL’ message to their friends,” Schrier explains. Instead of solely relying on the commercial services already in place, there should be a plan to keep the lines of communication open should some disaster take place. However, budgets are being cut and the commercial networks aren’t able to handle the influx of users.
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Thursday, December 12, 2013

What Data Do Authorities See When Conducting Cell Tower Dumps?

Cell tower data dumps have been all over the news these past few days—made a topic of conversation during the investigation of 10-year old Jessica Ridgeway’s murder. Jenna Lee of Fox News spoke to David Kennedy, CEO of TrustedSec, about what the government sees when they take the data received from a cell tower. “They would see everything you did on your phone in those local cell tower areas. They would see everybody you called during those specific times, possible SMS data or your text messages, and GPS locations. All of those can be triangulated and grabbed from those cell towers in a tower dump,” Kennedy said.While not too many people disagreed with the way authorities used this data in the investigation of Jessica Ridgeway’s murder since it led to her killer in a roundabout way, many people are wondering what else this data is being used for. “All of this is being done without a warrant, which means they can go out and pull as much information as they want to with little rhyme or reason to why they need to do it and I think that’s the major concern,” Kennedy explains. When it comes to finding a missing child or locating a criminal, dumping cell towers doesn’t seem too extreme but Kennedy does point out that there should be major oversight on what this data is being used for and who is using it before they can have access to it.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Will Small Tower Companies Survive the Future?

American Tower Corporation, Crown Castle International, and SBA Communications are acquiring tower sites right and left, begging the question, “will all the towers be owned by these companies in the future?” Small tower companies who own a handful of sites may be approached by these larger companies looking to purchase their towers, but will they be put completely out of business? Not according to Gary Hess, co-founder of American Tower Corporation and current Director of Vertical Real Estate at Clear Channel. “I don’t think that party [small tower companies] will ever be over because there are always locations that still need better service or more channels,” Gary said.
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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What Does the Future of the Tall Tower Industry Look Like to a Seasoned Professional?

Gary Hess, co-founder of American Tower Corporation and current Director of Vertical Real Estate at Clear Channel, took the time to talk to us about where he sees the tall tower industry going. There is always the question of whether or not towers will be replaced by a smaller technology. “When American Tower was being put together. Steve Dodge and I would meet with the lenders and the questions were always so predictable. ‘Are satellites going to put towers out of business?’ ‘Why do we need towers in the future, because isn’t everything going to be running off of satellites?’” Gary explained. “I’m starting to sense that the real tall tower days are behind us. I’ve witnessed this because the big manufacturing companies have folded their tents.”
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Monday, December 9, 2013

Gary Hess and American Tower Corporation: “It Started With Just One Tower”

Before the three major tower companies began consolidating the industry, there was just one man on a mission trying to save a radio station, Gary Hess. Gary believed in the success of the tower industry before it even existed and, as a result, he became a co-founder for one of the top three wireless tower companies in the United States: American Tower Corporation. The “aha” moment came to him while working at SJR Communications trying to take FM radio stations, improve them, and make them market competitive. However, this wasn’t easy. Broadcasters did not want to lease space to their competitors. “Back then you didn’t have a lot to work with other than the television towers in the same market. I got turned down left and right. It became quite a problem, and then the light bulb went off realizing that I’m not the only one doing this and everyone else is getting the same rejection. They had little or no interest in leasing their towers.” The TV market was booming during this time and Gary saw an opportunity and had the chance to test his theory when the company bought a Dallas FM from the legendary broadcaster, Gordon Mclendon.
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Friday, December 6, 2013

Why are U.S. Tower Companies Moving into Brazil?

With the announcement that SBA Communications would be acquiring 2,007 telecom towers in Brazil, you may be wondering what’s so attractive about the Brazil market. This acquisition will give SBA ownership or control over more than 5,000 towers in Brazil. American Tower acquired 4,500 towers in Brazil in August 2013. Well according to Reuters, the American companies are focusing on acquiring assets in Brazil for the 2014 soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games that will be held there. SBA said on Wednesday it expected the new towers to contribute about 110 million reais of cash leasing revenue and $70 million reais of tower cash flow to its results during 2014. Wireless carriers in Brazil have been making sale-leaseback agreements on their towers to help pay down debts and boost results in the face of an economic slowdown. (Source: Reuters)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

SBA Communications Expands in Brazil after Acquiring 2,007 Additional Sites

Yesterday, SBA Communications announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement with certain subsidiaries of Oi SA, which is one of Brazil’s largest telecommunications service providers. SBA will acquire 2,007 tower sites in Brazil and once the transaction is complete, Oi will enter into a long-term lease agreement with SBA with monthly lease payments for antenna space on each of these sites. The transaction is expected to close on or before March 31, 2014 and SBA will pay approximately R$1.525 billion, which is around USD $645 million at the current exchange rate. “We are very pleased to acquire these high quality assets and expand our relationship with Oi,” commented Jeffrey A. Stoops, SBA’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “These are very good sites, concentrated in the most populous areas of Brazil, with demonstrated attractiveness to tenants. With this acquisition, we will have established SBA as one of the largest and most capable independent tower operators in Brazil, a market which we believe is very attractive and will produce strong growth in the future.”


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Alcatel-Lucent Launches Program to Remove Challenges of Site Acquisition and Backhaul for Metro Cell Deployments

Yesterday, Alcatel-Lucent launched a new initiative, the Metro Cell Express Site Certification Program, to remove the challenges associated with site acquisition and backhaul for metro cell deployments. Small cells have become a topic of conversation in the telecommunications industry, especially now that the mobile carriers are deploying small cells to expand their 4G LTE coverage in densely populated areas. Alcatel-Lucent believes that small and metro cells are essential to mobile operators who are working to address the demand on network capacity. Michael J. Schabel, Vice President of Small Cells at Alcatel-Lucent said, “Wireless operators have embraced small cells as an essential part of their ultra-broadband wireless network, but they must adapt to the new challenges associated with building, operating, and maintaining these new small cell networks. In order to accelerate and simplify the deployment of small cell networks, we have solicited the help from companies who have assets to contribute to the solution. While no company alone can address the 4P’s necessary for small cell deployment –people, power, poles and ports — the group working together creates tens of thousands of qualified and available small cell sites, and we will further add to that by continuing to add members to this program.”


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Will American Tower Purchase More Towers in Brazil?

Bloomberg reported that Telecom Italia is working with Morgan Stanley to find potential bidders for their 7,000 towers located in Brazil. One of the potential bidders is American Tower Corporation, according to people familiar with the matter. The Brazilian assets could raise about 700 million Euros ($951 million), one of the people said. (Source: Bloomberg). In 2000, American Tower entered the Brazil market with more than 4,500 towers. In August 2013, American Tower announced they were acquiring an additional 2,790 tower sites from NII Holdings in Brazil for $413 million. Officials at American Tower Corporation declined to comment on their potential interest in these sites; however, it’s a market they are already participating in so it might be a good move for the company looking to expand their international reach.


Monday, December 2, 2013

How Can I Make More Money from my Cell Tower?

If you’re a tower owner looking to make extra revenue on your investment, look for opportunities to add tenants. Call the major wireless carriers and even the local ones and see if they’d be interested in renting space. Since the beginning of the 4G LTE deployment many of the carriers are looking for more towers. Updating the existing equipment isn’t 100% successful if there are gaps in the network coverage. This is why the 4G LTE expansion has caused the tower industry to grow quickly and investors are starting to take notice. The analysts at Seeking Alpha explain that, “Currently, AT&T and VZ are in the ‘densification’, or ‘cell-splitting’, portion of their upgrade cycle. The densification of 4G LTE requires carriers to place sites on new towers to ‘infill’ weak areas of the network. New leases result in higher revenue for the tower owners when compared to ‘amendments’, which occur on towers that already support a carrier’s equipment. Such amendments can create varying amounts of revenue based on the lease contract, but they are, in general, beneficial to tower owners as the carriers must leave on the previous technology equipment until all devices using that technology are out of circulation.”