Tuesday, February 28, 2017

SBA Reports Steady and Expected 4Q Results for 2016

SBA Communications (Nasdaq:SBAC) reported 4Q 2016 earnings yesterday that both the company and analysts found to be “solid.”
Highlights of SBA’s fourth quarter include:

  • Repurchased 3.4 million shares
  • Net income of $5.3 million or $0.04 per share
  • AFFO per share growth of 14 percent over the year earlier period
  • Grew the portfolio to over 26,000 communication sites
Continue Reading

Thursday, February 23, 2017

First LTE-U Devices Okayed for 5G Operation

The FCC has authorized the first LTE-U (for unlicensed) devices in the 5 GHz band. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called Wednesday’s action “a significant advance in wireless innovation and a big win” for wireless customers. The action comes after saying broadband deployment is a Commission priority earlier in the day (see story below). Continue Reading

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Speculation Swirls As SoftBank Suggests Carrier Merger

The active spectrum auction will make analysts wait even longer to find out the plans SoftBank has in store for its U.S. carrier, Sprint. SoftBank Group Corp leaders have suggested it will give control of Sprint to T-Mobile’s parent company, Deutsche Telekom to finalize a merger between the two carriers. While sources have told Reuters this is true, the two companies have not started negotiations to avoid violation of anti-collusion rules set by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. Continue Reading

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

On “Nearly Unprecedented” M&A Run, AT&T Flirts with T-Mobile Acquisition

AT&T recently acquired television provider DirecTV for $49 billion, offered $85 billion for Time Warner and is floating the idea of buying out competitor T-Mobile—which would come at an estimated $70 billion price tag, reports 24/7 Wall Street.

AT&T attempted to buy T-Mobile in 2011, but the potentially $39 billion deal fell through. Buyout talks have been reignited due to Softbank, Sprint’s majority shareholders’ interest in a potential transaction with Deutsche Telekom, which is controlled by T-Mobile. Continue Reading

Monday, February 20, 2017

American Tower v. Univ. of Iowa and Connectivity, in Court Over DAS Buildout

In December 2013, American Tower Corp. (AMT) entered into an agreement with the University of Iowa to install and operate two DAS networks for the Hawkeye’s football and basketball venues—Kinnick Stadium and Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The relationship between the two parties quickly soured from that point on.

In August 2015, the University of Iowa notified it was “immediately terminating the agreement” with AMT due to the company’s failure to complete the project in a timely manner, according to The Gazette. Continue Reading

Friday, February 17, 2017

Satellite Broadband Poised For Takeoff As Orbiters Get Smaller

Satellites built by broadband hardware and service provider, ViaSat, are getting smaller, and more capable, said chief executive officer Mark Dankberg. According to Space News, he told investors, “They only require utility cabinets instead of dedicated buildings for their local hardware, they support more spectrum, and are much less expensive to maintain and operate. They are also designed for high reliability and tolerance to terrestrial network outages and weather effects.” ViaSat currently operates a three satellite system, but the company recently applied with the FCC to operate twenty-four satellites in medium-Earth orbit – around 8,200 kilometers above Earth. Dankberg  wants each satellite to be capable of a terabit of throughput.  He acknowledged One-Web, the well funded start up projecting to put 648 satellites in low Earth orbit and “blanket the globe with broadband.”  As Dankberg sees it, “the market is big enough.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Ohio Municipalities Fight Back Against State and Carriers with Zoning Rules

In December, the Ohio State Legislature passed SB 331, which received heavy support from the wireless community but significant pushback from local municipalities who believed the bill restricted their authority to regulate small cell deployment.

Now, municipalities in the state are aiming to implement zoning laws and restrictions that exercise their local authority while simultaneously complying with the 2016 state law, reports Crain’s Cleveland Business.

For example, Strongsville, a suburb located southeast of Cleveland, plans to put in place regulations designed to regulate small cell deployment for health and safety reasons, something Strongsville law director Neal M. Jamison believes the state law allows.  Continue Reading

Monday, February 13, 2017

Clock Phase Auction Bidding Ends, Winning Bidders Focus on Frequency Blocks

Bidding ended in the “clock phase” of the forward auction on Friday. This means the broadcast incentive auction now proceeds to the assignment phase, in which winning forward auction wireless bidders can bid for specific frequency blocks.
The auction proceeds as of the end of the clock phase were $19,632,506,746, according to the FCC. Companies bid on 70 MHz of broadcast spectrum that will be re-purposed for wireless use. The clearing target was 84 MHz, which includes guard bands.

The auction began under former Chairman Tom Wheeler and will end under new Chairman Ajit Pai, who called the event a milestone. “The participation of these broadcasters and wireless carriers will enable the Commission to release 84 megahertz of spectrum into the broadband marketplace,” said Pai. “These low-band airwaves will improve wireless coverage across the country and will play a particularly important role in deploying mobile broadband services in rural areas.” Continue Reading

Friday, February 10, 2017

Indiana Governor Cancels Pence’s Wireless Deal to Fund Construction Projects

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb announced the Indiana Finance Authority has “terminated” a 25-year, $260 million agreement with Ohio-based Agile Networks to lease space on state-owned communication towers, reports the Indianapolis Business Journal.
This comes after the deal, which was reported in December by Inside Towers, received significant pushback from groups like the Indiana Cable Telecommunications Association and the Indiana Broadband and Technology Association who opposed the expansiveness of the transaction, which would have included the state’s fiber infrastructure and public rights-of-way. 

Holcomb told the Indianapolis Business Journal that he “lean[s] into rebidding this, but want[s] to make sure we get a deal, and a deal just never materialized.” Continue Reading

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Small Cell Siting Right-of-Way Relief Advocates Petition the FCC

Nearly 130 comments have rolled into the FCC so far about Mobilitie’s request for a ruling on small cell siting, according to an examination of the records by Inside Towers. Mobilitie specifically sought relief from “excessive charges” for access to public rights-of-way. The agency widened its request for public input beyond the petition and invited comments more broadly about how to ease small cell siting, noting that “It is our responsibility to ensure that this deployment of network facilities does not become subject to delay caused by unnecessarily time-consuming and costly siting review processes that may be in conflict with the Communications Act.”

Municipalities are being deluged with requests; for example, Montgomery County, Maryland has approximately 200 pending applications, and tells the FCC it “has had more applications filed in the past four months than in the past 18 years.” The Commission is developing a record to help it decide whether and to what extent local land-use authorities’ review of siting applications is hindering, or is likely to hinder, the deployment of wireless infrastructure.  Continue Reading

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Municipalities Fight Bill “Granting Privileges to a Single Industry”

In the Virginia capital of Richmond, municipalities are lobbying lawmakers to vote down a bill to govern local approval of cell towers. The bill is part of fierce debate as the General Assembly is in session.

The Virginia Municipal League, which represents the interests of cities, counties and towns, is fighting the legislation, saying it would eliminate local authority and give wireless companies access to local property that no other non-public entity has, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “This bill grants special privileges to a single industry at the expense of the local taxpayers,” according to talking points the Virginia Municipal League has been sharing with lawmakers. “Forced use of public property and right-of-way without adequate compensation forces taxpayers to subsidize a single industry.” Continue Reading

Monday, February 6, 2017

Tower Industry Becomes Part of the Burgeoning ‘Drone Economy’

It’s a bird…It’s a plane….It’s a drone conducting a site inspection along a cell tower! The furious pace of technological innovation has yielded a device that several different industries, including the tower industry, are using–the unmanned aerial vehicle, or, as it is more commonly known, the drone.

Legacy Towers CEO Jim Tracy, for example, uses drone technology to conduct inspections on cell towers, as do several other tower inspection and maintenance companies across the country, reports Seattle Business.

“The first one you get, it’s kind of cool,” Tracy told Seattle Business, while discussing the device that has become a favorite pastime for technology buffs, as well as an effective tool for companies across all industries. “But at the end of the day, it’s just another tool.” Continue Reading

Thursday, February 2, 2017

AT&T Launches AirGig and Buys FiberTower to Support It

AT&T is launching its small cell deployment plan in San Francisco, a plan that will provide the blueprint for the carrier’s future deployment in other U.S. cities (see video). The carrier will use C-RAN architecture throughout the city and use existing light posts and other urban infrastructure, reports Telegeography.

“Storing the brains of hundreds of towers and small cells in one place lets engineers add capacity and improve efficiency for hundreds of cell sites quickly and simultaneously,” the company said in a press release.

As part of this plan, AT&T also announced it reached an agreement to acquire San Francisco-based FiberTower Corporation, as well as the company’s mmWave spectrum rights. FiberTower owns valuable spectrum in the 24GHz and 39GHz range, which will help AT&T execute its 5G deployment plan across the city. Continue Reading