Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Cell Tower Outages Drop Overall, Isolated Areas Show an Increase

The majority of cell sites in the Carolinas remained operating as of Monday, however the percentages of outages in some counties rose. North and South Carolina are still experiencing heavy flooding due to the storm that began as Hurricane Florence.

In North Carolina, out of the 5,790 total cell sites, 683 were not operational as of yesterday. That compares to 787 cell sites not working on Sunday.  

In Onslow County, 50.7 percent of the 227 cell sites were not working yesterday. That compares to 38.8 percent the day before. In Jones County, 38.3 percent of the 47 cell sites were offline, compared to 23.4 percent out the day before. Duplin County remained steady with 36 percent of 89 sites offline. Carteret County had the most cell sites out of service as of Sunday when 45.6 percent out of 103 sites were not operational. Monday, the outages dropped to just over 30 percent, with 31 sites out.  Continue Reading

Monday, September 17, 2018

Most Cell Sites Pummeled by Florence Are Still Working

The majority of cell sites in the Carolinas remained operating as of Sunday, days after Hurricane Florence made landfall. Now a tropical depression, Florence pummeled the Carolinas and parts of Georgia and Virginia with wind and rain, leaving widespread flooding. More than 700,000 people remained without power in the Carolinas as of Sunday, WWAY-TV reported.

In North Carolina, 86.4 percent of the 5,790 total cell sites were operational as of Sunday. 787 cell sites, or 13.6 percent, were not working, according to the FCC’s Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS). That’s down significantly from Saturday, when 18.4 percent, out of a total of 1,063 sites, were not working, according to DIRS. New Hanover County had the most non-operational cell sites, 134 out of 287, on Saturday. Continue Reading

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Muni Orgs Object to Small Cell Siting Proposal

Some national associations representing municipalities are contemplating taking legal action against the FCC over its proposed small cell order. The proposal, set for a vote on September 26, streamlines wireless infrastructure siting procedures. The plan establishes a shot clock by which munis must act on a small cell siting application in a public Right–of-Way, sets “reasonable” siting processing fees and prohibits local moratoria, Inside Towers reported.

But lobbying organizations like the National Association of Counties, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities call the plan an example of federal overreach that could harm public safety and localities’ ability to access vital revenue. All three tell Politico they may sue the agency if the Commission doesn’t change the plan before the vote. Continue Reading

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Infrared LEDs Required By FAA’s August 17 Advisory

An important FAA tower lighting change became effective September 6.
A new FAA Obstruction Marking and Lighting Advisory Circular 70/7460-1L Change 2 was released on August 17, 2018. Flash Technology Director of Business Development Wade Collins tells Inside Towers: It is his company’s understanding the new Advisory Circular requires towers with an FAA determination after this release date should include infrared (IR) LEDs in the L864 and L810 fixtures to make the lighting systems more visible to Night Vision Imaging Systems (NVIS). Changes to Section 5.2 of the Advisory Circular read as follows:

“Note: In response to a Safety Risk Assessment of LED Lighting in Aircraft Operations, the FAA has established IR specifications for LED-based red obstruction lights. Specifications are contained in Airport Engineering Brief 98, Infrared Specifications for Aviation Obstruction Light Compatibility with Night Vision Goggles (NVGs), published December 18, 2017, and AC 150/5345-43H, Specification for Obstruction Lighting Equipment, dated September 28, 2016.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

GeoBroadcast Solutions Establishes Infrastructure for First FM at 1WTC

Several New York City television broadcasters returned to One World Trade Center earlier this year, thanks to a joint effort between The Durst Organization and the Port Authority. This marked the first time broadcasters had a presence in the World Trade Center since the events of 9/11, Inside Towers reported.

Now, a PSI broadband panel antenna for the first FM at 1WTC (on 104.7 FM MHz) has been installed on the second ring of a three-ring grid on the spire at 1WTC, GeoBroadcast Solutions tells Inside Towers. Multiple stations can potentially use the antenna, via combining onto the PSI antenna. 
GBS worked with station owner Rahul Walia to find spectrum in the New York City market in order to move its translator (W284BW) from Perth Amboy, NJ. To support the 104.7 FM broadcast, the GBS team struck a deal with WPAT(FM) to lease its HD2 sub-channel. Continue Reading

Monday, September 10, 2018

Rosenworcel Supports 2.5 GHz Band Auction

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel says the agency should move quickly to auction unused 2.5 GHz licenses. Combining such spectrum would provide new, flexible-use mid-band airwaves for 5G services, she said at a conference in Boulder, CO, on Thursday.

Any money leftover from funds needed to run the auction and pay for spectrum contributions from existing licensees could be turned into a Homework Gap initiative, she suggests. The project could help fund the connectivity needs of 12 million students who lack broadband at home. “That way, the Commission can honor what President Kennedy and his allies tried to do decades ago when they sought to spark educational use in the 2.5 GHz band.”

The 5.9 GHz band, too, is an “ideal” place to explore WiFi expansion, because it’s adjacent to an existing unlicensed band, she said. “That means we have the opportunity to introduce new wideband channels — channels that will be able to take advantage of new standards and deliver speeds even faster than 1 gigabit per second. In other words, this is where we can develop next generation Gigabit WiFi,” said Rosenworcel. Continue Reading

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The FCC late yesterday released the proposed updates to its wireless infrastructure siting guidelines for states and localities to speed small cell deployment. As indicated by Commissioner Brendan Carr on Monday, the Commission changes would limit state and local governments to charging fees that are no greater than a reasonable approximation of the costs for processing applications and for managing deployments in the Rights-of-Way (ROW).

The updates identify specific fee levels for small wireless facility deployments “that presumably comply with the relevant standard,” according to the text. Crown Castle told the Commission, it has experienced, “excessive and unreasonable fees to access the [ROW] that are completely unrelated to their maintenance or management.” Crown also told the FCC of “onerous” zoning requirements imposed on small cells compared to “utility installations erected with simple building permits.” AT&T cited localities in Maryland, California, and Massachusetts that imposed fees so high it had to pause or decrease deployments, according to the Commission. Continue Reading

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

FCC Seeks Faster Small Cell Deployments, Lower Fees

The FCC plans to vote later this month to update its guidance for states and localities for wireless infrastructure siting. The agency yesterday circulated among the commissioners for a vote, a proposal that “re-affirms local control,” said Commissioner Brendan Carr in Indianapolis yesterday. He, along with several leaders from the Hoosier state, spoke from the Statehouse about the proposal.

Carr said the proposal “takes a balanced approach” to the small cell siting process and “won’t disturb nearly any of the provisions” of the small cell bills passed in 20 states. “Providers should bear the costs of building 5G, not local governments,” said Carr. Adding that “excessive fees” slow down deployments, he said the agency has “proposed that fees that must reasonably approximate local costs.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Tower Construction Manager Invents “Game Changing” Gin Pole

It’s not often you run into a “game changer” as Guy Bonifas of Montgomery, AL calls his new invention.  As a construction manager with Crown Castle for the past six years, Bonifas has had a front row seat to the trials, tribulations and dangers involved in gin pole usage at tower sites.

“After witnessing numerous tower crews fight with the new heavier multiport antennas,” to get them into position on the sector mounts, he told Inside Towers, “ I started thinking how much safer and easier and cheaper it could be if we take the crane out of the equation.”  He began designing the device in 2007, with some quick sketches on an Office Depot pad (see above).  Eureka! The Spartacus Gin Pole was born. Continue Reading

Friday, August 31, 2018

Three Years and Counting: Nashville Residents Still Waiting for Google Fiber

We wait. We are bored. No, don’t protest, we are bored to death, there’s no denying it.”   ― Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot
UPDATE Residents across the city have been waiting for the highly anticipated Google Fiber internet service since Google announced its expansion to Nashville three and a half years ago. Parts of several neighborhoods plus 52 apartment buildings and single-family homes do have access but many residents still do not, reported the Tennessean.

“It’s still complicated,” Nashville Google Fiber Manager Martha Ivester said. “Building this fiber optic network throughout the whole city is a long process, and we never expected it wouldn’t be a long process. Obviously, we have had our challenges here.” Continue Reading

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Dish, Others Trash T-Mo-Sprint Merger

Satellite operators and rural broadband groups are some of the voices opposing the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint. Most warn that going from four to three national wireless carriers means less competition and won’t help rural 5G broadband deployment. Fourteen petitions to deny the merger were filed by the FCC’s Monday’s deadline.

Dish Network is especially strident in opposing the transaction. Dish chairman and co-founder Charlie Ergen told attendees at WIA’s ConnectX, he intends to spend “at least $10 billion,” to build a national wireless network. In a more than 250-page filing, Dish tells the Commission if the deal is approved, it could hamper its ability to enter the 5G market. The company needs access to “radios, chipsets, devices, towers, crews, and backhaul. New T-Mobile will likely be spending billions of dollars on radios, chipsets and devices, making it possible for it to use its new-found market power to customize radio solutions that would be less than ideal for Dish.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Over $1.4 Billion Allocated in CAF II Auction

More than $1.4 billion was allocated to a total of 103 providers in the FCC’s Connect America Fund Phase II auction. The Commission released results of the auction yesterday. Bidding began July 24, and ended August 21.
Exactly $1.488 billion will be allocated over the next 10 years to expand rural broadband in areas not served now in 45 states. The FCC says that translates to 700,000 rural homes and businesses getting high-speed internet service for the first time.

More than half will have service available with download speeds of at least 100 mbps. Nineteen percent will have gigabit service available. And 711,389 locations—all but 0.25 percent—will have at least 25 Mbps service available, more than twice the 10 Mbps minimum standard for the Connect America Fund program. Winning bidders are required to build out fixed broadband over the next six years and voice services to locations in the census blocks for which they won support. Continue Reading

Monday, August 27, 2018

More Than 99% of Cell Sites Stood Up to Hurricane Lane

The storm that began as Hurricane Lane and ended as a tropical depression had minimal impact on communications in the Hawaiian Islands, according to reports that providers gave to the FCC. More than 99 percent of the cell towers on all eight islands remained operational as of yesterday, August 26, according to the FCC’s Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS). All five counties in the state are included: Hawaii, Honolulu, Kalawao, Kauai and Maui. Lane was downgraded to a tropical storm on Saturday and to a tropical depression on Sunday. DIRS for Lane was discontinued as of yesterday.

Overall, eight cell sites (0.6 percent) out of a total of 1,287 remained out in Hawaii as of yesterday afternoon — the same amount as Friday. In Honolulu County, four out of 748 cell sites were not working. Two cell sites were restored by Sunday in Maui County, with two out of 161 remaining out of operation. By Sunday, one cell site was restored in Hawaii County, where 264 remained operational, and two were not. Continue Reading

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Clock Continues on FCC T-Mo, Sprint Review

The FCC denied a petition from 11 associations asking the agency to stop or pause the clock on the Commission’s review of the T-Mobile-Sprint merger.

The associations — including the Rural Wireless Association, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association and the Communications Workers of America — said the carriers need to supply more information about their license holdings in each market and that the current information is hard to access. The associations also said a pause would give the public more time to assess the pending transaction, as the agency has several complicated proceedings pending.

T-Mobile wants the FCC’s merger review to proceed without delay. It asked the Commission to deny the request, saying the spectrum information provided is more than adequate. Continue Reading

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

FCC Chairman Gets a New Perspective on Towers

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai now has tower-climbing cred. He climbed all the way up a telecommunications tower near De Beque, Colorado yesterday, wearing the appropriate safety gear. The more than 130-foot self-support tower is owned by
SBA Communications. The site is off I-70, and on the travel route between Aspen and Grand Junction, according to the National Association of Tower Erectors, which helped organize the activity. Pai Tweeted the structure “felt like Everest.”
Continue Reading

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A Tower Owner Faces a Drug-Related Catastrophe and Bankruptcy

The tower industry has a problem that gets overlooked way too often, according to Kathy Gill, CEO of Tower Safety and Instruction.  Derek Case, a mid-tier tower owner of D&K Nationwide Communications located in Bristol, CT agrees and is a first-hand witness to its devastating impact: drug abuse. It has cost Case millions over the past year and has taken the life of one of his crew.
While Gill was providing safety training for D&K, she became familiar with the recent climbing fatality that impacted Case both financially and emotionally.

“I could sense his pain,” Gill said. “And it didn’t just affect him but his family, his employees, even his vendors.”

Gill said D&K followed all the rules and had a good reputation for work performance. They trained their employees on required industry standards, provided all the worker PPE and performed 12-panel drug testing she said.  The company was projected to do $5-to-$6 million that year, with a full plate of cell tower construction and maintenance work ahead of them. Case cites his crew member’s tragic death for lost business D&K ended up suffering.  Now he faces possible bankruptcy. He has downsized to six employees with the cuts affecting former workers who have been forced to move themselves and their families to find new jobs. Case paid for the funeral and family expenses for his fallen employee. Continue Reading

Friday, August 17, 2018

FAA Lighting Letter Leaves Contractors In the Dark

A recent letter from the FAA Office of Airport Safety and Standards has created an unsettling atmosphere in the tower lighting community.  “This is a big deal,” one lighting executive told Inside Towers, wishing to remain off the record.  Industry execs are concerned about the ramifications of the FAA invalidating the certification of lighting systems with non-OEM components.

Inside Towers obtained a copy of the letter dated June 27, 2018 that came from the FAA’s Khalil Kodsi, P.E., PMP, Manager, Airport Engineering Division. 

“Only entire systems and devices with production parts are certified under the current FAA certification program and Advisory Circular (AC) 150/535-53C. The certification is invalidated for a product modified with non-OEM replacement parts or non-production components.”

“The purpose of this letter is to rescind the previous letter dated Nov. 22, 2005. The Nov. 22, 2005 letter established an interim procedure to certify entire devices with non-Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) components installed. The decision to rescind this industry letter is due to the myriad of logistical issues as well as the follow-up quality assurance provisions related to the certification of equipment with non-OEM replacement parts installed.”  Continue Reading

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Court Counters Tribes’ Pleas for Tighter Control

UPDATE A federal appeals court yesterday denied a motion to stay an FCC order to ease wireless infrastructure siting by exempting most small cells on non-Tribal lands from environmental and historic review.  

The Seminole Tribe of Florida most recently asked the D.C. Circuit for a stay, pending the court’s review of the Tribe’s Petition for Review. The Seminoles joined with 15 other tribes, plus the Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the United States in fighting the FCC, saying the agency did not properly consult with Tribes before adopting the order in March and its decision violated federal law. The Seminoles said in their July 18 motion the decision: “effectively eliminates the Tribe’s ability to collect fees for its review of macro cell towers and gives industry applicants the discretion to contract important review and mitigation work to non-tribal entities unqualified to protect the Tribe’s historic and cultural properties.”

The order was due to go into effect July 2. Sprint and CTIA recently joined the FCC in the case, Inside Towers reported last week. The Commission consistently said it consulted with the Tribes before making the change and did not violate federal law. Continue Reading

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

New OTMR Rules Still Come Up Short for Tower Industry

The FCC confined its new One-Touch, Make-Ready rules to simple pole attachment work. Utilities and attachers told the Commission this will apply to most of the upcoming pole work. The agency also updated its other pole attachment rules in the Report and Order. (See more about what the new OTMR rules entail further down.)  

Like the BDAC, it defines complex make-ready as: “transfers and work within the communications space that would be reasonably likely to cause a service outage(s) or facility damage, including work such as splicing of any communication attachment or relocation of existing wireless attachments.” Complex work is not part of OTMR “at this time,” says the agency in the order.   Continue Reading

Monday, August 13, 2018

Some Small Contractors Turn to Utilities for Faster Payment

UPDATE As we hear from more readers experiencing late payment terms affecting smaller contractors asked to do tower and network work, a new theme is emerging — diversification. As a way to buffer their cash flow against late payment from some in the telecom industry, certain readers tells us they’re taking work from other types of industries to keep their businesses afloat.

One contractor in the southeast told Inside Towers in an interview: “For three years, I have experienced the dreaded year-end non-payment issue with the same carrier. We have to make contingency plans with our financial institution, assuming we may not receive any payments during the latter half of the fourth quarter. It all gets paid in mid-January.”

He has begun taking different types of work because, “Somebody dragging out $300,000 over 90 to 120 days can be death. You lose vendors and employees” that way, he said. Continue Reading

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

FirstNet Unveils Emergency Drop Kit to “Hotshot Crews”

APCO Interview

AT&T has been deploying Band 14 public safety spectrum as part of its FirstNet build. Band 14 has been added to more than 2,500 tower sites, with an additional 10,000 sites to be added by year-end, Ryan Fields-Spack Director, Public Safety Strategies, FirstNet tells Inside Towers from the show floor of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials show in Las Vegas.
One of the items on display as a proof of concept is an Emergency Drop Kit, a collaboration of FirstNet, AT&T and Sonim. The kit is designed to be carried by first responders into disaster areas that trucks can’t immediately drive into, like where a “hotshot crew” is fighting wildfires, says Fields-Spack. Incident commanders will be able to drop in the kits for rapid connectivity to FirstNet. FirstNet is in booth 836 at this week’s APCO 2018 Conference & Expo, which runs through today.
Continue Reading

Friday, August 3, 2018

FCC Makes One-Touch Make-Ready a Reality

FCC Commissioners Michael O’Rielly, Brendan Carr and Jessica Rosenworcel

The FCC passed a one-touch make-ready (OTMR) policy for utility pole attachments yesterday, saying the update will speed the safe and affordable deployment of broadband wireless infrastructure. The change will allow one attacher, usually the last, to perform all the work for the new attachment; it provides for a remedy if an original attacher is unhappy with the outcome.

Pole overlashing of existing wires is allowed, without first seeking the utility’s approval, so all pole space can be efficiently used. It ensures telecoms pay rates comparable to cable and other industries for pole use. The Report and Order makes clear the FCC will preempt, on a case-by-case basis, existing local laws, to allow providers access to poles for restoration work after a disaster.  

A declaratory ruling emphasizes the Telecommunications Act bans state and local moratoria that prevents wireless infrastructure deployment. Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said during the vote that while many localities “get kudos” for making the broadband deployment process more efficient, some state and local governments delay projects and use pole attachment rates as “shakedown bounties.” He said: “State and local governments have been on notice for decades. Congress wants them to stop making decisions based on aesthetics.”

(For industry reaction, see story below: “Industry Applauds FCC ‘Keeping Foot on The Gas’ for OTMR”)  Continue Reading

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Contractor Fears Going Under Due to Late Payment Issue

UPDATE Inside Towers received an anonymous letter in response to our recent story (“The Check is Not in the Mail”) concerning allegations that larger companies have extended payments to tower contractors to the breaking point, offering as much as 120-day “take it or leave it” terms. Smaller contractors assert they’re being used as a bank and those terms can be crippling.

The writer said he is a Verizon contractor and afraid to reveal his name for fear of losing future work. “Many of us small contractors are about to close our doors due to the intimidation and practices on payments from these major carriers,” he writes. The individual alleged Verizon is asking contractors to build this year, but not invoice them, nor whatever company hired them for the carrier work, until 2019. He also asserted through its “Minor Materials Program,” the carrier is now expecting contractors to source, pay for, insure and warehouse materials that it used to provide.

A Verizon spokesman said he couldn’t comment on the details specifically. Verizon Director of Corporate Communications Bob Varettoni told Inside Towers in an interview that in general, the company’s long-standing payment term is 90 days and 30 days for construction projects. However, he said: “Verizon is committed to doing the right thing and following sound business practices in dealing with our suppliers.” To illustrate his point, Varettoni offered to help the anonymous letter writer. Continue Reading

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

USDA Seeks Input on Rural Broadband Funding Pilot

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is asking for suggestions about how to implement the e-Connectivity Pilot Program, which would involve public-private partnerships to deploy broadband in rural areas. The framework outlined by Congress allows $600 million in new federal funds to be deployed in rural areas with a population of 20,000 or less. Entities eligible for funding include incumbent and competitive rural telephone and broadband service providers, rural electric cooperatives, private firms (but not sole proprietors or partnerships), nonprofits and governmental bodies.

Rural areas that don’t have internet service speeds of at least 10 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload available to their households will be eligible to apply for the money. The USDA seeks input on the best options to verify broadband speeds and potential project benefits for rural industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, e-commerce, transportation, health care and education, using readily available public data. The USDA is specifically interested in how to make the most effective use of these new funds through utility partnerships. Continue Reading

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

In a New York Minute, Everything Changed for Charter Communications

The New York State Public Service Commission has moved to kick the largest cable provider, Charter Communications, out of the state, citing Charter’s “repeated failures to serve New Yorkers and honor its commitments,” reported Fortune.  A search of the Inside Towers database showed Charter had 48 constructed towers registered, two of which were in the state of New York; one in Plattsburgh and one in Chatham.

The Commission voted Friday to rescind approval of Charter’s merger with Time Warner Cable. The Commission previously authorized the deal in 2016; The most recent action effectively ends its ability to do business in the state.

Charter also provides internet services in New York. Since 2016, Charter has failed to meet milestones related to an intended expansion of service to 145,000 homes within four years, with a focus on rural areas, according to the account. In June 2018, the Commision fined the company $2 million for failing to meet commitments and with this recent ruling, the tally is now up to $3 million. The state has given the company 60 days to come up with a plan to hand over its customers to other providers—that is, to sell its assets in New York, according to Fortune. Charter has said it will contest the order, calling the state’s actions “politically motivated.” Continue Reading

Monday, July 30, 2018

Poles Apart: Infrastructure Industry vs. Communications Workers

Controversy is bubbling up over the FCC’s draft plan to vote this week on allowing “one-touch make-ready”(OTMR) for most pole attachments and further reform its pole attachment policies. The concept is, the new attacher or an approved contractor would perform all work to prepare the pole, rather than each attacher performing the work separately. More than 1,000 public comments have been filed to the Commission on the issue so far.

Utilities, carriers and their infrastructure groups pushed for the changes. The Power and Communication Contractors (PCCA), for example, says the updates would avoid multiple truck rolls, expedite the attachment process and reduce service disruption to consumers. “The OTMR option would apply only to ‘simple’ make-ready work and would not be available for ‘complex’ work involving electric-supply facilities that poses greater safety threats or is more likely to cause an outage or damage,” PCCA told the Commission. 

The Wireless Infrastructure Association said removing the barriers to deployment will bring “much-needed predictability and clarity” to deployment in a recent lobbying visit to the agency. Continue Reading

Friday, July 27, 2018

Payment Terms to Vendors Can Change Overnight

UPDATE Inside Towers is hearing from readers about our top story on Wednesday titled:The Check Is Not in the Mail as Payment Delays Could Threaten 5G Deployment.”  

Sitetracker executives agree the problem of site developers who stretch out payments, often with no notice, is getting worse. Sitetracker’s project and asset software platform enables users to manage many jobs at once, from site acquisition, to obtaining ground leases, to construction, and network modification. Their customers range from large carriers to towercos and small contractors, so they’re seeing the payment issue from all sides.

Sitetracker CEO Giuseppe Incitti said they’re seeing a lot of 90-day payment terms turn into 120-days. He agrees with NATE members who have voiced concerns to their association that there’s little or no negotiation on payment terms that can often be changed while the work is in-progress. Continue Reading

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Trade Groups, Industry Execs Plead For More Spectrum to Spur 5G

While 5G networks hold the promise of speeds that will be 100 times faster than today and enable 100 times the number of devices, carriers and stakeholders providing wireless and wireline infrastructure, as well as the satellite industry, say they need access to more spectrum.

Noting that 5G will enable technologies like telehealth, autonomous cars and precision agriculture, President/CEO of CTIA, The Wireless Association, Meredith Baker, told the Senate Energy & Commerce Committee yesterday it’s imperative the U.S. get going on an action plan to free-up more spectrum. She cited an Accenture report that said if the U.S. can speed up 5G deployment by one year, that would add about $1 billion to the economy. But more importantly, she said, other countries like China and South Korea are ahead of the U.S. in clearing spectrum for 5G. 

Qualcomm SVP Spectrum Strategy & Technology, Dean Brenner, said it’s important that its chips and related components support as much technology possible. While still enhancing 4G capabilities, his company is also looking ahead to 6G. But everything “depends on one key component controlled by the government — spectrum.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Tillman Gets $550M With Future Growth Options Up To $1B


La Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (“CDPQ”), one of North America’s largest institutional investors, and global investment manager AMP Capital announced Monday, they will provide US$500 million of financing to Tillman Infrastructure, an American developer and owner of telecommunication tower infrastructure. “This initial investment will help finance the construction of new telecommunications towers across the United States,” the announcement stated. Under this agreement, the investment could reach up to US$1 billion, based on future growth needs.

Inside Towers reported in November on the agreement between Tillman, a virtual newcomer founded in 2016, and AT&T and Verizon, to bypass traditional tower developers and vertically integrate their buildout process. Tillman began construction on its first sites in late 2017, and is actively building in over three dozen states across the U.S. Continue Reading

Monday, July 23, 2018

AT&T announced they have been actively deploying public safety’s Band 14 spectrum as part of their FirstNet build. So far, Band 14 has been added to more than 2,500 sites across the country – with the process for 10,000+ more currently underway. And the first FirstNet-dedicated deployable network assets are ready for use.

“Since getting the green light to deploy Band 14 in March of this year, we’ve been moving quickly in order to bring first responders the additional coverage and capacity that only their network can provide,” said Chris Sambar, senior vice president, AT&T-FirstNet. “What’s more, the FirstNet build is based off direct feedback from the states and public safety community. So, each current or new site to get Band 14 helps to meet public safety’s specific network needs.”

Band 14 is nationwide, high-quality spectrum set aside by the government specifically for FirstNet. Once Band 14 is fully deployed over the next several years, it will cover 95 percent or more of the U.S. population. Continue Reading

Friday, July 20, 2018

FCC Sorting Through License Transfers for Proposed T-Mo-Sprint Deal

The FCC is tackling the nitty-gritty aspects of the proposed T-Mobile acquisition of Sprint. The telecoms asked for agency permission to transfer Sprint’s licenses, authorizations and spectrum leases to T-Mobile. They’d also like the agency to okay the pro forma transfer of T-Mobile’s licenses, authorizations and spectrum leases to the combined company, should the deal be approved. Interested parties must file petitions to deny by August 27, to Docket 18-197.  

T-Mobile asked the Commission for a ruling to allow foreign ownership in the U.S. company higher than the current 25 percent threshold. This concerns the proposed transfer to T-Mobile of common carrier wireless licenses and leases, and common carrier fixed satellite earth station licenses, held by Sprint subsidiaries. The companies have said the combined entity would occupy about 85,000 macro tower sites and roughly 50,000 small cells. Continue Reading

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Crown Q2 Raises Outlook for Full Year 2018

“We delivered another terrific quarter of results, and remain on track to generate attractive growth in cash flows and dividends per share for the full year 2018,” said Jay Brown, Crown Castle’s Chief Executive Officer. “Over the past two decades, we have built and acquired an unmatched portfolio of more than 40,000 towers and 60,000 route miles of dense, high capacity fiber in the top U.S. markets, where we see the greatest long-term demand from multiple customers.  With the positive momentum we continue to see in our towers and fiber segments, we remain dedicated to investing in our business to generate future growth while delivering near-term dividend per share growth of 7 percent to 8 percent per year,” Brown said. Crown executives will discuss the report at this morning’s web conference at 10:30 a.m. (EDT).

Highlights for the quarter from yesterday afternoon’s announcement:
  • Site rental revenues.  Site rental revenues grew approximately 35 percent, or $300 million, from second quarter 2017 to second quarter 2018, inclusive of approximately $49 million in Organic Contribution to Site Rental Revenues plus $231 million in contributions from acquisitions and other items, plus a $20 million increase in straight-lined revenues.  The $49 million in Organic Contribution to Site Rental Revenues represents approximately 5.6 percent growth, comprised of approximately 8 percent growth from new leasing activity and contracted tenant escalations, net of approximately 2.5 percent from tenant non-renewals. When compared to the prior second quarter 2018 Outlook, site rental revenues benefited by approximately $9 million of additional straight-lined revenues primarily resulting from term extensions associated with leasing activity.
  • Continue Reading

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

More Spectrum Needed to Deploy Rural Broadband

From left: Tom Stroup, Claude Aiken

Experts from several industries told lawmakers yesterday it will take several solutions to bridge the digital divide in rural areas, but they have one thing in common — they need access to more spectrum. Broadband can be delivered through a variety of technologies, including fiber, cable, mobile or fixed wireless, satellite, or any combination. Macro towers and small cells are an integral part of broadband delivery, witnesses testified.

House Communications Subcommittee Chair Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) is looking to consolidate several rural broadband proposals, and held a hearing to re-examine them. Main themes emerged such as how to structure the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band and C-band to enable more sharing and how to improve the FCC-NTIA broadband map so small carriers can be eligible for government subsidies to deploy rural broadband. Continue Reading

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Installer Calls Repack “Overwhelming”

“From an installer standpoint we are overwhelmed,” says Vertical Technology Services CEO Owen Garland, referring to the TV channel repack. His company is one of the few that have the expertise to climb tall TV towers and handle their large, heavy antennas.

As the September 14 testing period for those stations in Phase 1 of the repack creeps closer, and planning and construction for Phases 2 and 3 is underway, Garland said last week, “the worst tower case” is working with a wraparound panel antenna. In some cases, that type of antenna can be the same length as a gin pole. His company is “looking at four sites where we’re going to have to dismantle somebody’s antenna” to get it up the tower, slowing down the pace of the work, he told attendees of a Chapter 37 meeting of the Society of Broadcast Engineers.  Continue Reading

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Vertical Bridge Says It’s Still Owed for Cumulus Tower Leases

While Cumulus Media emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy on June 4, with $1 billion less debt on its balance sheet, some creditors claim they are still owed money. Vertical Bridge tells the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York it’s still owed several thousands of dollars for unexpired tower leases.

In an objection to “Debtor’s Second Notice of Satisfaction of Claims,” filed by CM WIND DOWN TOPCO, INC. and its affiliates, Vertical Bridge told the court: “The Debtors represent they have paid the ‘cure’ necessary to assume certain leases and therefore the claims or scheduled amounts identified should be expunged.” But the towerco says regarding its radio tower leases, the “cure” has not been paid and the relief sought by the Debtors should not be granted. Continue Reading

Monday, July 9, 2018

Christmas in July: Township Nets $2M Upfront in Restructured Lease Deal

SBA Communications will pay Lower Makefield township $2 million upfront under a restructured lease agreement, reported Bucks Local News. Under the agreement, the township will receive a lump sum payment of $2,020,000 from SBA and a 35-year lease on the site. Currently, the township receives annual lease payments in addition to a share of the revenue from the carriers that have co-located on the tower.

“What we’re getting here is 18 years worth of rental fees right up front today,” said Township Manager Terry Fedorchak. “There are pros and cons to that, but I would think that would be a very attractive play for us to make at this time.”  Fedorchak, a strong proponent of the deal, added “It’s guaranteed,” whereas the current lease arrangement is not.

The township first signed an agreement with SBA Communications in 1999, allowing the company to construct a cell tower on township-owned land, according to Bucks LocalContinue Reading

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

In the Room Where It Happened

As an editor I have a soft spot in my heart every Independence Day for one Thomas Jefferson.  The 33-year old delegate from Virginia was asked in the summer of 1776, to bang out a quick paper on, oh, Everything America Stands For based on pure conjecture.  “And, yo, Tommy, we need it by Friday,” was likely the sum total of his instructions. So Jefferson secludes himself in the second-floor room of the two-room apartment pictured above (a ‘must see’ if you come for a visit) located in a building on the southwest corner of 7th and Market Streets in Philadelphia.  He rolls up his sleeves…it was hot…fills up his inkwell, sends his manservant Bob (true!) down to the corner for a couple of cheesesteak hoagies with fried onions and goes to work. (That last part is still undocumented historically speaking, but his rough draft does show some unexplained grease stains.)
A copy of that rough draft shows how he agonized over every word making it not just a legally viable document but one of the great works of prose in the english language. Continue Reading

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Qualified CAF II Auction Bidders Revealed

More than 200 bidders have been deemed qualified to take part in FCC Auction 903 for Connected America Phase II funding. The auction, set to begin on July 24, will award up to $1.98 billion over 10 years to telecom providers that commit to offer voice and broadband services to fixed locations in unserved high-cost areas.

Large, incumbent carriers like Verizon, Frontier, Cincinnati Bell and U.S. Cellular made the list, as did rural telcos such as Red River Cellular Telephone Corporation. Wireless companies like Skywave Wireless and Surf Air Wireless are on the list. Satellite broadband providers like Hughes Network Systems and Viasat made the cut. So too, did cable companies such as Altice, Cox and Troy Cablevision. Rural electric companies like Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Cooperative and Wells Rural Electric Company are on the list, as are several Wireless Internet Service Providers.

When the Commission originally issued the list in May, the agency said only 47 applications were complete and 230 were incomplete. Now, only 57 applications were deemed “not qualified” to bid. Some of the names on that list are: Bay Country Communications, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, the city of Hudson, and the Ohio and Wyoming Mutual Telephone Company. Continue Reading

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

American Tower vs. CellInfo: Was Proprietary Info Taken?

By Jim Fryer, Managing Editor, Inside Towers
In a motion filed June 15, in a Massachusetts District Court, a small data consulting company, CellInfo, claimed American Tower Corp. (ATC) took their “confidential information and trade secrets for the purpose of unfairly competing with CellInfo and improperly benefiting ATC.” The two companies signed a Master Consulting Services Agreement in January of 2017, but CellInfo claims American started developing its own rudimentary version of their application when they began getting requests from ATC employees for algorithms used in its development.

CellInfo describes itself as a small Massachusetts company, founded in 2014, by two former high-school classmates who built “an innovative asset intelligence platform that provides real-time analysis for strategic and tactical business decisions” for companies in the broadband infrastructure business. ATC had, according to the suit, worked with CellInfo for the past two years and “had tailored [their platform] for ATC’s specific needs” because “they did not have any similar platform or software.”

By retrieving, normalizing and analyzing data from disparate sources both inside and outside of ATC, CellInfo believed that it could “unlock untapped revenues for ATC.”  One of the applications of CellInfo’s data was to “quickly and easily determine whether all equipment installed on a cellular tower is allowed to be there and also determine if equipment installed on the tower exceeds wind loading restrictions.” Continue Reading

Friday, June 22, 2018

AT&T to Transfer Data Center Co-location Operations, Assets to Brookfield

AT&T signed a strategic alliance with Brookfield Infrastructure and its institutional partners to transfer its data center co-location operations and assets to Brookfield. Under Brookfield’s ownership, the business will continue to deliver co-location services to customers in 18 internet data centers in the United States and 13 outside the U.S., according to the carrier. The co-location data center operations serve a customer base of more than 1,000 companies across the technology, financial, industrial, media retail and other sectors.

Under terms of the agreement, AT&T will receive $1.1 billion, which it will use to pay down debt. After the deal closes, expected within six to eight months, customer contracts, employees supporting the co-location operations, fixed assets, leased and owned facilities will transfer to Brookfield. 
Once finalized, AT&T will continue to deliver network services to its customers at the IDCs. AT&T will become a sales channel for the business and will be the anchor tenant of the co-location operations. Continue Reading

Thursday, June 21, 2018

“Tower Geeks” From Around the World Meet in “Boca”

In a not so veiled swipe at other trade shows (and you know who you are) the promoters at TowerXchange Meetup Americas in Boca this week suggest the Florida event is more focused. “Passive infrastructure is typically hidden away as an under-appreciated small part of a broader show,” is their assessment of the others. Their show, they claim, is a “networking club for tower geeks” attracting 80 to 90 percent “of the CXO’s who lead tower strategy.” While I’m not here to document that personally, the mix of international players in attendance in the macro tower arena is unmistakable.  The international markets are active, alive and open for business. Industry veteran Maria Scotti, CEO of Torrecom, said it is very reminiscent of the old days in the U.S. tower industry. “It’s back to the future!” she said enthusiastically.

Analysis of the CALA telecom infrastructure industry kicked off the conference with a address by Kieron Osmotherly, CEO of TowerXchange.  Taking a global perspective, Osmotherly said commercial tower companies (i.e., non-carrier, utility or government) own 67.4 percent of the world’s towers, with the top 12 owning 56 percent of those. Skewing that number a bit is China Tower, on the cusp of an IPO, holding roughly 1.9 million sites.  However, even active international markets, he cautioned, are “reaching a degree of saturation” as to their acquisition potential. Additional revenue opportunities are being considered and applied, he said, with towercos laying and buying their own cable and the rise of micro data centers. Continue Reading

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

American Tower’s Vendor Loyalty Oath Extended and Diluted

The blowback from American Tower’s edict to vendors last week requiring complicity in  limiting their work on any site that falls within a half-mile radius of theirs, has prompted the company to bend, ever so slightly, by:
  • moving the deadline for signed agreements of compliance to tomorrow
  • excluding non-macro towers as a factor
  • limiting the sites to those published on their website
  • allowing for a site-specific waiver

But to one vendor who wished to remain nameless, “it still does not do enough to walk this situation back. This is an unprecedented power play and the company making it is really damaging their reputation in the marketplace.”
A copy of a letter sent from an American Tower representative, Jared Morley, Director of Supply Chain, to vendors was obtained by Inside Towers over the weekend (reprinted in its entirely):
Continue Reading

Monday, June 18, 2018

Report: Sprint, T-Mobile Rush to File Merger Request at FCC

\Sprint and T-Mobile told the FCC they intend to formally file an application asking for merger approval today, Reuters reports. If so, that would be fast on the heels of AT&T closing its acquisition of Time Warner, which was announced Thursday night.

Sprint and T-Mobile filed a document to the Commission asking for a protective order to hide proprietary information from public view, according to Reuters. The two carriers announced an all-stock $26 billion deal in April. Neither carrier immediately responded to a request for comment. Continue Reading

Friday, June 15, 2018

Judge Rules Tower Vendor Owes Employees For Drive Time

An Illinois federal judge signed off on a $333,000 settlement between Heights Tower Service Inc. and nearly 60 of its employees, who accused the company of failing to pay them overtime for the time they spent driving between job sites, reported Law360.

The class action lawsuit was filed in 2014. The workers alleged the company would generally pay employees overtime past their normal 40-hour work week, but failed to include their time spent driving between jobs in overtime calculations. That practice violates Illinois’ Minimum Wage Law as well as the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, Law360 reported. The case had been slated for trial to begin this August, but Tuesday’s decision came following mediation.

According to U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Gilbert, the deal will fully compensate the workers for the overtime they said they were due, and is an “excellent result” since it “diverts any risk and uncertainty of litigation to certain result for the class.” He added: “They get the dollars now rather than dollars later, although they may not have gotten the dollars later either.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Judge Grants Approval For Time Warner/AT&T Merger

By Jim Fryer, Managing Editor, Inside Towers
A U.S. court under Judge Richard Leon ruled late Tuesday, that AT&T could buy Time Warner Inc for $85 billion, without conditions, according to Reuters. The ruling opens the door for AT&T to compete with internet companies and grab the bottomless revenue stream associated with digital advertising, while providing new sources of revenue as carriers search for new income outlets in a stagnating market.

The deal also opens the way for additional mergers, such as Comcast Corp’s bid for some of Twenty-First Century Fox’s assets.

“I conclude that the government has failed to meet its burden of proof,” Judge Leon told the court. He called one of the government’s arguments against the deal “gossamer thin” and said any attempt to obtain a stay of his ruling would not only be unsuccessful but “manifestly unjust.”

Reuters said shares of AT&T were about flat in after-hours trade following the decision, while Time Warner rose more than five percent. Afterwards, AT&T praised the decision and said it hopes to close the deal by June 20. Continue Reading

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

American Tower Puts Vendors on Notice

 Inside Towers reported in November, that AT&T and Verizon were partnering with a new vendor, Tillman Infrastructure, to build out sites (AT&T, Verizon Plot New Towers to Avoid Traditional Leases). Verizon Chief Network Officer said at the time, they were reviewing all of their long-term contracts as they come up for renewal “and we are excited to develop new vendor partners to diversify our infrastructure providers.”  Now the “Tillman effect,” as some are calling it, may be having an impact on the major towercos.

American Tower sent out a memo, obtained by Inside Towers, to vendors, stating they are not to participate, “in the development of any new towers that are within a half mile of an existing ATC site.” The memo, reportedly issued by American Tower Supply Chain Director Jared Morley, goes on to say they think their request is “fair, reasonable and straightforward.”  Neither Morley nor an American spokesperson was available for comment. Continue Reading

Friday, June 8, 2018

FCC Moves to Speed Wireline Broadband Infrastructure Deployment

After a contentious discussion, the FCC voted yesterday to make it easier for carriers to migrate from legacy voice and data networks to faster, next-generation networks. The decision impacts infrastructure, such as tower, small cell and other deployment. NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, said the action will accelerate wireline broadband deployment by removing barriers to infrastructure investment.

Agency officials said its current rules require carriers to adhere to “burdensome” requirements to discontinue a service and notification requirements. “This fixes FCC overreach,” said a Wireline Competition Bureau official, in explaining the Second Report and Order.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr cited his experience last week watching a construction crew in Nebraska replacing lower-speed legacy connections with new fiber deployment, to bring 1gbps capacity to a portion of the state that has only eight residents per square mile. “One of the crews can trench up to five miles of new fiber each day. But in the simplest cases, it can take the FCC months just to process a paperwork and greenlight the work. With today’s decision, we cut that review time in half,” said Carr. Continue Reading

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Decommissioned Water Tanks Still Valued as Antenna Structures

MT2 Telecom is going to the Chico Planning Commission tonight to ask for a special use permit to put up a “monopine” tower at West Third and Cedar streets.  While the Planning Department is recommending approval for the permit, according to the Enterprise Record, they want the existing defunct town water tank to be considered as well.  AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile all still have antennas on the tank owned by Cal Water at Cherry and West Third streets that was declared “not up to California earthquake standards” in 2017.  Some locals feel the tanks are historic and should be preserved, prompting a “save the tank” movement.

“We certainly heard the community,” Cal Water district manager George Barber told the Enterprise Record as did district manager Pete Bonacich, who said the utility’s preference would be for a communication company to buy the tanks from Cal Water and then update them.
MT2 engineering manager Salomon Martinez Jr. said they would rather put up the 105 foot monopine, “Our structure is less pronounced than the water tank, which is pretty large.”  Martinez added that landscaping efforts, eliminating “weed trees” and adding hedges would improve the space vacated by the water tank. Continue Reading

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Antitrust Chief Says One Less Carrier is No Big Deal

The elimination of one major carrier in the wireless industry isn’t necessarily a deal breaker said U.S. Justice Department antitrust Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim in his remarks on Friday to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C. His response was in regard to questions about the proposed $26.5 billion merger of T-Mobile and Sprint. Continue Reading

Monday, June 4, 2018

Battle Lines Drawn Over C-Band

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief
UPDATE More broadcasters have joined NPR in opposing the FCC’s plan to explore opening up C-band for broadband as the wireless and satellite industries are pushing to use more of the spectrum between 3.7 GHz to 4.2 GHz. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, meanwhile, intends to place an item about the issue on the agenda for the Commission’s July meeting, he told attendees at the recent WIA Connect(X). Comments on the issue due to the FCC (to docket 18-122) by May 31, and examined by Inside Towers show how battle lines are shaping up.

Because broadcasters are not required to register their satellite downlink earth stations with the agency, they believe the Commission doesn’t realize how much of the band is being used for this purpose. NAB, the SBE and other organizations have encouraged broadcasters to register their C-band receive-only earth stations by the FCC’s July 18 deadline. No protection will be afforded to those that do not register by July 18, according to the Commission. The hope is once the agency has a better handle on downlink frequency use, it will look elsewhere for additional spectrum to auction off for mobile wireless use, according to a broadcast engineering source. Continue Reading

Friday, June 1, 2018

Battle for 3.5 GHz Spectrum Gets More Intense

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief
CTIA President Meredith Attwell Baker is urging the FCC to finish rules for the 3.5 GHz portion of mid-band spectrum in time for the agency’s July meeting. The former FCC Commissioner is also pushing the agency to schedule an auction for that Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum in 2019.

South Korea plans to auction its 3.5 GHz spectrum next month, Baker notes in a filing to the agency this week, and other countries are making similar plans. “Given that South Korea, China, and Japan are moving forward rapidly with mid-band spectrum, it is critical we move forward expeditiously to both finalize the rules and set an auction date for 2019,” says Baker.

The future of the 3.5 GHz CBRS band has been fiercely contested between large carriers, who advocate for larger geographic areas and longer licensing terms and smaller carriers who argue to keep the rules the same to allow them to innovate. Continue Reading

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

FCC Releases More Capital for PR, USVI Network Restoration

The FCC on Tuesday okayed capital to speed up restoration of communications networks in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) that were destroyed during last year’s hurricanes. The Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking includes an immediate infusion of about $64 million in additional funding for short-term restoration efforts. The agency also seeks comment on injecting nearly $900 million in medium- and long-term aid to expand and improve broadband access across the islands.

Island-based carriers asked the FCC for more help toward the end of 2017. Tuesday’s decision means in 2018, the Commission will continue to provide, at a minimum, current levels of high-cost support to carriers in Puerto Rico and USVI. Fixed carrier Puerto Rico Telephone Company will continue to receive approximately $36 million annualized and mobile carriers (Centennial Puerto Rico Operations Corp., Suncom Wireless Puerto Rico Operating Co., Cingular Wireless, Puerto Rico Telephone Company, PR Wireless Inc., and Worldnet Telecommunications, Inc.) will continue to receive about $79.2 million annualized, according to the Commission. In the USVI, fixed carrier Viya will continue to receive roughly $16.5 million annualized and mobile carrier Choice Communications will continue to receive approximately $67,000 annualized. Continue Reading

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

ZTE Blacklisted in House Vote

UPDATE The House on Thursday voted to block the U.S. government from doing business with Chinese telecom ZTE. The measure was an amendment to the House version of the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act; it would bar the federal government from using ZTE technology and prevent the Defense Department from renewing contracts with vendors who work with ZTE, reports Bloomberg.

The move came just days after a Senate Committee voted to block the President’s efforts to ease sanctions against ZTE. Earlier this month, President Donald Trump tweeted that he directed the Commerce Department to help the telecom find a way to get “back into business.” The Commerce Department barred U.S. businesses from selling to ZTE last month after finding out the company didn’t live up to its agreement with the U.S. by doing business with Iran and North Korea, Inside Towers reported. 

The U.S. is considering alternatives to its sanctions against ZTE, which banned the company from buying parts from U.S. telecom manufacturers. One would be to place compliance officers in the company, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC on Thursday.  Continue Reading

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Ergen’s Planned $10B 5G Spend is Big News at Connect (X)

Charlie Ergen, chairman and co-founder of DISH discussed his company’s foray into the wireless business in Charlotte, NC at Connect (X). He told attendees, “There are incumbents who do a great job connecting to your phone but the future is going to be connecting to machines. How do you build that network?”

In an on-stage interview with former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, now a partner at law firm Cooley, Ergen said: “We know how to partner with people who know more than we do,” said Ergen. “We have signed some master lease agreements with tower companies,” mentioning a $500 million to $1 billion buildout in the initial phase.

Phase two will be a cost of “at least $10 billion,” Ergen said, to build a national wireless network – the first time that number has been made public, according to two WIA sources at the show. The initial phase consists of a national wireless network focused on narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT), with phase two expected to be a 5G network. Continue Reading

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

O’Rielly, Industry Want FCC to Get Going on Wireless Auctions

Connect (X)

WIA President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein opens Connect(X)
 followed by an interview of FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly. 

Photos by Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers (MORE PHOTOS)
Wireless Infrastructure Association President Jonathan Adelstein opened Connect (X) to a large crowd in the main ballroom at the convention center here in Charlotte, NC yesterday. He said the association works hard to put on a show that helps industry get business done.

Former FCC Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy, now Special Counsel for law firm Wilkinson, Barker, Knauer, interviewed current FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly about a variety of topics. Asked about the world-wide race for 5G, he emphasized that in some countries, the government provides funds for private companies to deploy their communications networks, and here, private companies largely pay for it themselves.

The FCC’s job is to ensure all stakeholders have a level playing field to put them in a position to innovate and succeed, said O’Rielly. He ticked off recent actions the Commission has taken to clear out red tape to enable small cell deployment. O’Rielly said many municipalities are determined to extract high dollar amounts for small cell deployment; Adelstein said earlier that 20 states have passed legislation to ease such deployment. Continue Reading

Monday, May 21, 2018

All Revved Up and Headed for Charlotte

We all embark on these little sojourns a few times a year.  Pack the bag, kiss the loved one(s), give the dog’s butt a final scratch and we’re off. Don’t forget to tip your Uber driver.  Today the destination for many of us is Charlotte, home of NASCAR, the Billy Graham Parkway and Bank of America and temporary home of the tower industry as we gather for WIA’s Connectivity Expo, or, more fondly, Connect (X) at the Convention Center.

Not only are we entering a bright and growing region full of promise but we will be seeing a new look to the tower market as well that matches the energy of this southern belle of a city.  Yes, macro sites are still relevant and will get their due as topics of discussion, but it has taken a conscious effort by WIA to move the spotlight on both their association and their show, to what the tower industry has wrought.  Continue Reading

Friday, May 18, 2018

Limits Relaxed on Wireless Cell Signal Boosters

More people can now access wireless cell signal boosters. The Commission voted in March to remove the personal use restriction so subscribers can use boosters to improve their coverage indoors, underground and in rural areas. The rule change becomes effective today.

The original rules, enacted in 2013, were conservative. They limited operation to certain spectrum bands and authorized provider-specific boosters and wideband boosters, which extend coverage by all providers in range. The agency says the personal use restrictions on provider-specific devices are no longer needed, meaning businesses, public safety entities, and schools can use them. Specifically, whereas the existing rules restricted provider-specific consumer signal boosters to personal use, the Commission will now permit any subscriber—an individual or a non-individual—with a proper registration to use these boosters. 

Wilson Electronics CEO Bruce Lancaster told Inside Towers at the time, the change can especially help small businesses. “Boosters help users stay connected in areas where the carriers struggle to reach with their network. Whether this is in remote areas while camping, or in difficult to reach areas in buildings, boosters have solved hundreds of thousands of consumers’ connectivity issues, without causing any issues to any of the carriers’ networks,” he said. The elimination of the personal use restriction makes this same benefit available to businesses, which have similar connectivity challenges for themselves or their customers, he added. Continue Reading

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Lawmakers Concerned About President’s Plans for ZTE

UPDATE Lawmakers from both political parties are alarmed over President Donald Trump’s plans to help Chinese telecom manufacturer ZTE. Concerns were expressed on both sides of the aisle during a hearing Wednesday regarding threats to national security and the nation’s telecom supply chain by the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, a subgroup of the Commerce Committee.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) is “concerned” the president’s comments mean “loosening up” on ZTE, reported The Hill. The Commerce Department in April barred U.S. firms from supplying the Chinese company after it said ZTE violated U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea and the Chinese telecom manufacturer agreed to pay a $1.2 billion fine. But, as Inside Towers reported yesterday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said ZTE didn’t live up to the agreement.

Sunday, Trump tweeted that he’s working to give ZTE “a way to get back into business, fast” and he “instructed” the Commerce Department to help the company. Kinzinger hopes the president’s comments were “misinterpreted.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

San Jose Secures $5 Million Small Cell Deal with AT&T

In a new agreement, AT&T will pay the city of San Jose approximately $5 million over a maximum 15-year period to deploy 170 small cells on existing public assets, reported LightReading.
The telecom company will pay an upfront fee of $850,000 to fund new public works staff to help with small cell permitting transactions, and another $1 million to help improve the city’s permitting processes, according to LightReading. The deal is beneficial for both sides, as the city will collect additional revenue and the carrier will receive a blanket agreement for small cell deployments.  San Jose is also focused on ensuring that improved connectivity is accessible to all. CIO Shireen Santosham notes that the city has taken the novel approach of dedicating funding from utility pole rentals to digital inclusion efforts.  

“This model is certainly a pioneering model. I don’t think any other city that I know of has really taken the revenues from these deals and earmarked them in this way specifically to bridge the digital divide,” says Santosham.  

AT&T vice president of technology planning Jason Porter, sees the agreement as a sound financial investment. “We’re looking at the broader community so if we can do something where we provide some revenue for the city, but we can offset that with revenue we gain by being in that area…and we think [that] will drive additional revenue into AT&T, then that’s a benefit.” Continue Reading