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

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

ZTE Becomes Lightning Rod in U.S., China Trade Talks

Asked about President Donald Trump’s statements on Twitter this weekend about helping Chinese telecom equipment manufacturer ZTE, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Monday the department would review it — quickly.

The U.S. Commerce Department last month blocked American firms from selling parts or providing services to ZTE. Ross explained to attendees at a National Press Club luncheon, that ZTE violated U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea and the Chinese telecom manufacturer agreed to pay a $1.2 billion fine. But the former bankruptcy specialist said the U.S. found out ZTE didn’t live up to the agreement. “It turned out a number of statements ZTE made to us were not accurate. Our initial thought was to impose the ‘bad list’ so the company can’t receive high tech material. That’s what led to the shutdown,” Ross said.  

ZTE essentially stopped all operations last month because of the ban and was working to get it reversed, the company said in an investment filing last month, Inside Towers reported. Sunday, Trump tweeted that he’s working to give ZTE “a way to get back into business, fast” because “too many” Chinese jobs were at risk. He added he’s “instructed” the Commerce Department to help ZTE, reported CNN. Continue Reading

Monday, May 14, 2018

Carriers, Associations Push FCC to Auction More mmW Spectrum

The FCC has scheduled auctions for the high-band 28 and 24 GHz spectrum in November, but wireless carriers and associations who represent them, urge the Commission to do more.
The Competitive Carriers Association encouraged the FCC to auction all available millimeter wave (mmW) spectrum bands as expeditiously as possible, modify bidding procedures to enhance participation and ensure anti-collusion rules are not overly restrictive. Minor improvements in the FCC’s proposed 28 and 24 GHz auction plans “will ensure mmW spectrum auctions enhance next generation and 5G deployments in both urban and rural areas of the United States and enhance auction revenue,” CCA said in comments filed last week. 

CCA believes the 28 GHz band is likely to support 5G development sooner than other mmW bands, because it has emerged as a “focus” of academic and industry efforts in 5G and equipment development in 28 GHz is “more advanced than in other bands.”  

After that auction, CCA suggests the FCC auction all remaining and available mmW bands together including the 24 GHz, 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz bands. Holding off “will delay service deployment and create disparity with respect to the 28 GHz band; effectively giving dominant carriers a head start in 5G deployment,” says CCA. Continue Reading

Friday, May 11, 2018

FCC Considers Opening Up 2.5 GHz Band

In their first meeting with only four FCC Commissioners, the leadership at the agency voted Thursday to consider opening up Educational Broadband Service (EBS) airwaves to more users in the 2.5 GHz band.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said during the vote, the 2496-2690 MHz of spectrum is the largest contiguous band of spectrum below three gigahertz that could be used for 5G. His colleague Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said what started as an educational closed circuit video has “morphed into a broadband play for commercial providers.” New approaches to the band are needed, Commissioners agreed, because periodic application freezes have led to significant underuse of the band.

Chairman Ajit Pai, thinking FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel was done speaking, started his remarks. She jokingly said, “Hey, there’s only one of us now, I’m going to take as long as I need,” referring to the departure of fellow Democrat Mignon Clyburn from the dais. Continue Reading

Thursday, May 10, 2018

5G Could Drive Up Rooftop Rent for Telecom Infrastructure

Next-generation 5G will likely have significant impacts on the real estate industry, according to Milestone Communications President Len Forkas. With the tech evolution, real estate owners could see new opportunities to generate revenue from telecom companies seeking to rent space on rooftops and inside buildings to add infrastructure, Urban Land reported.
He also noted that building owners may benefit from a greater number of micro-centers that need to be placed closer to consumers in order to reduce latency. “Latency trumps speed,” Forkas explained. “The longer the distance, the slower the latency. I think we’re going to see more data housed closer to where people are using it.” 

Telecom companies are also increasingly looking for locations for small cells that can be attached to the exterior of buildings or concealed in streetlights, reported Urban Land. Continue Reading

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

NPR Calls Sharing C-Band a ‘Non-Starter’

NPR last week told the FCC, the Public Radio Satellite System depends on satellite distribution using C-Band spectrum, to deliver programming and public safety information to its interconnected stations, producers and distributors. “Without satellite delivery for the interconnection system, the U.S.’s nationwide public radio and public safety information distribution systems would cease to exist,” the broadcaster tells the Commission in a filing.

The broadcaster is reacting to the FCC exploring the feasibility of opening up the C-band (3.7 to 4.2 GHz band) frequencies for 5G use, based on interest by both wireless and satellite companies. The agency seeks comment to GN Docket 18-122 by May 31, and replies by June 15, Inside Towers reported. Commissioner Michael O’Rielly recently suggested the agency consider freeing up 200-300 MHz of C-band spectrum and urged his colleagues to get a proposed rulemaking out this summer to explore issues like licensing. Continue Reading

Monday, May 7, 2018

Verizon CEO On Merger: “We Don’t Care”

Verizon Chairman/CEO Lowell McAdam recently shrugged off questions about the proposed merger between arch-rivals Sprint and T-Mobile. He expressed indifference about the carriers and their desire to compete with his company.

“We don’t care, is the answer to that,” McAdam said in an interview with GeekWire. “I don’t think that merger matters from a 5G perspective. We’re going to do it [5G] regardless and we’re way ahead of everybody.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

FCC Takes Closer Look at Opening Up 3.7 – 4.2 GHz

The FCC’s efforts to clear more spectrum for mobile broadband took another step Tuesday. The agency began a proceeding to further examine the feasibility of opening up 3.7 – 4.2 GHz for commercial wireless use.

Specifically, the agency seeks public input on whether or how it could allow licensed or unlicensed wireless providers to use or share the frequencies between 3700 MHz and 4200 MHz. In a Notice, the Commission asks how the Commission should assess the operations and possible impacts of sharing on federal and non-federal users already operating in the band. It also wants to know how sharing might be achieved without causing harmful interference to incumbent users. Continue Reading

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Legere, Claure Heading to D.C. to Lobby Regulators

T-Mobile CEO John Legere and Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure are headed to Washington, D.C. this week to try and convince regulators to approve their plans to merge their companies.

They plan to say the combined entity can help efforts to speed 5G deployment in the U.S., amid fears America is falling behind other countries in the race to build the technology. The CEOs are also putting a strong emphasis on jobs, in light of the president’s “America First” focus on U.S. manufacturing and domestic job growth, they told CNBC on Monday. The companies plan to emphasize their plans to invest about $40 billion over three years in their combined network and business – creating jobs through construction of new 5G cell towers, expansion of U.S. call centers and opening new stores.

Legere called the merger “a growth story in which the synergies are more valuable than each company on a standalone basis.” He said President Trump’s tax reform efforts increased the value of the planned merger, said to be valued at about $26 billion. “I think we’re goal aligned from a political agenda,” he told CNBC. Continue Reading

Monday, April 30, 2018

Sprint and T-Mo Merger, If OK’ed, Will Affect Tower Market

On Sunday, Sprint and T-Mobile, in a bid to create a nationwide 5G network, announced an all-stock merger valued at $146 billion. The merger would still need to clear anti-trust examination before it is formalized. T-Mobile parent company Deustsche Telekom would control the merger and have it run by T-Mobile, according to the Wall Street Journal. This is the third attempt to reach an agreement by the two companies over the past few years.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere said in a tweet, the deal will form “the highest capacity network in history” and put the combined company in direct competition with AT&T and Verizon.  I’m excited to announce that T-Mobile and Sprint have reached an agreement to come together to form a new company – a larger, stronger competitor that will be a force for positive change for all U.S. consumers and businesses!”

Spencer Kurn market analyst for New Street Research said, “If the deal is approved, we would cut our valuation by 6% for AMT, 18% for CCI, and 12% for SBAC. The towers have underperformed the broader index by 7-10% since deal reports resurfaced in the press a few weeks ago. While a deal scenario would still present ~10% downside for CCI, we believe it has been largely priced in for AMT and SBAC,” Kurn said. Continue Reading

Friday, April 27, 2018

Administration Developing National Spectrum Strategy, Says NTIA Chief

The administration is developing a national spectrum strategy, according to National Telecommunications & Information Administration head David Redl. Speaking at a Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee meeting Wednesday, Redl said details would be released “soon,” reported Broadcasting and Cable.

CTIA jumped on the news. “It’s great to see the Administration initiating a new national strategy to improve wireless connectivity for American consumers and business,” said CTIA SVP Regulatory Affairs Scott Bergmann. “Wireless is a major growth driver for the economy – contributing $475 billion annually and supporting 4.7 million jobs – and we look forward to working with Administrator Redl on a roadmap to allocate more spectrum for commercial wireless use which will also help the U.S. to secure global leadership in 5G.” Continue Reading

Thursday, April 26, 2018

San Jose, AT&T Reach Tentative Small Cells Deal

The city of San Jose, California says it’s reached a tentative agreement with AT&T to install 170 small cells this year. City officials say the small cells will upgrade voice and data capacity for businesses and residents. The city council is likely to take up the proposal at its May 1 meeting.

The city anticipates receiving a total of $5 million in lease revenue over the next 15 years from AT&T for its “digital inclusion projects,” part of an effort to offer affordable broadband to low-income residents. To help accelerate the deployment, AT&T agreed to remit a portion of its required permit fees upfront and give the city a $1 million grant, reports Government Technology. Continue Reading

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

CitySwitch to Build, Lease New AT&T Towers

AT&T signed a deal with wireless infrastructure owner and developer CitySwitch to build new cell towers to-suit. Tower builds are expected to begin later this year and CitySwitch will lease completed sites to AT&T. The Atlanta-based company calls itself a “premier provider of railroad right-of-way wireless infrastructure network development, acquisition and management.”

This is the third agreement the carrier recently announced and it provides another supplier in the tower space working outside the traditional tower leasing model, AT&T tells Inside Towers. The Crown Castle deal earlier this month and Tillman Infrastructure deal in 2017 show AT&T wants a change. 

“The traditional model isn’t cost-effective or sustainable,” says AT&T EVP Global Connections and Supply Chain, Susan Johnson. “This deal is another step in continuing to diversify our suppliers based on site needs, increasing competition in the provision of tower space and exploring new avenues to cut costs.” The agreement also provides the carrier the ability to move equipment from existing towers to the new site builds.  Continue Reading

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Bill Strikes a Compromise Between Cities and Telecom Over Small Cells

Municipal leaders and telecommunications-industry representatives worked together for three months to craft House Bill 478, giving municipalities the ability to regulate the placement and appearance of small cells on public structures in Ohio, reported The Columbus Dispatch.

“There was a lot of give-and-take by both sides, but it worked out well,” said Brad McLean, AT&T’s director of external affairs in Ohio. This comes one year after dozens of cities and villages sued the state over how to regulate wireless equipment…and won. Now, a compromise is being reached with the bill.

Dublin City Manager Dana McDaniel said of the proposed measure, “This provides more predictability and speed to the industry, while also protecting the character of our cities. That’s what we’ve been trying to balance throughout this process.” 

Ohio is not the only state affected by small cell technology regulation. Fifteen states already have enacted legislation to modernize rules related to small cell technology deployment, said Jilane Rodgers Petrie, spokeswoman for the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association.  Continue Reading

Monday, April 23, 2018

AT&T Brings 5G Foundation Tech to More Cities

AT&T expands its “5G Evolution” and LTE-LAA technologies — what the carrier calls 5G foundation technologies to more markets. AT&T is upgrading cell towers with LTE Advanced features like 256 QAM, 4×4 MIMO, and 3-way carrier aggregation. 

The carrier says the foundational 5G technologies enable faster speeds now, and mobile 5G, when it’s ready. For example, AT&T plans to start launching standards-based mobile 5G later this year in parts of Waco, Atlanta and Dallas. All three markets have 5G Evolution service now. The Mobile 5G deployments will benefit from its 5G fixed wireless trials, the carrier says. Continue Reading

Friday, April 20, 2018

Broadcast Tower Crumples With Crew of Six On Site, One Reported Dead

(See more photos here) Courtesy KYTV
An 1,980-foot broadcast tower that was being worked on in the Fordland area on State Highway FF collapsed yesterday morning resulting in a fatality, according to the Logan-Rogersville Fire Protection District. Webster County Sheriff Roye Cole said the workers were replacing cross beams on the tower.
LRFPD was assisting Southern Webster County Fire Protection District on the emergency call involving the tower, which is owned by KOZK-TV, the PBS affiliate operated out of Springfield by Missouri State University, according to the Marshfield Mail.
A total of six people, approximately 105 feet in the air at the time of the collapse, were doing maintenance work on the tower, said LRFPD Assistant Fire Chief Rob Talburt. The entire tower is now on the ground, he said. In addition to the fatality, three additional workers were transported to Springfield hospitals with non-life threatening injuries, Talburt told the Mail.
“It’s lucky that there were not more people killed out here,” he said, adding there was no other associated damage from the tower collapsing. Continue Reading

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Huawei Turns Attention to Europe and Asia As D.C. Roadblocks Increase

Huawei appears to be scaling back its efforts to crack the U.S. market, after meeting regulatory roadblocks in Washington. The company laid off five American employees last week, including its most visible face in the nation’s capital, William Plummer. Huawei is also reducing its lobbying efforts here, after nearly a decade of trying to dispel Congress’ accusations the company works with the Chinese government and could use its telecom equipment to spy on Americans or to destabilize telecom networks, sources told the New York Times. The company repeatedly denied the claims.

Its actions come as the FCC voted Tuesday, to begin a rulemaking to block telecoms that receive Universal Service Fund support, from using services or equipment from companies deemed to be a threat to national security, Inside Towers reported. The proposal does not name any company specifically, however its effect would essentially end Huawei’s small market share in the U.S.

At an event in Shenzhen, China on Tuesday, Huawei stressed its commitment to existing markets and current customers. Executives emphasized growth opportunities in Europe and Asia, according to the Times. They described the company’s vision to expand beyond providing telecom gear and expand into artificial intelligence, the internet of things and other next-gen technologies.  Continue Reading

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

It’s Official; Clyburn to Exit FCC

As Inside Towers reported yesterday, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn surprised her colleagues and announced her intention to leave the agency. Her departure has been rumored for months, as the senior Democratic Commissioner clashed with Chairman Ajit Pai over several high-profile issues.

After yesterday’s monthly public agency meeting ended, Clyburn said it would be her last. She called her eight years at the Commission “an incredible opportunity.”

“In my wildest dreams, if I could have crafted my destiny, I never would have dreamed of this,” said Clyburn. “I’ve done my very best and met the most incredible people on the planet in this building. I’ve had the opportunity to make a difference to people who did not believe government was here to serve. So I want to thank all of you for making that possible and more.” 

Fellow Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said “Wow,” and called Clyburn a “dynamo.” She called Clyburn “someone who has been my partner in the public interest, someone I am proud to call a colleague and a friend. I want you to know that the things you care about, the fights you fought, and the legacy you leave – I consider it a duty of all of us to make sure it stays intact.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Clyburn Confirms She’s Leaving FCC

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn surprised her colleagues when she confirmed today, she intends to leave the FCC. Though her departure had been rumored for months, she always said she loved the job and planned to continue in her role as the senior Democratic member of the Commission.
After the meeting ended, Clyburn said today’s public monthly agency meeting would be her last. “This has been an incredible opportunity for me. I’ve done my best.” She said most of the lessons she learned on the job helped her.

Her colleagues were stunned. Fellow Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said “Wow,” and called Clyburn a “dynamo.” Commissioner Michael O’Rielly thanked Clyburn for her public service, noting that while they didn’t always agree on an issue, he appreciated that she was always willing to discuss it.

Chairman Ajit Pai echoed O’Rielly’s comments and cited that in her eight-year tenure, Clyburn was the first woman to chair the agency, when she became Acting Chair in 2013. “You led with distinction. You exemplify what a public servant is meant to be.”
Clyburn did not name an end date and said her future plans are not set.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

Monday, April 16, 2018

Google Said to Be In Talks With Nokia for In-Flight WiFi Technology

Google is reportedly in talks with Nokia to buy Nokia Oyj’s aircraft broadband division as part of its plans to build an in-flight broadband internet service. Bloomberg reports the companies are in talks about the issue and could agree on a deal soon. Neither company is commenting.

Nokia has been developing its LTE air-to-ground (A2G) cellular-based system for five years, however it’s a lesser priority for the company than 5G deployment, according to the account. Nokia’s system creates an airborne WiFi connection by communicating with cell networks on the ground, rather than a satellite.
“Passengers expect 24/7 internet connectivity that’s equal to their experience with terrestrial WiFi hotspots,” says Nokia on its website. “Current short-haul and medium-haul continental flights use satellite-to-ground internet communications systems that are bulky, expensive, and have limited capacity, as well as high latency.” Continue Reading

Friday, April 13, 2018

Rural Wireless Carriers, Nokia Question FCC’s Planned Security Vote

The Rural Wireless Association and Nokia are concerned about the FCC’s plan to vote next week on a proposal to block carriers from receiving Universal Service Fund dollars if they use services or equipment from companies considered a security threat to the United States. The fear is Chinese companies like Huawei or ZTE in particular, might use their gear to spy on Americans for their government, a charge both have denied.

RWA tells the agency, if adopted, the proposal would not only fail to protect national security, but it would also irreparably damage broadband networks and limit future deployment in many rural areas. “A serious defensive national cyber security strategy requires a risk management strategy and program that address the risk from all suppliers of products and services to government and critical infrastructure, including the communications sector. Additionally, any such national cyber security strategy should be applicable to all communications networks in the United States rather than targeting those relatively few communications networks funded in part by USF that use equipment from particular countries,” says the RWA in a filing with the agency this week.  

Like the Commission, the RWA says it understands the communications network supply chain is global. That’s why it recommends the agency focus its efforts on “creating a standards and testing based system, and not on imposing a costly and ultimately ineffective ‘country of origin’ prohibitory regime that would provide nothing more than a false sense of security.” Continue Reading

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Small Cells Included in New, Expanded AT&T, Crown Lease Deal

AT&T and Crown Castle signed an agreement to simplify and expand their long-term wireless network infrastructure lease arrangement. The new pact will help the carrier speed up both its 5G deployment as well as FirstNet, an AT&T spokesman tells Inside Towers.

This new deal is a departure from the historical macro tower model, the carrier announced. In addition to macro sites, the deal covers the small cell deployments needed to keep up with ever-increasing mobile data usage.

Leasing management and operations are streamlined to improve the efficiency and flexibility under which AT&T can deploy new technologies and increase network capacity. AT&T EVP Global Connections and Supply Chain Susan Johnson says the market-based framework “simplifies the lease management and administration process,” which, in turn, allows the carrier to streamline network projects to provide customers with better speed, reliability and overall performance. Continue Reading

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

FCC Fines Sprint and Mobilitie in Small Cell Siting Probe For $11.6M

Sprint and Mobilitie will pay a combined $11.6 million to resolve two FCC investigations regarding whether the companies completed tower registration and environmental and historic impact reviews before building small cell infrastructure facilities.

Sprint contracted with Mobilitie to deploy wireless network equipment. Under rules in effect at that time, deploying wireless infrastructure facilities, like towers and structures for small cells, required environmental and historic preservation reviews, including Tribal consultation, before construction, to assess possible effects on wildlife, flood plains, historic Tribal sites, and other sites of historic or cultural significance.

In 2014, Sprint began a densification program to accelerate deployment of small cells to enhance 4G coverage and lay a path for 5G. The FCC said its investigation found that Sprint “entered into an agreement with a third party to install Sprint-owned small cells and associated equipment on structures owned by the third party or others.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Apparent False Tower Records Lead to $200k+ Fine

The FCC proposed a more than $200,000 penalty against Aura Holdings of Wisconsin, Inc. for apparently not being honest about the true owner of several towers.
Aura apparently submitted false and misleading information in 10 different change in ownership applications using the Commission’s Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) system, according to the FCC. Aura is a privately-owned holding company, incorporated in 2016; it also apparently made a false statement to a Commission employee, claiming the company owned a tower that it did not own, according to the agency.

Tower owners must register with the FCC, any tower subject to the FAA’s notification requirements because of the structure’s potential danger to air navigation. Specifically, any new tower built over 200 feet in height above ground level must be registered.  

In December 2016, a pilot complained to the Commission’s Operations Center about an unlit tower, ASR 1200329, in Footville, WI. The Operations Center couldn’t reach the listed owner, Puri, LLC, and contacted the FAA. The FAA then issued a Notice to Airmen, warning pilots of the hazard. The Ops Center forwarded the pilot’s complaint to the Chicago Field Office of the Commission’s Enforcement Bureau, which initiated an investigation. The bureau field agent also tried unsuccessfully to contact Puri. The field agent also went to the tower site and verified that neither the daytime nor the nighttime lights were operational. Continue Reading

Monday, April 9, 2018

Phantom Towers in D.C. May Be an Espionage Tool

Foreign entities may be surveilling U.S. cell phone calls in the nation’s capital; the U.S. Department of Homeland Security says it’s detected fake cell towers — called International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI catchers) — in Washington, D.C. It could be the first time the federal government has acknowledged publicly the devices are in the area, reports the Associated Press.

The devices mimic real cell towers in order to collect metadata and potentially communication data from calls and texts. Some devices can force phones to downgrade to a 2G network to make such interception easier, reports the Register. Phones using 3G or 4G networks can authenticate towers.
Police officers and the federal government have used the devices, but concern is growing they may be used by foreign spies. A Department of Homeland Security official told Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) about the issue in a memo released last week. But DHS needs more money to actually track down the IMSI device locations, reports NPR. Wyden asked DHS whether it had evidence of foreign IMSI catchers operating in the D.C. area in November.  Continue Reading

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Should Carriers be Mandated to Deploy Rural Broadband?

How can carriers make the business case for rural broadband deployment? Will it take a government mandate to make that happen? That’s what one panelist suggested Wednesday at Wireless Connect 2018. The event is organized by the Wireless Infrastructure Association in partnership with the Master’s in Telecommunications Program at the University of Maryland.

Inside Towers posed the question to FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, who appeared with WIA President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein in a Q & A.

Carr said one way to incentivize carriers is through the FCC’s Universal Service Program, which provides subsidies to those who deploy communications in rural areas. “Infrastructure reform is a key piece of it,” he said, referring to the Commission’s recent decision to allow small cells to bypass environmental and Tribal review in select cases. Carriers spent $30 million combined in such reviews last year when siting infrastructure, according to the agency. “What if we can take 30 percent of deployment costs and cut it. It flips the business case,” he said, noting that the change will mean broadband can be deployed to “thousands more communities.”  Continue Reading

Monday, April 2, 2018

Tower King II Disputes OSHA Finding on Tower Deaths

UPDATE In citing their assessment of the Miami tower fatality that took three lives last September, OSHA found that Tower King II, the contractor, lacked “a qualified individual to conduct an analysis before performing construction work.” Tower King II disagrees with that finding, according to the Miami Herald.

“The Company consulted several experts in the tower safety industry and asked them to perform a thorough accident investigation,” Tod Morrow, attorney for Tower King II, stated. “Both the Company and its experts have concluded that the accident was caused by the failure of a third-party engineering firm to properly calculate the stress factors on the rigging used to secure the equipment to the TV tower. It is our belief that a mistake in the engineering plan caused an overloading of the rigging components, ultimately causing them to fail.”  Continue Reading

Friday, March 30, 2018

Geo-Targeting Capabilities Part of First Large Regional WEA Test

Source: COG & Fairfax County, VA
Emergency managers in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area are preparing to test the Wireless Emergency Alert System (WEA) next week. A total of 20 jurisdictions — in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia — will simultaneously issue a test message to the public through the WEA system on April 5. It’s the first live WEA test in such a large region and the first to use geo-targeting capabilities. The outcome of this test could lead to similar tests in other regions of the country.
A smaller, more limited WEA test was conducted in the District on Inauguration Day, on the National Mall. But this new test, initiated by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, is much larger, according to Sulayman Brown, who’s coordinating the months-long planning effort. Brown is the Assistant Coordinator of Operations and Outreach Division in the Office of Emergency Management of Fairfax County, VA. He told Inside Towers, “We have a significant population in the National Capital region and we have a large amount of visitors. We thought this would be a good opportunity to test the system,” and learn from that. Officials hope to validate the effectiveness of WEA in notifying the public in the event of an emergency and also raise the public’s awareness of WEA.  

Indeed, officials believe more than five million people in the region could potentially receive the test message, including residents and visitors. Some people who may be traveling between jurisdictions during the test may receive multiple messages on their cell phone or other mobile device. Continue Reading

Thursday, March 29, 2018

OSHA Levies Maximum Fines in Miami Tower Fatalities: $12,934

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ruled that Tower King II of Cedar Hill, Texas was at fault in the equipment collapse that caused the death of three men while working on a Miami Gardens TV tower on September 27, 2017, according to the Miami Herald.

The fine, totaling $12,934, is the maximum allowed by law: $4,311.33 per life lost. The crew consisted of Brachton Barber, 23 of Longwood, FL; Benito Rodriguez, 35, of Tampa; and Marcus Goffena, 31, of Sidney, OH.  They were in the process of replacing an antenna for WSVN-TV (Channel 7) when the gin pole collapsed, the ‘cause of death’ as determined by OSHA.

A U.S. Department of Labor news release stated that the Texas-based tower contractor, “failed to ensure the capacity of the rigging attachments were adequate to support the forces imposed from hoisting loads.”

OSHA office director Condell Eastmond told WPLG-TV, “This tragedy underscores the importance of having a qualified individual conduct an analysis before performing construction work on communication towers.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

AT&T Launches Evolved FirstNet Packet Core Network

AT&T unveiled the core network for FirstNet yesterday. The timing coincides with the one-year anniversary of being awarded the contract from Congress for the public-private partnership to build and maintain the nationwide mobile broadband first responder network. “We’re proud of the quick progress we’ve made in this short timeframe, consistently delivering on or ahead of schedule,” said AT&T SVP FirstNet Chris Sambar in the announcement.

The carrier has already given first responders early access to the FirstNet capabilities, Inside Towers reported. The launch of what AT&T is calling its evolved packet core is built on separate network hardware than the carrier’s other business and consumer network. The core, only available to FirstNet subscribers, processes and carries vital data for the public safety network. It was built to the standard provided by the First Responder Network Authority. AT&T says it put “hundreds of millions of dollars” into building the core network since early last year. 

To keep all data traffic on the core network separate and secure, it will be monitored 24/7/365 by network security experts working in a dedicated Security Operations Center. “Their sole focus is to watch over the security of the network, analyzing all traffic that crosses the network core to identify and help mitigate possible threats,” says AT&T. A custom portal enables the First Responder Network Authority to check in on the network. Continue Reading

Monday, March 26, 2018

Omnibus Includes New Broadband Deployment Funds

The Senate early Friday morning passed and sent to the president, a $1.3 trillion omnibus appropriations bill, H.R. 1625, to keep the government funded through September 30. The measure contains $600 million in federal funding for rural broadband deployment. President Donald Trump signed the bill into law Friday afternoon, averting another government shutdown.

The money is to be distributed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS). “Small telcos have a proven track record in overcoming challenges in rural areas to provide robust, sustainable broadband, and their many efforts in conjunction with long-standing, highly-effective U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) backing are the embodiment of precisely the kinds of public-private partnerships that our nation should be leveraging to tackle such challenges in the future,” said NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield. The new effort will be coordinated with existing broadband-focused initiatives within RUS and at the FCC. Continue Reading

Friday, March 23, 2018

FCC Says “Nope” to NEPA and “See Ya” to SHPO

The FCC vote yesterday to exempt most small cell infrastructure siting from National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review was contentious. The vote was 3-2 and security removed two protesters from the Commission meeting room during the discussion.

The changes are for small cells not located on Tribal lands. They clarify and improve the process for Tribal participation in the historic preservation process for large wireless facilities where NHPA and NEPA review is still required. The order removes the requirement that applicants file Environmental Assessments solely due to the location of a proposed facility in a floodplain, as long as certain conditions are met. It establishes a timeframe for the FCC to act on environmental assessments.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, and Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr said the changes will save the wireless industry time and money and help the U.S. lead in 5G. O’Rielly said they would eliminate “unnecessary delays and outrageous” siting fees. Some Tribes are using tower and antenna siting “as a cash cow” while others receive payments, but then don’t respond to the providers that are submitting applications, he said. Continue Reading

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

FCC’s O’Rielly Calls Out States for Diverting 911 Funds

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly has no patience with states that divert their 911 fees for other uses. He slammed the practice Tuesday during a speech before the Rhode Island E911 Summit in Providence. His colleagues Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and Chairman Ajit Pai have criticized the practice as well.

O’Rielly called it “appalling” that some states use the fees consumers pay on their phone bills that are supposed to be for 911, for “tangential or unrelated” purposes. He asked what conditions in Rhode Island make fee diversion a viable option for policymakers. “With a state budget of $9.3 billion, why is it necessary to divert a rather small amount – between $8 to $10 million – dedicated for public safety call centers and the 911 system to other spending priorities?”  Continue Reading

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Maryland’s Cities vs. States Battle a Microcosm For U.S.

Lobbying efforts by wireless companies to ease regulations on the installation of 5G equipment is causing friction between local and state leaders. According to The Washington Post, wireless carriers expect to install 300,000 small cell sites across the country, and so far this year, 18 states have proposed zoning law preemptions; since 2016, 13 states have adopted such legislation. Though wireless industry leaders have explained that the demand for better internet service necessitates removing barriers to cell sites’ installation, some local leaders, like Montgomery County Council President Hans Riemer, see the state proposals as “a giveaway to the industry.” Riemer told The Washington Post, “We want to see the future of wireless infrastructure happen, but we want a say in how that happens.”

Many residents also feel pulled in two directions, hungry for faster downloads and streaming, but hesitant about the potential impacts of small cell sites. North Potomac, MD resident Andy Spivak explained this dilemma to The Washington Post, “There’s no way we’re going to stop this technology from being deployed — it’s just the way of the world. But can they try to make them aesthetically pleasing or hide them so I don’t have to drive around my neighborhood and see ugly cell towers?” CTIA advised that health experts have found “no known health risk” from cell equipment, but health concerns are frequently at the forefront of residents’ minds when considering 5G small cell deployment.  Continue Reading

Monday, March 19, 2018

Munis Say They’re Not to Blame for Slow Small Cell Deployment

Wilton Manors, FL Mayor Gary Resnick testifies before Congress last week.

It’s not our fault if carriers can’t deploy next-generation wireless infrastructure, the mayors of 36 cities and municipal government leaders are telling the FCC.

They feel some Commissioners are casting local governments “as scapegoats” and as a barrier to small cell deployment and the use of public rights-of-way, they said in a letter to all five Commissioners. The letter from Next Century Cities comes just days before the agency is set to vote on easing some regulations for infrastructure siting.

They say the FCC should be focused on “encouraging” investment in better networks rather than on limiting local authority. The local officials also push back against allegations that city governments are slowing wireline and wireless investment and refute the claims by some carriers, that local governments charge excessive siting or pole attachment fees. Continue Reading

Friday, March 16, 2018

FCC Gets a Look at What They’re Voting On

T-Mobile and Crown Castle representatives showed FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr a thing or two yesterday as they toured selected small cell sites in Baltimore. Touring sites offering small cell solutions, such as the street pole lights Carr was introduced to, has been part of an information gathering effort on the agency’s part prior to voting on streamlining measures next week.
Carr was told although the basic pole, cabinet, metering, antennas and light infrastructure can cost around $30,000, that cost can triple when additional asphalt patching, street shutdowns, sidewalk repair, landscaping and auxiliary building requirements are added to the mix. 

A recent Inside Towers article quoted Carr saying the “small cell deployment process is broken” with plans to eliminate or greatly reduce historic and environmental reviews of the pocket sites. Continue Reading

Thursday, March 15, 2018

CCA Wants FCC to Stay AT&T/FiberTower License Transfer

UPDATE The Competitive Carriers Association opposes the transfer of millimeter-wave (“mmW”) spectrum licenses from FiberTower to AT&T Mobility Spectrum LLC. CCA asked the full Commission to stay the decision.
CCA says the agency approved the transaction based on incomplete and flawed public interest analysis, and challenged the Commission to put a hold on its consent order while it reviews the decision of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. “Millimeter wave spectrum offers tremendous opportunities for carriers as they move toward deploying next generation technologies,” said CCA President/CEO Steve Berry. “Rather than giving AT&T a head start advantage with FiberTower’s valuable mmW licenses, while providing FiberTower an incredible windfall for spectrum that has lied fallow for years, the Commission should make the terminated licenses available to any qualified applicant through auction.” 

A day after the bureau okayed the license transfer last month, AT&T closed on its $207 million acquisition of Fiber Tower, giving it 478 licenses of millimeter wave spectrum it intends to use to roll out 5G services later this year. Continue Reading

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Telecom Reps Tell Congress How to Fix FCC’s Broadband Maps

CCA’s Steve Berry (left) and CTIA’s Brad Gillen, holding a small cell, 
testify before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday.

Wireless industry representatives told lawmakers Tuesday better maps are needed to determine where broadband connectivity exists and where it doesn’t, especially now that Congress is considering effective ways to close the digital divide as part of the President’s infrastructure plan.

The Chairman of the Senate Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), said the current FCC maps showing broadband connectivity are “utterly worthless.” He asked why the data is “so wrong.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Streamlining or Steamrolling? NY Governor Proposes Rules for Small Cells

Last year, when Verizon Wireless submitted 12 small cell applications for a neighborhood near the University of Buffalo, Amherst enacted a moratorium on the construction of new towers and gathered a committee to analyze and revise local zoning regulations. Now those municipality-level regulations may be usurped by state-wide protocol, as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has introduced a budget proposal to adopt a uniform, statewide permitting and review process for the installation of small cell nodes, according to a report from The Buffalo News. 

Local governments and interest groups like the Association of Towns and the New York Conference of Mayors are pushing back, citing state overreach in decisions traditionally made at the local level.  
Verizon supports the governor’s proposal, which the company believes will “promote private investment in state-of-the-art telecommunications networks at no cost to taxpayers,” according to David Lamendola, Verizon’s director of state government affairs for New York. New York would join 13 other states who have already introduced similar proposals to streamline the installation of small cell technology, Lamendola told The Buffalo News. In addition to helping Verizon meet customer demand, Lamendola explained that the proposal may also bring new jobs to the state.  Continue Reading

Friday, March 9, 2018

Reject Our Tower? See You in Court, Verizon Says

Following the rejection of its special-use and wetlands permits for the construction of a new tower to bridge a critical coverage gap, Verizon Wireless has filed suit against the city of Philipstown, NY in U.S. District Court in White Plains, requesting that the court grant the denied permits and authorize work to begin on the new tower, as reported by WestfairOnline.com

In Verizon Wireless et al v. Town of Philipstown, et al, the carrier alleges that neither the conservation board nor the zoning board provided sufficient evidence to warrant the denial of the permits, in breach of the federal Telecommunications Act. The suit, which names the zoning board of appeals, the town and conservation boards, and the town’s building inspector and natural resources review officer, alleges that the town engaged in discriminatory practices, levied excessive fees, unreasonably delayed the project, and violated federal and state laws, according to a report from WestfairOnline.com

The conflict began in May of 2017, when Verizon applied for permits for a new 180-foot pole at 50 Vineyard Road to replace a 120-foot tower nearby; its signal is occluded by the local topography, according to WestfairOnline.com. As noted in Verizon’s complaint, Philipstown’s consulting engineer confirmed that the existing tower could not solve the signal gap, even if the tower were elevated to 210 feet. Verizon contends in the suit, that the proposed project met all requirements, but that town officials “were intent on catering to a small but vocal group of politically influential objectors” and unreasonably delayed mandated public hearings and attempted to impose new fees. Continue Reading

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

NTIA, Lawmakers, Discuss Spectrum Clearing, Sharing Incentives

A “good half” of the employees at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) spend all day on spectrum issues, according to new administrator David Redl. NTIA oversees government spectrum use. Their time is spent working on finding ways government spectrum can be used more efficiently — to find spectrum that can be shared among federal agencies and commercial licensees or given up for commercial use. That’s a prime administration goal as the wireless industry works to deploy 5G.

In his hearing debut, Redl explained to members of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, the context of NTIA’s announcement last week, that it has identified 100 MHz of spectrum (3450 to 3550 MHz) for potential wireless broadband use. It seeks incentives to government agencies to persuade them to clear spectrum.

The subcommittee is part of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees NTIA and the FCC. Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), asked Redl why in its FY2019 budget request, NTIA asked for authority to negotiate leases for private spectrum. Redl, who worked for the committee for seven years before being named NTIA Administrator, called leases a tool. “We know clearing is the gold standard. But there are some bands where clearing won’t be an option,” because the cost to move incumbents off the band exceeds the potential revenue of licensing it for a new use. Continue Reading