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