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