Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Wrestling Over 5.9 GHz Future Gets More Intense

The calls within and outside the FCC are getting louder, to take a fresh look at whether auto safety communications and WiFi can share the same spectrum in the 5.9 GHz band. The Commission this week released results of tests performed on prototype devices to explore potential sharing solutions between the proposed Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) devices and Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) operations in the 5850-5925 MHz (U-NII-4) frequency band. DSRC uses short-range wireless communication links to facilitate data transfer between vehicle to vehicle, and between vehicles and roadside infrastructure.

But WiFi advocates, as well as FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mike O’Rielly — say the sharing methodology is already outdated. Rosenworcel said the results, released nearly two years after the testing deadline “are long overdue. But we need to do more than just make our work public. We need to start a rulemaking to take a fresh look at this band and its real possibilities.” O’Rielly said the debate “has gravitated away from the type of sharing regime envisioned in the testing. Instead, the Commission should move past this and initiate a rulemaking to reallocate at least 45 megahertz of the band, which is completely unused today for automobile safety.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Carriers Say FCC’s Small Cell Order Is “Not Enough”

Several wireless carriers are challenging the FCC’s small cells order in federal court. The order, which the Commission voted on last month, caps siting application fees localities can charge and sets timelines to act on applications. Several municipalities are challenging the order in court, too, calling it federal overreach, Inside Towers reported. Continue Reading

Monday, October 29, 2018

Stuff Gets Real as Cities, Counties Fight FCC in Court Over Small Cells

More than 20 cities and counties are challenging the FCC’s new small cell deployment order in federal court. They asked a federal appeals court to block the rule limiting what localities can charge telecoms, for installing cell sites for 5G wireless networks. Three lawsuits were filed Wednesday and Thursday by nearly two dozen cities, including Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Los Angeles; and San Jose, California, reported The Hill.

The rule, not slated to go into effect until January, caps what municipalities can charge to deploy a small cell in a public right-of-way to $270 per site. It also imposes time limits governing when localities must either approve or reject siting applications. When the FCC voted on the change last month, Commissioners said the move would free up to $2 billion in capital that wireless carriers can use to deploy broadband in rural areas. 

Carriers and wireless infrastructure associations say the changes are needed to ease small cell deployment, which has been chained to older Commission regulations meant for larger, macro towers. Critics call the changes an industry giveaway with no assurances; the saved money would actually go to rural deployment. Continue Reading

Friday, October 26, 2018

The White House issued a Presidential Memorandum on spectrum policy Thursday that directs government agencies to take several actions to further deployment of 5G wireless networks.
It directs the Secretary of Commerce to work with federal agencies and industry stakeholders to develop a long term, comprehensive national spectrum strategy, with the goal of maintaining American leadership in wireless networks, whether 5G or any future technology. The memo builds on an administration meeting earlier this month organized by the White House National Economic Council that brought together 150 stakeholders from government, industry, and academia, to discuss jump-starting 5G technology, Inside Towers reported

The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will work with members of a new Spectrum Strategy Task Force in a multiyear effort to develop and implement the national approach, according to NTIA Administrator David Redl. “The strategy will be informed by examinations of spectrum use, and will help policymakers meet our needs both now and in the future. It will also help align research, development, testing and evaluation efforts,” he said in a blog post.

The Presidential Memorandum also revokes two previous spectrum policy memorandums, established during the Obama Administration. Continue Reading

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Utilities to FCC: Keep Unlicensed Mitts Off 6 GHz

The Utilities Technology Council is not happy at all with Tuesday’s FCC vote for a rulemaking to open up the 6 GHz band, saying unlicensed use could interfere with critical utility operations.
Unlicensed devices use the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands for products like baby monitors and cordless phones, and Commissioners say those bands are congested and they want to open up the 5.925-7.125 GHz band. Portions of the 6 GHz band are heavily used by licensed incumbents such as utilities, point-to-point microwave links, the Broadcast Auxiliary Service and Cable Television Relay Service. The FCC proposes to allow unlicensed devices to operate using an automated frequency coordination system to avoid causing harmful RF interference from unlicensed devices to licensed users, Inside Towers reported.   

Electric, gas and water utilities rely on the 6 GHz band for their communications that support day-to-day, routine reliability, emergency response and storm restoration, and smart meters, according to UTC. The band provides utilities “and other critical infrastructure industries with the high-speed, long distance wireless communications” required for these essential services, says UTC President/CEO Joy Ditto.   Continue Reading

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

CBRS Vote Proves Strident

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel
The FCC voted Tuesday to update the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) in the 3.5 GHz band, saying the changes would increase incentives, innovation and investment for 5G and other services. Supporters, like large carriers, say the changes will provide certainty to those who wants to introduce new services. Opponents, including some small broadband providers, say it will do the opposite, and the result will be a 5G-only band.

FCC Commissioners took care to describe their compromise effort during the vote, but divisions were evident.  

The original rules, established in 2015, enable shared access between federal and non-federal users, consisting of incumbents, Priority Access Licenses (PALs) and General Authorized Access users. The Report and Order changes the size of PAL licenses from census tracts to counties and extends PAL license terms to 10 years.

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said it “was clear” the rules crafted by the past Administration “were not supportive” of 5G networks. The rules were “designed for some to get licenses on the cheap. We right the ship today so there’s opportunity for all, regardless of whether an entity is interested in fixed or mobile wireless technology.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Repack Costs Crystalize for FMs, LPTVs, TV Translators

The costs of co-locating on a TV tower involved in the channel repack is getting very real for FM owners. Now is the chance for them, as well as owners of Low-Power TV and TV translators, to tell the FCC about the financial impact of the repack. The agency is seeking public input on its proposed catalog of reimbursement costs for services like tower rigging and new equipment.

The agency believes the catalog will facilitate the reimbursement process, much like it is for full-power and Class A TV stations. It was developed by a third-party tower consulting firm, to identify price ranges for potential services and equipment, based on a market survey of industry vendors.
Estimated expenses for existing towers are included, ranging from $16,400 to $25,600 for tower mapping and a structural engineering report. Widelity estimates $5,100 to $12,300 for a structural engineering study for a guyed or free-standing tower. Continue Reading

Monday, October 22, 2018

Pennsylvania’s Deployment Act Dies On the Vine

The Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act (House Bill 2564), which was proposed to help with 5G infrastructure, ran out of time and no companion bill was introduced to the Pennsylvania Senate, reported The Philadelphia Inquirer. The sponsor of the bill, State Rep. Frank Farry, told Inside Towers in an interview, he put the blame on a crusading lawyer bent on derailing the legislation as the reason for its demise.  The proposed legislation would have made it easier to put thousands of small cell antennas on utility poles, buildings, traffic lights, or other public property for 5G services.

While most state legislatures have passed a similar bill, often unanimously, Pennsylvania has met a roadblock.  Farry says that roadblock is Dan Cohen, an independent attorney from Pittsburgh who has acted on behalf of, according to him, 150 municipalities, to thwart the legislation.  Farry said Cohen used privileged information to send inflammatory emails to his clients regarding the possibility of low $25-per-pole rates and other issues to enhance his status with them and other potential customers.  “He is a person of low moral character,” Farry said “and you can quote me on that. Municipalities that have employed him have not operated in good faith.” Continue Reading

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Pai Heads to Florida, Scolds Carriers for Hurricane Response

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai chastised wireless carriers for their response to the damage of Hurricane Michael in the Florida panhandle. He directed the agency’s Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau to begin an investigation, saying he’s concerned “their actions on the ground aren’t matching the urgency” Commission officials have conveyed in conversations with the carriers.

Pai joined Florida Governor Rick Scott in calling on wireless carriers to waive the bills of Floridians in these affected areas for the month of October and to allow them to change carriers without penalty. “These carriers also need to immediately disclose publicly to Floridians how they will quickly restore service,” said Pai. Scott is trying to unseat Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Bill Nelson (D) in a tight Senate race.

Chairman Pai intends to go to Florida tomorrow to assess the damage and get an update on recovery efforts from service providers and government officials working to restore communications. “I hope to see that wireless coverage in the area near where the hurricane made landfall is being restored more quickly than was the case earlier this week.”  Continue Reading

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Pai to Keynote WIA Hall of Fame Inductions November 14

The Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) Foundation announced yesterday that it will host the inaugural Mobile Infrastructure Hall of Fame Ceremony on Wednesday, November 14 at the Washington Hilton. The ceremony will honor trailblazers who have shaped the wireless infrastructure landscape and support the Foundation’s mission to create a stronger wireless workforce through training and education. Federal Communications Commission Chairman, Ajit Pai, will deliver opening remarks.
The first class of inductees includes: Neville R. Ray, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of T-Mobile; Steven E. Bernstein, founder and former Chief Executive Officer of SBA Communications; Steven B. Dodge, founder and former Chief Executive Officer of American Tower; John P. Kelly, former Chief Executive Officer of Crown Castle and José R. Mas, Chief Executive Officer of MasTec. Continue Reading

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Florida Governor Scott Says Verizon Slow in Recovery Efforts

Governor Rick Scott said more than 2,000 telecommunications professionals in 200 Communication Technician Repair Crew Strike Teams are fully mobilized in impacted counties, working to restore cellular service. AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile deployed mobile cellular towers to provide service.  Scott has been touring and tweeting from the ravaged area since it was hit by the storm last week.
“At my direction, the Florida Highway Patrol has been working hand-in-hand with cellular service provider crews to get them access to service stations where repairs need to be made,” Scott said. “I also directed the Florida Department of Transportation to provide excavators, heavy loaders, and chainsaw crews to assist cellular service providers in quickly accessing sites in the Panhandle.”
While praising AT&T and the efforts made by the departments under his control, Scott was critical of Verizon, the company’s main competitor.  Inside Towers reported in yesterday’s issue, that Verizon has been slowed by damages done to fiber throughout the area. Verizon issued a statement saying they are experiencing, “unprecedented damage to our fiber, which is essential for our network,” adding that crews are working “around the clock” to re-establish service. Continue Reading

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Repack Stretches Resources, And It’s Only Phase 1

From the broadcast perspective, tower crews and resources for the repack are getting tight. With winter approaching, experts predict they will have issues keeping the process of transitioning stations from their old channels to new ones moving. That’s based on Inside Towers’ interviews with broadcast engineers, engineering consultants, equipment suppliers and vendors at the IEEE Broadcast Technology Symposium Wednesday in Arlington, VA.

“I think there will be a handful of stations that don’t meet their Phase 1 deadline. We’ll probably see more problems as we get to Phase 2,” said Dennis Wallace, managing partner at engineering consulting firm Meintel, Sgrignoli & Wallace. “There’s just not enough resources on the tower side. Tower hands are moving from company to company based on who’s paying the most today. So you may have a tower company that bid a job based on this crew that they had at the time, and all of a sudden that labor is not available.”  

By November 30, Phase 1 stations need to be off their old channel and transmitting on their new channel. The testing period for Phase 2 stations begins on December 1 and ends at the end of April. If a Phase 1 station misses its deadline and is daisy-chained with other stations, either on the same channel or adjacent channels, there’s a domino effect, explained Wallace. “If they’re still operating on their existing channel, than those other stations can transition until that station moves,” he said. Continue Reading

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

NATE Hosts UAS Operations Demonstration

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) can provide different work for tower climbers. UAS inspections can save workers a climb and free them up for other tasks, said experts on-hand for a UAS demonstration Tuesday, organized by the National Tower Erectors Association. Four NATE member companies flew their UAS close to a 198-ft. Crown Castle tower in Gainesville, VA, just outside of the D.C. restricted airspace.

Using UAS for tower inspections can mean one-third fewer climbs need to be performed, Jim Goldwater, NATE Director of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, told Inside Towers. “Our job is to make sure our people get home safe,” said NATE Chairman Jim Tracy to the assembled crowd of 55-plus people. Using UAS or drones, means less risk for climbers from working at elevation, he said.
The four companies that flew drone aircraft were: ETAK Systems, Talon Aerolytics, Ehresmann Engineering, and B+T Group. All contract with Crown Castle for tower work. In addition to industry workers, officials from the FCC, FAA, OSHA and SBA attended the event. Continue Reading

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Sharing C-Band for 5G is Tricky

Finding the best solution to re-configure the 3.7 to 4.2 GHz band was a hot topic at last week’s 7th Annual Americas Spectrum Management Conference.

“It is important for America to lead in 5G. Satellite operators defended the use of C-band for decades for program distribution. We understand regulators want to advance leadership in this band,” said SES SVP Global Advocacy Gerry Oberst during a panel. “The satellite sector heard this and is looking for ways to meet this challenge.”

The FCC’s proposal specifies the use of a consortium to undertake the technical and commercial implementation of the spectrum clearing process. SES is part of the recently-announced C-Band Alliance. Other members are Intelsat, Eutelsat and Telesat. The companies say they can implement a market-based proposal to clear spectrum, while protecting the quality and reliability of existing C-band services in the band. “We will engage in secondary market transactions within 36 months” of a final FCC order, said Oberst.  

“We believe secondary market transactions can be accomplished quickly. Our intention is to get spectrum out there as fast as possible,” said Oberst. Continue Reading

Monday, October 8, 2018

NPR Paints Grim Picture of Repack’s Impact on FMs

NPR agrees with the NAB’s assessment that a sliding scale to reimburse FMs forced off the air due to the TV repack is arbitrary and won’t work. It urged the agency to drop the plan. The public radio network also said the repack work has been disruptive, forcing at least one station off the air when a tower crew showed up unexpectedly, causing the station thousands of dollars in lost donations.
The Commission should make sure the reimbursement process for FMs co-located on TV towers affected by the TV channel repack is flexible. “There is no easy way to measure the significance of the service disruption caused when stations are forced off-air or required to broadcast at reduced power,” NPR told the FCC in filed comments. Without naming the towerco that showed up at one station with no notice, NPR said that “gave the station no chance to rig a temporary antenna, and forced the station off air for 11 days during a funding drive. This situation could have been avoided if the station had been able to secure alternative facilities in advance.” Continue Reading

Friday, October 5, 2018

Munis Vow Legal Action Against FCC Over Small Cells Order

Mayors of several cities vow to fight the FCC’s recent small cell order in court, arguing it’s an example of federal overreach.

Inside Towers reported before last week’s vote to ease small cell siting, that several localities were unhappy with the move to curb siting costs and speed paperwork to permit wireless infrastructure on publicly-owned land. Now, several localities, like Seattle, say they plan to sue. Others, like Portland, already have filed suit, ArsTechnica reported.

The order limits what localities can charge for permitting wireless infrastructure to be sited within a public right-of-way and sets timetables that localities must follow to make a decision on a permit. The FCC order suggests up-front application fees of $100 for each small cell and annual fees of up to $270 per small cell. Portland typically charges $3,000 per year for application fees, according to the Oregonian. Continue Reading

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Siting Panel Says the Focus Is On Micro Not Macro Towers

“We will all be busy in the next year redecorating the street furniture.” That’s how Stephan Sloan, director at Media Services Group and session moderator, summed up the infrastructure panel at the 7th Annual Americas Spectrum Management Conference yesterday.

The impact of the FCC’s recent order to ease small cell siting on publicly-owned property dominated the discussion. 

Matthew Berry, Chief of Staff to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, said estimates show the U.S. needs to add an additional 800,000 cell sites by 2025 to enable 5G. To make this happen, he said, the agency realized its siting rules could no longer be tied to the needs of tall towers. But he made clear, “5G isn’t going to eliminate the need for tall towers.”

The new order “respects local control. All fees must be non-discriminatory and cost-based,” said Berry. Channeling Frank Sinatra, Berry said: “As far as infrastructure policy, I believe we’ll look at 2018 and say it was a very good year.”  Continue Reading

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Carr: U.S. Needs to Ramp Up to 60,000 Cell Sites a Year

Returning to the Competitive Carriers Association’s 2018 Annual Convention yesterday was a homecoming of sorts for FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr. He gave his first speech as a Commissioner at that event, one year ago.

He said the agency began attacking a long list of pending items last year, including a swap-out order, or when a provider looks to replace a utility pole to add new antennas.

The FCC acted on twilight towers, built between 2001 and 2005, which did not necessarily go through historic review.  However, other parts of the federal government must now weigh in. The item could open up “thousands of existing towers [to] co-location,” Carr said. His colleague, Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, wants the issue to be wrapped-up, Inside Towers reported. Continue Reading

Monday, October 1, 2018

Trump Administration Voices Pro-Infrastructure Deployment

The big takeaway from Friday’s 5G event at the White House is that federal agencies, members of Congress, private industry and their associations are all pulling in the same direction when it comes to infrastructure development. Wireless Infrastructure Association President Jonathan Adelstein spoke with Inside Towers following the event, saying there was an emphasis on the “indispensable role of infrastructure to enable 5G.”

He said there’s an “intense focus and coordination” on infrastructure deployment now, with leadership from the White House, in concert with federal agencies like the FCC, National Telecommunications and Information Administration and Congress. FCC’s Brendan Carr, for example, discussed the order the agency passed last week to ease small cell siting in a public right-of-way. Carr emphasized how quickly China is deploying cell sites compared to the U.S., according to the WIA executive.

Adelstein indicated many localities are working with industry on siting small cells because they want updated technology. The FCC’s recent order is meant to reign in unreasonable practices. “We need cooperative relationships with localities” to site 5G, emphasized Adelstein. Continue Reading