Thursday, April 25, 2019

Who Sits on the Throne For Most Fiber-Lit Buildings?

For the third year in a row, it's AT&T, reports, with Crown Castle climbing the charts at number seven.  While there has been some jockeying from year-to-year, the top contenders remain, in order: AT&T, Verizon, Spectrum Enterprise, CenturyLink, Comcast, Cox, Crown Castle Fiber, Frontier, Zayo, and Altice USA. To make the list, the fiber providers had to wrap up the previous year with at least 10,000 fiber-lit buildings in the United States.

The challenge defined "fiber-lit" as "a commercial site or data center that has on-net optical fiber connectivity to a network provider’s infrastructure, plus active service termination equipment onsite.” The definition did not include cell towers, small cell arrangement, private installations, and other alternatives.

VSG Principal, Rosemary Cochran, stated: "Following a flurry of mergers and acquisitions, fiber providers focused on new build-outs in 2018, to meet customer demand for higher-speed dedicated access to business services and to support 5G pilots.” She added that the wealth of buildings that are not yet fiber-lit represents a true opportunity for providers to step in and offer their services.

Additionally, 13 companies qualified for recognition with 2,000-9,999 U.S. fiber lit commercial buildings. They include: Atlantic Broadband, Cincinnati Bell, Cleareon, Cogent, Consolidated Communications, FiberLight, FirstLight, GTT, IFN, Logix Fiber Networks, Segra, Unite Private Networks and Uniti Fiber.  
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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

High Flying Tower Market Slows Its Roll

Shares of American Tower (NYSE:AMT) opened 1.2 percent lower premarket yesterday after Wells Fargo Securities downgraded them to Market Perform from Outperform. AMT shares, however, are up 22.7 percent in the past three months and up 36.1 percent over the past six.

“Our tower dinner and data center broker events last week, seemed to take a bit of air out of the balloons for Q1 strength for both of these sectors,” said Jennifer Fritzsche, Senior Analyst, Wells Fargo Securities. “Our new price target on AMT is $196. The only tower stock we now are recommending is CCI; raising price target to $142. The towers peers trade at 23.6x 2019E AFFO and 21.9x 2020E AFFO, by our estimates. The multiples continue to push and set recent peak levels. Each of the tower stocks are trading at forward year AFFO multiples are the highest we have seen since 2017 (with AMT’s multiple at a 5-yr high),” she said.

Fritzsche said recent checks have indicated that while spending has continued, it has not realized the growth that was hoped for in 2019. She believes spending will ramp in 2020 but much has to be digested before this can be seen. As a result, she believes the setup for tower stocks should be viewed with a more conservative lens as her analysts struggle to see near-term drivers for further multiple expansion from these levels. Continue Reading

Monday, April 15, 2019

President, Pai Lay Out Next Steps to Speed 5G, With NATE Climbers in Spotlight

President Donald Trump put to rest Friday any hints that the federal government might privatize 5G networks. In a speech at the White House, Trump said, “We don’t want to do that because it won’t be as good or as fast” as what private investment can accomplish.

When members of the administration floated that as a possibility earlier this year, several FCC Commissioners, including Chairman Ajit Pai, and industry, opposed it.

With members of the National Association of Tower Erectors standing behind him wearing their harnesses, hardhats and other safety gear, Trump said 5G will be “more secure and resilient” than 4G and will “create astonishing opportunities for our people.”

Trump said: “The FCC is taking very bold action,” to free up more spectrum for 5G and reduce regulatory barriers to wireless infrastructure deployment. FCC action to streamline local permitting means, “They must now approve physical infrastructure within 90 days,” as opposed to the three or four years it sometimes takes, the President said. “And there is now a cap on unreasonable fees” local governments sometimes charge to approve small cells in a public right-of-way. Continue Reading

Friday, April 12, 2019

Tax Court Reduces AT&T Cell Tower Assessments By $1.75M

Although the tax man is coming for many of us in a few days, AT&T Mobility got a reprieve Wednesday after a Missouri Tax Court ruled they were not responsible for $1.75 million in assessed property taxes. The ruling covers over two dozen towers sites the carrier owns across five counties in the north central region of the state. The court ruled the counties did not follow federal guidelines in evaluating the sites.

The case of AT&T Mobility vs the Boards of Equalization of Caldwell, Daviess, Harrison, Henry, and Mercer counties (BOEs), ruled in the carrier’s favor after presenting, “substantial and persuasive evidence rebutting the BOE’s presumption of correct assessment” and established the ”true value in money” of their property.  Litigation on the case began in 2016.

The Court said AT&T argued that the proper method for valuing the subject property in these appeals was the cost approach using the replacement-cost-new-less-depreciation (RCNLD) method as determined by the company’s appraisal expert.  AT&T further argued that the counties presented no substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut their findings. The counties believed a correlation existed between AT&T’s revenue from the operation and use of the subject property and the value of the subject property. They posited that a 15-year life should apply to the subject property resulting in values higher than those they had initially assessed. Continue Reading

Thursday, April 11, 2019

WIA, EWA Battle Over 800 MHz Land Mobile Applications

By Jim Fryer, Managing Editor, Inside Towers In a statement issued yesterday by the Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA), the association expressed frustration at how various frequency advisory committees (FAC’s) have been unable to reach a consensus on processing 800 MHz applications for the Expansion/Guard Band for land mobile use. The EWA singled out the Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) as an unsupportive entity among the FAC’s.  The EWA fears the inaction will produce hundreds of mutually exclusive applications that will have to be sorted out one-by-one without a clear standard for determining priority.

“The opportunity to arrive at a consensus among the Business/Industrial and Public Safety frequency advisory committees (FACs) on how best to process 800 MHz Expansion/Guard Band (EB/GB) applications that avoid mutual exclusivity remains elusive after one year of effort,” the statement read. The EWA said that last week, during a meeting with a majority of the certified FACs in attendance, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB) staff informed the FACs that Commission leadership had rejected the “round-robin” application approach.  EWA said it was because it was believed that it would prejudice FACs with a greater number of applications to process and possibly cause customers to move their applications to another FAC. Continue Reading

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Vandals Cut Guy Wires to Bring Down Tower For Scrap Resell

According to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, three men were arrested and accused of breaking into an inactive 150-foot tower last Wednesday. The trio allegedly cut the guy wires, causing the tower to crash into the on-site shed and then returned to the scene on Saturday to steal aluminum, copper and other scrap metal from the site, according to WALA-TV.

Lt. Bobby Jeter said it’s one of the stranger cases he’s ever seen. “I got in law enforcement when I got out of the service in ’96. I’ve never seen a cell phone tower cut down before,” he said.

A nearby resident called investigators when the individual heard activity at the site Saturday afternoon. Deputies and McIntosh police then closed in on the suspected thieves, reported WALA.  Continue Reading

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Amazon Joins the Space Race in Satellite-Delivered Broadband

Amazon is throwing its hat in the ring, or better yet, into the stratosphere, to develop satellite-delivered broadband connectivity. Named “Project Kuiper,” the effort was discovered when Amazon submitted three sets of filings with the International Telecommunication Union last month by the FCC on behalf of Washington, D.C.-based Kuiper Systems LLC, reports GeekWire.

The ITU oversees worldwide satellite operations and would need to approve the constellation. The FCC has not yet taken action on the project.

According to the filings, Amazon plans to launch more than 3,200 satellites into low Earth orbit. The satellites will provide "low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world," an Amazon spokesperson stated to GeekWire. “This is a long-term project that envisions serving tens of millions of people who lack basic access to broadband internet. We look forward to partnering on this initiative with companies that share this common vision.” Continue Reading

Monday, April 8, 2019

Cancer Story Out of California Hits National TV and International Papers

UPDATE The Weston Elementary cancer story continues to find its way into new and bigger media outlets including the London Daily Mail.  The parents have rallied around and referenced an engineer, Eric Windheim, whom they hired whose credentials were examined and critiqued in Inside Towers’ Thursday story “Are School Parents Getting the Wrong Info From EMF’ers?” Last Thursday, CBS This Morning aired “Cell tower behind cancer scare at 1 school?” The parents, understandably teary eyed over their respective sons’ unexplained illnesses, were juxtaposed with pictures of the site which Sprint has since agreed to remove. CBS talked to Sprint’s Network Project Manager Dharma Nordell who said three tests have shown the tower is operating 100 times below the federal limit.
“Does Sprint believe that tower could be causing cancer?” the CBS correspondent asked her.
“Absolutely not,” Nordell said. “It is not a safety concern to the community but we do hear the community’s concerns, so we’re quickly working to relocate the tower.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Report: U.S. Tied with China in Global 5G Race

A year ago, the U.S. was behind several other countries, including China and South Korea, when it came to 
5G readiness. Now, America has made strides and is tied for “first” place with China, according to a  
new report from telecom research firm Analysys Mason, which conducted the analysis on behalf of CTIA.

Making enough spectrum available to America’s wireless industry over the next five years will help secure 5G leadership, as well as add $391 billion to the U.S. economy and create 1.8 million new jobs, according to the research. CTIA President/CEO Meredith Attwell Baker cites efforts by the administration, Congress and the 

FCC for the progress.

Those efforts include FCC actions to modernize its telecommunications infrastructure siting policies and spur 

industry investment. In March and September of 2018, the FCC updated its rules to treat small cells differently than macro towers, easing small cell deployment by speeding the approval process and capping siting fees in a 
public ROW. Also, more than 20 states have looked to the agency’s rules as guidelines for their small cell infrastructure deployment rules. Continue Reading

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Bills Introduced to Permit Prisons to Use Cell Phone Jammers

Lawmakers in Congress introduced legislation to prevent contraband cell phone use in prisons. The measure sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR), along with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), allows state and federal prisons to use cell phone jamming systems. Representative David Kustoff (R-TN) and William Timmons (R-SC) introduced companion legislation in the House.

The use of contraband cell phones is widespread in both federal and state prison facilities, say corrections officials. More than 14,000 devices were confiscated in California prisons in 2017. Inmates have used contraband cell phones to conduct illegal activities, including ordering hits on individuals outside of the prison walls, running illegal drug operations, conducting illegal business deals, and organizing escapes which endanger correctional employees, other inmates, and members of the public, say corrections officials and lawmakers. Continue Reading

Monday, April 1, 2019

Senators Introduce Bill to Block 5G Nationalization

A bi-partisan group of Senators introduced a bill to prevent the federal government from nationalizing 5G and deploying its own network.

Two advisors to the President, Karl Rove and campaign manager Brad Pascale, are among “several high-profile” supporters of a government-backed plan to have the federal government manage the sharing of 5G airwaves with wireless providers, reports Politico.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow does not support the effort. Rove has been calling congressional offices to warn against bipartisan efforts to ban the nationalizing of 5G, according to the account.

The 5G battle occurs as the U.S. government wrestles with how to secure 5G networks from potential spying through gear made by Chinese telecoms Huawei and ZTE. Sen. John Cornyn, (R-TX), along with Sen. Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC), and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA), introduced the Secure 5G and Beyond Act (S-893). Continue Reading

Friday, March 29, 2019

Raptor Breeding Season Brings Dangers for Tower Climbers

A big bird, like a raptor, can knock out a tower climber. Threats to climbers from nesting birds vary by body size and demeanor, according to Dr. Marco Restani, Senior Raptor Specialist with Cell Tower Osprey Management. “It’s unnerving to have a big bird attacking you on a tower,” said Restani. He shared safety tips and suggestions for what to do when a raptor has built a big nest on a tower that needs work during a NATE webinar Thursday titled “Climbing in The Bird-Tower Environment.”

“Birds want to build nests someplace that’s safe, near food and protected from the elements. Basically,” they see towers as “tall trees,” said Restani. Migratory birds are protected by federal law. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act carries a fine of up to $15,000 per count and six months in prison for killing or capturing these birds, including hawks, ospreys, eagles and owls. The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act is even more stringent, carrying penalties up to $200,000 and up to two years in prison for disturbing the birds, their eggs or nests. Continue Reading

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Verizon Appeals Complaints About Its ‘First to 5G’ Ads

The drama over the advertising industry’s first 5G case continues over an issue that has repercussions in how the industry presents next-generation services to consumers. The National Advertising Division (NAD), an investigative unit managed by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, asked Verizon to stop claiming it has the country’s first 5G network. Verizon is appealing the decision and claims its commercials are not misleading, reports arstechnica.

The NAD announced its recommendation to the carrier last week, Inside Towers reported. AT&T lodged a complaint, prompting the investigation. AT&T claimed Verizon was misleading customers by renaming parts of its 4G network as “5GE.”  

The NAD recommended Verizon change or stop the ads to avoid conveying the message it has a 5G mobile network now. Verizon plans to launch in April in certain markets. Continue Reading

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

“NIMSYs”: Parents Say “Not In My School Yard” to T-Mobile

UPDATE  Citing recent activity by parents in Ripon, CA who got a tower removed from school property due to cancer concerns, parents at the Montessori del Mundo charter school in Aurora, CO are requesting radiation tests from T-Mobile, according to the Aurora Sentinel.  Like their California counterparts, they’re concerned that cell phone antennas on the school’s roof could cause cancer or pose other health risks to their children and other students despite reassurances of safety.
Alondra Flores, whose son is a kindergartner said, “I don’t know if that is going to mess with brain cells. I didn’t know enough about it to know if there even is a risk.” Continue Reading

Friday, March 22, 2019

USTelecom, Others Unveil Broadband Map Improvement Project

Left to right: USTelecom President/CEO Jonathan Spalter and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

The FCC’s broadband coverage maps have long been maligned by the agency’s own Commissioners, Congress, and others for being inaccurate, and not a reliable indicator of where broadband has been deployed and where connectivity is non-existent. But carriers and the government need to rely on the maps to direct federal broadband funding.

That’s why USTelecom, The Broadband Association, ITTA, The Voice of America’s Broadband Providers, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, and several broadband companies and associations unveiled on Thursday, the creation of a new initiative to better map broadband deployment nationwide and help close the digital divide.

USTelecom President/CEO Jonathan Spalter called the project at yesterday’s announcement in Washington, D.C., “simple, common sense. If our aim is to leave no American behind, we must be capable of pinpointing” where broadband is available and where it is not. Continue Reading

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Tennessee Governor Proffers $14.8 Million in Broadband Grants

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee Tuesday revealed $14.8 million in broadband accessibility grants that will expand broadband service to more than 8,300 households and businesses in 17 counties.

“I am pleased to announce that we are getting our rural areas up to speed and expanding broadband in the areas that need it most,” said Lee. “I am committed to ensuring connectivity in every corner of our state as broadband impacts our goals for health care, education, economic development and beyond.”

According to the FCC’s 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, nearly one in four rural Tennesseans lack access to broadband. In addition to the $20 million included in Gov. Lee’s recommended budget for fiscal year 2020, these grants will continue to close the access gap, ensuring rural residents have the tools needed for growth and prosperity. Continue Reading

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Winter Racks Up Repack Delays

Experts say the TV channel repack is getting more complicated as winter drags on and delays are inevitable, coming into spring and summer.
Phase 1 ended in late November with 143 stations moving without much delay, Inside Towers reported. However winter weather has caused headaches for tower crews and delays in Phase 2, with about 114 station moves due to be completed by April 12, reports TVNewsCheck.
In addition, many of the stations in the middle phases have interference dependencies, meaning if a station in Phase 3 moves late, that delays a move for another station in Phase 4. By contrast, there were no interference dependencies in Phase 1. Stations facing delays were simply moved to a later phase, said Dennis Wallace, Managing Partner of RF consulting firm Meintel, Sgrignoli & Wallace, LLC.
“You had a year and a half to move 150 stations,” says Wallace. “Now you’re going to move 150 every 30 to 60 days, which I think is pretty unrealistic. I think the wheels come off the wagon here in Phases 3 and 4,” he tells TVNewsCheck.
Some delays may be solved by the FCC granting certain stations STAs to operate at lower power, according to Wallace, “But at some point, they reach a scenario where a station can’t transition, and operating with an interim facility is not an option.”
Vendors prepared for the spike in equipment demand, but winter weather and the tower crew shortage, limits how much work gets accomplished. Jampro Antenna President Alex Perchevitch said, “People are looking around for crews, and when they’ve found them, the weather has not been very accommodating.” Continue Reading

Monday, March 18, 2019

FCC Gets ‘Vertical’ With 911 Location Data

More than 80 percent of 911 calls today are made from wireless phones. The FCC has been modernizing its 911 location accuracy rules, and Friday proposed updating them to make it easier to locate callers in multi-story buildings. The proposal would help 911 call centers identify the floor level where the call originated.

The debate grew spirited at times, and vote split along party lines.
A landline automatically sends data containing the caller’s address to 911. Callers expect the same kind of accuracy when they use a cell phone to call 911. The FCC’s Enhanced 911 location accuracy rules, require wireless providers to meet an increasingly stringent series of location accuracy benchmarks, including providing the caller’s “dispatchable” location (such as the street address and apartment number), or a vertical location on a phased-in basis, beginning in April 2121.

On Friday, the Commission proposed a vertical (or “z-axis”) location accuracy metric of plus or minus three meters above or below the phone for 80 percent of indoor wireless 911 calls.   Continue Reading

Friday, March 15, 2019

Inside Towers’ Podcast: “Tower Talks” is Underway

Inside Towers will be entering the world of podcasting, with an ongoing series of talks and “Fryerside Chats,” featuring guests from across the industry.  Inside Towers Managing Editor, Jim Fryer, hosts the program slated to run, initially, twice per month. Tower Talks’ first guest is Todd Schlekeway, Executive Director of NATE. Schlekeway discusses the recent NATE conference and the upcoming ‘D.C. Fly-In’ held for NATE members, looking to connect with their political representatives.

Fryer also shares the ethernet with Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief, Leslie Stimson, who provides insights on what is happening “inside the Beltway” with both the FCC and Congress.
Continue Reading

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Parents Want Tower Removed Citing Cancer in Students and Teachers

The Ripon Unified School District (RUSD) is working with Sprint to move a tower near Weston Elementary after four students and three teachers were diagnosed with cancer and parents voiced their concerns, reported the Modesto Bee. Some parents pulled their children from the school, and approximately 200 parents attended a recent Ripon school board meeting to demand action.

In a prepared statement, board president Kit Oase said tests done on the tower found it was operating normally within safety standards. Additionally, Oase noted that RUSD receives a negligible amount of revenue from providing campus space for the tower.

Richard Rex, whose family lives across the street from Weston School, said a bump appeared on his 11-year-old son’s abdomen a month ago and was found to wrap around his liver. He said his son’s classroom is near the tower.

According to Oase, the school district sympathized with the families, but the district has no out clause in the 25-year lease agreement with Sprint. The district and Sprint will have to mutually agree to a relocation of the tower, reported the Bee. Continue Reading

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Lawmakers Hear Sharply Different Views of Merger Outcome

In a nearly two and a half-hour hearing Tuesday that turned contentious several times, lawmakers on a House Judiciary Committee subcommittee tried to parse whether the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint is in the public interest.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, said from the outset he’s, “deeply skeptical” that consolidation fosters more competition. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), said he hasn’t made up his mind, but doesn’t think “antitrust questions should be partisan.”

Full Judiciary Committee Chair, Jerry Nadler (D-NY), said, “We must determine if a combined company would have less incentive to innovate and compete with competitors” in an already “highly concentrated” market.

 The resulting three large carriers would each have a third of the market, he added.  
T-Mobile CEO John Legere, who would lead the “New T-Mobile” post-merger, said the result would be more jobs, and “the new company would ensure America would win” the race to 5G, everywhere, including rural areas. He also said the new entity would offer in-home broadband, “freeing millions from the stranglehold of big cable.” Continue Reading

Thursday, March 7, 2019

$4.1 Million Fiber Network Sits In the Dark

In February 2015, Arlington officials spent $4.1 million to build a 10-mile fiber optic “ConnectArlington” network, aimed at giving local businesses cheaper access to higher-speed internet by offering an alternative to the large ISPs; however, since then, the fiber has gone almost totally unused, reported ARLnow.

Though the county is barred by state law from offering internet service itself, officials envisioned smaller ISPs working with local tech firms to “light” the fiber, providing county businesses with a new option to access the internet at fast speeds. According to a committee of broadband experts, the program design scared off businesses interested in leasing the fiber. 

Eight months ago, the committee presented a report recommending an extensive overhaul of the program’s design. County officials say they’re already working to heed some of the committee’s recommendations, but it remains an open question as to how the county will work to address the problems with ConnectArlington. The network costs hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to maintain, reported ARLnow

“They have this huge amount of fiber in the ground, and not a single strand of it has been leased,” said Chris Rozycki, a member of the Broadband Advisory Committee that studied ConnectArlington. “It’s like they’ve built an interstate, with no on-ramps or off-ramps.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

WV Hopes Facebook Project Establishes the State as a Fiber Backbone Route

Facebook plans to build a fiber optic network from Ashburn, VA to Columbus, Ohio to connect two major internet exchanges. The work is expected to begin this year, and last between 18 to 24 months.
U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said about 275 miles of the route will be in West Virginia, providing the state with enhanced fiber optic connectivity. 

As a result of the project, broadband providers will be able to expand middle-mile networks into communities along the route, and it will establish West Virginia as a preferred route for fiber backbone construction, they say in the announcement. Continue reading

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Tornado Tears Through Alabama

It was no contest for a 250-foot tower in Smith Station, AL Sunday night, when a tornado ripped through Lee County, taking down the latticed structure located along Highway 280. The National Weather Service said the twister was at least EF-3 in strength with winds of 136-to-165 mph and was a half-mile wide or more. 
According to Tower Genius‏, the site is owned by American Tower Corporation and had three or four carriers.
Continue reading

Monday, March 4, 2019

Are Security Fears About Huawei Overdone?

Some security experts believe U.S. claims about the potential danger Chinese telecom Huawei poses to 5G networks are overblown. Huawei, meanwhile, has gone on the offensive to repair its image. The security issue relates to the U.S. extradition case against Huawei’s CFO. Canada is allowing the case to proceed.  

Huawei took out a full-page ad in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal that read: “Don’t believe everything you hear. Come and see us.” The ad, an “open letter” from Catherine Chen, a senior vice president and director of Huawei’s board, asks U.S. journalists to visit the company’s campuses, noting the U.S. government has accused the company of espionage, fraud and theft in the past year, and “has developed some misunderstandings about us,” reported CNBC.

Some U.S. security officials have long said Huawei has built “backdoors” into network technology it sells to other countries, to enable it to spy for the Chinese government. Huawei refutes this claim. Continue Reading

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Bidders Set for 24 GHz Auction

The FCC deemed 38 applicants qualified to bid in the next 5G wireless spectrum auction. Bidding in the auction of millimeter wave spectrum in the 24 GHz band is slated to begin March 14.

Notable among the list of qualified bidders are: AT&T, T-Mobile, Windstream and U.S. Cellular. 

The list also indicates whether the applicant has claimed eligibility for a rural service provider or small business bidding credit. Twenty-two names grace the list of non-qualified bidders, including Cox Communications, Frontier Communications and Inland Cellular. Continue Reading

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Huawei Says Trump is Right That ‘U.S. is Behind’ on 5G

China’s Huawei welcomed comments from President Donald Trump about the future of U.S. mobile communications. Speaking ahead of MWC in Barcelona which began yesterday, Huawei Chairman Guo Ping reiterated his company’s position that it has never and would never allow any country to spy through its equipment, reported Reuters.

Trump wrote last week on Twitter, he wants the U.S. to rollout 5G faster than other countries. 

He wants 5G “and even 6G, technology in the United States as soon as possible. It is far more powerful, faster, and smarter than the current standard. American companies must step up their efforts, or get left behind,” Trump said. Continue Reading

Monday, February 25, 2019

FCC Readies Spectrum Votes in March

Several items of interest to the wireless industry are planned for votes at next month’s FCC meeting. The agency plans to tackle an order making high-frequency spectrum above 95 GHz available for unlicensed use. It will also take up a proposal to encourage wireless carriers to lease unused spectrum to smaller providers to serve rural areas, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a blog post

He’s also proposing to make a segment of the 900 MHz band available for broadband, using a voluntary exchange system that would allow existing licensees to agree on a plan for relocating incumbents and transitioning the band.

Pivoting to public safety, knowing a 911 caller’s exact location in a multi-story building is crucial, Pai told attendees at a public safety meeting last week. “To better equip first responders to do their jobs, we’ll be voting on a proposal to establish a vertical, or z-axis, location accuracy metric of three meters,” he stated. Pai added he’s optimistic that, after receiving feedback on the proposal, the agency will be able to adopt final rules on this issue, later this year. Continue Reading

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Drones Can Lead First Responders Into Battle

Just as drones are being used in the tower industry to save workers a climb, the small, unmanned aircraft are helping police in Chula Vista, CA respond to 911 calls. Describing a recent domestic dispute in which a woman driving a car tried to repeatedly hit a man on a motorcycle, Chula Vista Police Department Captain Vern Sallee said the fight took place over several blocks.

A drone hovered over the scene, recording video that will be used as evidence in court, said Sallee. 

“We were able to divert other resources to this now very high priority call and potentially save this guy’s life and obviously get two people in custody, recover a stolen motorcycle, and ensure public safety,” he told VentureBeatContinue Reading

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Lawmakers Ask What Combined T-Mobile-Sprint Would Do for Rural Broadband

After a nearly three-hour hearing Wednesday on whether the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint is in the public interest, some lawmakers and witnesses remained skeptical of the deal. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) noted that reports concerning whether the combined entity would eliminate jobs and raise prices afterwards meant, “The facts of this merger are in dispute.”

Indeed, the issue of whether the combined entity, to be called the “New T-Mobile,” would offer rural telecom services and particularly 5G, was heavily debated.

 Both T-Mobile US President/CEO John Legere and Sprint Executive Chairman Marcelo Claure told lawmakers they need the merger to be approved, so they can combine their spectrum holdings, to build the kind of nationwide 5G network they envision to go beyond urban and suburban America.  
Claure said the carrier doesn’t have the cash flow now to build a 5G network and would need to borrow about $5 billion. Even at that, it would only be for urban areas, he said. Legere said T-Mobile could still build a 5G network, but it would be more limited than what it prefers, and the carrier would not be able to get into new businesses like IoT and the home broadband market. Legere is especially interested in the latter, saying the ‘un-carrier” wants to “free customers from the stranglehold of cable.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

FCC Makes ASR Changes “Owners Only”

The FCC is employing new procedures to increase the security of its Antenna Structure Registration System (ASR) and reduce the risk of unauthorized changes made to the system. Beginning tomorrow, both the current owner and the new owner of a tower will be required to approve any change in ownership registration.

Once the assignor (current owner) and the assignee (new owner) log into ASR, and complete their respective portions of the application, they must provide the signature of an authorized person. 

Related changes will be made to FCC Form 854, Antenna Structure Registration, on the same date. Continue Reading

Monday, February 11, 2019

Sprint Sues AT&T Over ‘Fake’ 5G Ads, AT&T Fights Back

Sprint filed suit February 7 in federal court, alleging AT&T’s new “5G Evolution”  branding on its phones and networks that use 4G LTE technology is false advertising.

In the 27-page document filed with the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York, Sprint alleges AT&T, “has employed numerous deceptive tactics to mislead consumers into believing” its “offering a 5th generation wireless network.” 

“What AT&T touts as 5G, however, is nothing more than an enhanced fourth generation Long Term Evolution wireless service, known as 4G LTE Advanced, which is offered by all other major wireless carriers,” states Sprint. 

Sprint alleges AT&T seeks to gain an unfair advantage in the race to 5G, “But calling its network “5GE” (or “5G E” or “5G Evolution”) does not make it a 5G network and instead deceives customers into believing it is something that it is not.”

Sprint tells the court, it’s a direct competitor with AT&T, and AT&T’s actions “threaten Sprint’s business and goodwill,” and “harms consumers.” Sprint also claims it’s lost sales as a result. It does not specify an amount in damages it seeks, stating the figure should be determined at trial.  Continue Reading

Friday, February 8, 2019

White House Said to Be Preparing Boost to 5G Deployment

The White House is expected to take action in the coming weeks to boost U.S. 5G deployment and artificial intelligence. The plan would offer the “first deliverables” of a law passed by the previous Congress that laid out a plan to improve U.S. work on Quantum technology, an administration official told The Hill.

Lawmakers and security experts have long raised concerns that China is beating the U.S. in the race to implement 5G and AI. 

The White House plan is expected to include executive orders from President Donald Trump that will funnel resources toward improving AI and 5G technology, the Wall Street Journal reported.

During his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, Trump noted that he supports investing in the, “industries of the future,” reportedly a nod to 5G and AI. The administration is expected to push for increased spending on researching and developing new technologies and using governmental data to improve artificial intelligence, according to the Journal. Continue Reading

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Tower Climbing FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Addresses NATE UNITE

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai made his first appearance in front of a NATE audience yesterday in Dallas at NATE Unite 2019. Having climbed a 131-foot tower last year, Pai said he felt a special kinship with his audience. “I’m impressed by the risks taken by the men and women in this room,” he said following a standing ovation reception at the podium, “people who literally put their lives on the line to make digital communications possible.”

In an exclusive interview with Inside Towers, Pai said he doubts he can top the almost 2,000 foot ascent from fellow FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, but he said he’s not ruling out another tower climb in the future.

With the broadcast repack in full swing, Pai said the need for experienced tower crews is crucial to both repack and 5G buildouts. By November 30 of last year, 143 repacked stations had moved off their pre-auction channels. Continue Reading

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Battle in the Nebraska Legislature Over the Road to 5G

State Senator Curt Friesen of Henderson proposed Legislative Bill 184 to expedite the deployment of 5G for Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, according to the Omaha World-Herald. The bill will make the approval process and installation for small cell wireless antennas faster. 

According to Friesen, “Nebraska is losing ground to other states and cities” when it comes to being ready for 5G. 

Wireless internet firms and Friesen agree that the slow deployment of small cell wireless in the state is due to the high fees cities charge to have small cell boxes installed on existing light poles, and slow approval processes. Friesen said Lincoln currently charges $2,000 per pole even though the FCC recommends fees to be $270 per pole at the highest.

Those in favor of LB 184 say wireless companies will benefit from it by having more reasonable fees and faster approvals provided by cities. Friesen says the bill will create more competition for the cable industry, but said it is unfair to keep people from high-speed internet by over-regulating the technology. Continue Reading

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

House Commerce Puts Pai on Notice for FCC Oversight

Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA) asked FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Monday for information and documents related to the Commission’s current workload, the work of its bureaus and offices, and the agency’s interactions with the public through its handling of consumer complaints and Freedom of Information Act requests. 

The lawmakers told Pai in a letter the Committee is reassuming its traditional role of oversight to ensure the agency is acting in the best interest of the public and consistent with its legislative authority. Since Pai assumed the Chairmanship at the FCC two years ago, the agency has been unresponsive to Committee Democrats’ numerous and reasonable oversight requests, according to the lawmakers.   Continue Reading

Monday, February 4, 2019

Cold Triggers Wireless Emergency Alert System in Michigan

Consumers Energy’s late-night Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) plea for users to turn down their thermostats, reducing peak demands for natural gas, and preventing possible shut offs during the recent cold front, worked. It was the first time WEA was used for this purpose, state officials said.
“We had a 10 percent reduction on the system and that was a game-changer for us overnight,” said Consumers Energy President/CEO Patti Poppe. “No residential gas customers lost service as a result of this.”

The Detroit Free Press reported that cold temperatures pushed the natural gas demand much higher than normal — from 2.5 billion cubic feet of gas to 3.3 billion — and the company determined that it would rise even more. That’s when they contacted the governor’s office about issuing the wireless emergency alert.  Continue Reading

Friday, February 1, 2019

Bidding to Begin in March for 24 GHz Auction

Bidding is set to begin March 14, in the FCC’s 24 GHz auction, the second this year for 5G spectrum licenses. Upfront payments are due to the U.S. Treasury by 6 p.m. ET on February 19, the FCC said Thursday.

The Commission will release the names of qualified bidders after the upfront payment deadline. 

This auction is for Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service licenses in the 24.25–24.45 and 24.75–25.25 GHz (24 GHz) band. The agency won’t identify winning bidders in the recent 28 GHz auction or the upcoming 24 GHz auction until after bidding ends in Auction 102, the 24 GHz auction.
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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Polar Vortex Puts a Chill on Tower Work

The challenges of working in wintery conditions are welI-documented and usually well-handled by extra layers, a heated truck and a good thermos. But often the best decision is no climb at all until the conditions subside.  The sub-zero freezing temperatures brought on by the latest winter blast often means the latter and has virtually halted tower work across the Upper Plains and Upper Midwest.
The cold temps can create frost on all structures hindering a safe climb for a technician, according to Barbara Houdek, CEO of Trillium Tower Development.

“Frosty towers have been problematic this year,” Houdek said. “Our policy is if the temps are around -10 or -15 with no wind chill, a 2-hour service call can be completed on a tower….such as changing a radio head on a sector or providing a re-lamp on a tower.  Winds dictate our capabilities out in the field. Which is usually the case, so basically -10 to -15 is the limit to our willingness to work on site,” she said.

Houdek said Trillium allows several warm up breaks throughout the day. Each tech has arctic coats, bibs, arctic boots, gloves and other pertinent cold weather gear such as facemasks. A climber does have to avoid wearing to much clothing as sweating could cause more problems with the cold temps. 
Continue Reading

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

It’s First Responders vs. Bird Lovers in Washington Wetlands

The Thurston County Board of Commissioners in Washington, approved a Verizon application for an 150-foot monopole near Lake Lawrence, WA. An opposing neighborhood group called Citizens Against 5G Cell Towers filed a motion to appeal the decision on January 17, 2019, Nisqually Valley News reported. 

Citizens Against 5G Cell Towers was formed from members of the now retired Deschutes Neighborhood Group, which previously appealed the Thurston County Hearing Examiner’s decision to move forward with the tower in 2016. Both neighborhood groups share the same goal, to protect the wildlife around the tower site by halting construction on it.

 In their appeal, President of Citizens Against 5G, David Runnels, wrote the tower would have a harmful environmental impact on the area, and that the hearing examiner omitted 494 pages of public comment. Continue Reading

Monday, January 28, 2019

Shutdown Ends, FCC to Re-Open Today

President Donald Trump and congressional leaders on Friday reached a short-term deal to reopen the government for three weeks, until February 15, while negotiations continue over how much money should be allocated for border security, and the president’s demands for a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. The decision means the FCC can resume normal operations today, after spending the first few hours unwinding the shutdown procedures. No details have been issued regarding when normal electronic filing procedures may resume. See the FCC news releases for the latest information.
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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Crown Castle Announces Q4 Earnings for 2018, Citing “Solid” Results

Crown Castle, Int’l (CCI) announced its quarterly earning for the fourth quarter of 2018 late yesterday afternoon. The company will hold a conference call for analysts later this morning at 10:30 a.m. EST.  The conference call may be accessed by dialing 888-204-4368 and asking for the Crown Castle call (access code 3601569) at least 30 minutes prior to the start time. 

It may also be accessed live over the internet at
“We closed out another year of growth with solid results in the fourth quarter and increased our Outlook for 2019, demonstrating the strong fundamentals across our business,” stated Crown Castle CEO Jay Brown. “We are excited about the opportunity we see to leverage the unmatched portfolio of more than 40,000 towers and 65,000 route miles of dense, high capacity fiber that we have built and acquired over the past two decades in the top U.S. markets where we see the greatest long-term demand.  We continue to believe our ability to offer towers, small cells and fiber solutions, which are all integral components of communications networks and are shared among multiple tenants, provides us the best opportunity to generate significant growth while delivering high returns for our shareholders. Further, we believe that the U.S. is the best market for communications infrastructure ownership, and we are pursuing that compelling opportunity with our comprehensive offering. With the positive momentum we continue to see in our towers and fiber segments, we remain focused on investing in our business to generate future growth and delivering dividend per share growth of seven percent to eight percent per year.”  

Highlights from the quarter according to Crown are:
Continue Reading

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Governor Who Proposed E-911 Bill Requests a Hold

A bill proposed by Governor Jim Justice that would carve out a portion of the wireless E-911 fee for other emergency communications projects is on hold after county officials and lawmakers objected. The bill was introduced after the FCC criticized the state in December 2018 for diverting portions of the $3-per-month wireless E-911 fee for state agencies.

Justice requested Senate Bill 289 be pulled from consideration by the Senate Government Organization Committee.

 “After extensive meetings and listening it became very clear that my intent for Senate Bill 289 was not being properly communicated,” Justice said in a press release. “I have never wanted a dime taken away from our 911 centers or our counties.” 

The bill would create a new 34-cent “public safety wireless fee” on the monthly bill of cell phone subscribers, while reducing the $3-per-month wireless (enhanced) 911 fee to $2.66 per month, reported the Parkersburg News and Sentinel. Continue Reading

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

FCC Resumes Taking Equipment Authorization Requests

UPDATE The FCC reactivated its Equipment Authorization System (EAS) Friday. The action could prevent delays in the rollout of 5G devices.

The EAS was closed since January 2, because of the lapse in federal funding. However, the agency said it decided to re-open the system after reviewing its, “statutory authority, the status of contract obligations” and its lapsed funding plan.

Most radio transmitters, including those on cell towers, need to be certified by the FCC to ensure compliance with the Commission’s technical rules. Private sector Telecommunications Certification Bodies (TCBs) review and grant certification applications. The TCBs must enter the application and equipment certification grant into the EAS before the grant becomes effective. The reactivation will enable the TCBs to grant equipment certifications, allowing equipment to be imported and marketed in the United States. While the EAS will be available to the public, no support will be provided by Commission staff.  

The Telecommunications Industry Association had urged the Commission to reopen the system, and cheered the move. Most device approvals will be covered, “which will help eliminate the backlog and ensure that the U.S. can maintain its position of global leadership in the worldwide race to 5G,” said TIA SVP Government Affairs Cinnamon Rogers. “TIA is very grateful to the Commission’s leadership for recognizing the importance of this issue and taking swift action to address it,” she added. Continue Reading