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.
Continue Reading

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.
Continue Reading

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