Wednesday, July 31, 2019

“Silver Buckshot” Needed to Crack Rural Digital Divide

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief “We’ve been talking about the rural digital divide for about 20 years. New technology always comes to other areas before rural,” said Michael Santorelli, Director, Advanced Communications Law & Policy Institute at New York Law School, during a panel discussion Tuesday on closing the digital divide.

Santorelli cited an FCC report that pegs the digital divide as affecting 19 million Americans, defining broadband internet speed as 25 mpbs download/3mbps upload.

Indiana State Senator Eric Koch said, “This is one of those issues where there is no silver bullet” to solve the issue. Rather, “It will take some silver buckshot” to fix. “If there were an easy answer it would have been solved years ago.”

In 2014, Indiana formed a rural broadband working group. Just defining broadband and what it means to be “served” took up several initial meetings, according to Koch. Continue Reading

Monday, July 29, 2019

DOJ OKs T-Mobile-Sprint; Requires Divestiture Package

The Department of Justice said Friday it and the Attorneys General for five states reached a settlement with T-Mobile and Sprint concerning their proposed $26B merger. The settlement requires what the DOJ characterized as a “substantial” divestiture package in order to enable a viable facilities-based competitor to enter the market.

Under the terms of the proposed settlement, T-Mobile and Sprint must divest prepaid business, including Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile and Sprint prepaid, to Dish Network. The proposed deal also calls for the divestiture of certain spectrum assets to Dish. Dish will pay T-Mobile approximately $5 billion for the assets it is acquiring: $1.4 billion for the prepaid businesses and $3.6 billion for the spectrum.  

In addition, T-Mobile and Sprint must make at least 20,000 cell sites available to Dish and hundreds of retail locations, according to the DOJ. T-Mobile must also provide Dish with what it calls “robust access” to its network for seven years while Dish builds its own 5G network. Continue Reading

Friday, July 26, 2019

Colony Capital Acquires Digital Bridge for $325 Million

Colony Capital, Inc. (NYSE: CLNY), a global investment management firm, announced that it acquired Digital Bridge Holdings LLC (“Digital Bridge”) for $325 million. The Digital Bridge acquisition follows the May 2019 final closing of Digital Colony Partners, a $4.05 billion fund sponsored by Colony and Digital Bridge. Digital Colony Partners is dedicated to global opportunities in digital infrastructure and is the largest first-time institutional fund of this type.

Following a transition period, Marc Ganzi, a founder and Chief Executive Officer of Digital Bridge, and Managing Partner and an Investment Committee Member at Digital Colony, will become the CEO of Colony, succeeding Thomas J. Barrack, Jr., who will return to the position of Executive Chairman. Ganzi will focus with Barrack, the Colony board, and executive team to continue Colony’s strategic plan of selling non-core assets, reducing G&A, growing investment management, generating liquidity and de-risking, and maintaining REIT status and a dividend. Continue Reading

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Dish Reportedly Reaches Deal in T-Mobile-Sprint Merger

Dish Network has reportedly agreed to pay $5 billion for wireless assets in a deal with T-Mobile and Sprint, setting the stage for the Justice Department to approve T-Mobile’s $26.5 billion acquisition of Sprint, reports Bloomberg. Sources say the DOJ could announce it approves the deal as soon as today.

Under the agreement reached after weeks of deliberations, Dish would pay about $1.5 billion for prepaid mobile businesses (likely Boost Mobile) and roughly $3.5 billion for spectrum, sources familiar with the talks told Bloomberg. Dish can’t sell the assets or hand over control of the agreement to a third party for three years. DISH will sign a seven-year wholesale agreement that will allow it to use T-Mobile’s network and market under the Dish brand. The agreement also reportedly includes a three-year service agreement for T-Mobile to provide “operational support” to Dish. Representatives for Dish, T-Mobile, Sprint and the Justice Department declined to comment.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai recommended in May that his agency clear the deal, but the Justice Department’s antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, pushed for an agreement that would compensate for the fact that T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint would reduce the number of large carriers from four to three. Dish’s role would satisfy the government’s stipulation that there be four national wireless carriers remaining. Continue Reading

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

“Shenanigans” Lead to Bigger Tower Fine for WGBN

Because of the public safety risk of a tall tower to aircraft, the FCC escalated a $25,000 fine against Pentecostal Temple Development Corporation to a forfeiture order. Pentecostal Temple is the licensee of WGBN-AM and owns a two-tower array registered under ASR #1026648 (at 206-feet) and #1026650 (just over 200-feet in height) in Lincoln Borough, PA. Both towers were erected in 1947.

The Enforcement Bureau cited Pentecostal in 2016 for failing to properly light the towers and not notifying the FAA the lights were out; it also cited the owner for not cleaning or repainting the structures. Continue Reading

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Report: Huawei Secretly Helped North Korea Build Wireless Network

Huawei secretly helped the North Korean government build and maintain the country’s commercial wireless network, according to internal documents obtained by The Washington Post and people familiar with the arrangement. Asked about the report, President Donald Trump said on Monday, “We will have to find out.”

Huawei partnered with a Chinese state-owned firm, Panda International Information Technology Co. Ltd., on a variety of projects there spanning at least eight years, according to past work orders, contracts and spreadsheets taken from a database that charts the company’s telecom operations worldwide. The former Huawei employee who gave the documents to the Post considered the knowledge to be in the public interest.

The documents raise questions about whether Huawei violated U.S. export controls to furnish gear to North Korea. The Commerce Department declined comment; it has investigated alleged links between Huawei and North Korea since 2016, but has not publicly connected the two. Separately, the U.S. Justice Department charged Huawei with bank fraud and violations of U.S. sanctions on Iran. The company pleaded not guilty, reports the Post. Continue Reading

Monday, July 22, 2019

T-Mobile-Sprint Talks With DOJ May be Freezing as Telecoms Face Ultimatum

Negotiations between T-Mobile, Sprint and the Justice Department have been ongoing for weeks as the carriers offer various types of concessions to get their deal approved. The concessions could include divesting spectrum and Boost Mobile in order to create a fourth carrier. But the talks may be stalling. If no agreement is made this week, the Justice Department might sue to block the deal, according to various accounts and first reported by CNBC.

T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom is said to be resisting a Dish demand for permission to potentially resell Sprint assets to a cable provider in the future. Wells Fargo Securities analyst Jennifer Fritzsche wrote in an investor note last week that such a move would offer cable operators, “a very clear path to own spectrum.”

Dish Network is reportedly the top bidder and offered an estimated $6 billion for the package. Boost Mobile is a mobile virtual network operator that Sprint owns and that uses Sprint's network. Deutsche Telekom is concerned if it agrees to the divestiture transaction as currently structured, a larger company could acquire Dish and those assets — effectively using the network of a combined T-Mobile-Sprint to compete against DK, according to Yahoo Finance. Continue Reading

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Sprint Agrees to Relocate Ripon Tower

The controversial cellular phone tower at Weston Elementary School in Ripon, CA may be relocating to a nearby strawberry farm, according to the Manteca/Ripon Bulletin.

In a meeting held yesterday at a Ripon City Council Meeting (ed: results were not available at deadline) Sprint submitted an application to the San Joaquin County Planning Department to move the tower currently at Weston Elementary School to a location within the county’s land use authority. The application states: “The property where the tower will be located is adjacent to a property that is currently zoned residential in the City’s general plan and by having the tower at this location, would preclude that adjacent property from being developed residential by the City of Ripon that at some point in time it is annexed into the City.”

Studies have since shown a trace of cancer-causing chemicals in the groundwater that was allegedly affecting both the children and residents of the town as reported by Inside Towers on May 6. The initial move by Sprint from the school grounds caused debate within the tower community over whether, by taking the site down, the carrier was showing sensitivity to the 200 local residents who filed a petition, versus admitting by its actions that the telecom was the cause of the problem.

WIA President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein was staunchly in the latter camp. “Sprint went too far in removing the tower when hearing out the community and explaining the science with patience and compassion for the children afflicted by cancer would have been a better response,” Adelstein told Inside Towers. “Now that we know... Continue Reading

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

C-Band Auction Agreement Proves Elusive

Witnesses discussed aspects of the fight to open up C-band to wireless use before Congress on Tuesday. Incumbent satellite companies on the band have proposed that the FCC let them sell the spectrum privately, while cablecos, Google, and some wireless providers are lobbying for an FCC-run auction.

Earlier in the day, FCC Office of Engineering and Technology Chief Julius Knapp said Chairman Ajit Pai hopes to have some aspects of the C-band proceeding settled this fall. However, while stakeholders are talking with each other, not much conviviality was displayed Tuesday among those who use the spectrum now, and those who want to.

“Without competitive policies to foster competition among providers, rural areas will be left behind,” Competitive Carriers Association SVP Legislative Affairs Tim Donovan told members of the House Energy and Commerce telecom subcommittee. “C-band presents a unique and immediate opportunity for wireless use.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

FCC Says It Has Jurisdiction in Pole Dispute Between ComEd, Crown Castle

UPDATE Score one for Crown Castle in its fight with an Illinois utility over pole attachment rates. The FCC on Monday denied a motion to dismiss the complaint from Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd), the electric utility that owns or controls poles in the state.

Crown Castle told the Commission in June that ComEd denied it access to poles that the utility said needed to be replaced or reinforced. The case involves more than 900 poles. Crown Castle sought FCC intervention; it said ComEd raised the cost per pole, which was unlawful, and that ComEd also violated the Communications Act when it denied the company access to the poles, Inside Towers reported.   

In the meantime, ComEd filed a motion to dismiss both cases, arguing that the Illinois Commerce Commission, not the FCC, had jurisdiction in the matter. In fact, ComEd said the ICC preempted the FCC jurisdiction in all pole attachment disputes. Continue Reading

Monday, July 15, 2019

Fall Claims Life in Storey County, Nevada

The Storey County Nevada Sheriff’s Department confirmed the death of a tower tech just east of Patrick, NV on Friday. The climber, whose name is withheld pending confirmation, was working, according to sources, on a modification for Sprint on a site owned by American Tower located at 1200 Waltham Way. Sources said the climber fell 80-to-100 feet from the 252-foot structure. He was reportedly an employee of Broken Arrow Communications (BACOM). The company closed for the weekend early Friday afternoon and representatives were unavailable for comment.

Funds are being collected for the family of the deceased by two venues:

Friday, July 12, 2019

FCC’s Pai and Rosenworcel Quarrel Over 5G Auction Rules

The FCC established procedures Wednesday for the third auction of high-band, flexible-use licenses suitable for 5G. This auction of upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz spectrum bands will be the largest spectrum auction so far, offering licenses covering up to 3,400 megahertz.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel sparred during the vote, with Rosenworcel partially dissenting from her colleagues. Rosenworcel said 16 countries have auctioned spectrum for 5G services and made mid-band spectrum their priority. She ticked off a list that included Japan, Germany, South Korea, the UK and the United Arab Emirates, among others. “But in the United States, we have yet to auction a single swath of mid-band spectrum,” said Rosenworcel.  

Rosenworcel cautioned: “It’s increasingly apparent that the United States is alone in its mission to make millimeter wave spectrum the core of its domestic 5G approach, and if we continue on this path, prioritizing high band airwaves, we are going to have a serious problem. We will find ourselves on the sidelines, as mid-band spectrum becomes the core of worldwide 5G service. That means less scale, higher costs, interoperability challenges, and less security as other nation's technologies proliferate.” Continue Reading

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Amid High Drama, FCC Votes to Open 2.5 GHz to Wireless Use

The FCC voted Wednesday to update its rules for the 2.5 GHz band to make this mid-band spectrum available for advanced wireless services. The 2.5 GHz band is the single largest band of contiguous spectrum below 3 GHz. It offers favorable coverage and capacity characteristics for next-generation mobile services, according to the Commission. The contentious vote partially split along party lines, with the majority Republicans saying the band is underutilized and the minority Democrats countering the item is unfair to the schools and educational systems that now use the spectrum.

Inside Towers reported Commissioner Brendan Carr has been querying some current users of the so-called Education Broadband Services (EBS) spectrum, saying some are not using the funds for the purpose which they’re intended, but diverting the money to other uses — like political purposes. “We need to get to the bottom of these shady practices. Strong enforcement is especially important right now, because this order allows national nonprofits and all other 2.5 GHz license holders to sell their licenses potentially at great profit.”

Carr also says the current 30 percent build-out obligation is “out of step” with the performance requirements the agency imposes on other wireless licensees and should be raised to 80 percent. The Report & Order doesn’t specify that, he said, but creates a way to do so in the future. Continue Reading

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

CTIA Study Shows Spectrum Efficiency Increased 42 Times Since 2010

U.S. wireless providers increased their spectrum efficiency 42 times since 2010, according to a new white paper released by CTIA, the wireless industry association. U.S. wireless networks handled 948 million megabytes for every one megahertz of spectrum in 2010. They now handle 39.9 billion MBs/MHz due to significant industry investment in networks and technology.

Facing a growth curve in mobile data use—which nearly doubled last year alone—and as 5G places more demand on wireless networks, wireless providers are investing billions to increase their spectrum efficiency. "This paper conclusively demonstrates that America's wireless providers are excellent stewards of their spectrum assets, a limited natural resource," said CTIA SVP/CTO Tom Sawanobori.

The wireless industry increased their network spectral efficiency by refarming existing spectrum, quickly deploying new spectrum assets and deploying denser wireless infrastructure. These efforts helped U.S. providers serve over 589,000 subscribers for each megahertz of spectrum. That’s more than twice that of Japan, three and a half times that of Germany, and four times that of the U.K., according to CTIA. Continue Reading

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Crown Seeks Court Help to Fight Hempstead, NY

Crown Castle sought an injunction against the town of Hempstead, NY in federal court after Hempstead cancelled its license agreement and demanded the company remove all 152 small cell nodes within the town’s right-of-way (ROW.)

Crown alleges Hempstead threatened to remove the equipment itself if Crown did not, by the end of the day, on July 6, at Crown’s cost. “With this illegal termination, demand, and threat,” the town breached the ROW license agreement and “violated Sections 253 and 332 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which limits the power of municipalities to regulate the deployment of telecommunications facilities and personal wireless service facilities,” writes Crown in its complaint to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Crown Castle also seeks a temporary restraining order to stop the town from removing the facilities from the ROW. Given the short time-frame, Crown sought an expedited review. Crown filed the document June 28. The court gave Hempstead until July 17, to explain why the town should not be prevented from removing Crown’s equipment. Continue Reading

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Congresswoman Offers C-Band Compromise

Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA), vice chair of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, released a discussion draft of a compromise bill to repurpose C-band spectrum. The “WIN 5G Act” proposes a consensus-based, compromise approach to rapidly and equitably reallocate spectrum between the frequencies of 3.7 GHz-4.2 GHz, commonly referred to as the “C-band.” It also incorporates a framework to reallocate spectrum between 3.45 GHz-3.55 GHz for commercial wireless use, provides research and development resources for commercializing additional spectrum, and creates and funds an all-new Rural Broadband Deployment Fund.

Matsui says the measure will, “ensure that spectrum is reallocated rapidly, that the maximum amount of C-band spectrum is made available for wireless use, and that consumers and C-band distribution are protected throughout the transition.” She believes the compromise is necessary to clear any legal challenges that would arise by adopting any existing proposal. Continue Reading

Monday, July 1, 2019

Tower Scare Chases California Preschool

Another California school is getting prominent network coverage by a local CBS news station in Sacramento. KOVR-TV, the same station that aired the Ripon, CA tower cancer scare (later sourced to carcinogenic chemicals in the drinking water) aired a two-part report last week on a preschool that is facing closure over the erection of a nearby Verizon monopole. The Ripon story was cited as one of the causes for the panic.

According to the report, the school has been faced with closure, due to the sudden appearance of a monopole near a preschool housed in a shopping mall.  At least 34 families have given notice to Kids, Inc. that they are pulling their children out of the school when the tower gets turned on sometime next month. The tower, a camouflaged mono-palm design, was unanimously approved by the Folsom Planning Committee in July 20, 2016, due to its proximity to the Palladio Mall and the need for coverage in the high-traffic area. Continue Reading