Wednesday, July 1, 2020

FCC Names Huawei and ZTE National Security Threats

The FCC Tuesday officially designated Chinese telecoms Huawei and ZTE — and their parents, affiliates, and subsidiaries — as “covered companies” under the agency’s 2019 ban on the use of universal service support to purchase equipment or services from companies posing a national security threat. The action means money from the Commission’s $8.3 billion a year Universal Service Fund may no longer be used to buy, obtain, maintain, improve, modify, or otherwise support any equipment or services produced or provided by these suppliers. The designations are effective immediately.

“Both companies have close ties to the Chinese Communist Party and China’s military apparatus, and both companies are broadly subject to Chinese law obligating them to cooperate with the country’s intelligence services,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. He said the agency also took into account the findings and actions of Congress, the executive branch, the intelligence community, America’s allies, and communications service providers in other countries. Continue Reading 

Monday, June 29, 2020

FCC Revises Eligible Area List for RDOF Auction

The FCC updated its list of eligible areas for the upcoming Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I Auction slated to begin in October. The list shows 5,392,530 unserved locations are considered eligible for bidding in the $16 billion auction.

The new record updates the previous list from March that was followed by a challenge process.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called the time-frame to prepare for the fall auction “ambitious” and said the agency is on track to begin the auction October 29. The new list gives companies the information they need to prepare as the Commission moves toward opening the window on July 1 for bidders to file their applications. More challenge information is available here. Continue Reading

Friday, June 26, 2020

Cities Fight FCC Over 5G Upgrade Order

UPDATE Several local governments from California and Oregon are challenging the FCC’s 5G upgrade order. The FCC approved the plan 3-2 earlier this month to streamline infrastructure modifications for existing towers. The vote was combative. Democratic Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks criticized the Commission for not giving localities more time to comment, considering local government budgets are stretched by the pandemic and protests. Indeed, the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties, asked the agency to delay the vote.

The Republican majority said the order will speed work such as antenna swaps for 5G, Inside Towers reported. Co-location “is less intensive and requires less regulatory review than new tower construction,” FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said. Before the vote, Carr acknowledged to Inside Towers not every locality supported the change, but said overall, “We think it’s a right-balanced approach.” 

Now, some of the California and Oregon localities have told the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals the FCC’s actions “unlawfully preempt local and state government authority” without responding to local government input, according to Politico.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Maps, Ligado Loom Large Over FCC Hearing

 
Money before maps and the future of spectrum decisions were two big topics covered during yesterday’s Senate FCC oversight hearing. Both Senators and witnesses sat apart for safety and many lawmakers were not in the hearing room, but attending virtually from their offices.

The upcoming auction of Rural Digital Opportunity Fund money for broadband deployment makes fixing the FCC’s location data essential, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) said during the nearly three and a half hour hearing. The agency’s recent controversial decision to allow Ligado to use a portion of L-band for broadband delivery was discussed as well.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel clashed in their viewpoints of the map corrections. Continue Reading

Friday, June 19, 2020

Men Found Dead at Tower Site in Jacksonville Were Possibly Subcontractors

Jacksonville (FL) Police say two men found dead Thursday inside the shelter at the base of a tower on Firestone Road were “possible subcontractors” who were shot multiple times. Police found the bodies early Thursday at the AT&T tower site located just north of More Avenue and west of Interstate 295.

“The two individuals are possible subcontractors that were doing work inside the building of the cell phone tower,” Sgt. Steve Rudlaff said. ”It’s definitely going to be foul play. Both individuals have been shot. It does not appear that it was combat against each other. We don’t know if this was a possible robbery or what.” Continue Reading

Thursday, June 18, 2020

T-Mobile Layoffs Begin, AT&T Plans Job Cuts Too

T-Mobile let go hundreds of Sprint workers this week and AT&T plans layoffs as well, according to published reports. T-Mobile VP James Kirby on Monday told hundreds of Sprint employees their services were no longer needed. He declined to answer questions, citing the “personal” nature of employee feedback, and ended the conference call, reported TechCrunch.

TechCrunch obtained leaked audio of the call, which was said to be one of several held by T-Mobile leadership throughout the day to lay off staff across the organization. The layoffs come just two months after its acquisition of Sprint closed.

On the call, Kirby said T-Mobile was eliminating Sprint’s inside sales unit, a division that focuses on small businesses. The executive didn’t say how many staff were laid off. Almost 400 people were in the phone meeting, a person on the call told TechCrunch. Continue Reading

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

FCC to Probe T-Mobile Outage

UPDATE The FCC wants to get to the bottom of Monday night’s T-Mobile network outage. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called the hours-long outage “unacceptable” and said the agency will investigate.

T-Mobile said it had a “voice and text wireless issue" that began around noon EDT Monday. The company said at 1 a.m. Tuesday that all problems should be resolved. The company blamed an internet-traffic issue that caused problems with its network for the outage, according to the Associated Press. 

AT&T and Verizon both said their networks were operating normally. But there were reports of their customers not being able to call T-Mobile customers, creating the impression of a widespread communications failure.

Public-safety officials were worried about lack of access to 911. For example, the Redmond, Washington, police department tweeted that T-Mobile customers should have “an alternate plan in place in the event you need to call 911.”

Monday, June 15, 2020

FCC Skeptical SpaceX Can Deliver Low Latency Broadband

If SpaceX and other satcos are rejected from the low-latency category, they will be at a disadvantage in the upcoming Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. The reverse auction, set to begin October 29, will distribute $16 billion yearly, over ten years. The auction will give internet service providers (ISPs) funding to deploy broadband in census blocks where no provider offers home-internet speeds of at least 25 mbps downstream and 3 mbps upstream.

The FCC will prioritize low-latency networks when awarding funding, so SpaceX and other low-earth orbit providers could come up short against terrestrial networks, reports Ars Technica. SpaceX has said the FCC's skepticism is unwarranted, telling the agency its Starlink broadband system "easily clears the commission's 100 [milliseconds] threshold for low-latency services, even including its 'processing time' during unrealistic worst-case scenarios." Continue Reading

Friday, June 12, 2020

Clock Counts Down on Unfunded FCC Broadband Maps

House Commerce Committee GOP leaders and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai are double-teaming other lawmakers to get money for improved broadband maps. They asked House appropriators to find funding to implement the Broadband DATA Act that was signed into law in March as future appropriations bills are considered.

“Once this law is implemented and funded, FCC and other agencies will be able to rely on accurate broadband maps when they distribute federal funds for broadband deployment, which will lead to a more efficient use of federal dollars,” wrote the Republican committee members, led by House Energy and Commerce Ranking Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon and Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Ranking Member Bob Latta of Ohio.

According to a Congressional Budget Office estimate, the bill would require appropriating $25 million in 2021, and $9 million annually from 2022 through 2028. The money would go toward issuing rules, establishing reporting requirements, and hiring contractors to establish a comprehensive broadband database and maps. Continued Reading

Thursday, June 11, 2020

CC Proposes Opening Up 70/80/90 GHz Bands

The FCC voted Tuesday to begin a proceeding to provide more spectrum for 5G wireless backhaul and to make it easier to deploy broadband on planes and ships. The agency hopes to make more efficient use of additional millimeter-band spectrum in the 71–76 GHz, 81–86 GHz, 92–94 GHz, and 94.1–95 GHz bands.

The item approved in a non-controversial 5-0 vote proposes allowing smaller antennas to be used in the bands. The Commission hopes to lower costs, facilitate network densification, and help support wireless 5G backhaul. 

The changes could open up competition for broadband in aircraft, according to FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. During the vote, she said: “It is fair to say many of us hope to return to the skies soon and when we do, one feature Americans want to see is the ability to reliably [get internet service] at 35,000 feet.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

FCC Approves 5G Upgrade Ruling in Heated Session

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief By a quarrelsome 3-to-2 vote, the FCC yesterday approved an order to modernize wireless infrastructure. Specifically, the Declaratory Ruling specifies when a 60-day shot clock for local approval begins and clarifies Section 6409 of the Spectrum Act to enable upgrades on existing macro towers.

The ruling also clarifies how certain aspects of proposed modifications – height increases, equipment cabinet additions, and impact on concealment elements and aesthetic conditions – affect eligibility for streamlined review under Section 6409(a).  In addition, the action clarifies that, under the Commission’s rules on environmental and historic preservation review, FCC applicants do not need to submit environmental assessments based only on potential impacts to historic properties when parties have entered into a memorandum of agreement to mitigate effects on those properties.

The so-called “5G Upgrade Order” also says which new equipment qualifies for streamlined approval. It ensures localities can’t misuse concealment and aesthetic conditions to limit the ability to quickly upgrade concealed infrastructure, according to the agency. Continue Reading

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

5G Rollout Gets Streamlined With FCC Upgrade Order


In a contentious vote today, the FCC approved the so-called “5G Upgrade Order,” the agency’s latest initiative, headed by Commissioner Brendan Carr, to accelerate wireless infrastructure builds.

The order:

  • Sets a clear demarcation as to when the 60-day shot clock for local approval begins
  • Clarifies which new equipment qualifies for streamlined approval
  • Ensures local governments cannot misuse concealment and aesthetic conditions to limit the ability to quickly upgrade concealed infrastructure
  • Asks for public comment on what activity related to a modification can occur outside of a wireless site
  • Accelerates wireless network builds by clarifying rules for upgrading equipment on existing infrastructure
Co-location is “the process of putting new equipment on old towers. It’s less intensive and requires less regulatory review than new tower construction,” explained Carr during the vote. Clarifying the Section 6409 rules benefits communities “by reducing the potential for redundant towers, creating less costly and disruptive infrastructure,” he said. Continue Reading

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

480 Miles of Overland Fiber Now Runs From North Pole to Anchorage

Alaska is now connected to the “lower 48” states as the first overland fiber-optic cable was completed by a Matanuska Telephone Association (MTA) subsidiary. The 480-mile project, which began in April 2019, was a collaboration between MTA, Canadian telecom Northwestel, and contractor Alaska Directional, reported the Anchorage Daily News.

The overland cable begins at the town of North Pole near Fairbanks and ends at Haines Junction, Yukon. There, it connects to cables installed by Northwestel, which enables connection to the rest of North America. The Daily News reported with the new cable, the state “is no longer solely dependent upon a series of subsea cables for high-speed internet and telephone” connectivity. Continue Reading

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Pai: FCC “Vindicated” as Big Satcos Agree to Quick C-Band Move

UPDATE FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Monday said the repurposing of C-band spectrum for 5G services will move forward on an accelerated timeline. The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau secured commitments from all eligible satellite operators to meet a faster clearing timeline that will make way for faster 5G deployment in the 3.7 GHz band.

Inside Towers reported Intelsat, SES and Telesat told the agency by the May 29 deadline they would clear the lower portion of the C-band quickly and move to the higher portion of the band. Eutelsat and Star One also chose accelerated relocation. They wanted to qualify for a share of as much as $9.7 billion in incentive payments, in addition to a share of another $3.3 billion to $5.2 billion the feds would reimburse them for moving costs. Continue Reading

Monday, June 1, 2020

Subcontractor Dies After Fall Into 35-Foot Caisson

 
Tragedy struck on Thursday morning when a subcontractor working on a Verizon tower project fell to his death after his machinery malfunctioned, reported South Tahoe Now. The man, who has not yet been identified, fell headfirst into a 35-foot by six-foot hole.

Several fire and rescue services, including a helicopter, were dispatched to the site in the forest near the South Tahoe Public Utility District.

According to South Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Jay Manning, rescuers were lowered into the hole to retrieve the unconscious victim. Manning added that the man was transported to Barton Memorial Hospital via ambulance, where he later died.

Manning’s team conducted an investigation, which they will turn over to The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which did not travel to the site due to COVID-19 restrictions. The job site was turned back to the contractor that morning.

Friday, May 29, 2020

OSHA Cites Tower Company After 2019 Fatal Fall at Worksite in Mississippi

OSHA has cited Calico Rock, Arkansas-based Pegasus Tower Co. (not affiliated with Tazewell, VA-based Apex Towers, formed by merging another Pegasus Tower Company six years ago) for exposing employees to falls after a 2019 fatality at a Starkville, MS, worksite. The tower building company faces $140,720 in penalties.

In November of 2019, 43-year-old John Wayne Womack of Mountain View, Arkansas, died as the result of a fall from a communications tower while attempting to connect two sections during the construction. OSHA cited the company for failing to ensure employees used fall protection, and designating, identifying and training employees to provide rescue in the event of an emergency.

The OSHA citing read:

Type of Violation: Serious OSH ACT of 1970 Section (5)(a)(1):

“The employer did not furnish employment and a place of employment which were free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees in that employees were exposed to a suspension trauma: (a) Jobsite - On or about November 16, 2019 the employer failed to designate, identify, and train employees responsible for providing rescue in the event an employee falls and is left suspended, exposing the employee to suspension trauma. Among other methods, a feasible and acceptable means of abatement would be to develop and implement a site-specific rescue plan.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

FCC Plans June Vote on WIA, CTIA Tower Site Requests

UPDATE Expect action on the WIA and CTIA cell tower site petitions at the FCC’s June 9 meeting. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a Connect (X): All Access interview with WIA President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein Tuesday the Commission wants to fix “uncertainty” in section 6409(a) of the Spectrum Act in order to speed up the review process state and local governments use to allow wireless infrastructure siting.

“Now it’s up to the FCC to breathe more life into that petition,” said the Chairman, speaking specifically about the WIA request. Siting wireless infrastructure “could be a bottleneck if we don’t reform our rules,” he explained, noting that industry needs “a more consistent, more certain set of rules.”
Also during Connect (X) on Tuesday, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr further explained: “These actions are meant to separate difficult project approvals from the easier ones. One of the keys with this 5G Upgrade Order is that we're addressing existing tower sites. It is about ensuring that swapping out or upgrading existing antennas (say 3G or 4G ones) to 5G antennas can be done quickly as Congress envisioned.” (See story below for details of the order and reaction.) Continue Reading



Thursday, May 14, 2020

Memphis Tower Fire Under Investigation

 
Memphis police and the fire department have determined that a fire set Monday night at a cell tower near the University of Memphis on Southern Avenue was set deliberately, according to WMC-TV. Authorities have still not determined the arsonist’s motives but have urged anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at 528-CASH or the state arson hotline at 1-800-762-3017. Tipsters could qualify for a cash reward.

The fire department said the blaze caused $100,000 in damage but service to cellular customers did not seem to be affected. No one was reported hurt. Continue Reading

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Melody Investment Buys Over 500 Towers for $220M From Uniti

Melody Investment Advisors, an asset manager focused on communications infrastructure, yesterday announced the acquisition of 90 percent of Uniti Towers, the wireless tower business of real estate investment trust Uniti Group Inc. (NASDAQ: UNIT). The purchase totals approximately $220 million in cash and includes over 500 towers based in the U.S. Melody Investment Advisors will fund the purchase from Melody Communications Infrastructure Fund II.

Through an investment in an affiliate of Melody, Uniti will retain a 10 percent investment interest in the tower business and will receive an incremental earnout from Melody for each additional pipeline tower completed in 2020. In addition, as part of the transaction, Melody and Uniti will enter into a strategic relationship to collaborate on integrated solutions for wireless carriers requiring towers, fiber and small cell infrastructure. The transaction is subject to various closing conditions and is expected to close by the end of second quarter 2020. Continue Reading

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Bi-partisan Effort Underway for Funding RAN Networks

More than 35 House lawmakers are pushing chamber leadership to fund the development and deployment of wireless 5G radio access networks (RANs) as part of upcoming coronavirus relief legislation. That’s according to Spectrum Caucus heads Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Brett Guthrie (R-KY), along with Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA).

RANs are virtual alternatives to physical 5G equipment. The technology could make the U.S. more competitive against Chinese telecom giant Huawei, these lawmakers say.

House Energy and Commerce staffers previously hinted at the next coronavirus bill that would allocate $1 billion for RAN research and development, notes Politico. The letter marks the biggest and most explicit ask to secure money along these lines. The White House and FCC discussed the merits of the technology earlier this year.

This month, an industry coalition was formed to promote it, with members ranging from AT&T to Facebook, reported Inside Towers. The Open RAN Coalition is speaking to at least one FCC Commissioner about its goals. “I salute its commitment to no mandates & vendor neutrality!” tweeted FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly after speaking with coalition leaders.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

New RAN Group Forms to Open Wireless Infrastructure Supply Chain

More than 30 tech companies yesterday announced the formation of the Open RAN Policy Coalition, a group that will advocate for the development of interoperable components for cell towers.

Members are working to change the way cell tower radio access networks (RANs) work, so that multiple vendors’ open tower radios, hardware, and software can be used interchangeably, rather than requiring proprietary products from one vendor. The group will work to influence governments worldwide.

However, members believe the U.S. government, “has an important role to play in facilitating and fostering an open, diverse and secure supply chain for advanced wireless technologies, including 5G, such as by funding research and development, and testing open and interoperable networks and solutions, and incentivizing supply chain diversity.” Members say such a process could help new companies enter the RAN market by lowering existing barriers to entry.

The security of the American telecom supply chain was an issue before the COVID-19 pandemic affected industries and economies. U.S. Administration security agencies allege that Chinese manufacturers Huawei and ZTE cooperate with the Chinese government to use their telecommunications gear and software to spy on the U.S. government and citizens. The two companies deny the allegations. Continue Reading

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Broadcasters Urge FCC to Factor in Pandemic Costs for C-Band Move

Broadcasters and cablecos want the FCC to take the COVID-19 pandemic into consideration as the agency develops a cost catalog to reimburse them for moving from the lower to the upper portion of the C-band. The FCC intends to auction the spectrum their satellite and earth station operators occupy now for future wireless use.

Earlier this year, the Commission adopted rules to make 280 MHz of mid-band spectrum available for flexible use, plus a 20 MHz guard band. New 3.7 GHz Service licensees will reimburse what the FCC calls “reasonable” relocation costs of incumbent licensees. Public comments are due to the Commission by May 12 [to docket 18-122] on the draft reimbursement cost catalog.

Representatives of Charter, Cox, Comcast, NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS, The Walt Disney Company and ESPN, as well as the NAB and NCTA – The Internet and Television Association, recently discussed specifics with representatives of the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, the Office of Economics and Analytics and the International Bureau. Licensees highlighted the importance of quickly establishing a lump sum payment amount, according to a filing. They urged the FCC to consider costs for professional services; hardware and software; and potential cost impacts from supply chain disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Continue Reading

Friday, May 1, 2020

House Dems Unveil Broader Affordable Broadband Package

Top House Democrats Thursday expanded their more than $80 billion plan to connect all Americans to affordable broadband. Top Dems, including Frank Pallone, Jr. of NJ, Chairman of the Energy & Commerce Committee, and Congressman James Clyburn of SC, House Majority Whip and Chairman of the House Democratic Rural Broadband Task Force, said they welcome recent reports that Republicans support the inclusion of broadband investment in the next coronavirus response packages.

The House Democratic Plan to Connect All Americans to Affordable Broadband Internet invests $80 billion over five years to deploy secure and resilient broadband infrastructure to connect unserved and underserved rural, suburban, and urban areas. If passed, $5 billion over five years would be invested for low-interest financing of broadband deployment through a new program, so providers could apply for secured loans, lines of credit, or loan guarantees to finance broadband infrastructure build outs.

It also includes Dig Once, which promotes the installation of broadband conduit during the construction of any road receiving federal funding. The Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth would be established within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to streamline the application processes for broadband funding programs. Continue Reading

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Executives Assess COVID’s Effect on Tower Builds

The tower and wireless infrastructure industries are in a very good place, considering what’s going on nationally with the economy during the coronavirus pandemic, executives said Wednesday. However, supply chain challenges are among new problems, said experts during the virtual Wireless West “Tower Hour.”

APC Towers CEO Danny Agresta said the pandemic has changed his daily questions from: “Where’s the steel? Do we have a permit yet?” to, asking customers if they can access his company’s platforms so project milestones aren’t missed.

Agresta says his company keeps in touch with NATE about what’s going on with crews. Citing the association’s recent member survey, Agresta said: “It’s clear contractors have concerns” regarding travel, lodging, and food. “I don’t know if that will still be true in a month or three months from now.” He said: “We’ve heard rumblings there [are] supply chain problems.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Critics Call Out Rosy FCC Broadband Report

The FCC recently released its annual broadband deployment report, and said the numbers show the digital divide continues to close. Critics claim otherwise.

The FCC says the report revealed the number of Americans lacking access to fixed terrestrial broadband service at 25/3 Mbps continues to decline, by more than 14 percent in 2018. The number of Americans without access to 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile broadband with a median speed of 10/3 Mbps, based on Ookla data, declined approximately 54 percent between 2017 and 2018. And the vast majority of Americans—more than 85 percent—now have access to fixed terrestrial broadband service at 250/25 Mbps, a 47 percent increase since 2017, concludes the report.
“From 2016 to 2018, the number of Americans without access to 25/3 Mbps fixed broadband service fell by more than 30 percent,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “And in 2018 and 2019, the United States set consecutive records for new fiber deployment, with the number of homes passed by fiber increasing by 5.9 million and 6.5 million, respectively.” 

The Commission cited the broadband industry’s approximately $80 billion investment in network infrastructure in 2018, for the improvement, noting it’s the highest annual amount in at least the last decade. In 2019, fiber broadband networks became available to roughly 6.5 million additional homes, the largest one-year increase ever, with smaller providers accounting for 25 percent of these new fiber connections, according to the agency. Continue Reading

Thursday, April 23, 2020

President Focuses on Broadband for Next Coronavirus Negotiations

President Donald Trump wants to include broadband as a priority in the next phase of coronavirus relief. The Senate Tuesday passed a $484 billion plan to replenish a small-business payroll fund and pump more money into hospitals and testing programs. The House has asked lawmakers, who have been at home with Congress all but shuttered, to return today for a roll-call vote, reported the AP.

On Tuesday, the President tweeted: “After I sign this bill, we will begin discussions on the next legislative initiative with fiscal relief…including much needed infrastructure investments for broadband,” among other things.

The Administration's big priorities include "broadband for the Middle West," Trump later told reporters during his evening news briefing. He added that "the farmers have been treated terribly when it comes to the internet," according to Politico.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

RWA, NTCA, Ask Congress Not to Give T-Mobile a “Handout” from Virus Fund

The Rural Wireless Association, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, Communications Workers of America, and three consumer groups called on Congress to ensure that T-Mobile does not receive COVID-19 recovery funding to meet its merger-specific build-out commitments. T-Mobile made those promises when it sought approval of its acquisition of Sprint from the FCC, Department of Justice, state attorneys general, and state public utilities commissions.

“The New T-Mobile has repeatedly and emphatically claimed that as a direct result of the merger, it would have the necessary resources to deliver 5G to millions of square miles of the U.S. and hundreds of millions of Americans, including those living in and traveling through rural America,” the groups say in a letter. “[T]o the extent there will be additional stimulus recovery measures, Congress needs to make sure T-Mobile does not receive funding as a corporate handout to meet commitments it already made based on synergies that it lauded to get its deal done.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

FCC Approves Ligado’s 5G Network Over Protests

UPDATE The FCC Monday unanimously voted to approve an order to allow satellite company Ligado to deploy a low-power nationwide 5G network. Ligado is the wireless satellite venture formerly known as LightSquared that emerged from bankruptcy in 2015. The vote came despite protests from the Defense Department, 12 other federal agencies and major U.S. airlines. The Wireless Infrastructure Association praised the decision.

Ligado will be able to use the L-Band spectrum, which is also used for GPS and other navigation systems because the signals can penetrate cloud cover. The Commission said the approval order includes strict conditions aimed at ensuring global positioning systems would not experience harmful interference.

But last week, the federal agencies and airlines said it would interfere, Inside Towers reported. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said via Twitter on Friday that the “Ligado proposal would needlessly imperil GPS-dependent national security capabilities.” Continue Reading

Monday, April 20, 2020

Last Nail in the T-Mobile/Sprint Merger Hammered Out

UPDATE The long-awaited, $23 billion merger between T-Mobile and Sprint received unanimous final approval on April 16, from California's Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), reported Reuters. In March, the CPUC said it would approve the merger with conditions, which T-Mobile and Sprint agreed to uphold.

In 2019, the Justice Department and FCC sanctioned the merger on the condition that the combined wireless company sell off Dish Network assets. Reuters reported the biggest obstacle for the telecoms was a legal battle with state attorneys general who argued the deal would mean higher prices for consumers. However, in February, a U.S. federal judge overruled the argument, and the merger closed on April 1, Inside Towers reported.

The combined company now operates under the T-Mobile name and will trade on the NASDAQ as "TMUS,” according to the account. The objective of the deal was to allow both companies to join their high-band and low-band spectrum, enabling a faster roll-out of 5G.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Pai Signals Approval of Ligado L-Band Use for 5G

Thursday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai circulated a draft to his colleagues regarding the approval of satellite provider Ligado’s application to deploy a nationwide broadband network in the L-Band. The network would primarily support 5G and Internet of Things services. The order comes with conditions to ensure existing L-band users are protected from harmful interference.

The decision comes over the objections of 13 government agencies, led by the Department of Defense, who warn it might interfere with military GPS operations. They said so in a memo co-signed by representatives of the Army, Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard. It was also signed by the Departments of Commerce, Energy, Homeland Security, Interior, Justice and Transportation as well as the Federal Aviation Administration, NASA and National Science Foundation, according to Inside Global Navigation Satellite Systems. 

At the center of the debate is a proposal to take frequencies allocated primarily for use by satellites and allow them to be used for broadband communications. Extensive testing has shown that the proposal, even in a lower power form, would cause interference to GPS receivers. Those receivers are used for navigation and positioning but also for accurate timing that enables the synchronization of mobile communications and internet traffic. Continue Reading

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Frontier Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection

Frontier Communications filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy late Tuesday evening and said it would continue to serve customers while restructuring. The move was expected due to the company’s high debt load of more than $17 billion, according to Bloomberg.

The company said it’s entered into a restructuring support agreement with bondholders representing more than 75 percent of Frontier’s $11 billion in outstanding unsecured bonds. The plan is expected to reduce the company’s debt by more than $10 billion and provide “significant financial flexibility” to support continued investment in Frontier’s long-term growth.

Frontier and its direct and indirect subsidiaries voluntarily filed petitions under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code in the Southern District of New York. “We are pleased that constructive engagement with our bondholders over many months has resulted in a comprehensive recapitalization and restructuring. We do not expect to experience any interruption in providing services to our customers,” said Robert Schriesheim, Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Board of Directors. Continue Reading

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Trenton, NJ Issues Wireless Telecom Ban Citing Public Health Concerns

As rapidly as COVID-19 spread across the world, so have rumors linking the virus to 5G, causing the City of Trenton, NJ to ban new towers and antennas.

Mayor Reed Gusciora and members of the Trenton legislative body received a letter on April 6, from resident Tahirah Gurley, opposing telecom in the city and citing COVID-19. Gurley’s letter, obtained by The Trentonian, said, “We ask that you impose a moratorium on ‘small cells’ and other wireless infrastructure, permits, process, and deployment until the COVID-19 emergency is over. The wireless providers are using the COVID-19 emergency as cover to expand and cement their rapid and virtually unsupervised deployment of harmful wireless infrastructure.”

According to The Trentonian, councilman Santiago Rodriguez consulted attorney Edward Kologi about Gurley’s request for a ban. "There is clear Federal and State law governing such applications, which must be strictly adhered to by the applicant,” said Kologi. “The City's ability to take action in this process, even if it were inclined to do so, would be extremely limited, based upon the governing statutes.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

NAB Urges FCC to Include 6 GHz Interference Protections

NAB is cautioning the FCC about the agency’s draft proposal to reallocate spectrum in the 6 GHz band for WiFi. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has said the move would increase network capacity and “help advance even further our leadership in next generation wireless technologies, including 5G.” He intends to have the item ready for a vote April 23. However the broadcast trade lobby is concerned that unlicensed operations in the band (5.925-7.125 GHz) could interfere with stations’ 6 GHz use for electronic news gathering.

WiFi operations on the same channel as mobile news gathering operations can easily cause interference if the WiFi device is near a window or outdoors, notes NAB in a filing Monday describing separate calls with Commission staffers. The draft order concludes, however, that “we find the risk of harmful interference to incumbent operations to be insignificant.”

But as NAB observes, the draft order doesn’t say the agency conducted its own analysis to reach that conclusion. The FCC took issue with some of the data presented by broadcasters and states that in the Commission’s “experience,” and “engineering judgment,” it believes any harm is minimal. That leaves broadcasters with no way to evaluate the accuracy of the draft order’s conclusion, according to NAB. Continue Reading

Monday, April 13, 2020

Federal Agencies Want FCC to Revoke China Telecom Licenses

Several federal agencies told the FCC because of past offenses and potential national security threats, it should revoke China Telecom’s common carrier licenses. China is owned by the Chinese government, and does business in the U.S. in part as a reseller of mobile services to people and institutions with ties to China.

The Department of Justice led the review of China Telecom’s authorizations, which also included the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. It based the recommendation on developments since the authorizations were last transferred in 2007, including China Telecom’s failure to comply with the terms of an existing agreement with the DOJ. In its recommendation, the Executive Branch agencies identified what they said were substantial and unacceptable national security and law enforcement risks associated with China Telecom’s operations. They said those render the FCC authorizations inconsistent with the public interest.

More specifically the recommendation was based on: Continue Reading

Friday, April 10, 2020

NATE Releases Results of COVID-19 Impact Survey of Members

The opening survey question by NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association was “in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, is your company still conducting routine business operations and hours of service?” Out of 224 responses, 85.27 percent said “yes.” Another question asked if the member company’s crews experienced logistical issues on the road, i.e., hotel and food accommodations, as a result of the virus (65 percent said “yes”).

The association unveiled the results of the nine-question Member COVID-19 Impact Survey yesterday.

The survey, conducted over a six day period from Friday, March 27, to Wednesday, April 1, 2020, included responses from 224 member companies with headquarters in 40 different states. NATE conducted the survey to assess how the COVID-19 public health pandemic is impacting the industry in order to help guide the association’s efforts to identify future membership needs and resources during these unprecedented times.

“Surveys are snapshots in time. The association believes the NATE Member COVID-19 Impact Survey contains valuable insight directly from the front lines of deployment that can be a resource for members of Congress, government agencies, wireless carriers, broadcasters, tower owners, construction management firms, sub-contractors and tower technicians during this very fluid pandemic situation,” stated President/CEO Todd Schlekeway.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

The Connect (X) Show Will Go On in Virtual Format

One of the industry’s major conferences, WIA’s Connect (X), has been cancelled...at least the live event in Miami has. In keeping with the theme of bringing the world together via wireless connectivity, the show will go on however, and be rebranded as “Connect (X): All Access. The date has been set for May 19, according to the WIA press release.

WIA President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein spoke with Inside Towers yesterday about the new format. “We want to serve the role of bringing the industry together,” Adelstein said. “This is a crucial time, and we still want to bring top industry leaders together to discuss the challenges we face, workforce development, trends in capex and more.” 

WIA Board member and Treasurer, and CEO of Vertical Bridge, Alex Gellman, said “We’ll miss the socializing but the content will be as good or better. The lineup is very good and so are the training materials. All of my company has been through it.” Gellman said the new format is well worth investigating. “It will be impressive,” he said. Continue Reading

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

UK Cell Towers Torched by Coronavirus Conspiracy Anarchists

Conspiracy theories surrounding the notion that 5G technology is connected to the spread of coronavirus have peaked in the U.K. causing fiery attacks on cell towers.

Over the past 24 hours, Vodafone reported four of its cell towers were set on fire causing significant damage and outages to area customers. Vodafone U.K. CEO Nick Jeffery, said, “This is now a matter of national security. Police and counter terrorism authorities are investigating.”

EE, a British mobile network operator and internet service provider, also reported a tower fire and is working with local police to investigate the possibility of arson. “This site served thousands of people in the Birmingham area, providing vital 2G, 3G and 4G connectivity as it has done for many years,” an EE spokesperson told CNBC. “We will try to restore full coverage as quickly as possible, but the damage caused by the fire is significant.” Continue Reading

Monday, April 6, 2020

State Utilities Commission Won’t Condone Merger Until April 16 Vote

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) said Thursday that T-Mobile and Sprint are prohibited from merging until it says so. Although the CPUC put out a proposal to approve the deal earlier this month, they said their decision is not binding until they officially vote on it on April 16. Both companies have California subsidiaries that are public utility telephone corporations under state law, and subject to the jurisdiction of the commission.

The PUC issued the following comment: “Public Utilities Code Section 854(a) states in relevant part that “[n]o person or corporation, whether or not organized under the laws of this state, shall merge, acquire, or control … either directly or indirectly, any public utility organized and doing business in this state without first securing authorization to do so from the commission. The merger of the companies’ operations in California is therefore subject to CPUC approval. Accordingly, Joint Applicants shall not begin merger of their California operations until after the CPUC issues a final decision on the pending applications.” Continue Reading

Friday, April 3, 2020

Dems Want Broadband in Next Virus Stimulus Bill

Days after passage of a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package, Key House Democrats are planning efforts for the next round of emergency aid, including major investments in infrastructure.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), joined by several key committee chairs, said this week the Democrats' fourth phase of coronavirus stimulus would be largely focused on helping the front-line medical workers, homebound parents and patients afflicted by the deadly virus. Democrats are also eyeing new funding for broadband, water, schools and other infrastructure systems that have proven insufficient, they said, in the face of the coronavirus crisis.

"There are infrastructure needs that our country has that directly relate to how we are proceeding with the coronavirus," Pelosi said on a call with reporters, reported The Hill. "And we would like to see in what comes next, something that has always been nonpartisan, bipartisan, and that is an infrastructure piece that takes us into the future." Continue Reading

Thursday, April 2, 2020

New T-Mobile Brims With Optimism as Legere Steps Down as CEO

The telecom world and cellular consumers finally got closure yesterday as the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint became official. The newly formed company, New T-Mobile, said the deal will drive an investment of $40 billion into its network over the next three years and unleash at least $43 billion in value for shareholders. The company said there were no immediate plans for the Sprint brand while Sprint’s investor relations web page directed all inquiries to T-Mobile’s page. It was also announced that Mike Sievert will replace John Legere as CEO, effective immediately.

“It’s a relief to end the uncertainty and move on with business. Everyone is excited to seize this opportunity to build up our nation’s wireless networks,” said WIA President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein. “It’s more important now than ever to ensure that our nation’s next-generation wireless networks are deployed quickly to serve communities, providing means for telehealth and distance learning, and restoring economic growth and jobs for America.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Forget the Date, Long-Awaited Sprint/T-Mo Merger Expected Today

At deadline yesterday, Inside Towers was seeing multiple reports on the multi-year saga also known as the Sprint/T-Mobile merger coming to a conclusion sometime today.  According to unnamed informants at Bloomberg, a group of 16 banks were formally notified Monday that they will need to make the funds available today, to complete the deal. The banks are to provide $23 billion of loans to T-Mobile US Inc. The COVID-19 outbreak, according to Bloomberg, disrupted plans to sell the debt to third-party investors.

New Street Research reported yesterday the companies are withdrawing their wireline transfer of control application which is seen as a precursor to finalizing things today, rather than waiting for a California PUC vote on April 16. The merger, should it happen, comes less than two months after a U.S. District Court approved the deal and, in the process, silenced 14 state attorneys general who opposed the transaction.

Monday, March 30, 2020

FCC Grants WISPs Access to 5.9 GHz to Give Rural Networks Crisis Support

The FCC granted dozens of rural, fixed wireless broadband providers access to the 5.9 GHz band Friday to support telework, remote learning and telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Special Temporary Authority (STA) will enable 33 companies to use the lower 45 megahertz of spectrum in the 5.9 GHz band for 60 days.

The wireless internet service providers (WISPs) serve 330 counties in 29 states. The states involved include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. 

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), helped the companies apply for the STAs. WISPA told the FCC the companies rely primarily on unlicensed spectrum for last-mile connections to end users, including the 5 GHz UNII bands. “Many of the WISPs’ customers have no other alternative to terrestrial broadband services,” WISPA told the agency. Continue Reading

Friday, March 27, 2020

Money For Telehealth, Not School Kids

The economic stimulus package passed by the Senate earlier this week is expected to pass the House today. While it provides a $200 million boost for FCC telehealth programs and funding for USDA broadband efforts, it left out money to keep students and others connected during the pandemic, reports Politico.

"I cannot understand how the U.S. Senate can approve a $2 trillion emergency package and not find even $1 billion to ensure that every school child in America can connect to the internet on a functioning device at a time when virtually all students in the country are required to learn from home for their own safety," said Common Sense founder Jim Steyer. He supported at least $2 billion going to support the FCC's E-Rate program. "This decision will leave kids behind and unfairly impact those most in need." Continue Reading

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Virus Impacts CBRS Auction Timing

The FCC is delaying its auction of wireless licenses in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) for 5G because of the coronavirus. The agency is also postponing, indefinitely, an auction of FM construction permits. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, these changes were deemed necessary in order to protect the health and safety of Commission staff and to allow parties additional time to prepare to participate in Auctions 105 and 106, the Commission said Wednesday. 

Auction 105 involves Priority Access Licenses in the 3550-3650 MHz band. The short-form application (FCC Form 175) filing window will now open on April 23, at 12 p.m. ET and close on May 7, at 6 p.m. ET. Upfront payments will be due June 19. Bidding will begin on July 23, nearly a month after the original June 25 start date. Continue Reading

Monday, March 23, 2020

NATE Asks Homeland Security for Special Status During Crisis

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief One way the tower construction industry is helping those telecom workers who can still perform their duties during the coronavirus pandemic is easing access to tower and other communications facility sites. The National Association of Tower Erectors says its members are essential service providers and work on critical communications.

NATE asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to send its members letters clarifying this special status. The intent of the letters is to aid engineers and technicians getting to infrastructure (example: towers, generators) to keep the communications infrastructure operational during a crisis, NATE Executive Director Todd Schlekeway told Inside Towers. Many of the association’s telecom and broadcast contractor member companies have received the letters, he confirmed. Continue Reading

Friday, March 20, 2020

FCC Gives Part 90 Licensees More Time to Transition in CBRS Band

The FCC is giving Part 90 licensees in the 3650-3700 MHz band more time to transition their operations to Part 96 Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS). The agency said the extension won’t affect the June auction of Priority Access Licensees in the 3.5 GHz Band.

Part 90 operations are used to provide high-speed broadband, utility communications, and other essential wireless services. The move involves changing out equipment on towers. The FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau issued an order Thursday granting a six-month extension for the transition. The prior deadline of April 17, has been pushed ahead to October 17. 

“Granting this temporary extension will enable Part 90 licensees to focus on continuing to provide high-speed broadband and other critical services during this national state of emergency,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “This is a logical delay of the transition during the pandemic to ensure that current licensees, like WISPs and electric utilities, can keep their eyes on the ball when it comes to helping consumers. We can allow this flexibility while still maintaining a reasonable timeline for this transition. I’m also pleased we could find a way to grant this relief without impacting this summer’s important 5G auction.” Continue Reading

Thursday, March 19, 2020

FCC Eases Rules to Spur Connectivity for Hospitals, Students

The FCC Wednesday changed some of the rules for its Rural Health Care (RHC) and E-Rate programs to make it easier for broadband providers to support telehealth and remote learning efforts during the coronavirus pandemic. The Wireline Competition Bureau waived the gift rules until September 30. This will enable service providers to offer, and RHC and E-Rate program participants to solicit and accept, improved connections or additional equipment for telemedicine or remote learning during the outbreak. 

Commission rules prohibit entities eligible for the RHC and E-Rate programs from soliciting or accepting anything of value from a service provider participating in or one that wants to take part in those programs. The waiver will allow health care providers, schools, and libraries to accept improved capacity, WiFi hotspots, networking gear, or other equipment or services to support doctors and patients, teachers and students, and librarians and patrons during the coronavirus outbreak. For example, some providers have expressed interest in providing free network upgrades for hospitals that need more robust connections to treat patients via telemedicine and free connected devices and hotspots for students taking classes at home, according to the agency. Continue Reading

Monday, March 16, 2020

FCC Makes Network Providers Pledge to Service the Coming Traffic Glut

Broadband providers are making service changes as policymakers urge them to prepare for a spike in network traffic from consumers working and studying from home in response to coronavirus. The nation's internet service providers say they haven't seen big usage gluts yet, but the coming weeks and months could pose an unprecedented test of their networks' ability to withstand a massive and sustained surge in bandwidth needs.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai spoke with broadband companies, carriers and trade associations about the issue Thursday. In order to ensure that Americans do not lose their broadband or telephone connectivity as a result of the exceptional circumstances, he asked them to take the Keep Americans Connected Pledge.

The pledge asks companies to do three things for the next 60 days: not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus; waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the pandemic; and open its WiFi hotspots to any American who needs them. Continue Reading 

Thursday, March 12, 2020

California AG and Utility Commission Spreads Sunshine on Sprint/T-Mobile Deal

After California's Attorney General dropped opposition to a merger of T-Mobile and Sprint earlier yesterday, a California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) judge recommended approval of the deal. It’s considered by analysts as one of the last hurdles standing in the way of the long-fought merger.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, along with New York AG Letitia James, led the multistate coalition that unsuccessfully sued to stop the $26.5B merger and said they would not file an appeal. T-Mobile said it was hoping to close the deal as soon as April 1, provided it received approval from the CPUC.

The utility judge’s ruling stipulates that T-Mobile provides what it agreed to in November of 2019 by offering free internet service and WiFi hotspots to ten million low-income households with kids nationwide. The internet offer is capped at 100 gigabytes for the year, or about eight gigabytes a month, according to the Associated Press.

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., must still approve the Justice Department settlement

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Coronavirus KO’s IWCE 2020...For Now

Iconic industry conference organizer IWCE announced the cancellation of its upcoming March 30-April 2 trade show in Las Vegas. Yesterday, Stephanie McCall, IWCE Show Director, said, “after close consultation with our partners in the industry, we have made the difficult decision to postpone IWCE 2020. With the rapidly developing circumstances and in light of corporate travel considerations continuing to escalate, we’ve worked as quickly as possible to explore our options. The intention is to announce a new date shortly. Exhibitors and attendees will be contacted with further information regarding booth contracts and registrations.”
McCall said attendees will automatically have their registration transferred to the rescheduled event. She directed those with questions and concerns to email them to iwceoperations@informa.com where they will try to respond within 48 hours, although expected heavy volume could delay that further. 

“For exhibitors and sponsors, we will transfer your program to the future event,” McCall said. “Your Account Manager will be reaching out personally in the next few days to discuss your immediate questions. We continue to work diligently to ensure all details are buttoned down and we thank you for your patience.”

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Coronavirus KO’s IWCE 2020...For Now

Iconic industry conference organizer IWCE announced the cancellation of its upcoming March 30-April 2 trade show in Las Vegas. Yesterday, Stephanie McCall, IWCE Show Director, said, “after close consultation with our partners in the industry, we have made the difficult decision to postpone IWCE 2020. With the rapidly developing circumstances and in light of corporate travel considerations continuing to escalate, we’ve worked as quickly as possible to explore our options. The intention is to announce a new date shortly. Exhibitors and attendees will be contacted with further information regarding booth contracts and registrations.”
McCall said attendees will automatically have their registration transferred to the rescheduled event. She directed those with questions and concerns to email them to iwceoperations@informa.com where they will try to respond within 48 hours, although expected heavy volume could delay that further. 

“For exhibitors and sponsors, we will transfer your program to the future event,” McCall said. “Your Account Manager will be reaching out personally in the next few days to discuss your immediate questions. We continue to work diligently to ensure all details are buttoned down and we thank you for your patience.”

Monday, March 9, 2020

FCC to Vote on Mandatory Robocall Blocking

The FCC will vote this month to require carriers to implement technology to block robocalls. Specifically, the new rules mandate implementation of caller ID authentication using so-called “STIR/SHAKEN” technology standards.

STIR/SHAKEN enables carriers to verify the accuracy of caller ID information that is transmitted with a call. Industry-wide implementation would reduce the effectiveness of illegal spoofing, allow law enforcement to identify bad actors more easily, and help phone companies identify calls with illegally spoofed caller ID information before those calls reach their subscribers, according to the agency. The FCC will vote on the new rules on March 31. Continue Reading

Friday, March 6, 2020

Senate Passes Secure 5G and Beyond Act

The Senate passed and sent to the House a bill requiring the administration to identify 5G network security threats as well as potential hardware and software remedies, reported the Wall Street Journal.  

“As our telecommunications technology advances, we must have plans in place to keep it secure from foreign interference,” said bill sponsor Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) in a statement. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC), and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) are co-sponsors.

“5G promises to usher in a new wave of innovations, products, and services. At the same time, the greater complexity, density, and speed of 5G networks relative to traditional communications networks will make securing these networks harder and more complex. It’s why we need a coherent, national strategy to harness the advantages of 5G in a way that addresses those risks,” said Warner. Continue Reading

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Berry: It’s Really “Replace and Then Rip” Untrusted Network Gear

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief The U.S. needs a comprehensive 5G security strategy and the so-called “Rip and Replace” bill recently sent to the President goes a long way towards ensuring smaller carriers can secure their networks, Competitive Carriers Association Steve Berry told lawmakers on Wednesday. Berry spoke, along with representatives from Nokia, Ericsson and Intel, during a Senate Energy and Commerce Committee hearing.

The Senate last week passed H.R. 4998, the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019. The bill prohibits the FCC’s Universal Service recipient carriers from being subsidized to acquire or maintain equipment from untrusted suppliers like Huawei and ZTE.

It creates a program to reimburse telecoms with fewer than two million customers. The measure also establishes an information sharing program for telecoms, especially small and rural operators, to obtain information regarding potential security risks and vulnerabilities to their networks. Continue Reading 

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

FCC Proposes Updating TV White Spaces Rules

While the fireworks of Friday’s C-band vote at the FCC generated many of the headlines, Commissioners also voted on other spectrum issues. One of those concerned the use of TV White Spaces for rural broadband.

All of the Commissioners voted to propose changes to the agency’s rules to allow higher transmit power and antenna height above average terrain for fixed White Spaces devices in rural areas. In response to a petition filed by Microsoft, the Commission believes the updates would allow White Spaces devices to reach users at greater distances, resulting in better broadband coverage – without negatively impacting TV transmission.

That’s key because White Spaces are the unlicensed frequencies between television channels. Microsoft put forth the petition to further its Rural Airband Initiative, which uses a combination of TV White Spaces, fixed wireless and satellite. Continue Reading

Monday, March 2, 2020

FCC Backs C-Band Auction Plan That May Bring $9.7B to Satellite Companies

In a move that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said he hoped would quickly free up spectrum for 5G, the FCC voted 3-2 Friday in favor of allowing incentivised C-band auction payments to satellite companies. The C-band spectrum, slated to be auctioned off, is currently used by those high-flying companies to deliver video and radio programming to 120 million U.S. households. The FCC wants to divert much of the under-utilized band to 5G but has been debating with Congress on how best to do it.

"We want satellite operators to vacate the lower portion of the C-band quickly. And this transition will be much faster if we align the incentives of satellite operators with the incentives of wireless providers who want expedited access to that spectrum," Pai said.

The satellite companies, according to Reuters, can make up to $9.7 billion in potential incentive payments from the auction with Intelsat SA receiving up to $4.9B, with other C-band Alliance non-U.S.-based companies like SES SA, and Telesat garnering the remains. Continue Reading

Friday, February 28, 2020

Thune Introduces Bi-Partisan 5G Skilled Workforce Act

Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the chamber’s number two Republican and chairman of the Senate Commerce telecom subcommittee, unveiled his Telecommunications Skilled Workforce Act Thursday. The measure is aimed at helping the U.S. catch up on the workforce demands of the 5G era. Thune's bill is bipartisan. Co-sponsors are Jon Tester (D-MT), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Gary Peters (D-MI) and Roger Wicker (R-MS). 

On the Senate floor, Thune said, “Current internet technology relies on cell phone towers. But 5G technology will require not just traditional cell phone towers, but small antennas called ‘small cells’ that can often be attached to existing infrastructure like utility poles or buildings.”

Wireless providers will need to install roughly 800,000 small cells to support a nationwide 5G network, according to Thune. “And of course, after installation, every one of those small cells will have to be monitored and maintained. That will require a substantial increase in the telecommunications workforce.” Continue Reading

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Four Sites Around Memphis Have Been Set Ablaze

 
Authorities are searching for a person responsible for intentionally setting fires to four cell towers and causing more than $500,000 in damage, reported WREG-TV. The active arson investigation has been underway since early December 2019, with the latest fire occurring on February 17.

According to the Memphis Fire Department, the date, locations, and damage costs include:

  • December 5, 2019 – 118 Neil Street – $5,000 damage 
  • December 5, 2019 – 2754 Faxon Avenue – $10,000 damage 
  • January 28, 2020 – 20 Flicker Street – $500,000 damage
  • February 17, 2020 – 4087 Summer Avenue – $75,000 damage 
Anyone with information about these arsons is asked to call CrimeStoppers at 528-CASH (2274) or the State Arson Hotline at 1-800-762-3017.