Tuesday, January 28, 2020

FCC Authorizes Commercial Deployment in 3.5 GHz CBRS Band

The FCC certified four Spectrum Access System (SAS) Administrators on Monday. The action paves the way for full commercial operations in the 3.55-3.7 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band.

To ensure the U.S. Navy has continued access to the band for radar systems, Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) networks have been deployed along the U.S. coasts. The ESC networks inform the SAS administrators to activate a protection zone and dynamically reassign users in the area to other parts of the band. The spectrum will be available for others when not needed by the government.

Monday, the FCC approved SAS administrators CommScope, Federated Wireless, Google, and Sony for commercial deployments in the 3.55-3.7 GHz band. Monday’s move allows use of this mid-band spectrum for commercial deployments such as broadband connectivity and 5G. Continue Reading

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Tower Workforce Numbers Need to Climb, NATE, Others Tell Congress

Jimmy Miller, Chairman of the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) told lawmakers Wednesday the telecom industry needs to do more outreach to young people to convey the message that tower building, climbing and maintenance is a rewarding career. “We’ve got to make hard work cool again,” Miller said, speaking to members of the Senate Commerce Committee during a hearing on 5G workforce issues. (ed: See more coverage on Miller’s comments below.)

“We take our cell phone for granted. Behind the scenes every day, thousands of towers are being maintained and constructed,” explained Miller, who’s also President and Chief Executive Officer of MillerCo, Inc. Both Miller and FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, who also testified, said the industry has about 29-thousand to 30-thousand tower climbers, and can accommodate another 20-thousand over the next 10 years.

Fiber Broadband Association President/CEO Lisa Youngers added that members find attracting and training skilled workers “is a choke point,” and some companies are turning down work “because there’s not enough personnel to run the machines.” Miller added that tower climbing jobs pay an average of between $45,000 to $75,000 a year and a worker needs at least eight months to a year of training. Continue Reading

Monday, January 20, 2020

Man Arrested For Firing Shots and Threatening Tower Workers

Police arrested a Hanover Township man on Thursday after he allegedly fired gunshots into the air near a tower, threatening three workers, according to the Observer-Reporter. Dwayne Bruce, 53, faces charges of aggravated assault, prohibited possession of a firearm, reckless endangerment, simple assault, resisting arrest, trespassing, harassment, and disorderly conduct.

The workers at the Crown Castle tower told police Bruce had approached them and was acting aggressively, saying they had 10 minutes to leave the property. The workers noted that they heard a gunshot and could see Bruce at his home, waving the gun in the air; they counted six shots fired in total. 

According to police, Bruce is a convicted felon and not permitted to own a firearm. During the arrest, police could smell alcohol on Bruce’s breath, and he allegedly stated that “he probably had more than enough alcohol, but not enough.”

Bruce was placed in the Washington County jail on $300,000 bond. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for January 23, the Observer-Reporter said.

Friday, January 17, 2020

T-Mobile-Sprint Deal Now Up to Judge

The federal judge hearing the lawsuit from 13 state attorneys general suing to block T-Mobile’s acquisition of Sprint heard final arguments Wednesday. U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero did not ask any questions of either party and said he would make a decision “as promptly as possible,” Reuters reported.

The states filed a lawsuit in June to stop the transaction, saying it would lead to higher prices for consumers.

The telecoms pushed back and emphasized they would compete aggressively to push prices down. T-Mobile and Sprint contend that the merger would enable the combined company to compete more effectively with dominant carriers Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc.

T-Mobile lawyer David Gelfand argued that the combination between the nation’s number three and number four carriers would create a “revolutionary network,” with faster speeds and better capacity to deploy 5G. But attorney Glenn Pomerantz, speaking on behalf of the states, rebuffed that argument, saying: “We did not need a merger for 2G, 3G or 4G,” according to PoliticoContinue Reading

Thursday, January 16, 2020

O’Rielly Hopeful FCC Will Tee Up Tall Tower Action “In The Very Near Future”

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief  Easing siting for macro towers remains on the FCC’s “to-do” list. Towers will still be needed as the wireless industry deploys small cell and 5G infrastructure, members of the Senate Commerce Committee were told Wednesday during a hearing on the Industries of the Future Act of 2020. The legislation would advance U.S. leadership in next-generation wireless networks and infrastructure, as well as artificial intelligence, advanced manufacturing, quantum information science and synthetic biology.

“While considerable attention is paid to small cell design and installation, in many suburban and rural markets, 5G offerings will rely on equipment attached to macro towers,” testified FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly. He said the agency, “will need to be aggressive to ensure the siting process is not impeded, and I am hopeful we will take new action on macros in the very near future.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Closing Arguments Come Today in States’ Suit to Block T-Mobile-Sprint Deal

Closing arguments are set for today in the trial pitting states versus T-Mobile’s plan to acquire Sprint in a deal the telecoms value at $26 billion. While the federal government has signed off on the transaction, more than a dozen state Attorneys General, led by New York and California, are suing in federal court in New York to block it.

The states told U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero the merger of both telecoms will result in higher prices for consumers. In contrast, T-Mobile and Sprint say they can deploy a better 5G network if the two companies combine.

Separately, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. who is set to assess the Justice Department’s approval of the merger, said on Friday he would allow comments to be filed to the court about the deal, Reuters reported. “I want to give them a reasonable opportunity to be heard,” said Judge Timothy Kelly in a hearing.

The judge approved Theodore Ullyot, a former Facebook general counsel, as the monitoring trustee to oversee the merger and divestiture process if and when the deal is allowed to go forward, according to a court filing.

Monday, January 13, 2020

NY Gov. Cuomo Pushes for 100% Cellular Coverage

In 2015, the state of New York made broadband expansion a priority. While that project is still ongoing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s sights are now on cell service. Cuomo outlined the cell service proposal Wednesday in his State of the State address, reported the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. "We are already bringing the internet to every corner of this state. Now, we must bring 100 percent cell service to every corner of our great state," said Cuomo. "Reliable cellular service is critical in order to have access to information, public safety and economic growth," he added.

Cuomo’s new plan includes appointing a project director from Empire State Development, New York’s economic development hub. That person will begin by focusing on 1,950 miles of major roads across the state that don’t have reliable cell service. These roads include interstates, federal and state highways and major connectors in heavy tourist areas.

In response, CTIA SVP External & State Affairs Jamie Hastings said the association is, “encouraged by the Governor’s comments in his State of the State about wireless network deployment. We look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature on this important initiative.”

Friday, January 10, 2020

Wichita’s High Tech Solution to Preventing Copper Theft

The City of Wichita, Kansas had a problem with copper being taken from street poles and underground conduits in city-owned facilities and public parks, according to GovTech Biz. City leaders turned to an Internet-of-Things device to remedy the situation: sensors in the poles for around $30 per site. It’s an idea that other markets might consider as more small cell infrastructure is installed on poles.

“People would come in in the middle of the night, cut the main service lines where the power companies would drop off the main connection point, and then…they’d either clip the other lines and then pull by hand, or they’d hook up a Jeep or truck winch and pull the copper by force,” Smart City Coordinator Michael Barnett said. Barnett told GovTech Biz, the level of theft around Wichita would increase in proportion to tariffs on copper and the subsequent rise in its price. He said the larceny cost the city over $100,000 in damages in 2018. Continue Reading

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Pai Anticipates Vote on $20B Rural Broadband Fund This Month

Wednesday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai circulated to his colleagues for a vote a draft order, that if passed, would establish the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to help close the digital divide. Pai plans to schedule a vote on the plan at the agency’s January 30 meeting.

The new fund would provide up to $20.4 billion over the next decade to support the deployment of high-speed broadband networks in rural areas that lack fixed broadband service that meets the Commission's baseline speed standards. To maximize the impact of these investments, the agency would use a multi-round, descending-clock reverse auction. The Commission used this same approach in 2018 for Phase II of the Connect America Fund. That helped fund the deployment of high-speed broadband to 713,000 unserved rural homes and businesses for 30 percent of the projected cost, according to the Commission.

To get money for broadband to participants faster, Pai proposes to divide the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund into two phases. Phase I would provide up to $16 billion to fund the deployment of high-speed broadband in census blocks where the agency knows there's no service that meets the Commission's baseline speed standards. Based on initial estimates, the FCC believes almost six million homes and businesses would be eligible for Phase I.Continue Reading

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Apple Enters the Satellite Technology Arena with Secret Project Plans

In a move that could ultimately cut all ties with wireless carriers, Apple is reportedly working on satellite and related wireless technologies designed to beam data directly to Apple devices and, in theory, provide more exact location tracking that would allow enhanced device features. Bloomberg News cited sources familiar with the project saying that Apple CEO Tim Cook considers this a high priority and has already assembled a “top secret” team of network designers and engineers.

According to Bloomberg’s reporting, the team is led by former aerospace engineers, Michael Trela and John Fenwick, who joined Apple in 2017 to spearhead the satellite initiative. The duo previously led Google’s satellite and spacecraft operations prior to their departure in 2017.Continue Reading

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Analysts Are All Over The Place on T-Mobile-Sprint Merger

Closing arguments are scheduled to take place on January 15, with a decision to follow next month in the state attorneys general case against the T-Mobile-Sprint merger. T-Mobile is hoping to obtain Sprint's mid-band 2.5 GHz spectrum so that it can increase the coverage and speed of its nationwide 5G network.
While some Wall Street analysts believe the judge will approve the deal, at least one prominent analyst does not, reports Phone Arena. Cowen & Co. analyst Paul Gallant believes there’s a 60 percent chance that Judge Victor Marrero will block the transaction. The “states likely raised enough questions about [the] Dish fix and merger synergies to prevent Marrero from accepting them,” Gallant wrote in a client note.

The 13 state AGs and the one from the District of Columbia voiced concern that cutting the number of major wireless carriers from four to three will result in higher prices for consumers. Though Dish Network is setting up to become a nationwide wireless carrier, the state AGs argue that the satellite television firm has never sold wireless service before and cannot be counted on to replace Sprint, notes Phone ArenaContinue Reading

Monday, January 6, 2020

Trump Signs 911 Legislation Into Law

Certain new 911 rules becomes effective today, January 6. The FCC adopted rules for 911 calls made from Multi-Line Telephone Systems (MLTS) in August 2019. President Trump recently signed into law two statutes designed to improve emergency calling. Kari’s Law applies to MLTS, which are telephone systems that serve consumers in environments such as office buildings, campuses, and hotels.

Kari’s Law is named after Kari Hunt, who was murdered in a Texas hotel room five years ago. Kari tried calling 911 during the attack, but the call never went through because she didn’t know she had to dial another number first to reach an outside line. Her father, Hank Hunt, pushed for a law to eliminate the need to dial “9” or “1” to reach 911 through MLTS.

Kari’s Law requires MLTS systems to enable users to dial 911 directly, without having to dial a prefix to reach an outside line, even if the MLTS otherwise requires it for other calls outside its system. The law also requires MLTS systems to notify someone such as the front desk or security office when a 911 call is made. The new law applies to phones installed or manufactured after February 2020. Continue Reading