Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sprint Behind the 8-Ball

Sprint reported their quarterly earnings this week, and much to the company’s dismay, announced that they lost over 334,000 mobile connections. This isn’t a new trend, unfortunately. The company lost 245,000 postpaid customers in the first quarter. Even though subscribers keep fleeing, the company sounds optimistic about the future. On the company’s blog, Dr. John Saw, Chief Network Officer, explains, “As we finish the rip and replace of our 3G network, as well as reach 471 4G LTE markets, we now have a completely new platform in place.This is where the fun begins as we shift much of our focus and resources on local market optimization. Continue reading here

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Back to Work!

Construction resumed on the new emergency communications system after workers “de-watered” a radio station tower construction site in Jacksonville, North Carolina. The subcontractor for the project had to remove water where three concrete cylinders sank 80 feet into the saturated soil. The project was put on hold at the beginning of April when portions of an adjacent conservation area were deforested and the hillside swamp was punctured and possibly drained. “It is unclear how much the site’s wetland damage will cost the city, Assistant City Manager Glenn Hargett said. The tower’s footprint is 0.3 acres. About 0.36 of an acre of the pocosin wetland — an indigenous name for a hillside swamp — was damaged,” the Jacksonville Daily News reported. Continue reading here

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

OSHA Tightens the Rules

OSHA released a Directive providing general enforcement guidance and procedures for anyone working on a communications tower. “This directive ensures that communication tower workers are protected regardless of the type of the work they are doing on communication towers. Employers and cell tower owners and operators must make sure workers are properly trained and protected,” said Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. “This directive replaces CPL 02-01-36, dated March 26, 2002. The previous directive provided compliance guidance for hoisting personnel to or from their workstations during new tower erection only. This directive covers all hoisting of personnel to or from workstations on communication towers,” the Directive explains. The purpose behind this new directive is to provide guidance to field enforcement personnel to ensure uniform enforcement of OSHA standards and policies. To view the entire document, click here.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Network Investment = Customer Satisfaction

The wireless tower industry is on fire right now for one reason: Carriers are battling for first place customer service in the minds of Americans who want speedy networks. data plans. and vast coverage. The four major customer-centric carriers have been upgrading their networks and enhancing their infrastructure to continue attaining quality and growth. Crown Castle CEO and President, Benjamin Moreland said, “There is a high correlation between network investment and customer satisfaction, leading carriers to continue to upgrade their wireless networks to improve network quality, increase capacity and add functionality in order to remain competitive and grow. This virtuous cycle was reinforced just this week, as Verizon indicated on their earnings call their continuing commitment to network investment with wireless CapEx, expected to be up significantly year-over-year. They are not alone in this pursuit as Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile are each aggressively investing in LTE upgrades, adding capacity and broadband speed.” When customers begin to complain about reception and slow network speeds, the tower companies gain. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Georgia Town Denies Tower Despite Possible Lawsuit

Even though the state government in Georgia made huge strides for the wireless community a few months ago making it easier for cell tower companies to construct towers, some towns are still doing what they can to keep towers out. In Convington, Georgia, Mayor Ronnie Johnston cast the final vote on Monday to deny a proposal from TowerCom to construct a 199-foot cell tower. AT&T and T-Mobile are looking to fill in coverage gaps for their customers; however, more than 50 people signed a petition against the tower and presented it to council members. The concerns of the residents were aesthics and possible devaluation of property values. Prior to Monday’s regular meeting, council members held a closed meeting to get clarity from the city attorneys about TowerCom’s intentions to sue the city if the permit were denied. Continue reading here

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bluegrass Cellular Will Complete LTE Rollout by Next Year

Bluegrass Cellular, a mobile provider in rural Kentucky, will be upgrading their equipment to bring LTE services to their customers. The company plans to complete their rollout by late 2015. In November 2012, Bluegrass Cellular turned on their first LTE network in Kentucky by participating in Verizon’s rural LTE program. The company will launch more than 75 new 4G LTE sites deployed on the 700 MHz upper C block license it leases from Verizon. Bluegrass builds and operates networks in markets where Verizon has not implemented LTE technology. Continue reading here.

Monday, July 21, 2014

OSHA Cites Morlan Enterprises for Willful Safety Violation

Safety has been the hot topic of conversation throughout the wireless tower industry, so it’s mind blowing that a company would be cited for willful safety violations. On July 14th, two workers of Morlan Enterprises ,were free climbing, or climbing without safety lines, a 195-foot communication tower under construction without adequate fall protection in Coolville, Ohio. as a result, Morlan Enterprises has been cited for one willful and eight serious safety violations by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA has proposed penalties of $52,500. “Free climbing a communication tower is extremely dangerous, and it was this company’s responsibility to ensure appropriate fall protection was provided and used,” said Deborah Zubaty, OSHA’s area director in Columbus. “Employers and cell tower owners and operators must do everything possible to stop senseless, preventable tragedies in the communication tower industry.” Continue reading here

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Verizon Wireless Heads to Court

Sometimes wireless carriers will let certain zoning denials go without a fight, but not this time. Verizon Wireless is suing the town of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, alleging that the Zoning Board of Appeals was in the wrong when it denied the company’s permits to install wireless communications equipment on a tower that is no longer used for water storage and hasn’t been since 2007. The Press Herald reported, “In a complaint filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Portland, Verizon claims that Cape Elizabeth’s zoning board violated federal law and a town ordinance when it denied the company building permits to hang wireless equipment on a Portland Water District tower.”  Continue reading here

Monday, July 14, 2014

Phone or Toothbrush: Pick One

A new study commissioned by Bank of America found that 47% of Americans admitted they wouldn’t last a day without their smartphones. They key word here is “admitted.” Why is this important to tower industry professionals? These statistics are great to have in your back pocket, especially when you attend a zoning meeting with residents opposing your tower. Could they live without their phone? If not, then they probably should reconsider their resistance to the structure. Recently, an industry professional explained to me about how during a town meeting, a man was vehemently fighting this tower explaining that the town doesn’t need it and he doesn’t use his cell phone. Then his phone went off. I’m sure there are a couple dozen more stories just like this. CNBC reported, “A total of 91 percent of the 1,000 respondents called their phones “very important” — the same percentage who said their car and deodorant are very important too. And of those ages 18 to 24, 88 percent said they view their mobile phones as more important than the Internet, deodorant, and their toothbrush.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tower Accidentally Decommissioned

What would you do if you went to your tower site one day and the structure was dark? This is what happened to Mick Rapeer, director of engineering for Connoisseur Media Pennsylvania, after he received a call saying there was no audio going to the transmitter.I was figuring it was another Microsoft Windows error, which is usually the case,” he told Radio World. “So I logged into the automation system to look and it was going about its business playing. I then logged onto the WSBG website and the audio was playing there … OK, somewhere the audio stopped getting to the transmitter. I followed the audio chain and everything looked good all the way to the STL transmitter, which had audio and RF,” he explained. “Hmmm, has to be the STL receiver at the transmitter site.”  Continue reading here

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

AT&T Spending May Top $21 Billion, Tower Industry to Benefit

After a brief scare of contractor layoffs and AT&T tightening the purse strings, analysts are reporting that AT&T may end up surpassing its stated intention of $21 billion in capital spending this year, as it becomes more comfortable with its cash position. Barclays U.S. telecom analyst Amir Rozwadowski today reiterates an Equal Weight rating on shares of AT&T, and a $35 price target because of this reason. According to Barrons, “That could be beneficial to tower owners such as SBA Communications and Crown Castle International. The tower stocks have been among notable underperformers, even relative to the overall underperformance of the telecom group, writes Rozwadowski, with the stocks up just 0.6% last week, relative to the 1.2% gain in the Standard & Poor‘s 500index. Rozwadowski notes that ‘increasing questions have arisen’ in recent weeks about the ‘pace and trajectory of AT&T’s spending.’ But, ‘Overall our checks suggest that the broader drivers of intensified competition and rising bandwidth growth should continue to govern decisions on spending – which we expect to remain at heightened levels for at least the foreseeable future.’ Beyond the competitive aspect, it’s possible that ‘the combination of the recent DIRECTV deal, potentially beneficial tax legislation and the ability to monetize rising handset receivables may give rising visibility on the cash position, thereby possibly providing comfort on moving forward with key spending initiatives,’ he writes. AT&T shares yesterday rose 18 cents, or half a percent, to close at $36.02. Shares of Crown Castle closed down 24 cents, or 0.3%, at $73.92. Shares of SBA closed down 36 cents, or 0.4%, at $101.37.”

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

AT&T to Pick Up Pace This Quarter

There’s been talk about AT&T slowing spending when it comes to their wireless infrastructure deployment while they discuss a merger with DirecTV. Although the company said this deal would not affect their wireless network deployment, RCR Wireless reported otherwise sharing that contractors have been laid off and there was a widespread capital spending freeze in place at AT&T. The future may be getting brighter with analysts and contractors saying AT&T will resume spending this quarter. AT&T spending during the second half should be “quite solid,” according to analyst Michael Genovese of MKM Partners. He said the cuts made during the first half were not as devastating as he thought they were at first, RCR Wireless reported. “I think they were actually pretty limited,” said Genovese. “I think they had to do with new 4G tower builds, but not with outfitting existing towers, and not really so much on the wireline part of the network, just primarily on the wireless side and a little bit of backhaul associated with that.” (Source: RCR Wireless) New tower builds were hit the hardest and it’s unclear whether those workers who were laid off will be brought back on once projects begin again. Hopefully, the analysts and contractors are correct and spending will pick up soon.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Superstorm Sandy Put Community Back to the 19th Century for 12 Days

Two years ago the Mount Pleasant town officials turned a blind eye to the lack of wireless infrastructure in the area when they denied the construction of cell tower on town land. Not only did the town lose out on $200,000, they also deprived the community of the ability to communicate six months later. In a letter to the Lohud, a newspaper in New York, written on June 26th, Ken Lyons of White Plains claims that the only thing left to look at in Mount Pleasant will be paved building lots and a few trees placed between. “A very sad prospect due to our open parcels of land are running out quickly,” he said. “We need to think of preserving such valuable resources, not diminishing them in the interest of profit, and it needs to happen yesterday.” 
Continue reading here

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

You’re Breaking Up!

Over the weekend, Verizon customers from the midwest to the east coast started reporting problems with their service. The network outage is also affecting Verizon internally as we’ve heard that their northern billing system has been down since Wednesday night. Customers can’t pay their bills online or by phone since Verizon can’t pull up their accounts. Customers who just purchased a new Verizon phone are also out of luck as the outage also affects the new phone activation process. Company spokesperson Laura Merritt says the outages affect customers in the Northeast, Midwest and some southern states. “We are working on a fix,” said Merritt on Friday. Verizon has said that network services such as call, text and data are not impacted by the outages, says the company. However this directly contradicts what some customers are tweeting about using the #verizonoutage hashtag. On their website, Verizon is trying to spin this off as downtime due to “upgrades” but it doesn’t seem like any of their customers are buying it. Since they’re going with the “upgrades” excuse, I doubt we’ll hear about the real cause of the problem.