Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Comments Deadline Stretched to June 15 for Broadband Deployment Issues

The public has more time to comment on two FCC proceedings to speed wireless broadband deployment by removing regulatory barriers. CTIA, the Competitive Carriers Association, and the Wireless Infrastructure Association asked for the approximately one week extension. The FCC agreed, so now initial comments for both are due by June 15, and replies by July 17.

Despite being adopted by the Commissioners in April, the two items, WT Docket No. 17-79 and WC Docket No. 17-84 were published on different days in the Federal Register, giving them separate comment deadlines. CTIA, CCA and WIA asked the agency to align deadlines for both, saying that would “promote the filing of uniform comments” benefitting stakeholders and the public. Continue Reading

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

FCC Okays Michigan Sharing 800 MHz Network

The state of Michigan and the FCC reached an agreement about the state’s Public Safety Communications System and its 800 MHz radio network. The deal affects nearly 250 tower sites.

Michigan sought a waiver to the agency’s rules so it could share its 800 MHz statewide radio network with DTE Energy, a non-profit infrastructure provider. Michigan’s Public Safety Communications System provides communications for its state agencies, police, and more than 1,490 county, city, township and tribal public safety agencies. Some 74,000 radio users are on the network.

The state uses both 800 MHz and 700 MHz narrowband voice frequencies although the great majority of the system is 800 MHz. DTE wanted access to emergency and proprietary talk groups on the trunking system and the 800 MHz analog mutual aid channels. 
Continue Reading

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sprint Tells FCC: Tribal Siting Costs Are Rising Quickly

The FCC opened a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in order to ease wireless infrastructure siting barriers, Inside Towers reported. Now, Sprint gives us an inside look at what it paid to deploy small cells around Houston’s NRG Stadium for the Super Bowl. The company considers tribal siting costs to be spiraling out of control and suggests the agency review those.
Sprint paid more than $173,000 to deploy a total of 23 small cell sites around the stadium to comply with the National Historic Preservation Act. Filings to the FCC suggest costs were imposed on carriers by the city of Houston or the Texas Historical Commission, says Sprint in an FCC filing. But actually, the figures Sprint referenced were imposed by federal law, not state or local historic reviews, the carrier clarifies. Continue Reading

Friday, May 19, 2017

FCC Begins Net Neutrality Roll Back With Industry Backing

The FCC voted 2-1 to begin the process to roll back the Obama-era Net Neutrality rules, starting what will likely be a several-months long fight over the future of internet regulation. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says the current rules chill broadband investment while opponents dispute this. The issue is of interest to readers because it gets to the heart of the further rollout of street furniture such as small cells and antennas for 4G and eventually 5G.

The rules passed by former Chairman Tom Wheeler changed the classification of the internet from an information service, which they had been considered since the Clinton-era, to a utility in which ISPs must treat all internet traffic the same, with no fast or slow speed lanes.

Pai said “The internet was not broken in 2015,” yet the FCC at the time “succumbed to heavy handedness from the White House and changed course.” Seventy fixed wireless providers “say their hands are tied” by the regs and 22 of the smallest ISPs have slowed if not halted new builds.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

High Frequency Traders Turn to Towers for Competitive Advantage

According to Information Week Magazine: “A one (1) millisecond advantage in trading applications can be worth $100 million a year to a major brokerage firm.”  In the wireless arena it is referred to as “latency,” i.e., how much time it takes for a packet of data to get from one designated point to another.
Traders making millions of transactions a minute recognize the superiority of wireless for sending and receiving data. Jump Trading LLC recently installed microwave antennas across the street from the data center operated by CME Group, the world’s biggest futures exchange located just outside of Chicago. The development was precipitated by the need to submit trades faster, and the company is not alone. Many companies are installing microwave equipment around the facility to stay ahead of other competition. According to, faster data transfers can make the difference between billions in profits or losses for traders. Placing microwave towers close to the CME data center, reduces the amount of time data is transferred by fiber-optic cable, and allows trading firms to operate faster. Continue Reading

Monday, May 15, 2017

Study Reveals 911 Call Centers are “Woefully Behind the Times”

UPDATE In today’s world, we’re able to pay bills, schedule a ride pickup and even remotely control the thermostat and lights in our houses using our phones. But when we most need them—during times of emergency—our devices might prove useless, according to a recent study by south Florida’s WBBH-TV.

Investigators from the station placed phone calls using the four major carriers from inside a local 911 dispatch center. Each time, dispatchers could only pinpoint the caller’s location within three to four miles, as they were relying on pings from the nearest cell tower.
Charlotte County’s E911 coordinator Laurie Anderson explained that the technology dispatcher centers used were designed for landline devices, not cell phones. Current 911 technology dates to the 1960s and 1970s, Inside Towers reported.  Furthermore, Anderson said dispatchers rely on the carriers for the location accuracy of wireless 911 callers.  Continue Reading

Friday, May 12, 2017

Americans’ Wireless Data Use Continues to Skyrocket

CTIA released its Annual Wireless Industry Survey, which found Americans used a record 13.72 trillion megabytes (MBs) of mobile data in 2016, an increase of over 4 trillion MBs over 2015, and 35 times the volume of traffic in 2010.  The amount of data traffic sent over wireless networks in 2016 -13.72 trillion MBs – is the equivalent of 1.58 million years of streaming HD videos.

“Americans are using more wireless data than ever. As wireless becomes central to our lives and the U.S. economy, it’s no surprise that Americans’ mobile data usage continues to skyrocket,” said CTIA President/CEO Meredith Attwell Baker.  “This continued growth underscores the need to free up more spectrum and modernize infrastructure processes at all levels of government to make way for next-generation 5G networks – and hundreds of billions of industry investment.” Continue Reading

Thursday, May 11, 2017

U.S. Senator Thune and NATE Pay Tribute to the Tower Technician Workforce

NATE will unveil this morning a commemoration declaring today, Thursday, May 11, 2017, Tower Technician Appreciation Day. This day has been set aside by NATE to coincide with OSHA’s National Safety Stand-Down Week in order to pay tribute to the important work that tower technicians conduct on a daily basis to enable a mobile society.

NATE was joined by U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in honoring the work of the men and women who deploy and maintain America’s communications infrastructure.

“It’s a privilege to join NATE to congratulate and thank the dedicated men and women who work in South Dakota and around the country to build, upgrade, and maintain our nation’s communication towers and infrastructure,” said Sen. Thune. “Tower erectors and technicians put in long hours and hard work, and they possess a unique set of skills that is essential to effectively deploy today’s wireless broadband network and lay the groundwork for the 5G network of the future.”  Continue Reading

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Lower Broadband Capex Raises Concern From USTelecom

USTelecom says its early data “strongly suggests” that investment in broadband dropped in 2016, for the second year in a row. That raises a red flag for the association.

“Closing the digital divide and bringing more Americans access to the benefits of high-speed internet service won’t happen if new investment in broadband infrastructure continues to fall,” writes Patrick Brogan, vice president of Industry Analysis for USTelecom in a blog post. In 2016, capital expenditures for ISPs was $71 billion, down from $73 billion in 2015, and $74 billion in 2014, USTelecom’s current estimate shows. That’s $2.5 billion to $3 billion lower in 2016 than it was in 2014, the year before the FCC reclassified the internet as a utility – known as Title II.

Claims by some interest groups that broadband provider capex actually may have increased in 2015 and 2016, depend on figures that ignore accounting adjustments for certain non-material items like leased cell phones and acquisitions, such as AT&T’s merger with DirecTV and a Mexican wireless operation, according to Brogan. Continue Reading

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Comcast and Charter Partner Up As Expected

Comcast and Charter announced an agreement on a wireless partnership yesterday morning although it isn’t the first time they’ve done so. In 1994, TCI, Comcast and Cox partnered with Sprint creating the Personal Communication Services (PCS) band (1900 MHz). The service was discontinued four years later due to poor demand. The cable providers united with Sprint again in 2005, launching a wireless service called Pivot. Eventually that created the present MVNO agreement with VZ, which has allowed Comcast and Charter to look at entering wireless again, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Craig Moffett of MoffettNathanson said the announcement would only have been surprising if it hadn’t happened. “Still,” Moffett said, ‘there are surprises in the language of the 8-K.  The announcement pours cold water on all of the various M&A scenarios about which people have so incessantly speculated,” he said. Continue Reading

Friday, May 5, 2017

SpaceX Tells Congress They Can Bring Out-of-This World Coverage

While wireless broadband providers race to close the digital divide and service more hard-to-reach areas, they may face a new competitor — satellite-delivered broadband internet. Launch services provider SpaceX plans to deploy more than 4,000 non-geostationary satellites in a low orbit within five years to deliver affordable broadband service; the company, founded in 2002, by entrepreneur Elon Musk who remains CEO, hopes to begin testing a satellite by the end of the year and launching a prototype next year.

“Satellites will substantially alter access and competition,” SpaceX VP of Satellite Government Affairs Patricia Cooper told members of the Senate Commerce Committee at a broadband infrastructure hearing this week. “Our plan is to build fiber-like services at much lower cost.” The incremental cost of adding a rural customer to a satellite network is much lower than adding that rural customer to a ground-based cellular network, she testified. Continue Reading

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Senate Tries to Balance Local Control Over Speedy Deployment

Some localities are worried they would get less say in how broadband is deployed in their areas based on legislation that Congress is preparing and rules the FCC has proposed to streamline such deployment nationwide.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) said during a hearing on reducing barriers to broadband infrastructure deployment on Wednesday regulators are working to reduce digital disparity between rural and urban areas, and with good reason. “In places like South Dakota, you are lucky if you have a six-month window to lay fiber,” noting companies need to begin the permitting process one to two years ahead of time.

Yet regulators must be cognizant of the roles localities play in the infrastructure permitting process. Wilton Manors, FL Mayor Gary Resnick told lawmakers when localities deny installs in public rights-of-way it’s for a good reason. “We pay a price in Florida to live in paradise. Because of hurricanes, it makes sense to construct utilities underground,” so residents can drive away quickly after a storm. “The only safe way to pull off a road and not get submerged is to not have anything in the way.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

AT&T Plans All LTE Band Availability for FirstNet, Potentially by Year-End

Just over a month after beginning its public-private partnership with AT&T, FirstNet is achieving milestones ahead of its planned timeframe. All of AT&T’s LTE bands are planned to be available for the nation’s first public safety wireless broadband network as soon as the end of this year, according to FirstNet CEO Mike Poth.

That can happen as soon as a state governor accepts the FirstNet State Plan (“opt in”), writes Poth in a blog. Preemption services will be available on existing AT&T LTE bands nationwide while FirstNet deploys Band 14 for public safety, increasing the available public safety capacity “without having to wait for the availability of Band 14,” according to Poe. Continue Reading

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Telecom Industry Presses FCC to Dismiss NAB Repack Petition

While NAB was holding its largest convention of the year in Las Vegas, telecom associations and companies were busy filing their opposition to changes broadcasters would like the FCC to make to its repack plan. NAB believes broadcasters will need about twice the amount of the $1.75B Congress has allocated to reimburse stations to relocate to different channels as the TV spectrum is repacked into a smaller portion of the band; the broadcast trade lobby has also consistently said 39 months is not enough time for everyone to move, given the limited number of tower crews that can handle tall TV towers and new, heavy antennas.

The current 39-month deadline should not be the driver of the entire process,” NAB representatives recently emphasized to the Commission. NAB earlier petitioned the FCC to modify its repack plan, Inside Towers reported, saying if the agency doesn’t make the proposed changes, the repack will take longer, cost more and cause more disruption than it has to. Continue Reading

Monday, May 1, 2017

Cities Protest Bill Allowing New 5G Infrastructure to be Built “Anywhere”

On April 26, Senate Bill 649, removing a city’s ability to control where technology is placed and transferring power to the state, was unanimously approved by the Senate Government and Finance Committee. The bill will make it easier for wireless telecom to distribute 5G technology via small cells. SB 649 “would provide that a small cell is a permitted use, not subject to a city or county discretionary permit, if the small cell meets specified requirements,” reported KCRA-TV.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, has caused cities like Roseville, Rocklin and San Francisco, plus the League of California Cities to fight back. A letter sent from the League to Sen. Hueso details the complaint about “limiting local discretionary review” of small cell sites and calls out the “unconstitutionality” of the bill by requiring cities to cooperate. Continue Reading