Monday, April 30, 2018

Sprint and T-Mo Merger, If OK’ed, Will Affect Tower Market

On Sunday, Sprint and T-Mobile, in a bid to create a nationwide 5G network, announced an all-stock merger valued at $146 billion. The merger would still need to clear anti-trust examination before it is formalized. T-Mobile parent company Deustsche Telekom would control the merger and have it run by T-Mobile, according to the Wall Street Journal. This is the third attempt to reach an agreement by the two companies over the past few years.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere said in a tweet, the deal will form “the highest capacity network in history” and put the combined company in direct competition with AT&T and Verizon.  I’m excited to announce that T-Mobile and Sprint have reached an agreement to come together to form a new company – a larger, stronger competitor that will be a force for positive change for all U.S. consumers and businesses!”

Spencer Kurn market analyst for New Street Research said, “If the deal is approved, we would cut our valuation by 6% for AMT, 18% for CCI, and 12% for SBAC. The towers have underperformed the broader index by 7-10% since deal reports resurfaced in the press a few weeks ago. While a deal scenario would still present ~10% downside for CCI, we believe it has been largely priced in for AMT and SBAC,” Kurn said. Continue Reading

Friday, April 27, 2018

Administration Developing National Spectrum Strategy, Says NTIA Chief

The administration is developing a national spectrum strategy, according to National Telecommunications & Information Administration head David Redl. Speaking at a Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee meeting Wednesday, Redl said details would be released “soon,” reported Broadcasting and Cable.

CTIA jumped on the news. “It’s great to see the Administration initiating a new national strategy to improve wireless connectivity for American consumers and business,” said CTIA SVP Regulatory Affairs Scott Bergmann. “Wireless is a major growth driver for the economy – contributing $475 billion annually and supporting 4.7 million jobs – and we look forward to working with Administrator Redl on a roadmap to allocate more spectrum for commercial wireless use which will also help the U.S. to secure global leadership in 5G.” Continue Reading

Thursday, April 26, 2018

San Jose, AT&T Reach Tentative Small Cells Deal

The city of San Jose, California says it’s reached a tentative agreement with AT&T to install 170 small cells this year. City officials say the small cells will upgrade voice and data capacity for businesses and residents. The city council is likely to take up the proposal at its May 1 meeting.

The city anticipates receiving a total of $5 million in lease revenue over the next 15 years from AT&T for its “digital inclusion projects,” part of an effort to offer affordable broadband to low-income residents. To help accelerate the deployment, AT&T agreed to remit a portion of its required permit fees upfront and give the city a $1 million grant, reports Government Technology. Continue Reading

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

CitySwitch to Build, Lease New AT&T Towers

AT&T signed a deal with wireless infrastructure owner and developer CitySwitch to build new cell towers to-suit. Tower builds are expected to begin later this year and CitySwitch will lease completed sites to AT&T. The Atlanta-based company calls itself a “premier provider of railroad right-of-way wireless infrastructure network development, acquisition and management.”

This is the third agreement the carrier recently announced and it provides another supplier in the tower space working outside the traditional tower leasing model, AT&T tells Inside Towers. The Crown Castle deal earlier this month and Tillman Infrastructure deal in 2017 show AT&T wants a change. 

“The traditional model isn’t cost-effective or sustainable,” says AT&T EVP Global Connections and Supply Chain, Susan Johnson. “This deal is another step in continuing to diversify our suppliers based on site needs, increasing competition in the provision of tower space and exploring new avenues to cut costs.” The agreement also provides the carrier the ability to move equipment from existing towers to the new site builds.  Continue Reading

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Bill Strikes a Compromise Between Cities and Telecom Over Small Cells

Municipal leaders and telecommunications-industry representatives worked together for three months to craft House Bill 478, giving municipalities the ability to regulate the placement and appearance of small cells on public structures in Ohio, reported The Columbus Dispatch.

“There was a lot of give-and-take by both sides, but it worked out well,” said Brad McLean, AT&T’s director of external affairs in Ohio. This comes one year after dozens of cities and villages sued the state over how to regulate wireless equipment…and won. Now, a compromise is being reached with the bill.

Dublin City Manager Dana McDaniel said of the proposed measure, “This provides more predictability and speed to the industry, while also protecting the character of our cities. That’s what we’ve been trying to balance throughout this process.” 

Ohio is not the only state affected by small cell technology regulation. Fifteen states already have enacted legislation to modernize rules related to small cell technology deployment, said Jilane Rodgers Petrie, spokeswoman for the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association.  Continue Reading

Monday, April 23, 2018

AT&T Brings 5G Foundation Tech to More Cities

AT&T expands its “5G Evolution” and LTE-LAA technologies — what the carrier calls 5G foundation technologies to more markets. AT&T is upgrading cell towers with LTE Advanced features like 256 QAM, 4×4 MIMO, and 3-way carrier aggregation. 

The carrier says the foundational 5G technologies enable faster speeds now, and mobile 5G, when it’s ready. For example, AT&T plans to start launching standards-based mobile 5G later this year in parts of Waco, Atlanta and Dallas. All three markets have 5G Evolution service now. The Mobile 5G deployments will benefit from its 5G fixed wireless trials, the carrier says. Continue Reading

Friday, April 20, 2018

Broadcast Tower Crumples With Crew of Six On Site, One Reported Dead

(See more photos here) Courtesy KYTV
An 1,980-foot broadcast tower that was being worked on in the Fordland area on State Highway FF collapsed yesterday morning resulting in a fatality, according to the Logan-Rogersville Fire Protection District. Webster County Sheriff Roye Cole said the workers were replacing cross beams on the tower.
LRFPD was assisting Southern Webster County Fire Protection District on the emergency call involving the tower, which is owned by KOZK-TV, the PBS affiliate operated out of Springfield by Missouri State University, according to the Marshfield Mail.
A total of six people, approximately 105 feet in the air at the time of the collapse, were doing maintenance work on the tower, said LRFPD Assistant Fire Chief Rob Talburt. The entire tower is now on the ground, he said. In addition to the fatality, three additional workers were transported to Springfield hospitals with non-life threatening injuries, Talburt told the Mail.
“It’s lucky that there were not more people killed out here,” he said, adding there was no other associated damage from the tower collapsing. Continue Reading

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Huawei Turns Attention to Europe and Asia As D.C. Roadblocks Increase

Huawei appears to be scaling back its efforts to crack the U.S. market, after meeting regulatory roadblocks in Washington. The company laid off five American employees last week, including its most visible face in the nation’s capital, William Plummer. Huawei is also reducing its lobbying efforts here, after nearly a decade of trying to dispel Congress’ accusations the company works with the Chinese government and could use its telecom equipment to spy on Americans or to destabilize telecom networks, sources told the New York Times. The company repeatedly denied the claims.

Its actions come as the FCC voted Tuesday, to begin a rulemaking to block telecoms that receive Universal Service Fund support, from using services or equipment from companies deemed to be a threat to national security, Inside Towers reported. The proposal does not name any company specifically, however its effect would essentially end Huawei’s small market share in the U.S.

At an event in Shenzhen, China on Tuesday, Huawei stressed its commitment to existing markets and current customers. Executives emphasized growth opportunities in Europe and Asia, according to the Times. They described the company’s vision to expand beyond providing telecom gear and expand into artificial intelligence, the internet of things and other next-gen technologies.  Continue Reading

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

It’s Official; Clyburn to Exit FCC

As Inside Towers reported yesterday, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn surprised her colleagues and announced her intention to leave the agency. Her departure has been rumored for months, as the senior Democratic Commissioner clashed with Chairman Ajit Pai over several high-profile issues.

After yesterday’s monthly public agency meeting ended, Clyburn said it would be her last. She called her eight years at the Commission “an incredible opportunity.”

“In my wildest dreams, if I could have crafted my destiny, I never would have dreamed of this,” said Clyburn. “I’ve done my very best and met the most incredible people on the planet in this building. I’ve had the opportunity to make a difference to people who did not believe government was here to serve. So I want to thank all of you for making that possible and more.” 

Fellow Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said “Wow,” and called Clyburn a “dynamo.” She called Clyburn “someone who has been my partner in the public interest, someone I am proud to call a colleague and a friend. I want you to know that the things you care about, the fights you fought, and the legacy you leave – I consider it a duty of all of us to make sure it stays intact.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Clyburn Confirms She’s Leaving FCC

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn surprised her colleagues when she confirmed today, she intends to leave the FCC. Though her departure had been rumored for months, she always said she loved the job and planned to continue in her role as the senior Democratic member of the Commission.
After the meeting ended, Clyburn said today’s public monthly agency meeting would be her last. “This has been an incredible opportunity for me. I’ve done my best.” She said most of the lessons she learned on the job helped her.

Her colleagues were stunned. Fellow Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said “Wow,” and called Clyburn a “dynamo.” Commissioner Michael O’Rielly thanked Clyburn for her public service, noting that while they didn’t always agree on an issue, he appreciated that she was always willing to discuss it.

Chairman Ajit Pai echoed O’Rielly’s comments and cited that in her eight-year tenure, Clyburn was the first woman to chair the agency, when she became Acting Chair in 2013. “You led with distinction. You exemplify what a public servant is meant to be.”
Clyburn did not name an end date and said her future plans are not set.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

Monday, April 16, 2018

Google Said to Be In Talks With Nokia for In-Flight WiFi Technology

Google is reportedly in talks with Nokia to buy Nokia Oyj’s aircraft broadband division as part of its plans to build an in-flight broadband internet service. Bloomberg reports the companies are in talks about the issue and could agree on a deal soon. Neither company is commenting.

Nokia has been developing its LTE air-to-ground (A2G) cellular-based system for five years, however it’s a lesser priority for the company than 5G deployment, according to the account. Nokia’s system creates an airborne WiFi connection by communicating with cell networks on the ground, rather than a satellite.
“Passengers expect 24/7 internet connectivity that’s equal to their experience with terrestrial WiFi hotspots,” says Nokia on its website. “Current short-haul and medium-haul continental flights use satellite-to-ground internet communications systems that are bulky, expensive, and have limited capacity, as well as high latency.” Continue Reading

Friday, April 13, 2018

Rural Wireless Carriers, Nokia Question FCC’s Planned Security Vote

The Rural Wireless Association and Nokia are concerned about the FCC’s plan to vote next week on a proposal to block carriers from receiving Universal Service Fund dollars if they use services or equipment from companies considered a security threat to the United States. The fear is Chinese companies like Huawei or ZTE in particular, might use their gear to spy on Americans for their government, a charge both have denied.

RWA tells the agency, if adopted, the proposal would not only fail to protect national security, but it would also irreparably damage broadband networks and limit future deployment in many rural areas. “A serious defensive national cyber security strategy requires a risk management strategy and program that address the risk from all suppliers of products and services to government and critical infrastructure, including the communications sector. Additionally, any such national cyber security strategy should be applicable to all communications networks in the United States rather than targeting those relatively few communications networks funded in part by USF that use equipment from particular countries,” says the RWA in a filing with the agency this week.  

Like the Commission, the RWA says it understands the communications network supply chain is global. That’s why it recommends the agency focus its efforts on “creating a standards and testing based system, and not on imposing a costly and ultimately ineffective ‘country of origin’ prohibitory regime that would provide nothing more than a false sense of security.” Continue Reading

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Small Cells Included in New, Expanded AT&T, Crown Lease Deal

AT&T and Crown Castle signed an agreement to simplify and expand their long-term wireless network infrastructure lease arrangement. The new pact will help the carrier speed up both its 5G deployment as well as FirstNet, an AT&T spokesman tells Inside Towers.

This new deal is a departure from the historical macro tower model, the carrier announced. In addition to macro sites, the deal covers the small cell deployments needed to keep up with ever-increasing mobile data usage.

Leasing management and operations are streamlined to improve the efficiency and flexibility under which AT&T can deploy new technologies and increase network capacity. AT&T EVP Global Connections and Supply Chain Susan Johnson says the market-based framework “simplifies the lease management and administration process,” which, in turn, allows the carrier to streamline network projects to provide customers with better speed, reliability and overall performance. Continue Reading

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

FCC Fines Sprint and Mobilitie in Small Cell Siting Probe For $11.6M

Sprint and Mobilitie will pay a combined $11.6 million to resolve two FCC investigations regarding whether the companies completed tower registration and environmental and historic impact reviews before building small cell infrastructure facilities.

Sprint contracted with Mobilitie to deploy wireless network equipment. Under rules in effect at that time, deploying wireless infrastructure facilities, like towers and structures for small cells, required environmental and historic preservation reviews, including Tribal consultation, before construction, to assess possible effects on wildlife, flood plains, historic Tribal sites, and other sites of historic or cultural significance.

In 2014, Sprint began a densification program to accelerate deployment of small cells to enhance 4G coverage and lay a path for 5G. The FCC said its investigation found that Sprint “entered into an agreement with a third party to install Sprint-owned small cells and associated equipment on structures owned by the third party or others.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Apparent False Tower Records Lead to $200k+ Fine

The FCC proposed a more than $200,000 penalty against Aura Holdings of Wisconsin, Inc. for apparently not being honest about the true owner of several towers.
Aura apparently submitted false and misleading information in 10 different change in ownership applications using the Commission’s Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) system, according to the FCC. Aura is a privately-owned holding company, incorporated in 2016; it also apparently made a false statement to a Commission employee, claiming the company owned a tower that it did not own, according to the agency.

Tower owners must register with the FCC, any tower subject to the FAA’s notification requirements because of the structure’s potential danger to air navigation. Specifically, any new tower built over 200 feet in height above ground level must be registered.  

In December 2016, a pilot complained to the Commission’s Operations Center about an unlit tower, ASR 1200329, in Footville, WI. The Operations Center couldn’t reach the listed owner, Puri, LLC, and contacted the FAA. The FAA then issued a Notice to Airmen, warning pilots of the hazard. The Ops Center forwarded the pilot’s complaint to the Chicago Field Office of the Commission’s Enforcement Bureau, which initiated an investigation. The bureau field agent also tried unsuccessfully to contact Puri. The field agent also went to the tower site and verified that neither the daytime nor the nighttime lights were operational. Continue Reading

Monday, April 9, 2018

Phantom Towers in D.C. May Be an Espionage Tool

Foreign entities may be surveilling U.S. cell phone calls in the nation’s capital; the U.S. Department of Homeland Security says it’s detected fake cell towers — called International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI catchers) — in Washington, D.C. It could be the first time the federal government has acknowledged publicly the devices are in the area, reports the Associated Press.

The devices mimic real cell towers in order to collect metadata and potentially communication data from calls and texts. Some devices can force phones to downgrade to a 2G network to make such interception easier, reports the Register. Phones using 3G or 4G networks can authenticate towers.
Police officers and the federal government have used the devices, but concern is growing they may be used by foreign spies. A Department of Homeland Security official told Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) about the issue in a memo released last week. But DHS needs more money to actually track down the IMSI device locations, reports NPR. Wyden asked DHS whether it had evidence of foreign IMSI catchers operating in the D.C. area in November.  Continue Reading

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Should Carriers be Mandated to Deploy Rural Broadband?

How can carriers make the business case for rural broadband deployment? Will it take a government mandate to make that happen? That’s what one panelist suggested Wednesday at Wireless Connect 2018. The event is organized by the Wireless Infrastructure Association in partnership with the Master’s in Telecommunications Program at the University of Maryland.

Inside Towers posed the question to FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, who appeared with WIA President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein in a Q & A.

Carr said one way to incentivize carriers is through the FCC’s Universal Service Program, which provides subsidies to those who deploy communications in rural areas. “Infrastructure reform is a key piece of it,” he said, referring to the Commission’s recent decision to allow small cells to bypass environmental and Tribal review in select cases. Carriers spent $30 million combined in such reviews last year when siting infrastructure, according to the agency. “What if we can take 30 percent of deployment costs and cut it. It flips the business case,” he said, noting that the change will mean broadband can be deployed to “thousands more communities.”  Continue Reading

Monday, April 2, 2018

Tower King II Disputes OSHA Finding on Tower Deaths

UPDATE In citing their assessment of the Miami tower fatality that took three lives last September, OSHA found that Tower King II, the contractor, lacked “a qualified individual to conduct an analysis before performing construction work.” Tower King II disagrees with that finding, according to the Miami Herald.

“The Company consulted several experts in the tower safety industry and asked them to perform a thorough accident investigation,” Tod Morrow, attorney for Tower King II, stated. “Both the Company and its experts have concluded that the accident was caused by the failure of a third-party engineering firm to properly calculate the stress factors on the rigging used to secure the equipment to the TV tower. It is our belief that a mistake in the engineering plan caused an overloading of the rigging components, ultimately causing them to fail.”  Continue Reading