Tuesday, July 31, 2018

In a New York Minute, Everything Changed for Charter Communications

The New York State Public Service Commission has moved to kick the largest cable provider, Charter Communications, out of the state, citing Charter’s “repeated failures to serve New Yorkers and honor its commitments,” reported Fortune.  A search of the Inside Towers database showed Charter had 48 constructed towers registered, two of which were in the state of New York; one in Plattsburgh and one in Chatham.

The Commission voted Friday to rescind approval of Charter’s merger with Time Warner Cable. The Commission previously authorized the deal in 2016; The most recent action effectively ends its ability to do business in the state.

Charter also provides internet services in New York. Since 2016, Charter has failed to meet milestones related to an intended expansion of service to 145,000 homes within four years, with a focus on rural areas, according to the account. In June 2018, the Commision fined the company $2 million for failing to meet commitments and with this recent ruling, the tally is now up to $3 million. The state has given the company 60 days to come up with a plan to hand over its customers to other providers—that is, to sell its assets in New York, according to Fortune. Charter has said it will contest the order, calling the state’s actions “politically motivated.” Continue Reading

Monday, July 30, 2018

Poles Apart: Infrastructure Industry vs. Communications Workers

Controversy is bubbling up over the FCC’s draft plan to vote this week on allowing “one-touch make-ready”(OTMR) for most pole attachments and further reform its pole attachment policies. The concept is, the new attacher or an approved contractor would perform all work to prepare the pole, rather than each attacher performing the work separately. More than 1,000 public comments have been filed to the Commission on the issue so far.

Utilities, carriers and their infrastructure groups pushed for the changes. The Power and Communication Contractors (PCCA), for example, says the updates would avoid multiple truck rolls, expedite the attachment process and reduce service disruption to consumers. “The OTMR option would apply only to ‘simple’ make-ready work and would not be available for ‘complex’ work involving electric-supply facilities that poses greater safety threats or is more likely to cause an outage or damage,” PCCA told the Commission. 

The Wireless Infrastructure Association said removing the barriers to deployment will bring “much-needed predictability and clarity” to deployment in a recent lobbying visit to the agency. Continue Reading

Friday, July 27, 2018

Payment Terms to Vendors Can Change Overnight

UPDATE Inside Towers is hearing from readers about our top story on Wednesday titled:The Check Is Not in the Mail as Payment Delays Could Threaten 5G Deployment.”  

Sitetracker executives agree the problem of site developers who stretch out payments, often with no notice, is getting worse. Sitetracker’s project and asset software platform enables users to manage many jobs at once, from site acquisition, to obtaining ground leases, to construction, and network modification. Their customers range from large carriers to towercos and small contractors, so they’re seeing the payment issue from all sides.

Sitetracker CEO Giuseppe Incitti said they’re seeing a lot of 90-day payment terms turn into 120-days. He agrees with NATE members who have voiced concerns to their association that there’s little or no negotiation on payment terms that can often be changed while the work is in-progress. Continue Reading

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Trade Groups, Industry Execs Plead For More Spectrum to Spur 5G

While 5G networks hold the promise of speeds that will be 100 times faster than today and enable 100 times the number of devices, carriers and stakeholders providing wireless and wireline infrastructure, as well as the satellite industry, say they need access to more spectrum.

Noting that 5G will enable technologies like telehealth, autonomous cars and precision agriculture, President/CEO of CTIA, The Wireless Association, Meredith Baker, told the Senate Energy & Commerce Committee yesterday it’s imperative the U.S. get going on an action plan to free-up more spectrum. She cited an Accenture report that said if the U.S. can speed up 5G deployment by one year, that would add about $1 billion to the economy. But more importantly, she said, other countries like China and South Korea are ahead of the U.S. in clearing spectrum for 5G. 

Qualcomm SVP Spectrum Strategy & Technology, Dean Brenner, said it’s important that its chips and related components support as much technology possible. While still enhancing 4G capabilities, his company is also looking ahead to 6G. But everything “depends on one key component controlled by the government — spectrum.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Tillman Gets $550M With Future Growth Options Up To $1B


La Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (“CDPQ”), one of North America’s largest institutional investors, and global investment manager AMP Capital announced Monday, they will provide US$500 million of financing to Tillman Infrastructure, an American developer and owner of telecommunication tower infrastructure. “This initial investment will help finance the construction of new telecommunications towers across the United States,” the announcement stated. Under this agreement, the investment could reach up to US$1 billion, based on future growth needs.

Inside Towers reported in November on the agreement between Tillman, a virtual newcomer founded in 2016, and AT&T and Verizon, to bypass traditional tower developers and vertically integrate their buildout process. Tillman began construction on its first sites in late 2017, and is actively building in over three dozen states across the U.S. Continue Reading

Monday, July 23, 2018

AT&T announced they have been actively deploying public safety’s Band 14 spectrum as part of their FirstNet build. So far, Band 14 has been added to more than 2,500 sites across the country – with the process for 10,000+ more currently underway. And the first FirstNet-dedicated deployable network assets are ready for use.

“Since getting the green light to deploy Band 14 in March of this year, we’ve been moving quickly in order to bring first responders the additional coverage and capacity that only their network can provide,” said Chris Sambar, senior vice president, AT&T-FirstNet. “What’s more, the FirstNet build is based off direct feedback from the states and public safety community. So, each current or new site to get Band 14 helps to meet public safety’s specific network needs.”

Band 14 is nationwide, high-quality spectrum set aside by the government specifically for FirstNet. Once Band 14 is fully deployed over the next several years, it will cover 95 percent or more of the U.S. population. Continue Reading

Friday, July 20, 2018

FCC Sorting Through License Transfers for Proposed T-Mo-Sprint Deal

The FCC is tackling the nitty-gritty aspects of the proposed T-Mobile acquisition of Sprint. The telecoms asked for agency permission to transfer Sprint’s licenses, authorizations and spectrum leases to T-Mobile. They’d also like the agency to okay the pro forma transfer of T-Mobile’s licenses, authorizations and spectrum leases to the combined company, should the deal be approved. Interested parties must file petitions to deny by August 27, to Docket 18-197.  

T-Mobile asked the Commission for a ruling to allow foreign ownership in the U.S. company higher than the current 25 percent threshold. This concerns the proposed transfer to T-Mobile of common carrier wireless licenses and leases, and common carrier fixed satellite earth station licenses, held by Sprint subsidiaries. The companies have said the combined entity would occupy about 85,000 macro tower sites and roughly 50,000 small cells. Continue Reading

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Crown Q2 Raises Outlook for Full Year 2018

“We delivered another terrific quarter of results, and remain on track to generate attractive growth in cash flows and dividends per share for the full year 2018,” said Jay Brown, Crown Castle’s Chief Executive Officer. “Over the past two decades, we have built and acquired an unmatched portfolio of more than 40,000 towers and 60,000 route miles of dense, high capacity fiber in the top U.S. markets, where we see the greatest long-term demand from multiple customers.  With the positive momentum we continue to see in our towers and fiber segments, we remain dedicated to investing in our business to generate future growth while delivering near-term dividend per share growth of 7 percent to 8 percent per year,” Brown said. Crown executives will discuss the report at this morning’s web conference at 10:30 a.m. (EDT).

Highlights for the quarter from yesterday afternoon’s announcement:
  • Site rental revenues.  Site rental revenues grew approximately 35 percent, or $300 million, from second quarter 2017 to second quarter 2018, inclusive of approximately $49 million in Organic Contribution to Site Rental Revenues plus $231 million in contributions from acquisitions and other items, plus a $20 million increase in straight-lined revenues.  The $49 million in Organic Contribution to Site Rental Revenues represents approximately 5.6 percent growth, comprised of approximately 8 percent growth from new leasing activity and contracted tenant escalations, net of approximately 2.5 percent from tenant non-renewals. When compared to the prior second quarter 2018 Outlook, site rental revenues benefited by approximately $9 million of additional straight-lined revenues primarily resulting from term extensions associated with leasing activity.
  • Continue Reading

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

More Spectrum Needed to Deploy Rural Broadband

From left: Tom Stroup, Claude Aiken

Experts from several industries told lawmakers yesterday it will take several solutions to bridge the digital divide in rural areas, but they have one thing in common — they need access to more spectrum. Broadband can be delivered through a variety of technologies, including fiber, cable, mobile or fixed wireless, satellite, or any combination. Macro towers and small cells are an integral part of broadband delivery, witnesses testified.

House Communications Subcommittee Chair Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) is looking to consolidate several rural broadband proposals, and held a hearing to re-examine them. Main themes emerged such as how to structure the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band and C-band to enable more sharing and how to improve the FCC-NTIA broadband map so small carriers can be eligible for government subsidies to deploy rural broadband. Continue Reading

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Installer Calls Repack “Overwhelming”

“From an installer standpoint we are overwhelmed,” says Vertical Technology Services CEO Owen Garland, referring to the TV channel repack. His company is one of the few that have the expertise to climb tall TV towers and handle their large, heavy antennas.

As the September 14 testing period for those stations in Phase 1 of the repack creeps closer, and planning and construction for Phases 2 and 3 is underway, Garland said last week, “the worst tower case” is working with a wraparound panel antenna. In some cases, that type of antenna can be the same length as a gin pole. His company is “looking at four sites where we’re going to have to dismantle somebody’s antenna” to get it up the tower, slowing down the pace of the work, he told attendees of a Chapter 37 meeting of the Society of Broadcast Engineers.  Continue Reading

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Vertical Bridge Says It’s Still Owed for Cumulus Tower Leases

While Cumulus Media emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy on June 4, with $1 billion less debt on its balance sheet, some creditors claim they are still owed money. Vertical Bridge tells the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York it’s still owed several thousands of dollars for unexpired tower leases.

In an objection to “Debtor’s Second Notice of Satisfaction of Claims,” filed by CM WIND DOWN TOPCO, INC. and its affiliates, Vertical Bridge told the court: “The Debtors represent they have paid the ‘cure’ necessary to assume certain leases and therefore the claims or scheduled amounts identified should be expunged.” But the towerco says regarding its radio tower leases, the “cure” has not been paid and the relief sought by the Debtors should not be granted. Continue Reading

Monday, July 9, 2018

Christmas in July: Township Nets $2M Upfront in Restructured Lease Deal

SBA Communications will pay Lower Makefield township $2 million upfront under a restructured lease agreement, reported Bucks Local News. Under the agreement, the township will receive a lump sum payment of $2,020,000 from SBA and a 35-year lease on the site. Currently, the township receives annual lease payments in addition to a share of the revenue from the carriers that have co-located on the tower.

“What we’re getting here is 18 years worth of rental fees right up front today,” said Township Manager Terry Fedorchak. “There are pros and cons to that, but I would think that would be a very attractive play for us to make at this time.”  Fedorchak, a strong proponent of the deal, added “It’s guaranteed,” whereas the current lease arrangement is not.

The township first signed an agreement with SBA Communications in 1999, allowing the company to construct a cell tower on township-owned land, according to Bucks LocalContinue Reading

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

In the Room Where It Happened

As an editor I have a soft spot in my heart every Independence Day for one Thomas Jefferson.  The 33-year old delegate from Virginia was asked in the summer of 1776, to bang out a quick paper on, oh, Everything America Stands For based on pure conjecture.  “And, yo, Tommy, we need it by Friday,” was likely the sum total of his instructions. So Jefferson secludes himself in the second-floor room of the two-room apartment pictured above (a ‘must see’ if you come for a visit) located in a building on the southwest corner of 7th and Market Streets in Philadelphia.  He rolls up his sleeves…it was hot…fills up his inkwell, sends his manservant Bob (true!) down to the corner for a couple of cheesesteak hoagies with fried onions and goes to work. (That last part is still undocumented historically speaking, but his rough draft does show some unexplained grease stains.)
A copy of that rough draft shows how he agonized over every word making it not just a legally viable document but one of the great works of prose in the english language. Continue Reading