Monday, September 30, 2019

Rural Carrier Tells Congress It Needs Funds to Replace Foreign Equipment

Instead of naming the policy to replace insecure communications network equipment “rip and replace,” it should be called “replace and then rip,” so networks are not disrupted. That’s what Pine Belt Wireless President John Nettles told lawmakers Friday during a hearing on securing the nation’s telecom supply chain.

The House Energy and Commerce Telecommunications and Technology Subcommittee is considering several bills concerning 5G security. One bipartisan measure, H.R. 4459, would authorize $1 billion to help rural telecom carriers rip out and replace any equipment from foreign suppliers deemed a security threat.

Though many U.S. carriers have removed equipment from Chinese telecoms Huawei and ZTE from their communications networks, “It’s still a significant issue for smaller carriers,” said Subcommittee Chair Mike Doyle (D-PA). “We must help smaller carriers remove suspect equipment for the betterment of the country.” Continue Reading

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Not Much Agreement on C-Band Here

From left: Amit Nagpal, Aetna Consulting; Andrew Clegg, Google; Peter Pitsch, C-Band Alliance;
John Hunter, T-Mobile; Veena Rawat, GSMA; and Bob Weller, NAB.
Panelists discussing C-Band’s future locked horns during a panel discussion of the Americas Spectrum Management Conference this week. The issue is key, as FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said at the conference they hope the agency acts later this fall on the issue.

Google Spectrum Engineering Lead Andrew Clegg said his company’s plan concerns allowing shared use of the portion of the C-band spectrum that remains after a chunk is auctioned for wireless use. “You repack remaining users, and allow point-to-multipoint use,” in what remains, Clegg said. “You no longer have the luxury of these huge protection zones.” He claimed Google’s plan will work and not cause harmful interference with earth stations.

Broadcasters support the C-Band Alliance plan. CBA Head of Advocacy and Government Affairs Peter Pitsch called C-band the “goldilocks” of spectrum for 5G. The CBA plan calls for re-purposing and auctioning 200 MHz of the band, although he said the group is looking at possibly re-purposing more than that. “The problem is, it’s used to distribute broadcast programming to nearly 120 million homes. Think of all the folks getting ESPN and NPR. They still want that. This situation cries out for a market-driven, de-centralized process, which is what the CBA plan provides.” He also said the CBA plan offers the quickest path to free up the spectrum. Continue Reading

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Pai Promotes Tribal Application Window to Get Free 2.5 GHz Access

The FCC has launched several initiatives to expand broadband access on tribal lands. Chairman Ajit Pai was especially excited to tell attendees of the National Tribal Broadband Summit on Monday about one plan to give tribes priority access to spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band, the largest contiguous block of spectrum below 3 GHz in the country.

Today, the 2.5 GHz band isn’t used in most of the West because technological advances have rendered the band’s original intended uses outdated, and arcane rules left it underused. This summer, the agency removed obsolete restrictions on this band, allowing greater flexibility in how the spectrum can be used.

The Commission is giving rural Indian tribes an exclusive window to obtain this spectrum to serve rural tribal lands. “Before any commercial auction of this spectrum, tribes can obtain this spectrum for free,” he said. Pai says this is the first time in the FCC’s history the agency has given tribes a “priority window” to obtain spectrum for wireless broadband. Continue Reading

Monday, September 23, 2019

Verizon Seeks Relief from Excessive Small Cell Fees

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

Some telecoms are pushing back at what they consider exorbitant fees to site small cells in a public right-of-way. Verizon recently sought relief from the FCC to settle a dispute with Clark County, Nevada.

The carrier sought a declaratory ruling from the agency, arguing the fees prohibit the provision of telecom services because they do not, “reasonably approximate the county’s actual costs,” are not limited to the county’s “reasonable costs,” and are discriminatory. Verizon asked the FCC to declare that the county may not charge recurring fees that exceed the reasonable annual rate of $270, as set forth in the agency’s Small Cell Declaratory Ruling.

Verizon told the FCC it tried, “numerous and prolonged attempts to negotiate” with Clark County, but was not able to do so. That’s why it turned to the Commission. The carrier has deployed 418 wireless facilities in the county, including 99 small cells. But it wants to deploy “hundreds” of small cells over the next three years to upgrade its 4G network and layer on 5G. Verizon said in a statement, “deploying within the county rights-of-way and on county-owned assets is key to that effort.” Continue Reading

Friday, September 20, 2019

Pennsylvania Joins State Effort to Block T-Mobile-Sprint Deal

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is the latest state attorney general to oppose T-Mobile's Sprint merger. Shapiro said this week he’s joining a lawsuit to block the “anticompetitive megamerger,” making him the 18th attorney general to challenge the deal.

In July, the Department of Justice approved the transaction, on the condition that the new combined entity, to be called the “new T-Mobile,” sell some of its spectrum licenses and other businesses to Dish Network so Dish can create a viable fourth competitor. The FCC, too, approved the deal in a split vote, however the telecom transaction is not final. Continue Reading

Thursday, September 19, 2019

AT&T CEO Says Selling Towers Will Help Pay Down Debt

Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T, told investors the carrier may soon divest itself of AT&T’s 5,600 tower inventory to continue to pay down debt following the acquisition of Time Warner. Stephenson made the comments at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference in New York where he discussed the company's strategy going forward in 2019.

AT&T has paid down $9 billion in net debt in the first half of 2019, reducing its net debt by $18 billion since the acquisition was completed. The company, in a recent quarterly statement, increased its full-year free cash flow target by $2 billion to $28 billion in an effort to reduce its net debt-to-adjusted EBITDA ratio to the 2.5x range by the end of 2019.

Stephenson cited increases in demand for connectivity and bandwidth as a growing trend where the carrier would like to focus their assets. A direct path to the consumer, he said, gives AT&T a competitive advantage now that it’s a content provider. Continue Reading

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

FCC Authorizes SAS Deployments in 3.5 GHz CBRS Band

The FCC, in coordination with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Department of Defense, on Monday certified that five Spectrum Access Systems (SAS) satisfied the Commission’s laboratory testing requirements and are approved to begin their initial commercial deployments in the 3.5 GHz CBRS band (3550-3700 MHz ). The approved SAS are operated by: Amdocs, CommScope, Federated Wireless, Google, and Sony.

The companies will conduct field tests and the Commission will assess whether each SAS can operate under actual deployment conditions. Each company must tell the agency when its deployment begins and whether it will operate with an approved Environmental Sensing Capability. The notification must include a primary point of contact for incumbent operators to report potential interference issues to the SAS. Initial commercial deployments must last at least 30 days and test several CBRS devices. The companies must report results to the government for final review. Stakeholders plan full commercial launches to begin in the fourth quarter of this year.

The promise of the CBRS band is that new entrants will use dynamic spectrum sharing to co-exist with federal U.S. Navy radar systems operating along the coasts. Using SAS to let them know when a channel is occupied will enable new entrants to operate on different CBRS channels to avoid interfering with naval operations. The news opens the door to a market opportunity for operators, enterprises and industrial players, according the CBRS Alliance, an industry organization focused on driving the development, commercialization, and adoption of OnGo™ shared spectrum solutions. AT&T, Charter Communications and Verizon have developed technology and services to support the use of OnGo. Commercial services are planned for thousands of sites. Continue Reading

Monday, September 16, 2019

FCC Acts on Industry Requests Concerning Macro Towers, Small Cells

UPDATE There’s FCC movement on two requests from the wireless industry relating to towers and small cells. The agency has invited public comment on a Petition for Rulemaking and a Petition for Declaratory Ruling, both filed by the Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA). The association asked the Commission to adopt new rules or explain existing ones regarding Section 6409(a) of the Spectrum Act of 2012. The Commission is also seeking public input on a similar request from CTIA.

WIA asked the FCC to amend its rules to reflect that collocations requiring an expansion of the current site—within 30 feet of a tower site—qualify for relief under Section 6409(a) and to require that fees associated with eligible facilities requests under Section 6409 be cost-based. WIA also asked the Commission to clarify:

  1. that Section 6409(a) and related rules apply to all state and local authorizations;
  2. when the time to decide an application begins to run;
  3. what constitutes a substantial change under Section 6409(a);
  4. that “conditional” approvals by localities violate Section 6409(a); and
  5. that localities may not establish processes or impose conditions that effectively defeat or reduce the protections afforded under Section 6409(a). Continue Reading

Friday, September 13, 2019

FCC OKs Over $112 Million in Rural Broadband Funding

The FCC Thursday authorized over $112.2 million in funding over the next decade to expand broadband in nine states. The awards are the fifth round of funding from last year’s Connect America Fund Phase II auction. Broadband providers will begin receiving the money later this month.

In total, the auction last year allocated $1.488 billion in support over the next ten years to expand broadband to more than 700,000 unserved rural homes and small businesses nationwide. The action brings the total authorized funding to over $1 billion. Additional rounds will be authorized in the coming months.

Funding applications approved by the agency Thursday include:

  • is receiving over $50.5 million over ten years to deploy service to 20,859 homes and businesses in California. Most of them will get speeds of at least 100 Mbps downstream/20 Mbps upstream, using fixed wireless technology
  • W.A.T.C.H TV is receiving nearly $53.4 million over ten years to deploy service to 23,957 rural homes and businesses in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Speeds of at least 100 Mbps downstream/20 Mbps upstream are anticipated, using fixed wireless technology
  • Four rural phone companies are receiving $1.8 million to offer gigabit-speed fiber service to 536 rural homes and businesses in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin Continue Reading

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Industry, Government, See a Path Forward to Fix Broadband Maps

From left: USTelecom’s Jonathan Spalter, NTCA’s Shirley Bloomfield and
U.S. Cellular’s Grant Spellmeyer testify Wednesday.
The House Communications and Technology Subcommittee is considering five bills to improve the accuracy of the FCC’s broadband location maps. Bi-partisan lawmakers heard from industry experts on Capitol Hill Wednesday about what they suggest are doable, fast and cost-effective fixes before the maps are used to direct federal subsidies to rural broadband providers.

“The lack of clear data has been a sore spot. Accurate maps of who does and who doesn’t have access to broadband [are needed] to close the digital divide, said Subcommittee Chair Mike Doyle (D-PA) during the hearing. “We can’t solve the problem if we don’t know the scope of the problem.”

The bills being considered would standardize the data submission process so all providers are submitting the same information the same way. The legislation also includes a challenge process so companies can have a chance to correct inaccuracies before funds are dispersed. Continue Reading

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

From Tragedy Comes Progress: How 9/11 Impacted Public Safety

Eighteen years ago, tragedy struck the U.S., and during the attack on 9/11, radio systems used by emergency personnel could not operate competently across agencies. In the aftermath, an investigation by the 9/11 Commission revealed gaps in emergency communications across the country, prompting the need for a nationwide network for law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical personnel.

In 2012, Congress authorized the creation of the First Responder Network Authority (now FirstNet) and allocated 20 megahertz of spectrum, known as Band 14, to a dedicated first responder broadband network. The estimated $54 billion needed to build out the network was raised by selling television spectrum in the FCC’s broadcast incentive auction and by entering a 25-year public-private partnership with AT&T. The telecom is now building out and funding FirstNet, which went live in March 2018. The effort in the U.S has also created and inspired new public safety systems worldwide.

The ultimate vision for public safety is a converged network, a dedicated, public safety wireless broadband infrastructure capable of offering mission-critical services; these services will include voice, data, and video. LMR and LTE networks are coming together to make this vision a reality, albeit slowly. Continue Reading

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Bahamas Carrier Aliv Buys Into COWs and Survives the Storm

25 COWs purchased from Landa Mobile Systems LLC by Aliv pulled in their towers prior to the storm and says all are back in operation with no losses or damages.
When Michael Landa of Landa Mobile Systems LLC sold Bahamanian carrier Aliv on the benefits of buying COWs that can retract during a storm and redeploy afterward, he didn’t think his sales pitch would have such a dramatic demonstration. But Mother Nature brutally and relentlessly backed his claims. Other than a few standing monopoles, and those mostly non-functioning, the tower inventory across the islands were rendered inoperative by Hurricane Dorian last week.
“It’s nice to be part of the story that’s helping the island get back on its feet,” Landa, a service diabled veteran, told Inside Towers. Aliv, billing itself as “the Bahamas’ newest LTE network”, purchased 25 COWs from Landa, 15 of which were deployed in Nassau, with systems that serve the island and the Port of Nassau, supplying communications for all container and cruise ships. Landa said he had just air-freighted eight sets of guy wires to re-erect towers that were demolished by the sustained 180-mph winds. His systems will also help reconnect NASA and top-security U.S. missile defense sites.

Monday, September 9, 2019

PA PUC Moves to Resolve Broadband Install Fights

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) passed a measure that some commissioners say will make it easier for rural residents to get broadband; however one commissioner disagreed. The PUC voted 4-1 last week to take over pole attachment jurisdiction from the FCC. The vote means Pennsylvania would create a statewide forum to establish rates, terms for using utility poles, and obtaining rights-of-way, reports the Center Square.

The measure also establishes a group to advise the PUC on problems with state and federal pole attachments. The PUC Pole Attachment Working Group will consist of members of the PUC’s technical and legal staff, pole owners, pole attachers, telecommunication/broadband interest groups, consumer and small business advocates. The group will handle complaints and resolve disputes.

Giving the PUC a dispute resolution group will expedite broadband to the state’s rural areas, said Commissioner Norman Kennard. “Providing a dispute forum for pole attachments at the commission will allow for prompt resolution of fiber and wireless deployment, and result in more efficient and better priced broadband expansion for the benefit of our rural residents,” he said, according to The Center Square. Continue Reading

Friday, September 6, 2019

Senate Goes West to Hear Rural Broadband Testimony

Left: FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr climbed 120’ up a 330’ Midco tower near Mitchell, SD before taking part in a rural broadband hearing yesterday afternoon in Sioux Falls, SD.  At right is VIKOR Teleconstruction CEO and NATE co-founder and formerChairman Craig Snyder. Both VIKOR and Midco are NATE members
VIKOR Teleconstruction CEO Craig Snyder, who’s also co-founder and former Chairman of the National Tower Erectors Association, asked Congress and the FCC Thursday for help in two ways to bring broadband to rural America.

Snyder commended the FCC and Commissioner Brendan Carr specifically, for the agency’s “forward-thinking” in clearing regulatory hurdles as the industry works to deploy 5G services. But more needs to be done to reduce regulatory red tape and with workforce development, Snyder said. “Whereas the electric utility industry has almost no zoning or federal hurdles involved in placing their elevated steel infrastructure across our cities and rural areas, telecommunications towers have been met with resistance at almost every turn,” he testified during a field hearing in Sioux Falls, SD on rural broadband. The hearing before members of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet was led by Subcommittee Chairman John Thune (R-SD).

Snyder cited bills in the House and Senate that could help alleviate the burdens on the telecom industry. “In particular we could use some help from the Senate with a companion bill to H.R. 1848 – Communications Training Act of 2019, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Representatives Dave Loebsck (D-IA) and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK). This bill would appropriate $20m per year for three fiscal years to develop classroom and field-based curriculum and certificate programs like the one being proposed by Southeast Tech,” Snyder testified. Continue Reading

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Dorian Raises Its Sights to the Carolinas

Hurricane Dorian gradually left Florida behind Wednesday, setting its sights on the coasts of Georgia and then the Carolinas. These areas face a triple threat of “destructive winds, flooding rains, and life-threatening storm surges,” according to the National Hurricane Center.

While Dorian stayed far enough off the coast to largely spare Florida from the worst of its wrath, forecast to make a much closer approach to the Carolinas coastline today. Impacts are thus expected to be more severe, reports The Washington Post.

The historic storm diminished to Category 2 but actually had grown in size following its devastating sweep through the Bahamas, reported USA Today. As of 2 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, the storm was 115 miles east of Jacksonville, FL, and moving north-northwest at 9 mph. The storm’s peak sustained winds were 105 mph, making it a high-end Category 2 storm. Dorian is expected to maintain its intensity through Thursday. Continue Reading

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

FCC Activates Disaster Information Reporting System in 34 Florida Counties

Communications infrastructure companies spent the weekend moving assets into position to restore service cut off by Hurricane Dorian. As of deadline, the storm had weakened to a Category 2, however the National Hurricane Center said it was growing, reported NPR
The hurricane was predicted to get “dangerously” close to Florida’s east coast late last night and into today.

Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia could feel the effects of Dorian in the coming days.
The FCC activated its Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) in 34 counties in Florida. According to carriers’ first reports Tuesday, damage so far appeared to be minimal, with 0.2 percent of cell sites not working out of the more than 9,600 cell sites in the affected areas. 

The Commission cautions that its report is a snapshot in time and the situation is constantly changing. The number of cell site outages in a specific area does not necessarily correspond to the availability of wireless service to consumers in that area. Wireless networks are often designed with numerous, overlapping cell sites that provide maximum capacity and continuity of service even when an individual site is inoperable. Continue Reading

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Bahamas Battered By Slow-Moving Dorian

Carriers, towercos and other communications infrastructure companies are watching Hurricane Dorian’s path and preparing to face the aftermath of whatever damage the storm could bring to Florida and potentially Georgia and the Carolinas.
At press time, Hurricane Dorian was still battering the Bahamas in the Atlantic Ocean, as a Category 4 with sustained winds of 155 mph, according to ABC. Forecasters disagree on when and where where Dorian will hit next. If it keeps to Monday’s path, it looks like the closest passage to Florida will be near Cape Canaveral by Tuesday night into Wednesday morning with forecast sustained winds of 125 mph, which would make it a Category 3 hurricane. Reports yesterday afternoon said the slow one-mile-per-hour pace may help diminish the impact to the Atlantic Coast states.

If it soon starts to turn north, Florida would be spared Dorian’s full fury. But if Dorian moves a little more to the west, more serious storm effects would pummel parts of the coastline, reports The Washington Post. For this reason, the National Hurricane Center issued hurricane, storm surge, and tropical storm watches and warnings from the Atlantic coast of Florida northward into southeastern Georgia. Continue Reading