Monday, October 26, 2020

FCC Grants First 2.5 GHz Licenses to Rural Tribes

 The FCC issued the first set of mid-band spectrum licenses through the agency’s first Rural Tribal Priority Window to tribal entities. The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau granted 154 applications for use of the 2.5 GHz band to provide broadband and other advanced wireless services, including 5G, to rural tribal communities.

These licenses provide for exclusive use of up to 117.5 MHz of 2.5 GHz band spectrum. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called the grants “a major step forward” in the Commission’s efforts to close the digital divide. Continue Reading

Friday, October 23, 2020

Tower Crew Rescue and Recovery “Unprecedented,” Tragic and Heroic

 By Jim Fryer, Inside Towers Managing Editor  The tower-related fatal accident that occurred Tuesday near Mobile, AL, claiming the life of one climber, was an unprecedented and dramatic effort in rescue and recovery, according to Captain Clint Cadenhead of the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office. Cadenhead said the accident attracted the attention of multiple agencies across the state, including neighboring Escambia County, the Alabama State Police and fire department rescue squads from Mobile. “In my 26 years, I haven’t seen anything like it,” he told Inside Towers. “It was a remarkable mutual-aid response to get those men down.”

Cadenhead confirmed the identity of the deceased as Sirous Snider of Burleson, TX. He was employed by San Antonio-based Broadcast Construction Solutions, along with two other crew members who were injured in the accident. The incident, which was initially attributed to falling debris, has since been updated as being the result of a snapped wire that pulled the crew up into the tower. They were in the process of attaching a guy wire at the time of the accident. “A counter weight gave way, as I understand it,” Cadenhead said, “creating another break in some safety equipment. OSHA will do a detailed investigation of what actually happened.” Continue Reading

Thursday, October 22, 2020

CCA Explores the Rise of Wireless in a COVID World

 By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief Competitive Carriers Association President/CEO Steve Berry told attendees of the group’s annual convention Wednesday he’s “amazed” at how the country’s perception of wireless has changed almost overnight due to the pandemic. “If a student needs a connection today they can get online with a wireless hotspot instead of waiting for a service call and a wired connection. Wireless is the glue holding life and business together for so many people.”

The industry noted the change in consumer habits. Mid-March saw voice traffic increase from 20 to 40 percent on wireless networks, he said. “That’s a big uptick considering 80 percent of voice connections in the U.S. are wireless.” Berry said COVID drove up broadband demand 20 percent and major wireless providers reported a 25 percent increase in texting. Mobile hotspot use “soared,” he added.

Many CCA members rose to the occasion and kept life moving, according to Berry. He listed examples, such as Carolina West, which rolled out an assistance program for customers that included high-speed data. GCI in Alaska offered free upgrades and worked with local and federal governments to assist schools, students and individuals in need of basic wireless services. C Spire in Mississippi and Alabama worked with schools to provide free wireless accounts to approved learning sites for K-12 students. Continue Reading

Monday, October 19, 2020

Senate Gets Going on FCC Nomination

 The Senate Commerce Committee has slated a nomination hearing for Tuesday, November 10. Nathan Simington, President Trump’s nominee to replace Michael O’Rielly on the FCC, is to be one of three nominees at the hearing. The scheduling came after President Trump urged speedy action, according to Reuters. “Republicans need to get smart and confirm Nate Simington to the FCC ASAP!” Trump tweeted recently.

Pressure is building to push the full Senate to confirm NTIA Advisor Simington to the FCC by the end of December. That’s when O’Rielly will need to exit. O’Rielly said recently he’ll leave the agency regardless of the outcome of the election, Inside Towers reported.

If the Senate doesn’t fill the GOP seat this year, Republicans would no longer have a majority at the agency going into 2021; each party would have two seats and many issues could be deadlocked.

Such a vacancy could also give the Commission a Biden-era FCC a Democratic majority sooner, notes Politico

Friday, October 16, 2020

Back-Up Generators Must Be Standing By on January 1

 As if COVID isn’t bad enough, wildfires and power shut offs continue to impact large areas of California. Assembly Bill 2421, recently signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, requires expedited permitting of applications to install emergency standby generators for macro cell towers. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2021, and will remain in effect until January 1, 2024.

The bill states: “Legislature finds and declares that the installation of emergency standby generators at wireless telecommunications facility sites as set forth in this section has a significant public safety impact in California and is a matter of statewide concern. Fragmented and lengthy permitting requirements could delay these public safety deployments by many months and in some cases could prevent them altogether.” Continue Reading

Thursday, October 15, 2020

FCC, USAID Agree to Cooperate On International 5G Deployment and Security

 The FCC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. Agency for International Development Wednesday to promote secure and open 5G networks in the developing world. 

“As the United States and the world move ahead with next-generation, 5G wireless services, we must ensure these networks are both open and secure,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “American leadership is already helping to shape the global deployment of 5G and this agreement will ensure that our agencies’ respective expertise are leveraged to ensure the best results for both the American people and communities around the world. As Chairman, I’ve met with my counterparts from other countries and industry stakeholders and I know that our international partners look to us for 5G leadership in terms of technology, best practices, public policy, and establishing international standards.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Wireless Industry Adapts to Pandemic Needs


The wireless industry is adaptable, contributing to why networks have held up well during the pandemic, panelists agreed during an opening session of the Americas Spectrum Management Conference, Monday.

CTIA SVP Regulatory Affairs Mike Bergmann said private investment and a flexible regulatory framework have enabled strong and resilient networks. The industry adapted quickly to “the new normal,” he said, and supported efforts to keep consumers connected.

As many people shifted to working from home, “all of a sudden, every interaction with my team happened on this device,” said Bergmann, referring to his cell phone. Continued U.S. focus on spectrum and infrastructure policy is critical to wireless leadership and resiliency, he added. 
Continue Reading

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Co-location Makes FCC Voting Agenda

 The FCC has a plethora of telecom items to vote on later this month. Co-location of wireless equipment on existing towers is a top item, as are rules to create a new rural 5G fund.

5G networks will require deployment of a significant number of additional antennas. Many of those antennas could be placed on existing infrastructure, but existing towers may need additional ground equipment to support the new gear, says FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a blog.

“To facilitate the co-location of antennas and associated ground equipment, the Commission will vote on a proposal to further streamline the state and local government review process for limited modifications to existing wireless infrastructure,” writes Pai. Congress limited state and local jurisdictions’ authority to deny these modifications in 2012, under section 6409(a) of the Spectrum Act. Under the order, the agency will vote on this month, “excavation and deployment up to 30 feet in any direction outside of the existing site would not ‘substantially change’ the physical dimensions of the facility, and therefore would not disqualify the co-location from streamlined state and local review,” says Pai. Continue Reading

Monday, October 5, 2020

Carriers Fined for Not Filing 911 Reliability Certifications

 The FCC Enforcement Bureau Friday reached settlements with seven telecoms that either didn’t file or filed late 911 service reliability certifications last year. Each telecom agreed to pay a civil penalty and abide by a compliance plan to ensure it meets its filing responsibilities going forward. The penalties total $21,600 and range from $4,000 to $2,400 per carrier.

The Commission’s rules require 911 service providers—generally, the wireline phone companies that route both wireline and wireless calls to 911 call centers or provide administrative lines directly to 911 call centers—to take reasonable measures to provide reliable and resilient 911 service. The rules require 911 service providers to certify annually that they have either implemented certain industry-backed best practices or acceptable alternative measures concerning circuit diversity, central office backup power, and network monitoring.

“When you call 911, your call should go through,” said FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau Chief Lisa Fowlkes. “The telecommunications providers that route emergency calls are responsible for taking 911 service reliability measures and certifying to the Commission each year that they have done so.” She said the action should remind the industry to take the obligation seriously. Continue Reading

Friday, October 2, 2020

Appeals Court Denies Utility, Electric Request to Stay FCC 6 GHz Order

 A federal appeals court won’t block the FCC’s plan to open the already occupied 6 GHz band up to unlicensed wireless services. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said Thursday that opponents haven’t satisfied the “stringent requirements” to stay the order pending court review.

Utilities and public safety groups, including the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials, sought an emergency stay; they told the court the FCC ignored important evidence about harmful interference.

In a tweet, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called the decision, “Great news for consumers, who stand to benefit from super-fast” WiFi services “in the home, and on the go!” Continue Reading

Thursday, October 1, 2020

In Party Line Vote, FCC to Enable States to Lease 4.9 GHZ to Utilities, Others

 In a meeting rife with disagreements and connectivity snafus, the FCC Wednesday adopted rules permitting expanded use of 50 megahertz of mid-band spectrum in the 4.9 GHz (4940-4990 MHz) band. The agency majority says the band used by public safety agencies is underused. However scores of fire, police and medical representatives told the Commission the change threatens the public, especially during a pandemic.

Under the new rules, states could lease the spectrum to third parties such as utilities, FirstNet and commercial operators to boost wireless broadband, improve critical infrastructure monitoring, and facilitate public safety use cases. The band has been dedicated for public safety use for 18 years; however, only about 3.5 percent of all potential licensees use it this way because of restrictions, according to Chairman Ajit Pai.

He called the current rules governing the 4.9 GHz band flawed: “The Commission’s rules put the spectrum in a silo which led to a limited amount of niche specific equipment available for use in the band. The story of the 4.9 GHz band became one of spectrum haves, primarily in large cities such as New York City, Los Angeles and Seattle and have-nots, namely the 96.5 percent of potential licensees that have not obtained licenses for the 4.9 GHz spectrum, particularly the smaller and rural jurisdictions that cannot afford to deploy in that band.” Continue Reading