Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Veteran Climber Fatality Puzzles Employer

 A  26-year veteran of the tower industry, Shane Jenson of Orfordville, WI, died Sunday from injuries he suffered following a 95-foot fall from a cell tower in Le Roy, KS. Jenson was working for Blackhawk Tower, a subsidiary of Wisconsin-based Wave Communications, performing welding repairs on the tower at the time of the accident. He was reportedly with one other worker at the site owned by UScellular.

Wave Vice President Mike Veith told Inside Towers he’s very confident his company had furnished the workers with all of the proper climbing and safety gear necessary and “everything was in place.” 

“It’s puzzling,” Veith said. “He was the last guy in our workforce I would expect that to happen to.” An experienced climber, Jenson had done tower painting and maintenance for 25 years. He had been working with Blackhawk since 2019.

An investigation into the cause of the fall is now underway by OSHA. Donations are being taken by the Tower Family Foundation. Information on funeral services was not known at press time.

Monday, March 29, 2021

FCC Seeks Input on “Rip & Replace” Reimbursement

 The FCC remains busy with the so-called “Rip & Replace” program, meant to compensate smaller carriers for removing untrusted gear from their networks. The agency seeks public input on the “Supply Chain Reimbursement Program Report,” a catalog of eligible expenses and estimated costs with a list of categories of suggested replacement equipment and services. 
Congress directed the Commission to publish a list of suggested, trusted replacement gear. To do so, the agency contracted with Widelity, the same company that developed a replacement cost catalog for the television repack expense reimbursement program.

Widelity produced an initial replacement list, a cost catalog and a report noting expected steps to move forward with Rip & Replace. The reimbursement program is aimed at providers with up to 10 million or fewer customers. Continue Reading  

Friday, March 26, 2021

What’s Under the Hood of WISPA’s “Path to Gigabit” Plan

 By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief The fixed Wireless Internet Service Providers Association intends to lobby Congress and the FCC about its “Path to Gigabit” proposal. WISPA President/CEO Claude Aiken says tailored policy solutions can connect communities to affordable, futureproof broadband “without having to spend billions over the next decade.”
“We’ve tried money before. We need a multifaceted solution” to bridge the digital divide in rural America, “one that goes beyond dollars,” he said during a press briefing Wednesday. The plan entails using WISPs already providing service to their communities, he said.
Part of the three-legged plan calls for freeing up more mid-band spectrum for smaller innovators. He suggested 200 MHz in the upper portion of the C-band or in the 3.1-3.5 GHz would be ideal. Aiken said: “coordinated, non-auctioned, high power, point-to-multipoint use, either on a shared or license by rule basis” would work. The association favors a localized spectrum policy to increase competition, urging more accessible spectrum for diverse, smaller innovators to boost connectivity in the hardest to serve parts of rural, suburban and urban America. Continue Reading

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Tired of Renting Hotspots, School District Putting Up Its Own Towers

 According to NBC News, The Dallas Independent School District (TX) is building its own network of towers, including 90-foot structures at several schools. It’s been renting mobile hotspots for upwards of 40,000 students during the pandemic, with each one costing the district $25 per month. Now, it’s banking on a long-term solution. 

Jack Kelanic, chief technology officer for the district, said, “It’s kind of like renting versus owning.” The district’s solution is to take its wholesale internet service, a decade-old fiber-optic network, and provide free service for neighborhoods most in need to make remote learning available. Continue Reading

Monday, March 22, 2021

LunaNet to Close Digital Divide...On the Moon

 NASA is building the internet for the Moon, known as LunaNet, to better communicate with Earth during missions. Data Centre Dynamics (DCD) reported the project would “open up the Moon’s far side, setting the groundwork for human habitation, and preparing us for connected civilizations on Mars.”

NASA Exploration and Space Communications Projects Division Architect David Israel said that during missions, NASA doesn’t have “any relay capability” due to craters and valleys blocking a direct line to Earth. This factor poses a problem if the U.S. wants to explore the far side of the Moon, which never faces Earth. Continue Reading

Friday, March 19, 2021

Nokia to Help Deploy C-Band Network For AT&T

 Nokia yesterday announced it has signed a five-year deal with AT&T to deploy the mobile operator’s C-band network in parts of the U.S. By deploying 5G in C-band spectrum with Nokia, AT&T will be able to better provide cutting-edge 5G services with the right mix of coverage and capacity.

The first phase of the C-band auction opened up 280 MHz of spectrum with 100 MHz of spectrum available for 5G deployments by the end of this year. 

Nokia’s C-band portfolio includes support for both 5G standalone (SA) networks and non-standalone (NSA) networks, cloud-based implementations and Open RAN products, providing AT&T with flexibility for its 5G deployment. Nokia’s C-band RAN technology will interwork with existing Nokia LTE RAN equipment deployed by AT&T for a powerful user experience. Continue Reading

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

With Auction Bill Coming Due, Verizon Floats $25B Bond Sale

 In February, Verizon Communications Inc. pledged $45.5 billion during the U.S. government auction, claiming over half of the wireless spectrum licenses available. The company also committed roughly $8 billion in additional clearing payments to help existing license users move to other bands, reported the Wall Street Journal. Verizon plans to use the spectrum to build out its 5G offerings.

Now, Verizon is raising $25 billion in new debt to help cover the costs. The carrier already paid the first installment of $8.2 billion to the U.S. Treasury. According to Verizon Chief Financial Officer Matthew Ellis, it will use proceeds of a bond sale launched last week to pay approximately $36.4 billion owed to the Treasury by March 24. Continue Reading

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

DISH Sweeps the “Big Three” With Master Lease Agreements

 With recent master lease agreements signed by both Crown Castle and SBA, DISH completed its sweep of the “Big Three” towercos by adding American Tower to its portfolio yesterday. DISH may lease space on up to 20,000 American Tower sites as it starts deploying its 5G network of an estimated target of 35,000 sites nationwide. Inside Towers recently reported on similar agreements with both Vertical Bridge and seven independent tower companies

DISH’s commitment to the FCC stipulates it will reach 20 percent of the U.S. population by June 14, 2022, and at least 70 percent by mid-2023. “We’re on track to the 15,000 that we committed to as a minimum buildout requirement for June 2023,” DISH’s Executive Vice-President Stephen Bye said at a recent press conference.

“If DISH utilized all of the space allotted for within their MLAs with tower companies, their network could expand to ~65K macro sites over time,” said Jonathan Chaplin of New Street Research. "The sheer size of the MLAs that DISH has signed with tower companies may signal their ambition to build beyond the 50K sites that they have articulated over time.” Chaplin said he anticipates DISH will ultimately construct a network comparable in number of macro sites to those of existing carriers, which each already occupy 70-to-85,000 sites today. Continue Reading

Monday, March 15, 2021

American Tower and DISH Announce Long-Term Master Lease Agreement

American Tower Corporation (NYSE: AMT) and DISH Network Corporation (NASDAQ: DISH) announced today that they have entered into a master lease agreement through which DISH may lease space on up to 20,000 American Tower communications sites. Through the agreement, DISH will secure access to American Tower’s U.S. portfolio as it deploys its new nationwide 5G network, and American Tower will enhance its long-term U.S. organic growth trajectory.

Dave Mayo, DISH’s Executive Vice President of Network Development said, “With the American Tower agreement, DISH now has the complete, robust infrastructure portfolio we need to support our nationwide 5G network deployment. Our team has already developed co-location plans for American Tower sites across the country to bring a new generation of connectivity to Americans.” Continue Reading

Friday, March 12, 2021

Congressional Dems Unveil $94 Billion Bill to Speed Broadband Access

 A total of 30 House and Senate Democrats unveiled a $94 billion proposal Thursday to make broadband more accessible and affordable nationwide, aiming to remedy some of the digital inequalities that have kept millions of Americans offline during the coronavirus pandemic.

The new effort, chiefly written by House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), marks one of the most expensive and ambitious broadband packages proposed in recent years, according to The Washington Post. It aims to commit record-breaking sums to bring internet service to unserved areas, improve speeds and help low-income families. Continue Reading

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Congress Passes $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Bill

 UPDATE The House on Wednesday approved the nearly $2 trillion COVID relief legislation. The 220-211 party line vote occurred seven weeks after President Joe Biden took office, reported The Associated Press. The Senate made several changes to the bill the previous week, which had to be reconciled. Now, the measure is on its way to Biden for his signature, which was expected to be Friday, according to the White House.

Much was trimmed from the final version; however it includes more than $7 billion in funding for the FCC’s E-Rate program. The money will support emergency broadband connectivity and devices for schools and libraries, and their students, staff, and patrons. Continue Reading

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Senators Float International Partnership for 5G, Other Tech Standards

 Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) and a coalition of bipartisan senators introduced legislation intended to help the U.S. create international partnerships on emerging technologies to better compete with China. The Democracy Technology Partnership Act would create an interagency office at the State Department tasked with coordinating partnerships among the U.S. and other democratic countries to promote research and set standards around emerging technologies such as 5G, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and semiconductors. 
The measure would establish a $5 billion International Technology Partnership Fund to help support joint research among democratic nations, academia and industries, within those countries. The legislation also calls for strategies to provide alternatives for nations that may be considering buying technology from authoritarian regimes, reports The Hill. Continue Reading

Friday, March 5, 2021

“The Big Apple” Asks “Won’t You Be Our 5G Helper?”

 New York City wants companies to step forward as potential partners in building out the city’s 5G infrastructure, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio in a press conference held on Wednesday. The Mayor said any company that wants to gain access to city-owned properties will have to meet requirements set forth by New York officials. 
“The city, land, city buildings, all the places where companies want to expand their capacity, we hold the key to that as the city of New York,” he said. “We're investing $157 million in affordable internet access and that’s going to allow us to reach 600,000 more New Yorkers, including a lot of folks who have been excluded because of where they live,” de Blasio said. The Mayor’s comments follow on the heels of 5G franchises awarded earlier this month by the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT). Continue Reading

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Altice USA to Acquire Morris Broadband

 Broadband communications and video services provider Altice USA (NYSE: ATUS) signed an agreement to acquire the assets of Morris Broadband, LLC. The transaction will expand Altice USA’s footprint in North Carolina, where it already has a presence with its Suddenlink business.

Altice says the enterprise value is $310 million total for the Morris Broadband business on a debt-free and cash-free basis. Morris Broadband provides high-speed data, video and voice services to approximately 36,500 residential and business customers in western North Carolina. According to Altice, after the acquisition, North Carolina will represent the sixth largest state for Altice, out of its 21 states of operations, in terms of number of residential customers. Continue Reading

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Senators Urge FCC to Extend Broadband Subsidies Beyond COVID

 UPDATE Major telecoms and other industry participants applauded the FCC’s recent vote to quickly advance the $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program. The effort will help subsidize internet service for low-income households impacted by COVID. 

AT&T praised the move to “help close the broadband gap,” while Comcast and Charter said they plan to participate in the program. The Benton Institute called it “a lifeline” that will go far to connect Americans who need COVID vaccines. Trade groups including USTelecom, the Internet & Television Association and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association also welcomed the action.

Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel anticipates opening the program within 60 days to qualifying homes signed up with participating providers. Continue Reading

Monday, March 1, 2021

FCC Establishes Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

 UPDATE The FCC voted Thursday to formally adopt rules to establish the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. The $3.2 billion federal initiative will provide qualifying households discounts on their internet service bills and an opportunity to receive a discount on a computer or tablet. 

The bi-partisan 2-2 vote occurred just four days after Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel circulated the Report & Order to her colleagues for a decision. The program, she said, “will help those sitting in cars in parking lots just to catch a WiFi signal to go online for work. It will help those lingering outside the library with a laptop just to get a wireless signal for remote learning. It will help those who worry about choosing between paying a broadband bill and paying rent or buying groceries.”

The Commission staff is working to get the program up and running. Rosenworcel anticipates eligible households will be able to apply within 60 days. Continue Reading