Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Louisiana Cell Sites Hardest Hit by Ida


More than a million customers were without power after Ida made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane in Louisiana on Sunday, the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. By Monday, the storm was downgraded to a tropical storm, but still posed a major threat of flooding and high winds to the inland Southeast and the mid-Atlantic, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Entergy, which provides power to New Orleans, reported "catastrophic damage" to its transmission and that all 400,000 of its customers in Orleans Parish were powerless, noted U.S. News & World Report. Ida moved farther inland over southeastern Louisiana and Mississippi early Monday. The National Hurricane Center projected Ida would move across the Tennessee Valley today.   

The White House said yesterday more than 3,600 Federal Emergency Management Agency employees were deployed and 17 urban search and rescue teams, along with hundreds of air and ground ambulances, had been staged. FEMA also deployed more than 3.4 million meals. Continue Reading

Monday, August 30, 2021

Verizon Response Teams Get Ready to Support First Responders

 As Hurricane Ida makes its way to the Gulf, Verizon announced on Friday its teams are preparing once again to provide critical communications before, during and after the storm. With the high likelihood of potential flooding and accompanying commercial outages expected, Verizon said its engineers are topping off generators and pre-staging trucks with fuel and readying mobile network assets for rapid deployment. In addition, the carrier is preparing satellite and microwave equipment as redundancy connections if fiber is impacted, and activating response teams to keep customers and first-responders connected. 

“We are actively preparing for Ida and our Verizon team is ready to support the community as yet another major storm impacts this area,” said Kyle Malady, Chief Technology Officer at Verizon. “We know our customers count on us, especially during tough times, and we will be there with them every step of the way to provide reliable connections to critical resources, colleagues, friends and family.” Continue Reading

Friday, August 27, 2021

FCC Proposes $5 Million Robocalling Fine

 In a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture, the FCC proposed a $5,134,500 fine against lobbyists John Burkman and Jacob Alexander Wohl, and J.M. Burkman & Associates LLC, Burkman’s political consulting firm. The Commission says the men apparently made 1,141 unlawful robocalls to wireless phones without prior consent, in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The Enforcement Bureau found that the calls were apparently pre-recorded and made to voters’ wireless phones.

In most cases, the TCPA prohibits making pre-recorded voice calls to wireless phones without the consent of those receiving the calls – regardless of the content. The robocalls in this case, made on August 26 and September 14, 2020, used messages telling potential voters that, if they vote by mail, their “personal information will be part of a public database that will be used by police departments to track down old warrants and be used by credit card companies to collect outstanding debts.” Continue Reading

Thursday, August 26, 2021

FCC Gets $5 Billion In Funding Requests for Emergency Connectivity Fund

 The FCC received more than $5 billion in requests for the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program. Applicants sought money for 9.1 million connected devices and 5.4 million broadband connections as part of the $7.17 billion program. 

The agency received so much interest it plans to open another filing window. It will be open from September 28 to October 13. Schools and libraries can request funding for connected devices and broadband connections for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons for the current 2021-22 school year. 

The first filing window closed August 13. It attracted applications from all 50 states, as well as American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia. Schools and libraries in rural and urban communities sought funding for eligible equipment and services received or delivered between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022. Continue Reading

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

House Dems Clear a Path for Infrastructure Vote

 By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers, Washington Bureau Chief In a 220-212 vote on Tuesday, the House passed a $3.5 trillion budget resolution and advanced a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. The vote allows Democrats to write and approve a spending package without Republicans and puts the Senate-passed infrastructure plan on a path to final passage in the House, reported CNBC.

The measure includes a nonbinding commitment to vote on the infrastructure bill by September 27. The deal aims to appease nine centrist Democrats who pushed the House to consider the bipartisan plan before it took up the Democratic budget resolution, Inside Towers reported. Continue Reading

Monday, August 23, 2021

General Motors, AT&T To Put 5G on the Road

 By J. Sharpe Smith, Inside Towers Technology Editor Today’s new vehicles rack up more than just miles. They produce terabytes of data as they tear down the roads. All of that data needs to be communicated to take advantage of the crucial information it provides. General Motors and AT&T are collaborating to bring 5G cellular connectivity to GM vehicles, beginning with select model year 2024 vehicles.

The rollout is part of GM and AT&T’s broad strategy to launch the world’s largest fleet of 5G-enabled vehicles and is the culmination of a two-year collaboration, including test-driving connected vehicles at GM’s 5G proving grounds in Milford, Michigan. Current Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac owners with 4G LTE-capable model year 2019 and newer vehicles will easily migrate to the new network infrastructure once available. AT&T’s 5G core network will improve roadway-centric coverage, music and video downloads, over-the-air software updates, navigation, mapping, and voice services. Continue Reading

Friday, August 20, 2021

Verizon Explores New Tech for Keeping Data Safe from Hackers

 By J. Sharpe Smith, Inside Towers Technology Editor With the massive hack of T-Mobile’s user database fresh in everyone’s minds, Verizon announced Thursday that it is testing new technology to protect data from hackers. Using a quantum-safe virtual private network (VPN), the carrier is looking to cryptographic ciphers to provide a higher level of protection, essentially, enhancing encryption methodologies to make them future proof.

Quantum-safe cryptography refers to efforts to identify algorithms that are resistant to attacks by both classical and quantum computers, to keep information assets secure even if a large-scale quantum computer is built in the future, according to ETSI, the European standards organization. Continue Reading

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

T-Mobile Ordered To Prove It Didn't Lie To State Utility Commission

By Martha DeGrasse, Inside Towers Contributing Analyst

Friday the 13th was a very bad day for T-Mobile this year. First the California Public Utilities Commission ordered the company to show up at a virtual hearing to discuss allegations it lied to the agency to get approval for its merger with Sprint. While the company was digesting this news, an unrelated crisis was unfolding as hackers were apparently preparing to steal the names and Social Security numbers of T-Mobile customers, along with the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) numbers for their smartphones. News of the data breach started to surface on Twitter by the earliest hours of August 15. By Monday evening, T-Mobile had confirmed the breach, but said it did not know for sure if customer data was involved.

T-Mobile’s tailspin has so far been fairly controlled. The stock price slid less than 2 percent, and social media hasn’t been flooded with frantic posts from T-Mobile customers experiencing identity theft. This is not the first time T-Mobile has been hacked, and customers don’t seem to have penalized the company yet. But if reports that millions of their identities are now for sale prove accurate, this time could be different. Continue Reading

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Frontier Communications Rolling Out Fiber in Waves


By John Celentano, Inside Towers Business Editor
Frontier Communications (NASDAQ: FYBR) has emerged from bankruptcy with a new lease on its corporate life. The company is transforming its wireline network from mainly copper lines to fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) deployments.

The transformation will allow Frontier to deliver gigabit speed broadband services to consumers and businesses throughout its operating territory. In the process, it expects to drive new revenues and profits.
Frontier’s wireline network today passes 15 million premises. This means that Frontier’s copper and fiber facilities pass by that many residences and businesses but only generate service revenues when they connect to those premises. 

The company has a total of 3.5 million consumer and business customer connections across 25 states, in three regional clusters in the West and Southwest, Midwest and Northeast, and the Southeast.

Frontier points out that these regions have large populations that are among the fastest growing in the country and have high favorable broadband demand characteristics. At the end of 2Q21, its broadband-capable facilities passed 3.6 million premises, and 2.8 million broadband connections with 49 percent on fiber. Continue Reading

Friday, August 13, 2021

China Tower Maintains Its Fast Infrastructure Deployment Pace

 By John Celentano, Inside Towers Business Editor China Tower, based in Beijing, continues its large-scale growth at a very fast pace. Through the first half of 2021, the company reported that its base of towers grew to 2.035 million, adding a net 12,000 towers to the 2.023 million at the end of 2020.

Perhaps more significantly, in that same six-month period, the company claims it installed approximately 256,000 5G cell sites throughout the country. As of June 30, the total 5G installed base is an estimated 1,022,000 cell sites.

China Tower reported U.S.$ 6.6 billion* (CNY42.7 billion) in operating revenues for 1H21, up over 7 percent from $6.1 billion in the same period in 2020. EBITDA came in at $4.8 billion while operating cash flow was $3.7 billion and free cash flow was $2.1 billion.

The company says that through the first half of 2021, its new construction and upgrade activities were focused on its “One Core and Two Wings” strategy. Continue Reading

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Senate Passes Massive Infrastructure Package

 The Senate on Tuesday voted 69 to 30 to pass the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package. That action handed a victory to President Joe Biden and the group of senators who worked for months negotiating the agreement in consultation with White House officials, noted Axios. Before the half-hour vote began, Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said from the Senate floor: "It's been a long and winding road, but we have persisted and now we have arrived."

The measure includes $65 billion for broadband that includes wireless infrastructure. Inside Towers reported the Democrat and GOP senators previously agreed on speeds of 100 Megabits per second down/20 Megabits up. Of the $65 billion overall in broadband subsidies, $40 billion is allocated to states for infrastructure deployment. Continue Reading

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

DISH Still Finding its (Wireless) Sea Legs

 By John Celentano, Inside Towers Business Editor DISH Network (NASDAQ: DISH) is preparing to launch its 5G facilities-based network while still learning how to run a wireless business. In its 2Q21 earnings release, the company shared that it has lost wireless subscribers even as it adds to its base of wireless users.

For the quarter, DISH acquired more than 200,000 wireless subscribers through an asset purchase agreement with Republic Wireless. At the same time, the company experienced a net decrease of 201,000 retail wireless subscribers. That followed a net decrease of 161,000 subscribers in 1Q21. The company closed 2Q21 with 8.9 million retail wireless subscribers. 

Wireless service revenues were $1.2 billion, down sequentially over four percent from $1.3 billion in 1Q21. Service revenues were up 14 percent over $1.1 billion in 3Q20 when DISH first reported on its wireless retail service business.

That initial revenue influx came with DISH’s acquisition of the Boost Mobile prepaid wireless business from T-Mobile in accordance with the Department of Justice’s Final Judgment on the T-Mobile-Sprint merger. Continue Reading

Monday, August 9, 2021

Artificial Intelligence Helps Verizon Pinpoint Sites in C-Band Buildout

 By J. Sharpe Smith, Inside Towers Technology Editor After spending nearly $53 billion on 161 MHz nationwide in the C-band auction, the pressure is on for Verizon to get its mid-band network up and running as quickly and efficiently as possible. As a result, the carrier is using artificial intelligence (AI) to guide the placement of its antennas, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal

Verizon normally talks about how it’s 5G network can help others employ AI in their businesses. But what is good for the goose is good for the gander. The company divulged that it began using AI models in 2018 for site acquisition (well before the C-band auction). Verizon’s recent candor about AI and its mid-band spectrum deployment might be its way of telling Wall Street, “don’t worry, we got this.” Continue Reading

Friday, August 6, 2021

DigitalBridge Differentiates Itself Among Infrastructure REITs

 By John Celentano, Inside Towers Business Editor DigitalBridge Group (NYSE: DBRG) is unique among digital infrastructure real estate investment trusts (REITs). Its mix of infrastructure assets, its global operating footprint and its “invest, operate and build” methodology set DBRG apart from other REITs in the communications business.

DBRG reported consolidated digital revenues of $236 million in 2Q21, up nearly three times over the $63 million in 2Q20. The total is a combination of digital operating revenues of $189 million and $47 million for investment management fees raised by its Digital Colony Partners II (DCP II) fund which is the company’s primary investment vehicle for acquiring or investing in new infrastructure assets. 

At the end of the quarter, with nearly $50 billion total assets under management (AUM), the company reported $35 billion digital AUM or roughly 72 percent of its goal of “rotating” to 100 percent digital AUM. Continue Reading

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

SBA Communications Grows with Increased Site Activity

 By John Celentano, Inside Towers Business Editor SBA Communications (NASDAQ: SBAC) may have even surprised itself with its 2Q21 results. The company said that Q2 results were ahead of expectations and that growth rates are “going up!”

Site leasing revenues for the quarter came in at $524 million, up nearly nine percent from $482 million in 2Q20. Domestic site leasing revenues account for 80 percent of the SBAC’s total site leasing revenues and were up eight percent year-over-year to $419 million.

The company said its domestic customers were “extremely active” throughout the quarter with network build and upgrade activity. SBAC pointed out that the main drivers of new leasing activity come from the Big 3 U.S. mobile network operators that account for 72 percent of SBACs global revenues. 

Activities included T-Mobile’s nationwide 2.5 GHz Extended Range 5G coverage, Verizon’s site preparations for its upcoming C-band deployments, AT&T’s continuing FirstNet expansion, DISH Network’s readying for its 5G rollout and general coverage expansion work across the board. Continue Reading

Monday, August 2, 2021

Canada's 3500 MHz Spectrum Auction Raises US$7.2B

 As anticipated, Canada's “Big Three” carriers, Bell, Rogers and Telus dominated the country’s auctioning of 3500 MHz spectrum by generating around 80 percent of the total US$7.2 billion in funding. Last Thursday, the government announced that 1,495 licenses (out of 1,504 available) were awarded to 15 Canadian companies, while small and regional providers made up the remainder. The recent 600 MHz spectrum auction, in comparison, brought US$2.87 billion into the nation’s coffers.

Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said the results would boost competition and Ottawa (the nation’s capital) will continue to push to open up a market dominated by the top trio of carriers. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government asked operators to cut prices by a quarter by 2021 after widespread complaints of price gouging, according to Reuters. A global survey of phone rates by independent industry analyst Tefficient has shown Canada to be among the highest in the world of the 44 nations polled. The major carriers replied that they’ve worked on lowering prices. Continue Reading