May 25, 2017
On the heels of the FCC’s adoption of the “Restoring Internet Freedom” proposed rulemaking last week, which proposes to end utility-style regulation of the internet, FCC Comm. Mignon Clyburn said she will work to continue Title II regulation of the internet, known as net neutrality, and ensure that communities can continue to rely on the internet as the “preeminent engine of innovation and opportunities.”
On the third day of the Wireless Infrastructure Conference, May 24, in Orlando, Florida, Clyburn spoke out against the so-called fast lanes reserved for those willing to pay more and preferences for those with business relationships with an internet service provider, which many say will be the result of killing net neutrality.
“And the 2015 Open Internet Order reflects a long-standing commitment shared by millions of Americans to protect a platform that inspires innovation and entrepreneurship, fosters freedom of speech and expression, and stimulates incentives for investment,” she said.
Clyburn passionately preached about the importance of broadband internet access to communities so that children can do homework, the unemployed can apply for jobs, the sick can obtain health care, and entrepreneurs can drive the economy.
“So as far as I am concerned – broadband is where we must all start,” she said. “To have an educated, competitive workforce in this century and beyond, we must ensure that everyone in our communities truly has access to broadband service, for all of the infrastructure builds in the world will not enable access if the service is not affordable.”
Clyburn said she met a man during a visit to skid row in Los Angeles who told here if he did not have an email address, he would have no address at all.
“That is just one example of how important connectivity is and how important it is for that person to be connected to the goods and services that will improve their life,” she said. “I think we all benefit when there is an open platform.”
Clyburn rejected the viewpoint that the internet would be better off without any regulation.
“What we have been the beneficiaries of in terms of this enabling platform did not happen by accident. It happened because there was a framework of rules that were codified,” she said. “People keep forgetting that all these things that enabled you to connect came about because there were clear rules of the road.”
As to what will happen next, Clyburn said she hopes “cooler heads” will prevail, but she will wait to see the record that is created by comments in the proceeding (FCC-17-60). There also could be a legislative solution that could restore federal regulation to the internet, she said.
May 24, 2017
While FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly expressed frustration at the pace of change at the Commission in during his tenure, he expressed optimism that under a new chairman the wireless industry will see some action on longstanding issues in his afternoon keynote address during the first day of the 2017 Wireless Infrastructure Show in Orlando, Florida.
“It’s been just over two years since my last visit with you all and sadly the overall picture of issues of importance hasn’t changed all that much,” O’Rielly said. “A few things have changed in this time: a new administration, a new chairman, and a refreshing new outlook on communications policy.”
O’Rielly expressed his unhappiness that the regulatory uncertainty has not been resolved surrounding “Twilight Towers,” which are towers built between 2001 and 2005 that did not go through the National Historic Preservation Act’s Section 106 review and cannot accept collocations. The issue affects about 4,300 twilight towers where close to 6,500 antenna collocations have been prohibited, according to O’Rielly.
However, there is hope. The Commission did formally seek comment last month on resolving the issue of twilight towers, which includes assurance that no enforcement action will be taken against legitimate twilight towers.
Another area where O’Rielly has experienced frustration is tower marking. While the FCC successfully eliminated regulatory burdens in tower marking in 2014, the FAA Extension, Safety and Security Act of 2016 mandates that all towers ranging between 50 to 200 feet meet painting and lighting requirements.
The law potentially affects 25,000 communications towers and another 25,000 broadcast towers. the bill would cost the industry $750 million every five to seven years. Increased costs for building towers will cause rural areas to miss out on future 5G and IoT deployments.
“While no one disputes the desire to protect human life for those aviators whizzing planes inches from the ground, carrying out the burden as written will be an extremely expensive undertaking due to the cost of the specialized labor that climbs these towers,” O’Rielly said.
The fix according to O’Rielly is pass a provision clarifying that communications towers are exempt.
Tower Crews and the Repack
O’Rielly acknowledged the high demand for tower crews that is being created by the relocation of 987 TV stations as part of the broadcast spectrum incentive auction repack, which is occurring on top of the buildout of AWS-3 and 600 MHz spectrum and general network densification. And he noted the concerns that the tower industry may miss the 39-month deadline repack.
“While some are rightfully concerned about the ability to meet the current deadlines, I think it is not irrational that we wait to see how the first stages go before jumping to any premature conclusions, O’Rielly said. “If it looks like we cannot meet the 39-month timeframe, at some point, we can reassess. In the meantime, I suggest that everyone should take a deep breath as we head down the repack path together.
O’Rielly said one of the siting issues he hears about the most is access to the public rights of way where the industry is experiencing excessive delays when filing siting applications, explicit moratoria and de facto moratoria.
“These are not acceptable responses to new small cell technologies that need to be deployed for the United States to maintain its position as the leader in wireless communications,” he said. “The Commission should clarify that such behavior is not consistent with the Communications Act, which clearly reads that state and local regulations may not ‘have the effect of prohibiting the ability of any entity to provide any interstate or intrastate telecommunications service.’”
O’Rielly added that the “excessive” fees being charged for use of the rights of way are not “fair and reasonable” compensation. “There needs to be a declaration that fees similar to those imposed on macro towers are not appropriate or sustainable for small cell networks,” he said.
Tribal Review Process
Another sticking point for antenna siting is the dramatically increasing tribal approval fees, which have soared from an average of $439 per site in 2011 up to on average $6,754, according to one carrier, or a 1,500 percent increase. “This is not economically sustainable,” O’Rielly said. “Further, tribes are receiving the payments, but then never respond as to whether there is actual concern, causing endless delays.”
April 18, 2017 —
The industry is attempting to unpack the results of the recently ended FCC Broadcast Incentive Auction, which was highlighted by T-Mobile spending $7.9 billion, DISH Network spending $6.2 billion and Comcast spending $1.7 billion. Who won? Who lost? Where are the opportunities?
Big towers will drive most of the initial work as winning bidders hustle to clear the broadcasters from the spectrum, something known as the “TV repack.” The needs of the broadcasters will each be unique. Some will relinquish the spectrum, others will move to different frequencies and others will move to another broadcaster’s tower and share its spectrum, according to Alex Gellman, co-founder and CEO, Vertical Bridge.
“The first step is to move the broadcasters off the frequencies, which will require a lot of work but it is pretty specialized. There will be the need for traditional wireless services providers, tower climbers for line, transmitter and antenna work,” Gellman said.
Wireless companies could start building on the 600 MHz channels on a market-by-market basis or wait till all the spectrum is cleared. That may take up to three years because of the deadline set by the FCC for the broadcasters to vacate the frequencies.
“Normally, the tower industry sees a lot of deployment activity about 18-36 months after the auction,” Gellman said. “This one is going to take a little longer as far as the wireless carriers go.”
Top bidder T-Mobile won 31 megahertz nationwide on average, or 45 percent of the spectrum, which quadrupled its low-band holdings. The carrier has been preparing for the repack of the TV spectrum for some time.
“T-Mobile wants to deploy this spectrum as quickly as possible,” said Gellman. “The market for broadcast tower services was a potential bottleneck that could slow down the TV repack, so the carrier has been actively growing that market.”
Tower Industry Opportunities
Vertical Bridge has identified areas where it has tall radio broadcast towers that can accommodate TV. “We are reaching out to the companies that sold off their spectrum to see how we can help. Broadcasters have options, and we want them to know that,” Gellman said.
The majority of the opportunities for tower companies will have to wait until the spectrum is clear. “Secondarily, down the road, we see an opportunity related to deployment by U.S. Cellular, T-Mobile, AT&T, Comcast and DISH,” Gellman said.
The major winners break down into three groups: carriers, new entrants and investors, each of which will have different reasons they purchased the spectrum.
T-Mobile will most likely use the spectrum for coverage, as it continues to catch up with Verizon and AT&T. It has deployed coverage on spectrum in the 700 MHz band during the last two years.
“Spectrum at 600 MHz is not great for high-density deployments which is why the final bid numbers were not has high as people speculated. They were about half,” Gellman said.
Earlier this month Comcast began reselling Verizon airtime as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator, giving Xfinity Mobile customers access to unlimited data plans as well as to millions of Comcast Wi-Fi hotspots. Gellman said Comcast will use its spectrum to build out a network, which would reduce its dependence on the Verizon network and therefore its operational expenses.
“Having 600 MHz spectrum allows Comcast to provide a high and thin coverage blanket, and if the capacity gets exceeded, it can always fall back to the Verizon network,” he said. “The calculus is based on the economics of providing service. The 600 MHz band is good for propagation; not necessary good for capacity. Initially, it may work very well for them.”
Craig Moffett, MoffettNathanson, was not quite as upbeat. Comcast’s 10 megahertz buy across its footprint fell well short of Moffett’s expectations of a 20-megahertz buy nationwide.
“Comcast’s tepid participation inevitably makes one less confident that Comcast’s long-term intention is to go it alone,” he wrote. “Or to put it more bluntly, the odds that they will someday buy a wireless operator – read T-Mobile or Sprint – just went up.”
Of all the wild cards in this auction, DISH is arguably the wildest. It already had lots of spectrum before the auction, including: 40 megahertz in the AWS-4 (2000/2200 MHz) band, 10 megahertz in the H-band and 6 megahertz at 700 MHz, as well as 25 megahertz of AWS-3 spectrum, according Zach’s.com.
“With the Broadcast Incentive Auction, DISH has billions of dollars invested in spectrum. Its spectrum buy confused many analysts,” Gellman said. “Will they kick the can down the road or will they truly deploy a commercial network for broad use or will they sell it? I don’t think anyone knows yet.
Moffett was decidedly down on DISH’s spectrum buy noting that it seemed to fly in the face of industry expectations that it would either be purchased by a wireless carrier or it would sell its spectrum to a wireless carrier.
“…How can you reconcile the view that DISH Network [plans to sell its spectrum] with the fact that, by definition, they just outbid every possible buyer for precisely the same spectrum they would now hope to sell?” he wrote. If DISH is preparing for a merger, one of the possible acquirers – Verizon – didn’t even bid for spectrum, Moffett added.
April 14, 2017 —
Each year, the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology grants more than 2,000 experimental licenses to test services and technologies that many times become part of the wireless ecosystem. Currently experimental licenses are supporting work on the introduction of 5G. But the it sensed the need to reduce the barriers to obtaining those licenses.
The Commission has made the experimental licensing rules more flexible through new “program licenses,” to streamline the process for institutions that regularly file for experimental applications such as universities, R&D development companies, and medical institutions.
To make applying for a program license easier, the FCC has launched a web portal. The NYU Wireless center in New York University Tandon School of Engineering will test the new experimental license portal designed to make the application process more efficient. The new process promises to reduce the waiting time to 15-day turnaround on experimental license decisions in most cases.
NYU Wireless is an example of the type of institution the new experimental license rules were developed to help. It has played a leading role in proving the viability of mmWave spectrum, launching the first open-access mmWave channel simulator software (NYUSIM) with a complete statistical spatial channel model, which is based on the research group’s experiments showing the channel characteristics at mmWave frequencies.
April 13, 2017
As a B2B publications editor, when I pen an editorial (and most of my contemporaries do the same), I try to put forth something of value and keep my personal opinion out of it (most of the time, anyway) And, for the most part, I have been told I am relatively successful at that. But occasionally I just can’t keep my opinion to myself and I have go on a Dennis Miller-type rant – here it comes.
I am very concerned that this new political regime is going to have far reaching effects on the wireless industry. And so far, their directions seem to be good for the mega-corporations and bad for everybody else.
The recent Senate vote to kill Obama-era online privacy regulations – a first step toward allowing internet providers such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon to sell your browsing habits and other personal information so they can expand their own online ad businesses. This, to me, is a step backwards in the privacy arena and goes against all gains in privacy that have been made recently. And, the current noise to try and roll back some, if not all, of the net neutrality act is troubling, as well. I can see advertisers and marketers all over the place doing a happy dance, at the expense of your privacy – and this looks like only the beginning.
While I am all for capitalism and free enterprise, the economic world is full of inequity so playing fields need to be leveled. Money shouldn’t be able to talk, power shouldn’t be able to bully and there needs to be some protection of those that may not be able to fully take care of themselves.
While the above sentence is, of course, naïve and I sound like an old hippie, greed, money and power have a way of skewing the equation. And a good government’s job is to keep the playing field as level as possible.
I don’t see that happening with the current populist leadership. And having an administration in control all segments of congress, as well as the presidency, be it republican or democratic, just isn’t a good idea.
While I expect my opinion here to be dismissed and opposed, I believe that the current elected and appointed bureaucracy will go too far in the direction of big business, at the cost to most of the populous. While there are many topics where that applies, the future of the wireless industry, especially, could have some major bumps in the road as this administration pushes it’s political and economic agenda. And, it seems to be allowing the development of 5G, the Internet of Everything/Everyone (IoX), and various other technologies, to be manipulated by those who have the most money and power (aka, big carriers and mega-corporations developing such technologies).
To the dismay of some in the industry, the last administration did put into place some regulations that, IMHO, were good for the industry. I have been a fan of net neutrality from the git-go and if one takes a look at who opposes it, it appears to be those with big money and a vested interest in those players. The same is true for privacy. And to me it looks suspiciously driven by big business greed.
This regime, to me, seems to be all about governmental power and control. It is never a good idea for government to be so one-sided. And in this case, the wireless industry (the subscribers mainly) will, in the long run, likely suffer from it.