The wireless industry moved closer to gaining access to high-band millimeter wave spectrum for use in 5G networks yesterday as the FCC adopted rules for a spectrum auction to be held in 2019.
A total of 2,400 megahertz of spectrum in the combined Upper 37 GHz and 39 GHz bands and 1,000 megahertz of spectrum in 47 GHz band will be up for grabs, according to the Fourth Report and Order.
“This is exciting. Even better, the approach we adopt here puts a premium on auctioning millimeter wave bands together, instead of one-by-one,” said FCC Comm. Jessica Rosenworcel. “That’s a method I have long championed, and I appreciate that my colleagues have recognized this is the right way to go.”
Specifically, the order modifies the band plans for the Upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz bands from 200 megahertz blocks to 100 megahertz blocks to be licensed by Partial Economic Area, which will facilitate the simultaneous auction of licenses in the three bands. It also adopts an incentive auction mechanism that will offer contiguous blocks of spectrum throughout the Upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz bands, while preserving spectrum usage rights for existing licensees. Additionally, a pre-auction process was adopted that allows incumbent licensees to rationalize their holdings.
“These and other steps will help us stay ahead of the spectrum curve and allow wireless innovation to thrive on our shores,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a prepared statement. “Notably, we’re setting up the Upper 37, 39, and 47 GHz auction to be our second-ever incentive auction.”
Pai noted that incentive auction will be different from the broadcast incentive auction that Congress authorized years ago.
The incentive auction of these spectrum bands will have two phases: a clock phase in which bidders may bid on generic license blocks, and an assignment phase in which clock phase winners may bid on specific frequencies. Incentive payments will be offered to incumbents who choose to relinquish their spectrum usage rights to make new licenses available.
WIA President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein said the FCC’s action to make additional spectrum available for 5G services will help the United States continue to lead the world in wireless innovation.
“2018 has been a banner year for the Commission in laying the foundation for next generation wireless services and today’s Open Meeting is a continuation of this commitment to win the race to 5G,” Adelstein said in a prepare text.
According to the incentive auction rules, incumbents that bid for new licenses may use “vouchers” equivalent to their existing holdings for credit toward the amount they bid in the auction. For an incumbent that chooses not to relinquish all its existing rights, the Report and Order provides methods to modify the incumbent’s licenses so that they align with the band plan and service areas adopted by the Commission.
“We grant incumbents the opportunity to trade in their existing spectrum rights in the 39 GHz band in exchange for new rights in any of the bands we offer in this auction. This promises to generate more interest and provide bidders with more freedom to assess which bands work best for them. This has also been an approach I have argued for from the start. I think a more thoughtful auction will result,” Rosenworcel said.
June 22, 2017 —
At the Wireless Infrastructure Show (WIS) in Orlando last month, Jonathan Adelstein said he places a high priority on fixing legislation that calls for the marking of many rural telecommunications towers as aviation hazards. Adelstein heads the Wireless Industry Association (WIA), a membership organization that owns WIS.
FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, who spoke at WIS as well, cited research indicating it could cost as much as $750 million to paint the many thousands of towers affected by the legislation, with repainting every seven years or so. The legislation addresses the hazard to pilots of aircraft used for crop dusting posed by temporary meteorological testing towers, but that perhaps inadvertently applies to telecom towers, too.
Although no one wants to put pilots at risk, another factor involved is the risk placed upon workers who would have to climb the towers to paint them.
O’Rielly said, “It is without question that there have been accidents involving crop dusters. But, it doesn’t appear that communications towers are to blame one iota.”
The commissioner also pointed to a possible unintended consequence that the added cost of painting towers could discourage broadband network construction in rural areas, limiting rural economic development and stymieing smart agriculture.
At the table where I sat, listening to the commissioner, two managers with one of the three public tower companies nodded their heads in agreement when O’Rielly said the escalating costs of the tribal approval process for towers represents a problem the FCC should address.
“One provider reports that, in 2011, they were paying an average of $439 in tribal review fees per site, and now they pay on average $6,754,” O’Rielly said. “That’s almost a 1,500 percent increase. And, more tribes have been expressing interest. For instance, 19 tribes responded to an application to add an antenna to a building in Cleveland and 39 tribes, of which 27 demanded fees, wanted to review sites in suburban Chicago. This is not economically sustainable. Further, tribes are receiving the payments, but then never respond as to whether there is actual concern, causing endless delays.”
I asked the commissioner how much power the FCC has to reduce tribal approval costs. He said the FCC has some authority and has a role to play. He said the FCC also has an obligation to inform Congress of the need for changes to the statute. O’Rielly said he has testified before Congress about it.
Relief may not come soon, but we hope that one day it will come.
June 15, 2017 —
Along with all the good news about network densification, FirstNet, Smart Cities and 5G comes fears that the wireless infrastructure industry won’t have enough properly trained crews to safely and effectively build out these networks.
To fill these needs, the Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) has launched the Telecommunications Education Center (TEC) (www.tec-online.org), which features training through multiple venues, including traditional classroom instruction, in-the-field training and online.
Announcing the program at Wireless Infrastructure Show in Orlando last month, WIA CEO Jonathan Adelstein said that TEC is the first initiative to target wireless infrastructure programming.
“TEC will provide a host of professional development and training programs designed to empower individuals and strengthen companies within our industry,” he said. “I don’t have to tell you that your most valuable assets are your employees. You need to keep them trained — and also provide them with the professional development opportunities they need to grow their careers.”
TEC aims to improve safety and quality, reduce costs of wireless infrastructure deployment and address existing skills gaps to meet the needs of companies deploying next-generation network technologies, according to Tim House, WIA executive vice president.
WIA worked with universities, its members, subject matter experts, and education consultants to develop the courses. Subjects introduced in the initial phase of 14 TEC courses will cover both wireless fundamentals and advanced topics including: wireless theory; macrocellular Infrastructure; an small cells and DAS classes; WiFi; and 5G. Additionally, several courses will cover tower safety. TEC courses also can be customized to meet organization-specific professional development and training needs.
“We are collaborating with the best and brightest to create a dynamic educational and training curriculum that will have a direct and lasting impact for years to come,” House said.
For example, the session titled “Wireless 101” was designed to familiarize participants with practical aspects of wireless systems and their industrial applications. “DAS and Small Cell Basics” covers the fundamentals and applications of each tool. “Wi-Fi Fundamentals” teaches basic 802.11 wireless networking terminology and functionality as well as engineering concepts, troubleshooting and business practices.
Progress in the development of in fifth generation wireless will be covered in “5G Outlook” as well as the market forces driving the new standard. “Macro Site Fundamentals” will introduce theories relating to design, planning and maintenance of cell towers.
“We have big plans for TEC, so look for more announcements in coming months as we launch additional programs and courses to meet the industry’s specific needs,” Adelstein said.
WIA partnered with Virginia State University to pilot the TEC program and will also work closely with the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP), the U.S. Department of Labor, and the FCC to provide applicable contact hours earned with course and training completion.
TIRAP Gains Traction in Promoting Telecom Apprenticeships
TIRAP and WIA announced on June 15 that 11 companies have signed agreements to be Participating Employers in its telecom apprenticeship program. This pledge from private businesses will accelerate the fulfillment of TIRAP’s goal to address the skills gap in the telecommunications industry by adopting an apprenticeship model, which is new to the industry.
WIA was named the National Sponsor for TIRAP in March 2017 now coordinates a host of activities for Participating Employers to ensure that apprenticeship programs are developed, monitored and measured effectively. This supports the Trump Administration’s announced intention to shift certification of federally funded apprenticeship programs from the Department of Labor to industry participants, including trade associations.
“All of these workforce development programs will support apprenticeships, which are perfectly suited for the wireless industry,” Adelstein said. “Apprenticeships will promote safety, enhance quality and open advancement opportunities for our workers. Best of all, WIA can help you identify resources that will can pay for your training efforts.”
The newly-expanded list of companies participating in TIRAP now includes:
May 23, 2017
After wondering aloud why a wireline company was invited to speak at a wireless conference, Dan Caruso, president and CEO of Zayo, quickly noted the importance of wireline companies to the success of wireless companies in the deployment of 5G in his keynote at the Wireless Infrastructure Show today in Orlando, Florida. In fact, collaboration between different factions will be the key for 5G to be successful, he added.
Caruso said there will be many winners in 5G deployment, including wireless carriers, tower companies, fiber companies, cable TV providers, data centers, and content and web concerns, but only if it happens quickly.
“With 5G, the big prize is that it happens sooner rather than later. The quicker it is deployed and the more pronounced the better it is for everyone one in this room,” Caruso said. “It is not about [crowning a single] a winner. Everyone wins if it happens on a widespread basis and more quickly.”
Making sure that deployment is less expensive and more rapid with strong economics for all participants, the industry must make the decision to work together, according to Caruso. The key finding ways to work together during the deployment stage, as well as ways to make it less intrusive.
He admitted that collaboration is not always easy. Once there are three or four parties in a room, it can be difficult for them to agree on the various aspects of deployment. Nonetheless, Caruso said it is worth it to for the various factions to come together to consider the different options.
“We can leverage our existing assets, whether it is existing towers, existing DAS systems or existing fiber,” he said. “We can leverage construction cycles; so instead of, in parallel, rebuilding the same network over and over again, we can collaborate during the construction cycle itself so we accomplish multiple goals at once.”
The wireless industry must figure out how to play together in the rights-of-way to speed up the deployment process to make it less obtrusive, according to Caruso.
“The wireless carriers could work more closely with each other, and it would make it easier on everyone, including themselves,” he said. “If you have a design spec that is slightly different from the other carrier, which requires multiple networks to be built separately in the same geographic area, it is more expensive and takes longer for everyone involved, including municipalities.”
Caruso said that the wireless infrastructure industry also has a responsibility to work with each other in the rights-of-way, taking advantage of each other’s strengths.
“We don’t have to do everything ourselves, the full turnkey package. We can do our piece of it working with others. We can provide the fiber, and others provide the poles and the access,” he said. “Are we creative with one other? Constructive with one another? Can we find opportunities to build out the infrastructure each of us playing our particular roles in a way that happens more quickly and spend less money?”
Keynotes Show Variety of Infrastructure Opportunities
The keynotes during the morning of the first day of the Wireless Infrastructure Show, the annual conference of the Wireless Infrastructure Association, represented various of aspects of communications infrastructure, from John Horn, president and CEO, of Ingenu, who spoke about the internet of things, to Michal Poth, CEO, FirstNet, who covered the first responders broadband network, and Buddy Dyer, mayor of Orlando, Florida, who briefly spoke on his city’s commitment to being a smart city.
The annual conference keynotes and sessions are representative of WIA’s involvement in fiber, smart cities, the IoT, as well as towers, DAS and small cells, according to WIA president and CEO Jonathan Adelstein.
“WIA represents the entire ecosystem of wireless infrastructure, which is becoming increasingly complex as it grows to meet the data demands that are exploding,” Adelstein told AGL eDigest. “We believe that bringing everyone together at WIA benefits the entire wireless industry because we are the hub where all those different components included in the growing networks come together.”
May 17, 2017 —
Former head of regulatory affairs at CTIA, David Redl has been nominated by President Trump to be Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information, Department of Commerce and Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
Jonathan Adelstein, president and CEO of WIA, voiced his support for Redl and urged the Senate to swiftly confirm him.
“NTIA’s leadership in promoting the Internet of Things and providing more access to wireless spectrum is crucial to economic growth in communities across the country, he said in a prepared release. “Redl is an outstanding choice whose experience and keen understanding of the issues facing the wireless infrastructure industry make him an ideal policymaker to oversee this important agency. We strongly support this nomination and urge the Senate to act upon it quickly.”
Redl is currently Chief Counsel at the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce. He serves as principal legal advisor to the Chairman and Members of the Energy and Commerce majority on communications and technology matters. Prior to his time with the Energy and Commerce Committee, Redl was Director of Regulatory Affairs at CTIA – The Wireless Association, where his work focused on spectrum policy, wireless broadband, and reducing regulatory mandates.