For all the bright, sunny positives that 5G wireless communications technology offers to consumers, businesses and first responders — increased capacity, speed, reliability and connectivity — a large looming cloud persists: Power-hungry 5G base stations can consume up to three times more power than 4G and LTE networks. This massive electricity consumption leaves a bigger carbon footprint on the environment and could be a big problem for countries that depend on fossil fuels for electricity generation.
Last week, AT&T announced its plans to target eliminating 1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, working with Microsoft, universities and other alliances to unleash the power of 5G and other broadband technologies through the AT&T Connected Climate Initiative.
AT&T says it has set an industry-leading target to help businesses collectively reduce a gigaton of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — 1 billion metric tons — by 2035, an effort which will contribute to a better, more sustainable world. A gigaton is equal to approximately 15 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 3 percent of global energy-related emissions in 2020 — or 1.6 billion flights from Los Angeles to New York.
AT&T will work with businesses including Microsoft, Equinix and Duke Energy, along with research universities, and a range of other organizations to deliver broadband-enabled climate solutions at global scale. This collaborative builds on AT&T’s standing commitment to aggressively reduce our own emissions, while enabling the transition to a net-zero economy.
T-Mobile moved early on renewable energy. In June 2020, the nonprofit Green America Wireless Scorecard, which measures clean energy usage and reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions within the wireless industry, named T-Mobile the top carrier for Clean Energy Commitment — for the third year in a row.
According to a company spokesperson, T-Mobile was the first in the industry to set two carbon reduction targets validated by the Science-Based Targets Initiative to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and prevent the worst effects of climate change:
Target 1: Reduce combined absolute Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG emissions 95 percent by 2025 from a 2016 base year;
2020 Progress: Combined Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions decreased by 22.2 percent since 2016;
Target 2: Reduce Scope 3 GHG emissions 15 percent per customer by 2025 from a 2016 base year;
2020 Progress: Scope 3 emissions intensity decreased by 14.5 percent per customer since 2016.
T-Mobile also set an industry first in 2018 by joining the RE100 pledge, a global initiative bringing together the world’s most influential businesses committed to 100 percent renewable electricity. “A few years and one historic merger later, we’re still on track,” the T-Mobile spokesperson said, detailing this progress: “RE100 Pledge: Source renewable energy equivalent to 100 percent of our total electricity usage by the end of 2021. 2020 Progress: As the supercharged Un-carrier, 25.3 percent of T-Mobile’s electricity usage relied on renewable energy. 2021 Progress: We’ve signed renewable energy contracts for over 3.5 million MWh. Through June 30, 2021, we have sourced 75 percent of our electricity usage from renewable sources and are tracking to reach 100 percent by the end of the year.”
Meanwhile, in 2019, Verizon set an ambitious goal to achieve net zero operational emissions by 2035 and committed to source or generate renewable energy equivalent to 50 percent of its annual electricity consumption by 2025. In January 2021, Verizon announced that it became a leading corporate buyer of U.S. renewable energy, entering into thirteen long-term renewable energy purchase agreements totaling nearly 1.7 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity since December 2019. Verizon also activated more than 8 megawatts (MW) of additional on-site solar energy at eight of its facilities during 2020. Since 2013 the company has installed more than 28 MW of green power at 26 onsite locations.
Two weeks ago, Verizon issued its Green Bond Impact Report, outlining the full allocation of the nearly $1 billion of net proceeds from its second green bond. Verizon became the first U.S. telecom company to issue a green bond back in February 2019. In September 2020, the company issued its second green bond, and remains the only U.S. telecommunications company to complete the full allocation of two green bonds.
“To date, we have issued $2 billion in green bonds that support the transition to a greener grid and help us achieve our ambitious goal of net zero emissions in our operations by 2035,” said Matt Ellis, Verizon’s executive vice president and chief financial officer. “Verizon’s green bond projects demonstrate our long-term commitment to minimize our environmental impact, drive operating efficiencies and benefit the communities we serve.”
Verizon has fully allocated the net proceeds of its second green bond entirely to virtual power purchase agreements for renewable energy projects. These projects are for approximately 1 GW of new renewable energy generating capacity across seven states, of which about 83 percent is solar energy generating capacity and 17 percent is wind energy generating capacity.
The use of proceeds from the bond is part of Citizen Verizon, the company’s responsible business plan for economic, environmental and social advancement. The Green Bond Impact Report can be found on the company’s fixed income investor relations site. For more information, visit https://www.verizon.com/about/investors/green-bond-reports.
Mike Harrington is a contributing editor
In the wake of Hurricane Ida’s path of destruction, power restoration to some areas of storm-ravaged southeast Louisiana could take weeks, hampering the efforts of the FCC and wireless providers to fully restore emergency and consumer cellular service.
The second-most damaging storm in Louisiana history — after Katrina, and the strongest storm ever to hit the state — the Category 4 Hurricane Ida caused widespread mobile wireless and fiber disruptions when it slammed into southeast Louisiana, knocking out most of the New Orleans metro area’s power and disabling much of AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile’s wireless services.
At the height of Hurricane Ida’s flooding and wind damage on Aug. 30, the day after hurricane winds made landfall, AT&T said that 60 percent of its network in Louisiana was working. T-Mobile said that around 70 percent of its network was in operation in Alabama and Louisiana on Aug.30, but did not disclose the specific effect on the latter state. Verizon did not disclose the peak effect of the storm on its network, but by Sept. 2, said that “90 percent of Verizon cell sites that were in the path of the storm are in service.”
By Sept. 3, an AT&T press release said that it had restored most services, and was “operating at more than 94 percent of normal.” The company added, “We now have a total of 23 on-air mobile cell site solutions supporting customers and first responders.” AT&T also said, “Despite commercial power outages, all of our wireline centers remain in service as we continue to place and refuel generators.”
Similarly, a T-Mobile prepared statement said that “some sites that were previously impacted in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were restored overnight as our crews have worked tirelessly to deploy large numbers of generators and rapidly power them up again.”
Around a quarter of cellular sites in southeast Louisiana remained offline by Sept. 2, though more than half of the towers initially knocked out had been repaired, according to a report from the FCC. About 700 of the affected area’s 2,759 cellular sites were still down. The affected area includes Acadiana and southeast Louisiana.
On Aug. 30, more than half of the cellular sites were down. About 61 percent of the remaining offline towers were without power, according to the FCC, and a little more than a quarter had sustained damage to their network that transports communications to and from the site. About 15 percent of sites had physical damage from the storm.
Another FCC report showed that as of 11 a.m. Aug. 31, 52 percent of 2,759 cellular sites across 31 Louisiana parishes were offline as a result of the hurricane. The majority of the downed towers — nearly 65 percent — were offline due to a lack of power, a problem that could persist for weeks in some parts of the state. In some cases, cell sites are down due to multiple issues, such as power outages, damage to the network or damage to the site itself.
On Sept. 3, the FCC took a series of actions to extend deadlines and waive rules to assist consumers, licensees and communications providers in Louisiana and Mississippi affected by Hurricane Ida. “The FCC is working around the clock in coordination with government partners and industry to support the restoration of vital communications services after the destruction of Hurricane Ida,” FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said on Sept 3.
“We’re extending deadlines for our universal service and other relief programs, including the Emergency Connectivity Fund and Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, to better assist consumers and providers in affected areas,” Rosenworcel said. “We are also extending filing deadlines for Form 477 broadband data reports, and extending filing and regulatory deadlines for wireless and public safety licensees in affected areas. Meanwhile, we will continue to support recovery efforts and monitor the effects of the storm nationwide. We offer our deep condolences to those who lost family members or whose homes and property were destroyed in this devastating hurricane.”
On Sept. 3, AT&T reported: “Our wireless network in Louisiana currently operating at more than 98 percent of normal. We continue to maintain and refuel more than 200 generators currently providing power to equipment there. Our wireless network in both Alabama and Mississippi are operating normally. More than 70 crews are continuing to work across Louisiana to keep our customers, their families and first responders connected”
AT&T also reported that it had deployed its FirstNet Communications Vehicle to a heavily affected area in Louisiana to provide an extra level of support. In addition to providing LTE and Wi-Fi connectivity, this CV offers an air-conditioned command space for first responder personnel and is equipped with multiple monitors, charging stations, a television and a large exterior screen and speakers that can be used for briefings, according to AT&T.
The AT&T report also said, “In the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, we are also preparing to launch FirstNet One, an aerostat blimp that functions as an LTE tower in the sky to support first responders and the extended public safety community in the area. FirstNet One will launch in Raceland, an area that includes a major hospital, a main roadway corridor to the Grand Isle community and is serving as a staging area for mutual-aid support. So far, public safety — spanning federal, state and local agencies — have made nearly 60 FirstNet emergency support requests for Ida.”
Meanwhile, the Verizon Response Team arrived in Southeastern Louisiana on Aug. 30 to deliver Verizon Frontline technology to first responders conducting search and rescue and disaster response operations in some of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Ida.
The Response Team was pre-positioned just outside of the expected storm track, enabling a rapid response effort when conditions permitted and allowing the team to quickly distribute mission-critical communication technology to federal, state and local government and public safety agencies operating in storm-damaged areas of Louisiana.
According to Verizon, collaborating with emergency management officials across affected regions of the state, the Verizon Response Team has deployed a wide range of Verizon Frontline technology, including satellite pico-cells on trailers (SPOTs), network extenders, routers, mobile hotspots and phones to provide critical voice and data service to public safety professionals dealing with the devastation left in the wake of the powerful Category 4 storm.
Verizon said the Verizon Response Team is expected to remain on scene as long as needed to assist public safety agencies as it continues to conduct search and rescue operations and deal with widespread power outages, flooding and catastrophic storm damage. The Verizon Response Team provides on-demand, emergency assistance during crisis situations to government agencies, emergency responders, nonprofits and communities on a continuous basis.
Verizon Response team members provide Verizon Frontline technology including portable cell sites, Wi-Fi hotspots, free charging stations and other devices and solutions that enable communications and/or boost network performance.
By Sept. 6, most cellular service had been restored throughout Louisiana. However, there was still limited ability to transmit live out of the hardest-hit areas in southeast Louisiana, including parts of New Orleans and Houma, due to a lack of cell towers. Verizon is giving customers in hurricane ravaged areas unlimited data through Sept 10; AT&T through Sept 14.
Mike Harrington is a contributing editor.
AT&T was found to be the fastest carrier on a 4G network, but the rise of 5G technology has made T-Mobile the overall winner with the fastest network in the United States, according to PCMag’s 12th annual “Fast Mobile Networks” test published last week.
T-Mobile, the test found, has average speeds of 162.3Mbps, compared to averages of 98.2Mbps and 93.7Mbps for AT&T and Verizon, respectively. Verizon led the way in terms of maximum download speeds, with 2216.7Mbps, compared to T-Mobile at 1134.4Mbps and AT&T at 1090.9Mbps.
“T-Mobile has filled in most of the urban and suburban areas of the Triangle and Charlotte with its new 5G network, while AT&T and Verizon are largely waiting for some new airwaves which become available next year,” said Sascha Segan, lead analyst, mobile for PCMag who wrote the report.
The difference among the results comes down to T-Mobile’s adoption of mid-band 5G. “It’s mid-band spectrum, which T-Mobile calls “ultra-capacity” 5G,” said Segan. The mid-band spectrum, ultra-capacity 5G airwaves, acquired in the acquisition of Sprint “let T-Mobile’s network give consistent results between 150Mbps and 500Mbps of download speed,” Segan said. That’s why T-Mobile received high marks in many of the 30 major metropolitan areas and six rural areas where data was gathered to conduct the analysis, he said.
T-Mobile president Neville Ray shared that the carrier’s 5G infrastructure is accessible to some 165 million people, as of July, when Ray wrote a blog post highlighting that metric, and noting that the company anticipates 200 million people could have access to its 5G networks by the end of the year.
That ultimately pushed the carrier past its two competitors, Verizon and AT&T, in the tests conducted by PCMag this year. Verizon invested in mmWave 5G technology in 2017, said Segan. Meanwhile, T-Mobile made a different choice, which was the acquisition of Sprint and the subsequent upgrading of what Segan called a “massive cache of largely unused mid-band airwaves,” converting those into 5G infrastructure.
The FCC granted 5,676 licenses today for wireless operations in mid-band radio-frequency spectrum, also known as C-band spectrum in the range from 3.7 GHz to 3.98 GHz. The licenses went to high bidders in the FCC Auction 107 that concluded on Feb. 17. Twenty-one bidders spent about $81 billion for the licenses. “Today’s action keeps the transition of this band to flexible use on track, paving the way for carriers to use this spectrum to provide 5G and other advanced wireless services,” a statement from the FCC reads.
The FCC’s acting chairwoman, Jessica Rosenworcel, said, “These mid-band licenses are the sweet spot for 5G deployment. That’s because they have the right mix of capacity and propagation that will help us reach more people in more places faster. With these licenses in hand, more carriers can deploy mid-band 5G, which means faster speeds over much wider coverage areas and more robust competition.”
Among the bidders, Verizon Wireless, under its business name of Cellco Partnership, spent $45.5 billion for 3,511 licenses. AT&T spent $23.5 billion for 1,621 licenses. T-Mobile spent $9 billion for 142 licenses. U.S. Cellular spent $1.3 billion for 254 licenses. NewLevel II, a bidding entity for Grain Capital, spent $1.2 billion for 10 licenses. Canopy Spectrum, a joint venture of Jennifer Fritzsche and Ed Moise, spent $197 milllion for 84 licenses.
The initial authorizations have a term not to exceed 15 years from the date of initial issuance or renewal, the FCC said. The FCC imposed lengthy, detailed construction requirements upon the license-holders in an effort to see to it that they build facilities to put the spectrum to use.
Satellite operators Intelsat, SES, Telesat, Eutelsat and Star One are working to clear the portion of the C-band that was auctioned, according to a story in Via Satellite. “The operators have agreed to clear the spectrum in exchange for relocation costs and incentive payments for clearing the spectrum on an accelerated timeline,” the story reads. “The FCC decided on $9.7 billion of accelerated relocation payments, most of which will go to Intelsat ($4.87 billion) and SES ($3.97 billion). The operators must first clear 120 megahertz of spectrum in 46 partial economic areas by Dec. 5, 2021. In a second phase, they must clear the lower 120 megahertz in the remaining areas, plus an additional 180 megahertz nationwide, by Dec. 5, 2023.”
Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher of AGL Magazine.
Futureproofing rural broadband telecommunications networks depends on the extent to which fiber-optic connectivity can be extended to every user, according to John Nettles, president of Pine Belt Communications. Nettles spoke during an AGL Virtual Summit in June at the session, “Rural Coverage Opportunities and Challenges,” moderated by Jeff Johnston, a lead economist for communications at CoBank, a national cooperative bank that provides credit to the U.S. rural economy.
“We would all be kidding ourselves if any of us were to say that we knew exactly what futureproof really means,” Nettles said. “If I could tell you what the needs are going to be five to 10 years out, I would be a rich man, instead of sitting here in Arlington, Alabama, dodging the thunderstorm that’s right outside my window.”
Nettles said that, generally, as the word is used today in telecommunications, futureproofing refers to fiber. He said that is not to say that wireless networks are going away or would be deemed irrelevant. “Hardly not.” He said. “Nor is there a single answer to the question of what throughput needs ultimately will be.”
In Nettles view, throughput tends to be seen as what an individual or a family needs for a pleasant user experience. The needs of the pandemic aside, he said, often throughput is viewed in the context of entertainment, in contrast with what trade publications promote.
“It seems like we’re on the verge of meaningful advances, including remotely performing life-saving procedures closer to where individuals reside, through robotics,” Nettles said. “To do that with functional equivalents of being there would require rapid processing of data and virtually no latency of each packet in both directions. Higher and higher throughput requirements are going to be there.”
Einstein’s theory of relativity says nothing goes faster than the speed of light in a vacuum, Nettles said, and it is logical to conclude that pushing fiber optics as deep as possible into the network is going to be a fundamental, proper requirement, if there is any hope of achieving the ultimate goal of everything for everybody everywhere. He said it also is obvious that wireless networks will hold a place in the telecom ecosystem for as long as humans remain mobile creatures.
“I can’t get up and drag my fiber with me to the next room, to the next building or to the next town,” Nettles said. “It’s going to have to be a balance between it all; there’s going to be a place for it all.”
Johnston asked to what extent national operators could have a meaningful effect on serving underserved and unserved areas. He noted that T-Mobile has been talking about a massive expansion of rural coverage. He said that part of that expansion stems from the conditions to which T-Mobile agreed when it acquired Sprint — they had to roll out a certain amount of coverage in rural America.
“I’m a firm believer that local problems are best solved when local groups come together to overcome the issue,” Nettles said. “My dad, who was the founder of the company, had a saying that absentee ownership was one of the death knells in a small operation, especially a rural operator.”
Nevertheless, Nettles said that with respect to capabilities, the big national operators make a difference. Even so, he said, they have to be concerned with investor returns.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a nonprofit, a co-op or a government entity, you have to cover your costs and to set a little for the rainy day fund so that you can maintain the network,” Nettles said. “If it’s going to require public-private partnerships, whether it comes in the form of the old days when, before we had walked away from the notion of a fair rate of return for an operator and a natural monopoly type environment or . . . .”
The problem exists today because of the digital divide, especially for rural America, because the returns have not been sufficient to justify the investment,” Nettles said. “There has to be something else to make it work. It’s not all one or the other. We have to continue to look for that balance point and make the best out of it.”
Among sources of public funds for rural broadband telecommunications networks are the Connect America Fund, the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund and Appalachian Regional Commission funds. Nettles cited an addition source, the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit program, which he said is starting as a temporary program, “but there’s a lot of talk that it could become a permanent program,” he said. “It’s not only the availability, but also the affordability question that needs to be in the forefront of all our plans and activities.”
For the June 8 AGL Virtual Summit, Total Tech sponsors included Raycap, Valmont Site Pro 1, Vertical Bridge and B+T Group. Tech sponsors included Alden Systems and Aurora Insight. Viavi Solutions sponsored the keynote address. Additional sponsors included Gap Wireless, NATE, VoltServer and WIA.
Sharpe Smith programmed the Summit, and Kari Willis hosted. AGL Media Group has scheduled the next AGL Virtual Summit for Sept. 8. To register, click here.
Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher of AGL Magazine.