A Return to Permission-Less Innovation

Posted by: Joan Marsh on August 22, 2016 at 2:41 pm

The latest chapter of the Wi-Fi vs. LTE-U saga unfolded this month as the Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA) announced that, after many months, it was finally closing in on an approved LTE-U coexistence test plan but surprised everyone by suggesting that the test plan should also include LTE-LAA. To understand why this is so aggravating, we need to take a little trip in the not-so-way-back machine.

A year ago, when the whole LTE-U brouhaha erupted, the Wi-Fi proponents advanced two primary complaints.

First, the Wi-Fi proponents argued that LTE-U had not been standardized, but instead was an un-scrutinized proprietary technology. It was further argued that the unlicensed community always worked together cooperatively and that the LTE-U proponents had somehow violated that unwritten code.

As a preliminary matter, that’s simply not the case. There are many unlicensed devices that are not particularly cooperative with Wi-Fi. One report estimates that 76% of the interference into home Wi-Fi systems comes from baby monitors, microwaves and cordless phones; and no one manufacturing those devices had to seek permission from the WFA to proceed or submit to WFA co-existence testing. I would also note that LTE-U relies on LTE Releases standardized in 3GPP.

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The FCC Seizes the Reins on Privacy: Observations from Our Summer Internship

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on August 10, 2016 at 2:13 pm

By Lindsey Knapton, Alex McLeod, Sean Vallancourt, AT&T Summer Interns 

(The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the student authors and are not attributable to AT&T)

When we each arrived at AT&T’s DC offices earlier this summer for our internships, we knew that we would have a front seat for policy discussions around some of the most hotly debated topics, including net neutrality, privacy and the march toward 5G wireless technologies. Little did we know the discussions would take such an interesting turn after the D.C. Circuit released its long awaited net neutrality decision. While some claimed victory, others were left with unanswered questions regarding the Court’s decision. In US Telecom v. FCC, the Court allowed the FCC to reclassify Internet Service Provider (“ISP”) offerings as telecommunications services rather than information services. The Court also determined that mobile broadband services are now commercial rather than private because mobile broadband is an interconnected service that is a part of the new public switched network that includes IP addresses. These decisions, which deviate from FCC precedent regarding ISPs and broadband Internet access services, were only marginally explained in the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order. Yet the Court accepted the FCC’s limited explanation as sufficient justification for its decision.

As a result of this decision, many scholars are left questioning: how much deference should administrative agencies receive in interpreting a Congressional statute? In Chevron, the Supreme Court required that an agency must give a reasonable explanation to justify its action but, after the DC Circuit decision, many question whether agencies should be held to a higher standard. As a result of the Court’s reclassification choices in US Telecom v. FCC, the FCC has extended its reach in regulating the telecommunications industry; and the impact of the D.C. Circuit’s decision will continue to affect all telecommunications operations, including privacy and wireless issues.

When the D.C. Circuit upheld the 2015 Open Internet Order, it was known that there would be significant restructuring of the privacy rules that govern ISPs. Before the FCC reclassified ISPs as common carriers, the sensitivity of data used and shared on the Internet by ISPs was subject to the Federal Trade Commission’s flexible regulation regime. The FTC’s rules did not apply only to ISPs – but to every player on the Internet, including edge providers, such as Google and Facebook. Since assuming sole authority over ISPs, the FCC has released a set of proposed privacy rules to provide clarity to an ecosystem it considers chaotic. Critics of the rules, however, assert that only confusion will arise from the FCC’s onerous proposals. While the FCC could have proposed rules to mirror the FTC’s longstanding regime, which has, according to many leading industry players, worked effectively, the FCC proposed a code of unprecedented heft, which could severely curtail the marketing practices of many major ISPs. While the rules have not yet been adopted – and while it is far too early to tell how they will affect the business practice of ISPs – they have already been tied to the recent merger of Verizon and Yahoo, which many observers interpret as a sign of things to come as ISPs expand their data marketing operation.

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AT&T Statement on FCC’s 5G
Spectrum Frontiers Report and Order

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on July 14, 2016 at 12:44 pm

The following statement may be attributed to Joan Marsh, AT&T Vice President of Federal Regulatory:

“Today, the FCC made a big down payment on the next generation of wireless innovation in the United States.  5G technologies, which will offer very low latency and gigabit speeds, will fuel a new era of investment in advanced wireless services, and the mmWave spectrum bands authorized today will serve as the launch pad for 5G development and deployment in the U.S.

“The Order, which is the result of months of advocacy, reflects regulatory compromises designed to permit new 5G services while accommodating the business plans of incumbent licensees. A careful review of the Order will be necessary to understand the balance struck between the competing interests, but we believe that the FCC’s actions today will provide the clarity needed to move forward with confidence with 5G trials and development, ensuring continued U.S. leadership in wireless innovation and services.”

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A Step toward an Effective
Spectrum Sharing Framework

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on April 14, 2016 at 10:27 am

By Stacey Black, AT&T Assistant Vice President of Federal Regulatory

There has been a lot of talk lately about spectrum sharing – Spectrum Access Systems, Dynamic Spectrum Arbitrage, Environmental Sensing Capability, Shared Spectrum Access for Radar and Communications, to name just a few of the discussed approaches. The purveyors of these techniques believe that their technology will change the way spectrum is shared and will solve the nation’s unquenchable thirst for this finite resource.  We have some reluctance about these high-tech approaches because they largely remain unproven.  We’ve certainly never seen any one of them working in a commercially deployed wireless network serving 100 million plus customers; and we don’t think we will for some time.

But we have been thinking a lot about spectrum sharing, particularly in light of the FCC proceeding that proposes that satellite operations share spectrum with terrestrial mobile broadband services to advance 5th generation networks.  In support of that proceeding, we recently collaborated with EchoStar – a premier broadband satellite company – on developing a sharing framework that will enable both satellite and mobile services to make intensive and productive use of valuable high GHz 5G spectrum resources in a manner that does not unduly restrict the development of either service. How? Not with some new-fangled technology with an acronym. We talked with each other to understand interference concerns and to develop a coordination framework that would work for both types of services.

In our discussions with EchoStar, we found that we not only shared common business goals and interests, but that our network architectures were a lot more compatible than once believed. For example, satellite earth stations point into the sky with highly directional antennas and mobile broadband base stations typically point their antennas towards the ground.  We also learned that it is not necessary for earth stations to be in densely populated urban centers, where mobile broadband is used the most. With these and other data points, we outlined a reasonable set of coordination guidelines and parameters that would allow us to deploy mobile networks and new earth stations in more places than previously thought.

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TOPICS: Broadband, FCC, Spectrum
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Reaching a Sound 3.5 GHz Framework

Posted by: Joan Marsh on April 11, 2016 at 11:44 am

We’ve been watching with interest as a Further Order on the 3.5 GHz band plan is being considered by the FCC’s 8th floor. The Order proposes to preserve a Priority Access License, or PALs, scheme that has been broadly rejected by almost everyone who had advocated for the PALs approach. Given this opposition, it’s hard to see why the Commission remains committed to it.  “If you build it they will come” may be a slogan that works with magical baseball fields, but it’s not going to be an effective approach here.

It’s not hard to see why wireless operators are unenthusiastic.

First, it’s far from certain that a bidder will be able to obtain a rational PALs footprint at auction.  The Commission has concluded that, to ensure auction competition, it will require multiple bidders in each license area and auction one less PAL than the total number of PALs applied for in a given census tract.  This means that if only one carrier is interested in PALs in a given license area, zero PALs will be available.  Would-be PAL licensees could therefore simply find themselves locked out from the start in many license areas.  And, as many commentators have pointed out, the N-1 requirement will effectively act to reduce the number of PALs available over time, systematically phasing out PALs with each subsequent auction.  This alone is probably sufficient to discourage meaningful interest.

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