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.

Read More

When is a Defaulter Not Really a Defaulter? And Other Auction 97 Questions

Posted by: Joan Marsh on October 8, 2015 at 11:12 am

Last week, the latest chapter of the saga that is Auction 97 unfolded in all its messy, unpredicted and unpredictable glory – Dish and its affiliate DEs surrendered over $3 billion of AWS-3 licenses back to the FCC.  Before we get to the selective default, let’s quickly review the bidding to date.

First, Dish took $10 billion in debt and equity to provide 97% of the financing to two new bidding entities that were created through a complex web of identical documents that gave Dish almost total control over any decision that really mattered.

These entities then entered the auction as DEs and were promptly given identical bidding scripts to pursue a highly unconventional bidding scheme with Dish that involved over 4,000 triple and double bids, massive eligibility parking and dubious bid withdrawals.

After the auction, when the veil was lifted and the scheme exposed, no one but Dish and its DEs were surprised to see the status of the DEs challenged and ultimately (and rightfully) rejected by the FCC.  Dish professed to be surprised and unprepared for the financial consequences of that decision, even though the aforementioned document web that created the DEs specifically preserved remedies for Dish should the FCC strip the DEs of their preferred status.

Read More

T-Mobile’s Magenta Herring

Posted by: Joan Marsh on June 15, 2015 at 3:00 pm

The ever colorful tweets from T-Mobile CEO John Legere made for interesting reading after his DC tour last week in support of T-Mobile’s quest to expand the 600 MHz spectrum reserve.  T-Mobile has long alleged that an expanded reserve is essential to competition in rural America.  But, the fact is that the reserve framework will have very little impact on wireless service or deployment in rural America.  As I explain below, in many rural areas, AT&T’s low-band portfolio is simply not sufficient to trigger the auction restrictions so our bidding in most rural areas will not be restricted, regardless of the size of the reserve.

What the restrictions are actually designed to do is protect T-Mobile from bidding competition in urban markets – even though T-Mobile itself argues that 92% of non-rural Americans have access to four or more mobile broadband providers.  Only 40% of rural Americans, T-Mobile argues, enjoy the same and thus T-Mobile tries to build a case for expanding the restrictions to support deployment in rural America.

To understand why T-Mobile is wrong – and why the reserve framework is not likely to have much impact on bidding in rural markets – we need to discuss how the reserve framework is structured.

Read More

Accelerating Broadband, Part III

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on October 9, 2014 at 2:22 pm

By Jeanine Poltronieri, AT&T Assistant Vice President of Federal Regulatory:

I was very encouraged last week after reading a blog by Roger Sherman, Chief of the FCC’s Wireless Bureau, on the Commission’s draft report and order to modernize and streamline the rules for cellular licenses in the 800 MHz band.

During the year that the FCC set aside spectrum for the first cellular licenses, Ronald Reagan was President, Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles, MTV was launched and video killed the radio star.  A lot can change in 30 years.

When these cellular licenses were first granted, the rules required a great deal of information on each cell site that the licensee used to provide service.  Almost any time the licensee made a change to a cell site, or the equipment on it, new filings had to be prepared by the licensee and processed by the Commission.  Changes like antenna model number, antenna center height, or structure height. And although the Commission later required filings for boundary sites only, the vast majority of these filings made little, if any, change to the service the consumer was receiving.  The paperwork merely reflected changes that are necessary to keep the network running and meeting customer demand.

Since networks are constantly responding to changes in environment (like trees leafing out or the construction of new buildings), as well as customer needs, these filings occurred frequently.  As a side note, the FCC, the FAA and local authorities already have other rules and requirements that apply to tower siting, so some of the tower-specific information that’s filed with cellular changes already exists in other systems.  The current rules are indeed burdensome and can stall progress, especially when the licensee must wait for Commission approval before changes can be made to provide service.

Read More

The Roaming Marketplace is Working

Posted by: Joan Marsh on July 11, 2014 at 9:21 am

T-Mobile, which advertises itself as the “un-carrier,” has asked the FCC to “un-do” its data roaming rules, which were established in 2011 to facilitate reasonable data roaming arrangements while continuing to incent network investments.  T-Mobile now asks for a “declaratory ruling” which would effectively eviscerate that FCC decision and run afoul of the D.C. Circuit case which upheld it.

The Commission carefully crafted its data roaming rules to balance two important goals:  ensuring that mobile wireless providers can obtain data roaming arrangements on reasonable terms while preserving incentives to invest in broadband networks.  T-Mobile’s proposals would undo that careful balance, resulting in prescriptive rate “benchmarks” and other policies designed to allow T-Mobile to continue to rely on data roaming in lieu of investing in and extending its own broadband networks.

There is no justification for granting T-Mobile’s petition –  in fact, according to T-Mobile’s own economist, wholesale roaming rates have trended “downward strongly” in recent years, and the average wholesale roaming rates paid by T-Mobile have fallen nearly 70 percent since 2011 and continue to decline.  There is also evidence that commercial negotiations are producing a variety of terms to meet differing needs, including the highly-touted LTE roaming hub T-Mobile’s own trade association (CCA) has established with scores of rural carriers to “help Sprint and T-Mobile fill the holes in their network[s].”  Sprint currently relies on the Hub to extend its roaming coverage by 34 million people in 23 states.

Notably, T-Mobile has not cited a single instance where a provider anywhere in the country has found it necessary to file a formal complaint with the Commission alleging an inability to obtain commercially reasonable terms.  Indeed, when taken as a whole, T-Mobile’s petition evinces a well-functioning market for wholesale data roaming services with which the Commission should be loathe to interfere.

Read More