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Anchorage-Based GCI To Sell Tower Division

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The Anchorage, Alaska-based multi-dimensional communications company intends to sell its tower division this year and gain up to $90 million, the company said Wednesday. “During 2016, we expect to monetize our urban wireless towers and rooftop locations for approximately $90 million in a sale leaseback transaction. We will redeploy and invest the cash received into our broadband infrastructure in Alaska.” The news was noted in the General Communications fourth quarter and full year 2015 results press release issued Wednesday from Anchorage.

“We also anticipate selling our urban wireless towers in 2016, which will provide us additional capital that we intend to re-invest in the growth of our company,” said Ron Duncan, GCI’s president and chief executive officer. “This sale will support significant investments in a diverse fiber to the North Slope and continued expansion of our TERRA network. These steps demonstrate GCI’s commitment to being the leader in broadband infrastructure in Alaska.”

As Inside Towers reported last fall, GCI, Alaska’s largest telecom which provides phone, television and Internet service to large sections of the state including many rural areas, was slammed October 20 with a $620,500 FCC fine for failing to register 118 cell towers — several of which were not properly lit to prevent accidents in the air. The FCC reached a settlement and the fine was paid at the time of the October announcement.

At the time, the company said the oversight to properly register the towers was discovered after reviewing its property following the 2013 merger between GCI and Alaska Communications System into the Alaska wireless network. Travis LeBlanc, chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, said, “Unregistered and unlit towers pose unacceptable risks to air and public safety. It is essential that communications towers are properly registered prior to construction, as well as properly lighted, to ensure that air traffic is aware of tower locations.”

March 4, 2016 |

5G Gets Its Push

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The push is on to get 5G into consumers’ hands. Like tomorrow. But first, it has to be invented, refined and out there. The good news is that’s already happening. Just last week a pair of U.S. senators introduced, as 360Law described it, “bipartisan legislation aimed at increasing the airwaves available for next-generation wireless services and reducing barriers to broadband deployment.”

U.S. Sens. John Thune, (R-SD), and Bill Nelson, (D-FL), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, introduced the Making Opportunities for Broadband Investment and Limiting Excessive and Needless Obstacles to Wireless, or Mobile Now, Act on February 11. 360Law added the bill codifies President Barack Obama’s 2010 directive to make 500 megahertz of spectrum available for wireless broadband use.”

Just about the same time as serious business was getting done in the Senate, the news ticker clicked off the headline “AT&T Joins Verizon In Trying To Bring You Super-Fast 5G Data.” Wowie zowie, it must be happening. Verizon’s “Newsy” site said “the company (AT&T) says customers could see speeds measured in gigabits per second, instead of megabits per second. That’s really fast.” Really fast means “10-to-100 times faster than the average 4G LTE connection.” Verizon said it is working on a fifth generation network that is 3-to-50 times faster than 4G LTE. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves because “5G Smartphones aren’t ready for mass production and that will take time to rollout,” reported the news site. “And, it will take some time to rollout 5G over the United States.”

Verizon announced last year it is already working on 5G service.

How fast is “fast” you ask? Well, it’s hard to imaging but “with 1Gigabit, a TV show can be downloaded in 3 seconds,” offered the Verizon site.

February 17, 2016 |

Tower Industry Plans, Prepares for Mid-Atlantic Snowstorm

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WASHINGTON, DC — By midday yesterday, an estimated 80 million Americans along the mid-Atlantic coast from Virginia to New York were scrambling to prepare for National Weather Service-forecasted storm expected to last 36 hours over Friday and Saturday. It could dump two feet or more of snow and bring single-digit temperatures and howling winds. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, who was already rattled by the Wednesday evening snow “dusting” that covered city streets with an inch of ice causing hundreds of accidents, may have gotten ahead of herself by noon when she told NPR the coming snow was already “an historic storm” as her planners prepared the city. Even local electric company PEPCO robo-called customers to warn them to “prepare for the storm, report outages and stay clear of downed wires and stay clear of working repair crews.”

But down in Boca Raton, FL. where it was 71 degrees and partly cloudy on Thursday afternoon, Bernard Borghei was calm and collected.  As head of operations for Vertical Bridge, the fast growing owner/manager of more than 42,000 tower sites, he’d already addressed the snowstorm and any other upcoming natural disasters that haven’t made it to the radar screen yet. “We have a procedure plan in place and the first thing is ‘safety first,’” Borghei told Inside Towers. He then clicked off the plan’s points with the precision of a U.S. Marine Corps Drill Instructor, each step of the logistical plan considered. “We tell our people not to go into the site if there is any possibility of danger. If equipment has fallen down, we first contact local authorities – police and fire – and send out our maintenance vendors who will then tell us when the area can be accessed. We also contact the landlord” when there is one. Vertical Bridge also has contracts with snow removal vendors who clear the road to the site whenever a few inches fall so maintenance and repair teams have safe passage to towers, transmitters and generators. And, added Borghei, all tower sites are prepped at the beginning of the season – storm, rain, hurricane, etc. – so generators will work when needed.

When storms strike towers there are almost always some sort of failure. A power failure or a lighting failure. From his two monitoring posts in San Antonio and Austin, Remote Monitoring Services’ Art Stone knows about it almost immediately. “We’ve got redundant phone lines and redundant Internet from both of our facilities to the sites. And with the on-coming mid-Atlantic storm just hours away, Stone is confident that there will be power and lighting outages. There always are, he tells Inside Towers, from snowstorms, thunderstorms and high winds. But the Texas company is always watching to make sure the towers’ lights are bright and the power is on. He adds, “It’s just about impossible to knock out our monitoring.” And that’s good because tower owners whose sticks 200 feet and higher must be lit and if the lights go out, the Federal Aviation Administration must be notified within 30 minutes so brave, low flying pilots flying in the area are aware.

Stone estimates Remote Monitoring Services watches roughly 100 towers that are 200 feet and taller in the mid-Atlantic where snow is expected and he figures there are roughly another 1,000 towers that tall in the region. Of course, there are thousands of towers of various heights in the region that could be affected this weekend.

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January 22, 2016 |

Vertical Bridge Adds 250 Wireless Sites

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Vertical Bridge will manage and market the wireless deployment sites at 250 Welltower Inc.-owned medical buildings in a deal announced yesterday. The Boca Raton, FL-based Vertical Bridge is the nation’s largest private owner and manager of wireless communication infrastructure with a portfolio of more than 42,000 owned and/or managed billboard, tower, roof, utility attachment and other type sites.

“The attractive Welltower sites offer numerous possibilities for small cells, macro sites, rooftop installations and some possible tower opportunities,” said Alex Gellman, Chief Executive Officer of Vertical Bridge. “We admire their investment and portfolio strategy, and feel fortunate to partner with them to enhance wireless communication infrastructure in the areas surrounding their properties. We continue to seek opportunities to expand our portfolio, and to help our partners leverage their assets while meeting the evolving needs of today’s mobile, digital and social media consumers.”

Vertical Bridge began entering into similar management and marketing deals in January 2015 and has partnership agreements with leading media and real estate companies including Hudson Pacific, Love’s, iHeartMedia, Inc., Clear Channel Outdoor Americas, Townsquare Media, CiG Wireless Corp., U.S. Cellular and Nsight Tower Holdings, LLC. The locations are geographically dispersed across urban, suburban, traffic corridor and rural areas to enable capacity increases for mobile services and enhance the user experience. Financial details were not released.

January 20, 2016 |

Appeals Court Backs FCC on Tower Siting

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In what could be seen as a landmark decision that could effectively speed the decision-making process for approving tower construction in America, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on Friday agreed with the FCC’s directive to deploy wireless facilities by preventing intervention by local authorities.

Although the FCC rule had won the support of CTIA and PCIA-The Wireless Infrastructure Association, Montgomery County, MD and other counties in March filed suit against the FCC to prevent the commission from carrying out its order and call the new tower siting rule unconstitutional, arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion and otherwise illegal,” reported John Eggerton in Broadcasting & Cable.

The FCC, which has been an unabashed supporter of the national build-out of the wireless infrastructure, voted unanimously in October 2014 to make it easier to deploy wireless infrastructure.

Former FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, now president and CEO of PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association, said Friday following the ruling that the FCC was within its legal authority to interpret legal terms designed to streamline deployment of wireless broadband.

“We are thrilled with the outcome of this case because it will promote the widespread deployment of mobile broadband in Montgomery County and other communities around the country. The wireless infrastructure industry wants to reduce or eliminate, whenever possible, unreasonable obstacles to all communities tapping into the extraordinary economic and technological potential of wireless broadband. We were proud to partner with CTIA to make this victory possible.  We look forward to our continued work with municipalities to meet their constituents’ growing demand for wireless data. PCIA has strongly supported the Infrastructure Order and its guidelines for implementation, and congratulate the FCC on this important win in its laudable efforts aimed at increasing broadband deployment.”

The CTIA was also “pleased by the court’s decision.” It added, “From Congress to the FCC to local governments, policymakers recognize the vital role that government can and should play in expediting the deployment of broadband networks.” The group said it  is “proud to have partnered with municipal representatives to educate local jurisdictions about streamlined siting processes, and to have developed a model ordinance and checklist for use by local zoning authorities.” CTIA said it believes that the court’s decision “will bring greater certainty and uniformity to broadband permitting decisions, bolstering the economic and social benefits that broadband brings to communities across the nation.”

December 21, 2015 |

Spectrum Incentive Auction Gets Wings Today

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Officially it’s called the House Subcommittee of Communications and Technology and chaired by former broadcast owner Rep. Greg Walden (R-WA) and it’s set to markup bipartisan legislation that aims to promote increased wireless broadband build out. H.R. 1641 was introduced March 26 and gives the FCC the gusto to move ahead with the planned March 26, 2016, airwaves auction and repurpose their commercial use. The 13-page bill also establishes in the Treasury a Federal Spectrum Incentive Fund to be administered by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in consultation with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

“We commend the bipartisan leadership of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology for moving expeditiously in marking up a legislative package that is so integral to America’s economic and technological future,” said the PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association in a statement released late Tuesday afternoon. “Consumer demand for wireless mobile data continues to escalate – with no end in sight. This nation cannot meet that demand and continue to compete in the global marketplace unless we site and deploy greater wireless infrastructure and allocate additional spectrum for wireless communications.”

“PCIA and the wireless infrastructure industry will continue working closely with Subcommittee Chairman Walden, Ranking Member Eshoo (D-CA), and other members of the subcommittee and their staffs in shaping legislation that will spur job creation in every region of the country and keep America at the forefront of technological innovation.”

December 2, 2015 |

Tower Accident Leads to Lawsuits, Tougher Safety

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Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 10.42.50 AMIn Clarksburg, West Virginia, the fatal collapse of the Despard Cell Tower on February 1, 2014, has resulted in four federal lawsuits, and a push to implement more stringent safety guidelines for workers as the maintain towers. According to the West Virginia Record, the lawsuits named SBA Communications Corporation; SBA Towers LLC; SBA Infrastructure LLC; SBA Network Services LLC; FDH Velocitel; FDH Engineering Inc.; FDH Innovation; and FDH Inc. as defendants.

The first complaint was filed on September 2 in the Harrison Circuit Court, but was then moved to federal court on November 2. The plaintiffs claim SBA and FDH either knew or should have known that the maintenance workers replacing structural supports on the tower did not have sufficient knowledge or understanding of engineering to replace them in a safe manner.

The plaintiffs claim the cell tower industry has increased too rapidly to maintain proper training and safety for all their workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has recognized an increase in injuries and fatalities at communication tower sites while work is in progress. A final ruling has not been made, but the lawsuits have focused the spotlight on safety regulations.

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November 23, 2015 |

FCC Prices Spectrum; Will Discuss Auction Thursday

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RqmymBBQN4dYfDstXXhkJEjydTi5bcz_JNEZSB6gMyeoxDy2VKwhUXurk5WZkrRdlRm9ZiwrKhP6_irZvx3CSAS5cc12r28v6q7J0YPr-WXueLbG8E0-ObytfgaurdhzluVQLWrt-Kqa3fTVLIirSrECVLTvikKPJWD1OQ=s0-d-e1-ftOpening prices have been set by the FCC on spectrum for the much-discussed March 29 auction. WCBS-TV/New York, rates the biggest apple of them all, about $900 million, according to documents released by the agency on October 15. But, that doesn’t mean owner Viacom can expect to get all that dough unless it gives up spectrum space all together.

The commission offered a four-option plan for broadcasters to consider that included giving up the space entirely, sharing some space, moving from a UHF to a VHF channel or from a high to low VHF, noted Broadcasting & Cable’s John Eggerton. But no matter how the pie is sliced, “There is a lot of money to be had by each individual broadcaster,” B&C quoted an FCC official briefing reporters.

“For potential Incentive Auction participants, today is a watershed moment,” said FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, according to B&C.

“For all practical purposes, we’ve fired the starting gun: the release of final opening bid prices—combined with the detailed application procedures and other data released yesterday—provides broadcasters with all of the information they need to decide whether to apply to participate in the auction. Stations that miss the December 18 deadline will not be able to participate in this historic auction. Commission staff stand ready to educate and assist applicants as they prepare.”

In Washington on Friday, the National Association of Broadcasters told reporters covering the spectrum auction “NAB is reviewing this document and declining comment at this time.”

FCC’s top brass has placed the matter of the auction on their agenda and will discuss it on Thursday (October 22) during their monthly open meeting. Meanwhile, with the freshly released information on the auction, broadcasters now have enough details to decide whether they want to participate. The FCC deadline to decide is December 18.

The meeting at The Portals is open to the public. Audio/Video coverage of the meeting will be broadcast live with open captioning over the Internet from the FCC Live web page at www.fcc.gov/live.

October 19, 2015 |

T-Mobile Towers Cause Interference

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Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 8.44.11 AMSirius XM and T-Mobile are at odds in some U.S. cities.  According to Sirius XM, some of their listeners experience trouble with reception when users are near T-Mobile cell sites.  T-Mobile claims it hasn’t done anything wrong and that the problem lies with the radios used by Sirius.  Now, Sirius XM Holdings Inc. is asking federal regulators to intercede and decide what is actually causing the problem. The dispute between these two is indicative of the crowded spectrum that is a reality already, especially in populous cities.  When Sirius customers reported that their radios lost signal during routine trips to work, Sirius conducted tests that led them to conclude that T-Mobile was at fault.

According to Sirius XM spokesman Patrick Reilly, the solutions for the problem remain T-Mobile’s responsibility.  He said, “FCC rules place responsibility on T-Mobile to remedy interference caused by its transmissions and to cooperate with us to solve the problem” (Wall Street Journal).  However, T-Mobile says the problem causing the interference is in the receivers Sirius uses.  They claim the radios should be built in a manner that will negate any interference irregularities.

T-Mobile’s response, given by senior director of engineering and technology policy, Steve Sharky, seeks to direct attention to the overall source of the problem.  “T-Mobile is operating within the FCC’s rules and it’s clear from testing there’s a problem caused by inadequate filtering in Sirius XM’s receivers” (Wall Street Journal).  According to analysts at Barclays, solutions involving the FCC and equipment changes range from improving base stations, more network investments by Sirius XM, or a much more complicated solution: changing a lot of existing car antennas.

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October 5, 2015 |

5 Bars to Develop Sacramento’s Wireless

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Y6DvwNrIeRBTvVJRrtawT75yw_yfzIgPLotSpv31Z4OMYNgM28frseyhsjLPfm_EmVKn0jhzFoTTTdFzjsfCJ6RdgwnVldz3xXrfEW3TLKJziTS5KWhlOR33Ciq0CWmnNW95saUpfXZRI_d9-jLKiYhhgL9WtoeDfgdgpso=s0-d-e1-ft5 Bars, a provider of DAS and Wi-Fi wireless services, announced they had struck an agreement to develop a Wireless Master Plan for Sacramento, CA. Once implemented, the residents will have public access to high speed Internet in key areas, which supports the city’s IT digital strategy and is in alignment with Mayor Kevin Johnson’s move toward City 3.0. Cities 3.0 is a term coined by the mayor, and describes the city as a hub of innovation, entrepreneurship and technology. “It’s paperless, wireless and cashless. In 3.0 cities, we have more cell phones than landlines, more tablets than desktops, more smart devices than toothbrushes,” Johnson wrote in the Huffington Post.

5 Bars will be working alongside Johnson and other city officials to develop smart infrastructure to create a network to improve the quality of life, sustainability and efficiencies in the metropolitan area. “Cities must provide a NEW kind of infrastructure: like citywide Wi-Fi networks, broadband and fiber optics,” Johnson continued in the Huffington Post. “We must have turnkey operations for start-up companies, from office space to high-speed communication lines. The bottom line is, cities must provide services and infrastructure that residents and businesses need and do it quicker, faster and cheaper.” (Photo courtesy of the City of Sacramento)

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September 2, 2015 |
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