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Category Archives: LTE

Leap to Triple LTE Coverage by 2014, Joining the 4G Fray

Leap Wireless International, the parent of Cricket Communications, plans to triple its planned LTE coverage from 20-25 million to 60-65million POPs by 2014, according to Leap CEO Doug Hutcheson, speaking at the 40th Annual J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference last week in Boston.

In March, Cricket signed a five-year wholesale agreement to use Clearwire’s proposed LTE network. Previously, it had a wholesale agreement with the now-bankrupt Lightsquared. Late last year, the carrier began its multi-year transition to 4G LTE with a commercial market launch in its Tucson, Ariz.

The carrier has not divulged its LTE vendors, however. Leap spokesman Greg Lund told the AGL Bulletin the company has not been in any hurry to deploy LTE, choosing instead to wait until handset and infrastructure costs come down.

“We felt the significant device costs that were presented to us would come down in line with what our customers [could afford] in the back half of this year,” Lund said. “That is why we took a more measured approach to device and infrastructure sourcing.”

Clearwire has said it will announce its LTE vendors in the third quarter of this this year and plans to deploy 5,000 TD-LTE base stations by June 2013, increasing to 8,000 thereafter. Leap will probably announce its vendors for LTE in the second half of this year, Lund said.

“Carriers are busy adding coverage and capacity – good for towers,” Christopher Larsen, senior research analyst with Piper/Larsen, wrote in a note on last week’s CTIA show in New Orleans. “AT&T and Verizon have maintained their aggressive push to build-out LTE. Sprint is driving high levels of activity with its Network Vision deployment. Finally, T-Mobile is making progress with its LTE strategy, announcing its vendors this week. (see relate story) With the rapid growth of wireless data usage likely to continue and to push the carriers to keep up with capacity demands, we think the tower operators will continue to see strong growth in the U.S. for the foreseeable future.”

Mobile Experts projects more than 14 million radio transceivers will be installed during 2016, with more than half deployed for LTE services.

“Despite the rise of small cells, the macro infrastructure market will remain strong,” said Joe Madden, principal analyst at Mobile Experts. “In particular, rising data traffic demand will drive a need for ongoing investment in the macro layer, especially for 3G, TD-LTE, and LTE-FDD systems.”

T-Mobile Selects LTE Infrastructure Vendors, Details Deployment Strategy

T-Mobile inked multi-year agreements with Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) earlier this month to deploy its $4 billion 4G network. The agreements call for Release 10-capable equipment, also known as LTE Advanced, at 37,000 cell sites across T-Mobile’s network, beginning this year and completing in 2013.

The vendor announcement came on the heels of the FCC’s approval of the AT&T spectrum transfer to T-Mobile, which was part of the failed-merger agreement. With the infusion of the new spectrum in 128 markets, T-Mobile will launch LTE on AWS spectrum in 75 percent of the top 25 markets.

“Securing the additional spectrum from AT&T was a catalyst for T-Mobile’s planned launch of LTE in 2013,” a T-Mobile spokesperson said. “As part of our recently announced its 4G evolution strategy, the company will invest $4 billion over time on network modernization to improve existing voice and data coverage, which includes refarming 1900 MHz PCS spectrum currently being used for GSM to deploy HSPA+ 4G services, as well as deployment of LTE in 2013.” T-Mobile expects to reach broad deployment of LTE next year, with service in the vast majority of the top 50 markets.

T-Mobile believes it will be the first carrier in North America to rollout antenna-integrated radios (AIR), enabling accelerated deployment and reduced site loading. Ericsson launched its antenna-integrated radios at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last year. The technology is expected to reduce power consumption by 42 percent and drop installation time by a third. The AIR thechnology is the result of a strategic partnership between Ericsson and the antenna maker Kathrein.

“The company’s timing for LTE allows T-Mobile to take advantage of the latest and most advanced LTE technology infrastructure, improving the overall capacity and performance of its 4G network, while optimizing the company’s spectrum resources,” T-Mobile said in a press release.

T-Mobile is not done with HSPA+, however. It plans to launch 4G HSPA+ service in the 1900 MHz band in a number of markets by the end of the year, allowing for the use of the iPhone. Currently, it serves 229 markets with HSPA+.

American Tower Reports Double-Digit Site Rental Growth, Closes in on 50,000 Sites

Domestic rental and management segment revenue increased 10.6 percent to $465 million and operating profit increased 11.9 percent to $352.8 million for American Tower in the fourth quarter. Additionally, domestic core organic growth topped 8 percent, reflecting new leasing activity by AT&T and Verizon Wireless, according to a transcript of the fourth quarter earning call by Seeking Alpha

“This activity has been primarily generated by two of our largest customers as they continue to focus on deploying initial coverage for their 4G LTE networks nationwide,” said Thomas Bartlett, executive vice president, CFO and treasurer, on the fourth quarter earnings. “The remainder of our core growth was generated from the 850 sites we’ve acquired or constructed since the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2010, in addition to our newly acquired land interest.”

For the full year 2011, domestic rental and management revenue grew 11.4 percent to more than $1.74 billion, with domestic segment core revenue growth of 10.6 percent.

“We continued to see substantial leasing demand in the U.S. in 2011 … which along with the more than 450 communication sites and 1,700 third-party property interests we added during the year, led to these growth rates,” Bartlett said.

James Taiclet, American Tower chairman, president and CEO, noted that the tower company is set to achieve its goal of doubling its total site count from five years ago. In 2007, American had 22,400 sites in three countries, which is expected to have risen to 50,000 sites in 10 countries by the end of 2012.

“We still believe, based on direct interactions with many of our major customers, that tower-based macro sites will continue to be the primary choice for wide-area network development into the foreseeable future, with urban rooftops, distributed antenna systems and Wi-Fi offloads serving as complementary solutions,” Taiclet said. “As a result, we expect to continue to direct the bulk of our capex and acquisition spending to tower-based real estate.”

American Tower will continue to grow complementary coverage solutions, such as indoor DAS, on an organic basis, he added.

When NTIA and FCC Pull the Plug on LightSquared, Will it Dim Sprint’s Network Vision?

What began as such a promising idea for a $7 billion nationwide broadband wireless network with 40,000 antenna sites may not receive the regulatory approval it needs to move forward. In a letter sent on Wednesday, The National Telecommunications and Information Administration updated the FCC on its latest independent evaluation of the negative impact of LightSquared on GPS services.

“We conclude that the LightSquared mobile broadband network will impact GPS services and there is no practical way to mitigate the potential interference at this time,” wrote Lawrence Strickling, NTIA assistant secretary for communications and information.

Last July, LightSquared entered into an agreement with Sprint where it promised to pay the carrier $9 billion to deploy its nationwide LTE network over the Network Vision infrastructure and would have received credits valued at $4.5 billion. In October, Sprint accelerated deployment of Network Vision, which consolidates multiple network technologies into one seamless network. The demise of LightSquared leaves Sprint’s pocketbook quite a bit lighter and its spectrum-hosting business without an anchor tenant.

The FCC’s International Bureau, which had issued a conditional waiver order prohibiting LightSquared from operating until harmful interference issues were resolved, immediately released a statement that appeared to bow to the will of the NTIA.

“The NTIA, the federal agency that coordinates spectrum uses for the military and other federal government entities, has now concluded that there is no practical way to mitigate potential interference at this time. Consequently, the commission will not lift the prohibition on LightSquared,” said FCC spokesperson Tammy Sun.

The FCC is releasing this week a Public Notice seeking comment on the NTIA’s conclusions, proposing to vacate the conditional waiver order and suspend indefinitely LightSquared’s ancillary terrestrial component authority.

The FCC faced monumental challenges in attempting to allow terrestrial mobile communications on the satellite spectrum. Especially frustrating for the commission were the GPS receivers that pick up signals from uses in adjacent bands.

“There are very substantial costs to our economy and to consumers of preventing the use of this and other spectrum for mobile broadband,” Sun said. “Congress, the FCC, other federal agencies and private sector stakeholders must work together in a concerted effort to reduce regulatory barriers and free up spectrum for mobile broadband.” She called for better receiver performance standards as a way to more efficiently use spectrum.

Federal agencies decided earlier this week that they will develop new GPS spectrum interference standards for future proposals for non-space commercial uses of adjacent bands.

“NTIA recognizes the importance that receiver standards could play as a part of a forward-looking model for spectrum management even beyond the immediate use of GPS,” Strickling wrote.

In a sure sign that the end is nigh, Bloomberg Businessweek reports that Phil Falcone, whose hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners invested $3 billion in LightSquared, is attempting to swap the spectrum, valued at $500 million by Skyterra, with the U.S. Department of Defense to salvage some of his investment. Since its subprime loan investments paid off handsomely five years ago, Harbinger’s capital has dropped from $26 billion to $4 billion.

When NTIA and FCC Pull the Plug on LightSquared, Will it Dim Sprint’s Network Vision?

What began as such a promising idea for a $7 billion nationwide broadband wireless network with 40,000 antenna sites may not receive the regulatory approval it needs to move forward. In a letter sent on Wednesday, The National Telecommunications and Information Administration updated the FCC on its latest independent evaluation of the negative impact of LightSquared on GPS services.

“We conclude that the LightSquared mobile broadband network will impact GPS services and there is no practical way to mitigate the potential interference at this time,” wrote Lawrence Strickling, NTIA assistant secretary for communications and information.

Last July, LightSquared entered into an agreement with Sprint where it promised to pay the carrier $9 billion to deploy its nationwide LTE network over the Network Vision infrastructure and would have received credits valued at $4.5 billion. In October, Sprint accelerated deployment of Network Vision, which consolidates multiple network technologies into one seamless network. The demise of LightSquared leaves Sprint’s pocketbook quite a bit lighter and its spectrum-hosting business without an anchor tenant.

The FCC’s International Bureau, which had issued a conditional waiver order prohibiting LightSquared from operating until harmful interference issues were resolved, immediately released a statement that appeared to bow to the will of the NTIA.

“The NTIA, the federal agency that coordinates spectrum uses for the military and other federal government entities, has now concluded that there is no practical way to mitigate potential interference at this time. Consequently, the commission will not lift the prohibition on LightSquared,” said FCC spokesperson Tammy Sun.

The FCC is releasing this week a Public Notice seeking comment on the NTIA’s conclusions, proposing to vacate the conditional waiver order and suspend indefinitely LightSquared’s ancillary terrestrial component authority.

The FCC faced monumental challenges in attempting to allow terrestrial mobile communications on the satellite spectrum. Especially frustrating for the commission were the GPS receivers that pick up signals from uses in adjacent bands.

“There are very substantial costs to our economy and to consumers of preventing the use of this and other spectrum for mobile broadband,” Sun said. “Congress, the FCC, other federal agencies and private sector stakeholders must work together in a concerted effort to reduce regulatory barriers and free up spectrum for mobile broadband.” She called for better receiver performance standards as a way to more efficiently use spectrum.

Federal agencies decided earlier this week that they will develop new GPS spectrum interference standards for future proposals for non-space commercial uses of adjacent bands.

“NTIA recognizes the importance that receiver standards could play as a part of a forward-looking model for spectrum management even beyond the immediate use of GPS,” Strickling wrote.

In a sure sign that the end is nigh, Bloomberg Businessweek reports that Phil Falcone, whose hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners invested $3 billion in LightSquared, is attempting to swap the spectrum, valued at $500 million by Skyterra, with the U.S. Department of Defense to salvage some of his investment. Since its subprime loan investments paid off handsomely five years ago, Harbinger’s capital has dropped from $26 billion to $4 billion.