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Tag Archives: AT&T

Smart Sensors Will Mean Safer Portland, Ore

Installation of one of Portland’s Current by GE CityIQ nodes (Photo: Business Wire)

The City Portland, Oregon is moving forward on its Traffic Sensor Safety Project, which is the first milestone for Smart City PDX, the city’s effort to use data and technology identify inequities and disparities in the city and then strategically apply data and technology to address those challenges.

For the Traffic Sensor Safety Project, the City is installing 200 Current by GE CityIQ sensors, powered by Intel IoT technology, AT&T, Current by GE and Portland General Electric, on three of Portland’s deadliest streets. The sensors will provide around-the-clock counts of vehicles and pedestrians as well as information about vehicle speeds. With this new data, city traffic engineers can improve street safety design and support Portland’s Vision Zero goal of making the streets safe for all users.

The sensor project, which installed new mast arms and the sensors on street light poles on the three corridors, costs $1,012,000. It was funded with general transportation revenue, system development charges and contributions by the project’s private sector collaborators.

The data gathered from the sensors will be collected in the Portland Urban Data Lake (PUDL). Part of the overall Smart City PDX initiative, PUDL will collect, store, combine, and analyze data from a variety of sources including the Traffic Safety Sensor Pilot. The goal of PUDL is to provide a foundation for data-driven decision making, helping the City of Portland to harness the power of data to improve City services.

In addition to improved data insights, the CityIQ open platform is designed to handle future growth using the exact same street lighting infrastructure, so Portland can continue adapting and developing new applications that meet the specific needs of the city and its residents.

Austin Ashe, Smart Cities General Manager for Current by GE, said his company will be working with Portland to extract bicycle data to better understand the bicycle traffic volume and cyclists’ interactions with vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

The safety project is part of Smart City PDX, the City of Portland’s urban data and technology strategy.



Court Approves AT&T/Time Warner Deal: Good Thing, Bad Thing?

By J. Sharpe Smith, Senior Editor

With the ruling of U.S. District Judge Richard Leon this week that the U.S. Government failed to meet its burden to prove that the proposed AT&T/Time Warner merger would be anticompetitive, the wireless carrier landscape has been forever changed.

The merger will be good for wireless, because it allows AT&T to bundle multiple service is key for its growth going forward, Tim Courtney, VP sales and strategy, Further Enterprise Solutions, told AGL eDigest.

“The cable companies know how to add customers by bundling phone, internet and TV, and wireless companies are going to have to do the same thing,” Courtney said. “Clearly AT&T is in the lead of figuring that out. It is a good thing for the wireless industry for sure.”

John Celentano of Technology Marketing & Sales Consulting was concerned about the concentration of the infrastructure across a range services.

“There is no real counterweight to compete with a combined AT&T/Time Warner,” Celentano said. “Smaller players don’t have the capex and wherewithal to mount a response. Are we reconstituting the Bell System?”

The combined entity will carry $249B of debt, according stats provided in a colorful MoffettNathanson blog, which noted that if AT&T were a country, it would rank 32nd on the list of highest total debt burdens, between Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates. Senior Analyst Craig Moffett adds that the EBITDAs supporting the debt at both companies are shrinking.

“AT&T is now – by far – the world’s largest issuer of investment-grade debt,” according to a research note that Moffett wrote. “But credit metrics like these – nearly 4x leverage against declining revenues and declining EBITDA – would typically be High Yield. AT&T will be under enormous pressure from the credit rating agencies to de- lever.”

Some question how the servicing of this size of a debt load will affect AT&T’s wireless infrastructure capex. “That is the burning question,” said Carrie Ortolano, general counsel, CTI Towers. “Where is AT&T going to get the money for all the infrastructure that needs to be deployed?”

The truth is AT&T will receive success-based payments of $6.5 billion over the next five years to build out the FirstNet network, and it is also using those visits to its existing and new towers to deploy equipment that can be upgraded to 5G with a software upgrade.

No matter how AT&T pays its bills, the additional video content that will be easily accessible to consumers will drive usage of its network, which must continue to be built out, according to Phil Burtner, chief engineer, NB+C Engineering Services. “My daughter currently uses 15 gigs a month and I see that number going up for young people who don’t even have cable TV,” Burtner said.

American Tower Noncompete Clause Rattles Tower Service Contractors

By J. Sharpe Smith, Senior Editor

The wireless infrastructure industry is abuzz over a letter contained in an email that American Tower sent to its contractors last week, expressing its concern about the practice of building new towers near existing towers.

The letter responds to wireless communications carrier efforts to lower their antenna space rental costs by building towers near sites where they already have antennas and where they believe the rent is too high. The letter from American Tower says the practice of placing new towers nearby, known as overbuilding, is “not sustainable or scalable.”

“American Tower believes that building such towers is unnecessary, short-sighted and reckless,” the letter from Jared Morley, director of supply chain at American Tower reads. “It harms existing landlords, needlessly clutters otherwise peaceful neighborhoods, wastes precious resources and does nothing to improve the coverage, capacity or quality of today’s stressed wireless networks.”

The letter includes a noncompete amendment to American Tower’s master contract agreements. By signing the amendment, a contractor agrees to not to work for a wireless communications provider on any “new wireless communications asset” within one-half mile from an American tower site. If that agreement is violated, American Tower reserves the right to remove the contractor from its preferred contractor list.

Contractors have until June 15 to sign the agreement and until Aug. 17 to discontinue any work that is not allowed in the agreement.

A battle between a public tower company and the carriers is not really too surprising. It has been coming on for a while.

Last year, the carriers took direct actions to lower tower costs. In November 2017, AT&T and Verizon opted to use Tillman Infrastructure to build towers for their use and committed to leasing and co-anchoring the towers. The purpose was to make it possible to relocate equipment to new towers as leases for space on current towers expire. As recently as April 26, AT&T continued to move away from the traditional tower building and leasing model by signing a build-to-suit agreement with CitySwitch. Under the agreement, CitySwitch will begin tower construction as early as the second half of 2018 and will lease completed sites to AT&T.

SoftBank Group’s $400 million joint venture with Lendlease Group to develop or buy 8,000 towers and rooftop sites will reduce site rental costs for Sprint.

Tower contractors have been caught in the middle of the feud between AT&T and American Tower and essentially will have to choose sides. Some said they believe the letter was heavy-handed, and they feel blindsided by it. Some also expressed concerns that the amendment is too vague. Although the letter asks them not to participate in the development of any new towers, the amendment uses broader language, referring to new wireless communications assets.  They say, the broader language would keep contractors from laying fiber, or installing in-building wireless or outdoor DAS and small cell systems, within a half-mile of an American Tower site.

Some contractors also complained about the letter’s tight deadlines. For some, signing the noncompete amendment to the master contract will probably be a no-brainer. American Tower will provide them with far more work than any company overbuilding for the carriers. Some companies will no doubt test American Tower’s resolve and refuse to sign, while others simply do not know whether to sign the new agreement. Either way, the clock is ticking.

J. Sharpe Smith
Senior Editor/eDigest
J. Sharpe Smith joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 29 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with  Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence.  Sharpe Smith may be contacted at: [email protected]

Network Disaster Recovery Drone Takes Flight

By Art Pregler

It can see through obstacles, fly through rain, operate in extreme temperatures and communicate in areas without infrastructure. And it took its first flight in May in Bedminster, New Jersey.

AT&T developed an extreme-weather drone in partnership with the First Responder Network Authority for network disaster recovery. The drone sustains wireless communications in areas without infrastructure.

Disaster recovery work demands facing challenging situations and environments, including at times extreme weather conditions. With the AT&T all-weather flying COW (cell on wings), first responders and field technicians have a tool to help speed recovery work in the toughest of environments.

This new technology has the potential to become one of the highlights of our drone fleet and took a big step forward with a successful first public flight in Bedminster, New Jersey, in May during a network disaster recovery capabilities demonstration. The all-weather flying COW also took flight in May in Redmond, Washington, when engineering students at the University of Washington used it to test Long Term Evolution (LTE) high-speed wireless data antennas they designed to connect on our drones. The antenna development and test flight was the capstone project for students, and also the first time the new all-weather flying COW took on live LTE test traffic.

Compared with our traditional flying COW, this weather-hardened version with beefed up hardware, rugged features and enhanced capabilities is equipped for a more robust role in extreme environments. Equipped with small cells and antennas and easily transported, deployed and moved quickly to accommodate rapidly changing conditions in an emergency, the extreme-weather drone can also withstand a tropical storm with heavy rain and wind gusts up to 50 mph. It also can fly in snow and extreme temperatures ranging from below freezing to sweltering heat. It has the capability to see through smoke, tree cover and other obstacles.

While invaluable to our network recovery work, this new technology can also play a vital role in equipping first responders across the country.

Built by AT&T in public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) it gives first responders’ communications capabilities a major boost, providing a reliable, highly secure and always-on connection. With that responsibility, we’re committed to empowering first responders with the next generation of communications tools. And our all-weather drone is one of the ways we’re delivering.

Think about first responders operating in remote locations, battling a rapidly moving wildfire that has charred the infrastructure they need to communicate. Or search and rescue crews whose mission takes them off the beaten path where a network doesn’t exist. The all-weather flying COW has the capability to hover above harsh conditions and remote terrain to keep them connected when other drone and deployable options aren’t viable.

Plus, with its thermal imaging capabilities, the all-weather drone can see through certain types of roofs to guide fire fighters around burning trusses, helping them to avoid stepping in areas that may be ready to collapse. This capability can also help search and rescue teams locate people trapped between collapsed buildings following an earthquake or lost hikers hidden from view under dense tree cover. Between its durability and imaging capabilities, the uses of our all-weather drone are endless for fire, police and search and rescue. And we’re thrilled to provide this life-saving technology for them.

During the hurricane season, we monitor the high winds, high waters and other catastrophic events. This year, we’ll be especially well prepared with this innovative tool in our arsenal. We’ll have our new all-weather flying COW ready to deploy when and where it’s needed. Not just to restore our critical connections, but also to help first responders on their mission to save lives and restore communities.

Art Pregler is AT&T’s unmanned aircraft systems program director. For more information,email [email protected]


AT&T Will Spend $2B on FirstNet Build This Year

By J. Sharpe Smith, Senior Editor

FirstNet deployment is off to a strong start with expected $2 billion capex in 2018, John Stephens, AT&T chief financial officer, said yesterday at the Cowen Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in New York.

“We got our build plans in the first quarter, so from the standpoint of network specifics we’re just getting started,” he said, according to a transcript from SeekingAlpha. “With regard to building the network core, building the software, we have been doing that all year long, throughout last year and into this year. So we have been doing a lot of work.”

AT&T plans to touch more than 10,000 towers by year-end and to complete one/third of its overall FirstNet build by the first quarter of next year. Stephens said the company’s aggressive approach may even surpass those goals.

“I would expect we would not only hit that but beat [those goals],” he said. “Our network guys are focused like a laser on this. We would much rather get it done quicker. It makes sense as long as we can do it efficiently.”

The FirstNet network consists of a 2X10 megahertz 700 Band 14 spectrum overlaid on top AT&T’s existing spectrum with a dedicated network core that will provide relentless preemption for firefighters, police, EMTs, and other first responders. The key to efficiency for the FirstNet buildout is to include AWS 3 and WCS spectrum.

“So, we are going to get three bands of spectrum up, with one tower climb, and it is going to be really, really efficient, especially when the government is paying you for their people to the FirstNet reimbursement program,” he said.

When it won the FirstNet contract, AT&T received 20 megahertz of 700 MHz spectrum effectively at no cost for 25 years, plus $6 billion dollars to build it out. The carrier will make sustainability payments of $100 million annually.

“We committed to provide another $15 billion of investment into the network over those 25 years,” Stephens said. Particularly as you see 5G and we will have 6G and even more, that is a very reasonable commitment to make.”