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Verizon Network Braces for Hurricane Florence

By Kate Jay

As Florence rapidly intensifies into a major hurricane, Verizon is well prepared to serve its customers in the southeastern U.S. with the nation’s largest and most reliable 4G LTE network should Hurricane Florence make landfall later this week.

Final fine-tuning measures are underway and local Network teams also are prepared to travel the coast to assist areas hit hardest by the storm. The efforts are part of a year-round plan to make the network strong and reliable during storms and any other circumstances.

Network enhancements in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and across the Southeast Coast since last year’s storm season include:

  • expanding and densifying the most advanced 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) network
  • adding capacity to hundreds of cell sites
  • fortifying coverage along major roadways
  • putting cell site equipment on stilts to avoid damage due to flooding
  • and installing new in-building network systems at hospitals, government and emergency facilities, high-traffic public venues and other key locations

In addition, the company has a number of “switch” network processing centers across the southeast. With hardened shells, these facilities also feature large-scale on-site power generation, various redundant operations and technologies, and other back-up systems to ensure the company’s network remains strong, running and reliable.

Other Verizon Wireless ongoing efforts to ensure a reliable network include:

  • preparing emergency command centers in the case of a storm or other crisis
  • readying the company’s fleet of mobile equipment including of Cells on Wheels (COWS), Cells on Light Trucks (COLTS), and generators on a trailers (Goats) that can be rolled into hard-hit locations or areas that need extra network capacity
  • pre-arranging fuel delivery to mobile units and generators to keep the network operating at full strength even if commercial power is lost for an extended period of time
  • topping off and testing generators and battery backups in cell sites
  • coordinating with local, state and federal emergency services so they have the communications services they need
  • pre-positioning emergency equipment, setting up our local switch location to house our 24×7 command center
  • using the newest technology such as unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) to survey tower damage after a storm.

As part of Verizon’s ongoing commitment to those on the front lines of public safety, all speed caps restrictions have been lifted for first responders in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. In addition, the Verizon Response Team (VRT) has already began providing items like mobile hotspots and phones to public safety and other support teams to make sure they can stay connected, as well pre-staging charging stations and disaster response trailers for deployment where the need will be greatest. VRT is available 24/7/365 and frequently provides assistance during disaster situations.

Kate Jay is in media relations for Verizon.

If There was Ever a Reason for Net Neutrality…

By Ernest Worthman, AWT Exec. Editor, IEEE Sr. Member

Editor’s note: This missive was written just a day before Verizon apologized and did the right thing for first responders. Nevertheless, it should not have happened in the first place. This article use Verizon as an example, to address a wider concern across the wireless space.  However, the talking points are still valid.
If there was ever a reason for re-igniting net neutrality, this is it.

As an editor, one of my primary responsibilities is to view things with an unbiased, neutral eye. On the other hand, I have a fiduciary responsibility to readers to call out transgressions, indiscretions and other shameful, even illegal goings-on when I see them. This is one of those times when I am calling a company on the carpet.

As we are all, painfully, aware, Verizon throttled critical fire communications for firefighters battling California’s wildfires. For me, this is personal as well as professional. I have friends who are wildfire first responders and the fact that their, (and any) critical communications can be throttled, regardless of their plan (which is the excuse Verizon used to explain why the firefighters bandwidth was slammed) is appalling.

I have, often, written about the underhanded practices of the carrier. Similar actions are perpetrated by the content providers as well, although their services are not life-safety, as is the case with certain segments of wireless. Even after countless exposures of a variety of devious, sometimes even illegal (supported by the fines over the years) schemes, they just keep on marching to the same drummer. Yet we continue to let the wolves guard the henhouse. This latest incident is, again, proof positive that carriers cannot be trusted to watch their own chicken coop.

Congress saw that a few years ago and implemented a strong guard band that would have helped to make the carriers toe the line – Net Neutrality.

This case was not just “oops, we (Verizon) were caught in a moment and it was a typical circumstance. Investigation of the event revealed that firefighters, repeatedly, made attempts to have bandwidth restriction temporarily lifted while they were fighting the fires.

Hmmm, does Verizon’s customer service department live under a rock? Were they not aware of the gravity of the fires in California? At a minimum, this should have been escalated to the top at Verizon the moment the first contact was made. Verizon claims to have a policy in place that removes data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations. “This was a customer support mistake,” they said. That is the best they can come up with?

In a statement, Verizon claimed, “We made a mistake in how we communicated with our customer about the terms of its plan.” If I were one of Verizon’s top execs, I would be on my knees, begging for forgiveness and asking what Verizon could do to make up for this. It was just lucky no one died from this fiasco.

I can sympathize with the response from Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden, who wrote, as noted by Ars Technica. “These reduced speeds severely interfered with the OES 5262’s ability to function effectively. My Information Technology staff communicated directly with Verizon via email about the throttling, requesting it be immediately lifted for public safety purposes.”

Further, in that article, he also wrote “Verizon representatives confirmed the throttling. But rather than restoring us to an essential data transfer speed, they indicated that County Fire would have to switch to a new data plan at more than twice the cost, and they would only remove throttling after we contacted the department that handles billing and switched to the new data plan.”

Seriously? This, in the middle of the worst fire season that California has ever faced. If indeed, Verizon’s customer service told County Fire that, there should be mass firings.

I just cannot believe that this occurred. It makes an invincible argument for the restoration of Net Neutrality. Moreover, I am not alone. Attorneys general representing 22 states and the District of Columbia are asking a federal court to reinstate it – this latest incident only adding fuel to the fire.

Yet the FCC still claims Net Neutrality is not needed. Obviously, it is.

There are many other compelling arguments for its reinstatement as noted in the states’ complaint. They all point to one thing – the carriers cannot be trusted to be in full control of such a critical resource as wireless. They need a chaperone!

The most notable argument in the Attorney’s General brief, IMHO, is: “[there is] substantial record evidence showing that providers have abused … and will [continue to] abuse their gatekeeper roles in ways that harm consumers and threatens public safety.”

While I took this column to pick on Verizon, they are not the only one. In general, all providers of bandwidth share the same bed. Whether they are a carrier, ISP, wireless, wireline, or another type of MNO, they are all capable of doing something like this. They all seem to put greed first.

I rest my case!

Ernest Worthman
Executive Editor/Applied Wireless Technology
His 20-plus years of editorial experience includes being the Editorial Director of Wireless Design and Development and Fiber Optic Technology, the Editor of RF Design, the Technical Editor of Communications Magazine, Cellular Business, Global Communications and a Contributing Technical Editor to Mobile Radio Technology, Satellite Communications, as well as computer-related periodicals such as Windows NT. His technical writing practice client list includes RF Industries, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Agilent Technologies, Advanced Linear Devices, Ceitec, SA, Lucent Technologies, , Qwest, City and County of Denver, Sandia National Labs, Goldman Sachs, and others. Before becoming exclusive to publishing, he was a computer consultant and regularly taught courses and seminars in applications software, hardware technology, operating systems, and electronics.  His credentials include a BS, Electronic Engineering Technology; A.A.S, Electronic Digital Technology. He has held a Colorado Post-Secondary/Adult teaching credential, member of IBM’s Software Developers Assistance Program and Independent Vendor League, a Microsoft Solutions Provider Partner. He is a senior/life member of the IEEE, the Press Liaison for the IEEE Vehicular Technology Society and a member of the  IEEE Communications Society, IEEE MTT Society, IEEE Vehicular Technology Society and the IEEE 5G Community. He was  also a first-class FCC technician in the early days of radio. 

Verizon, AT&T to Improve Network Communications for Law Enforcement

With the help of Axon, a law enforcement technologies company, Verizon and AT&T are working to increase their connectivity solutions for public safety.

Axon integrates wireless technology into a range of products for law enforcement to capture and upload photo and video data into the digital evidence management solution, Evidence.com. Wireless product offerings include body-worn cameras, in-car camera systems and Signal technology that reports events such as a patrol vehicle door opening and light bar activation. Dependable wireless connectivity is crucial for law enforcement to be able to capture and upload evidence.

AT&T, Verizon Launch ‘5G’ But it’s Not Exactly What 3GPP Had in Mind

By J. Sharpe Smith, Senior Editor

Verizon today announced that it has plans to launch 5G technology in Houston as part of its four market 5G plan in the second half of 2018. Verizon previously announced Sacramento and Los Angeles.

AT&T announced last week that it is adding Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina; and Oklahoma City to its list of cities where it is building out 5G. These cities will join its previously announced cities of Dallas, Atlanta and Waco, Texas. Before the end of the year six more cities will join the list. But it will not have the features that the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), originally intended for the 5thgeneration of wireless.

The 3GPP, which comprises seven telecom standard groups, uses a calendar-based plan for successive releases designed to provide developers with a stable platform for the implementation of additional features. Originally, the features that comprise the 5G standard were due out at in October 2020 with Release 16. Then the “race to 5G” began on a number of different levels, from government spectrum allocation to carrier marketers.

According to sources, pressure the marketing departments pushed 3GPP to move its deadline for Release 16 back to the end of 2019; and Release 15, which gave us the non-standalone “New Radio” was renamed 5G Phase 1 and Release 16 became 5G Phase 2.

Release 16 will have more features than Release 15, more capacity, a platform for IoT and additional spectrum bands.

All headlines aside, even when Release 16 comes out at the end of next year, it will still take 12 to 18 months to produce product, test it and deploy it in the field. So consumers will not begin to experience full-featured 5G until the late 2020-2021 timeframe.

The two-step process created for 5G actually might be good for towers. Release 15 requires new radios be installed on all the towers, and Release 16 will require another touch on the towers with new antennas. This might explain the pressure from AT&T to lower its costs for amendments to existing towers.

Meanwhile, Back at the LTE Deployment

While 5G has all the cache, the real advancements regarding data speed are coming from the AT&T’s deployment of LTE Advanced technology (AT&T calls it 5G Evolution), which provides theoretical speeds of 400 megabits per second in 140 markets. Additionally, the carrier has launched LTE-LAA in parts of eight markets –– Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Texas; Little Rock, Arkansas; San Jose, California; Tampa, Florida; and Tuscaloosa, Alabama –­– bringing it to a total of 15 markets. Using carrier aggregation, LTE-LAA has peak theoretical wireless speeds reaching up to 1 gigabit per second.

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]

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]