Displaying items by tag: FCC

FCC calls for China Mobile to be blocked from US market

Written on Thursday, 18 April 2019 11:48

US aggression towards Chinese telecommunication entities shows no signs of abating following the latest calls from the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission to block China Mobile from operating in the United States.

China Mobile is the world’s largest mobile operator and has nearly 930 million customers. It has been desperately trying to penetrate the US market for the last eight years. It first filed an application for permission to operate in the United States back in 2011, but thus far it has been unsuccessful in its attempts to get a license to trade.

The FCC has five members which are comprised of both Democrats and Republicans and their due to vote on an order that if approved would deny China Mobile’s request to operate. The offensive campaign against China’s ICT firms that has seen Huawei and ZTE subjected to intense scrutiny has actually drawn bipartisan support in the House of Representatives and appears to be one issue that both parties universally agree on.

FCC chairman Ajit Paj released a statement on the China Mobile application and again referenced the importance of domestic security as the main reason to reject the Chinese operators’ efforts to gain access to the US market.

The FCC chairman said, “Safeguarding our communications networks is critical to our national security. Evidence, including that submitted by other federal agencies made it clear that China Mobile's application to provide telecommunications services in our country raises substantial and serious national security and law enforcement risks."

China Mobile’s ambitions to penetrate the US market now appear dead and the water. The US has continued its smear campaign against Huawei and ZTE and has pressured allies in banning them from participating in their 5G buildout.

Australia and New Zealand have prohibited Huawei from their 5G networks, but the US has met resistance in Europe, with Germany and Belgium both saying they’ve found no evidence of any threats from Huawei, whilst Vodafone claimed that barring Huawei from 5G in Europe would significantly delay the commercialization of the next-generation networks on the European continent.

Published in Telecom Operators

FCC approves CenturyLink’s $30bn acquisition of Level 3

Written on Sunday, 05 November 2017 13:31

US communications provider CenturyLink has completed its acquisition of US telecommunications and Internet service provider Level 3 Communications for an estimated $30 billion. The combination of CenturyLink and Level 3 creates a global network services company capable of providing customers a wide range of technology solutions over a secure fibre-rich network.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the merger on November 30. CenturyLink's network now connects more than 350 metropolitan areas with more than 100,000 fibre-enabled, on-net buildings, including 10,000 buildings in EMEA and Latin America. The combined company will compete against US telecom heavyweights AT&T and Verizon.

The combined company, with estimated pro forma revenue of $24 billion for the twelve months ended June 30, 2017 (excluding revenue related to CenturyLink's May 1, 2017, colocation business sale and including estimated intercompany eliminations and purchase accounting adjustments), anticipates that approximately 75 percent of its core revenue will come from business customers and nearly two-thirds of its core revenue will come from strategic services.

"CenturyLink is now poised to offer an expanded, robust portfolio of communications solutions focused on our customers' networking and IT services needs," said Glen F. Post III, CenturyLink's chief executive officer. "Our customers, from individual consumers to global enterprises, will benefit from our expanded, innovative network solutions, our complementary managed services and our highly talented workforce."

The acquisition is more like a merger, with CenturyLink shareholders getting 51 percent ownership and Level 3 stockholders 49 percent. CenturyLink remains headquartered in Monroe, La., with a key operational presence in Colorado and the Denver metropolitan area.

Following the acquisition, CenturyLink is now better positioned to offer a broader, innovative product portfolio of network solutions and advanced IT services designed to meet complex technology and threat protection needs.

The acquisition allows CenturyLink to deliver these solutions and services to enterprise, government, wholesale and consumer customers over a large-scale, fiber-rich global network. CenturyLink will also continue to invest in the reach and speeds of its broadband infrastructure for small businesses and consumers.

"Our goal is to be the world's best networking provider and we have the ability to achieve this as one company," said former Level 3 CEO Jeff Storey, now CenturyLink's president and chief operating officer. "CenturyLink is focused on providing a differentiated experience for our customers, while driving profitable growth and increasing free cash flow per share. Our scale and experience will enable us to deliver on behalf of our customers, employees and our shareholders."

Published in Finance

US regulator settles $17 million dispute with Verizon

Written on Thursday, 19 October 2017 08:13

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a settlement with Verizon for possible violations of the FCC’s competitive bidding rules for the E-rate program, which provides discounts to assist most schools and libraries in the United States to obtain affordable internet access. 

Verizon agreed to pay $17.68 million to resolve parallel investigations by the FCC and U.S. Department of Justice, $17.325 million of which will be repaid to the Universal Service Fund (USF).  Verizon has further agreed to withdraw any rights it may have to hundreds of millions of dollars in requested and undisbursed E-rate support.

This settlement follows an investigation into Verizon’s involvement with New York City schools’ use of the E-rate program.  The Commission’s Enforcement Bureau conducted its investigation in parallel with the US Department of Justice Civil Fraud Section and US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. 

In related actions, former New York City Department of Education consultant Willard “Ross” Lanham was convicted by a federal jury sitting in the Southern District of New York.  In December 2015, the Commission settled a related investigation with the New York City Department of Education. 

The Schools and Libraries Universal Service Program, known as E-rate, subsidizes telecommunications, Internet access, and Wi-Fi services for schools and libraries.  E-rate is funded by the Universal Service Fund under rules established by the FCC. 

The program is designed to bring modern broadband connectivity to students, teachers and library patrons.  Program applicants must seek competitive bids from prospective service providers and must treat the price-eligible products and services as the primary factor when selecting amongst competing service providers. 

To resolve the FCC and Justice Department investigations, Verizon will pay $17.325 million to the Universal Service Fund through the FCC settlement and $354,634 to the US Treasury through the Justice Department settlement. 

In addition, Verizon will surrender any claims against the Universal Service Fund it may have to approximately $7,303,668 in undisbursed E-rate support for products and services provided to the New York City Department of Education between Funding Years 2002 and 2013. 

Furthermore, Verizon will surrender any appeal rights before the Universal Service Administrative Company and the FCC in connection with more than $100 million in E-rate support for which the New York City Department of Education has withdrawn requests for support through its 2015 settlement with the FCC.  As part of the FCC’s settlement, Verizon will also operate under a compliance plan for three years. 

While the Commission adopted the consent decree in May 2017, it has not been released until now in order to allow for a global settlement which includes the US Department of Justice.  The Department of Justice settlement with Verizon was submitted to the Court for approval in the Southern District of New York on October 17.

Published in Finance

Super storms draw attention to critical communications

Written on Tuesday, 03 October 2017 12:46

The US Territory of Puerto Rico was recently hit by the strongest storm in almost 90 years. Knocking out the island’s electricity grid, 90 percent of cell phone sites stopped working, according to the US Federal Communications Commission. The recent string of monster storms in North America has drawn attention to the importance of critical communications and promoting public safety.

In the space of two months (August and September 2017), the southern United States and Caribbean region were slammed by three mega storms: Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and the most recent Hurricane Maria. Harvey caused at least 75 confirmed deaths; 1 in Guyana, and 74 in the US. As of September 27, Irma caused at least 124 deaths; while as of October 1 Maria caused at least 68 deaths.

Still recovering from Irma two weeks prior, approximately 80,000 people in Puerto Rico were left without power after Maria hit. Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) had struggled with increasing debt, reaching $9 billion even before the hurricanes, prompting them to file for bankruptcy. The island’s aging infrastructure left it vulnerable to damage from the storms. Consequently, mobile coverage was cut off.

When Maria finally subsided, in Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan, cars were reportedly pulling up on the side of roads with occupants emerging holding their cell phones up in the air in search of network coverage. For miles, cell phones displayed a frustrating “No Service” message. This is in stark contrast to the US states of Texas and Florida that had cell service restored almost completely in storm-affected areas a week after Harvey and Irma hit.

The aftermath of the storms has drawn fresh attention to the importance of critical communications. Following the storms, the United States Federal Communications Commission urged Apple to activate the FM (frequency modulation) chips that are in iPhones to promote public safety.

Commission Chairman Ajit Pai released a statement applauding those companies that have “done the right thing” by activating FM chips in their phones in light of natural disasters hammering the country. “In recent years, I have repeatedly called on the wireless industry to activate the FM chips that are already installed in almost all smartphones in the United States,” said Mr. Pai.

He highlighted the importance of FM chips during natural disasters. When wireless networks go down during a disaster, smartphones with activated FM chips can allow people to get vital access to important information without an internet connection. “Apple is the one major phone manufacturer that has resisted doing so,” said Mr. Pai. “But I hope the company will reconsider its position, given the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.”

According to the FCC, 89.3 percent of cell sites were out of service after Maria. All counties in Puerto Rico, except San Juan, had greater than 75 percent of their cell sites out of service. 29 out of the 78 counties in Puerto Rico had 100 percent of their cell sites out of service. On the US Virgin Islands, 69.8 percent of cell sites were out of service.

Since there were widespread power outages in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, the FCC received reports that large percentages of consumers were left without either cable services or wireline service (one company reported that 100 percent of its consumers were left out of service due to lack of commercial power).

In one of the few places that had connectivity on Puerto Rico, the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino, tourists reportedly overwhelmed the lobby to use the working cell service and Wi-Fi to connect with the outside world. With a cell phone penetration rate of nearly 100 percent, according to government data, Puerto Ricans have been heavily impacted by the lack of network services on the island.

Confidence in connectivity

Puerto Rico has five main mobile operators: AT&T, T-Mobile, Claro, Sprint and Open Mobile. Connectivity provided by operators is the backbone of relief efforts today. AT&T and Sprint both dispatched teams to restore coverage to the island. The companies also waived certain fees for customers to establish a way for people to contact their families and friends.

The electric grid fallout presented one of the biggest challenges to restoring connectivity to the island. “Power is essential to restoring wireless and wireline communications. Given the breadth of power outages across the islands, we’re deploying portable generators as quickly as allowed,” AT&T said.

Social media giant Facebook also pledged support for Puerto Rico. CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced $1.5 million in aid to organizations assisting in the island’s recovery from Maria, together with direct assistance from Facebook’s connectivity team in an effort to get people back online. The company also said it would donate Facebook ad space to share critical information with Puerto Rican users.

Facebook’s connectivity team previously came under the spotlight for ambitious technology initiatives like the Aquila drone, a high-altitude solar-powered aircraft designed to connect remote areas to the internet. Facebook is pushing forward with the Aquila program's progress to help bring the world closer together through connectivity.

“Communication is critical during a disaster,” Zuckerberg said in a post after Hurricane Maria. “With 90 percent of cell towers on the island [Puerto Rico] out of service, people can't get in touch with their loved ones -- and it's harder for rescue workers to coordinate relief efforts.”

Recovery efforts have suffered in Puerto Rico as a result of its cell network outage. Utilizing social media proved immensely effective after fallout from Harvey in Texas, as people could publish posts that were quickly relayed to rescuers. Due to the lack of connectivity on Puerto Rico, in some remote areas people resorted to painting “Help” signs on roads and buildings, hoping that relief efforts would reach them.

The public safety community has long called for mobile broadband to support its mission to save lives. With the adoption of LTE mobile broadband technology, public safety networks can benefit from the advantages of fast and reliable broadband data and real-time video services, opening up new communications possibilities for rescue missions and disaster recovery situations.

In an effort to make mission-critical mobile broadband a reality, Nokia, for example, has a dedicated comprehensive technology and services portfolio called ViTrust. The portfolio includes rapidly deployable solutions for emergency and disaster recovery situations to establish coverage in remote areas, among other features.

The Finnish company recently expanded the portfolio with new services to help first responders take advantage of reliable and secure high-performance applications on their public safety devices. The services provide trouble-free continuity of operations for public safety agencies across a multi-vendor, multi-technology mission critical communications environment.

‘Care for public safety’, for instance, is a service Nokia introduced to ensure that the most demanding communications needs to public safety organizations are fulfilled. The company says it ensures that new network functionality and services interworking with multivendor LTE networks are available from day one.

One European operator is already using this service and seeing the benefits of reduced operational downtime risks, according to Nokia, with service levels stabilizing faster than before and fulfilling public safety requirements.

“The success of moving to broadband-based critical communications requires deep technological and operational expertise,” said Asad Rizvi, head of Nokia's global business development in Global Services. “Nokia has both, from our long history of working with agencies to our global service expertise in broadband.”

The public safety LTE market is expected to be valued at US$3,091.3 million by 2023, according to new market research published by MarketsandMarkets, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 25.7 percent from US$782.9 million in 2017. The factors that are driving the growth of this market, according to the report, are the rising demand for unmanned operations and remote surveillances, and elimination of connectivity issues between networks.

Published in Featured

FCC urges Apple to activate FM chips to promote public safety

Written on Tuesday, 03 October 2017 07:49

The United States Federal Communications Commission has urged Apple to activate the FM (frequency modulation) chips that are in iPhone to promote public safety. Commission Chairman Ajit Pai released a statement applauding those companies that have “done the right things” by activating FM chips in their phones in light of natural disasters hammering the country.

“In recent years, I have repeatedly called on the wireless industry to activate the FM chips that are already installed in almost all smartphones in the United States,” said Mr. Pai. “And I’ve specifically pointed out the public safety benefits in doing so. In fact, in my first public speech after I became Chairman, I observed that you could make a case for activating chips on public safety grounds alone.”

Mr. Pai highlighted the importance of FM chips during natural disasters. When wireless networks go down during a natural disaster – which they have in areas affected by Hurricane Maria that recently struck Puerto Rico – smartphones with activated FM chips can allow people to get vital access to important information without an internet connection.

“Apple is the one major phone manufacturer that has resisted doing so. But I hope the company will reconsider its position, given the devastation brought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria,” said Mr. Pai. 

“That’s why I am asking Apple to activate the FM chips that are in its iPhones.  It is time for Apple to step up to the plate and put the safety of the American people first,” Mr. Pai added. “As the Sun Sentinel of South Florida put it, ‘Do the right thing, Mr. Cook. Flip the switch. Lives depend on it.”’

Following Hurricane Maria that slammed the US territory of Puerto Rico, 89.3 percent of cell sites are out of service, according to the FCC. All counties in Puerto Rico, except San Juan, have greater than 75 percent of their cell sites out of service. 29 out of the 78 counties in Puerto Rico have 100 percent of their cell sites out of service. On the US Virgin Islands, 69.8 percent of cell sites are out of service.

Since there are widespread power outages in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, the FCC has received reports that large percentages of consumers are without either cable services or wireline service (one company reported that 100 percent of its consumers are out of service due to lack of commercial power). In Puerto Rico, there are at least 12 switches that are out of service due to either SS7 or toll isolation.

Published in Government

T-Mobile recently announced plans to roll-out its new 600MHz LTE network in the US, leveraging the massive haul of super-premium low-band spectrum the operator won in the government broadcast incentive auction concluded earlier this year. The announcement came just two months after the company received its spectrum licenses from the FCC.

The first of T-Mobile’s 600MHz LTE network sites were switched on in Cheyenne, Wyoming using Nokia equipment. Starting in rural America and other markets where the spectrum is clear of broadcasting, T-Mobile plans to deploy the new “super spectrum” at “record-shattering pace” – compressing what would usually be a two-year process from auction to consumer availability into a short six months.

The operator said additional 60MHz sites are slated for locations including Wyoming, Northwest Oregon, West Texas, Southwest Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, Western North Dakota, Maine, Coastal North Carolina, Central Pennsylvania, Central Virginia, and Eastern Washington. Those deployments and other network upgrades will help T-Mobile increase total LTE coverage from 315 million Americans today to 321 million by the year’s end, it predicts.

“Earlier this month, wireless customers coast to coast proved T-Mobile already delivers America’s best unlimited network. We swept the competition in OpenSignal’s report on all counts—a global industry first. And that was before we started lighting up the world’s first 600 MHz LTE network,” said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile.

To meet this aggressive timeline for getting this “super-spectrum” into customers’ hands, T-Mobile said it has been coordinating closely with infrastructure providers, chipset makers and device manufacturers to bring 600 MHz LTE to customers at breakneck speed. Nokia and Qualcomm have launched new technology, and both Samsung and LG plan to launch phones that tap into this new spectrum in the fourth quarter of this year.

T-Mobile is also working closely with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and broadcasters like PBS to clear the spectrum in record time, investing where necessary to preserve programming consumers care about while paving the way for new wireless coverage and competition for consumers.

“To work with T-Mobile in lighting up the world’s first 600 MHz LTE network is a momentous achievement,” said Rajeev Suri, President and Chief Executive Officer of Nokia. “We knew this spectrum would be key for covering wide areas, providing bandwidth in hard-to-reach places, augmenting capacity and improving data speeds, so we began testing and readying 600 MHz network infrastructure equipment and software long before the incentive auction was over.”

Published in Telecom Operators

A group which represents a number of major US technology firms has appealed to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to retract its proposed plans to reverse a landmark decision taken in 2015 which prohibited internet service providers from blocking or slowing consumer access to online content.

The Internet Association which represents companies such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Netflix and Microsoft has filed a complaint to the FCC in relation to the reversal on the decision made in 2015. It cited that the dismantling of the established net neutrality rules would create significant uncertainty in the market and disrupt a careful balance that has led to the current circle of innovation in the broadband ecosystem.

In May, Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai expressed his opposition to the order implemented by the Obama administration in 2015. The FCC voted 2-1 to advance the chairman’s plans to reverse the order which would reclassify internet service providers as if they were utilities. Pai has previously enquired if the FCC has authority or should keep its rules barring internet companies from blocking, throttling or giving ‘fast lanes’ to some websites, known as ‘paid prioritization’.

The FCC chairman has claimed that the order by the Obama administration is unnecessary and harms jobs and investment, and whilst he hasn’t committee to retaining any rules, he has stated that he would prefer an ‘open internet’. However, representatives on the Internet Association said that there is no reliable evidence whatsoever to reinforce Pai’s claim that ‘provider investment’ had fallen.

It has been disclosed that over 8.3m public comments have been filed on the proposal, and Pai will face questions at a US Senate hearing later this week. US telecommunications entities such as AT&T, Verizon Communications and Comcast Corp all vehemently opposed the order in 2015, saying that the order discouraged investment and innovation.

Telecommunication providers have insisted that they strongly support open internet rules and will not block or throttle legal website without legal requirements. However, they have conceded that ‘paid prioritization’ makes sense at times, citing self-driving cars and healthcare information. Internet firms say opening the door to prioritization could enable providers to "destroy the open nature of the internet that allows new or smaller streaming video providers to compete with larger or better-funded edge providers."

Internet providers have expressed their desire to see Congress resolve the long-running dispute over net neutrality and open internet protections. The Internet Association said it was open to alternative legal bases for the rules, either via legislative action codifying the existing net neutrality rules or via sound legal theories offered by the commission.

Published in Government

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has announced a proposal to add an alert option to the nation’s Emergency Alert System (EAS) to help protect the United States’ law enforcement officers.

Called a “Blue Alert,” the option would be used by authorities in states across the country to notify the public through television and radio of threats to law enforcement and to help apprehend dangerous suspects.  The Chairman unveiled the proposal at an event hosted by the Department of Justice announcing the nationwide rollout of the National Blue Alert Network.

 “As we have learned from the very successful AMBER Alert initiative for recovering missing children, an informed public can play a vital role in assisting law enforcement,” Chairman Pai said.  “By expanding the Emergency Alert System to better support Blue Alerts, we could build on that success – and help protect those in law enforcement who risk their lives each day to protect us.”

Blue Alerts can be used to warn the public when there is actionable information related to a law enforcement officer who is missing, seriously injured or killed in the line of duty, or when there is an imminent credible threat to an officer.  As a result, a Blue Alert could quickly warn you if a violent suspect could be in your community, along with providing instructions on what to do if you spot the suspect and how to stay safe.

Chairman Pai’s proposal would amend the FCC’s EAS rules by creating a dedicated Blue Alert event code so that state and local authorities have the option to send these warnings to the public through broadcast, cable, satellite, and wireline video providers.

Some states have individual Blue Alert programs that use various methods to issue warnings.  The Chairman’s proposal would build on these efforts through the development of a nationwide framework that states can adopt.  This goal is consistent with the Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu National Blue Alert Act of 2015.  The Act, which is being implemented by the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), directs cooperation with the FCC.  The COPS Office has expressed the need for a dedicated EAS code for Blue Alerts.

The Chairman plans to ask his fellow commissioners to vote on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) at the FCC’s June 22nd Open Meeting.  If adopted, the NPRM would pose questions and invite public comment on the proposal.

Published in Government

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States was the subject of multiple recent DDoS attacks on Sunday, May 7, at midnight, according to Dr. David Bray, Chief Information Officer (CIO) at the organization. Dr. Bray issued a statement regarding the cause of delays experienced by consumers recently trying to file comments on the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS).

“Beginning on Sunday night at midnight, our analysis reveals that the FCC was subject to multiple distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDos),” said Dr. Bray in his statement. “These were deliberate attempts by external actors to bombard the FCC’s comment system with a high amount of traffic to our commercial cloud host.  These actors were not attempting to file comments themselves; rather they made it difficult for legitimate commenters to access and file with the FCC. “

Dr. Bray added: “While the comment system remained up and running the entire time, these DDoS events tied up the servers and prevented them from responding to people attempting to submit comments.  We have worked with our commercial partners to address this situation and will continue to monitor developments going forward.” 

Published in Government

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is set to lift a ban on telecommunications companies engaging in merger discussions. Since the FCC announced its plan, Wall Street has predicted that T-Mobile US, Sprint, and Dish will be the first companies to engage in merger talks.

Shares of these companies have risen over the past 12 months on expectations of deal discussions. Each firm is trading at up to 31 times forward earnings, in contrast to the S&P 500 telecom services index’s 18 times. 

However, analysts have suggested that the rich valuation of these companies could deter potential acquirers who will have to assume the risk that antitrust regulators may look suspiciously at more consolidation in the telecoms sector after so many mergers in recent years.

Craig Moffett, an analyst at MoffettNathanson, says it seems as though “valuations have already jumped to a near certainty a deal will be announced and approved.” You have to ask yourself, he says, “whether T-Mobile is going to be as eager to do a deal as Sprint.”

Both T-Mobile and Sprint, who have seen their shares rise significantly the past 12 months (142 percent for Sprint and 65 percent for T-Mobile), have declined to comment on whether or not they will pursue merger deals or how valuation considerations could be a major factor.

There has long been talk of a potential merger deal between Sprint and T-Mobile – the third and fourth largest US wireless service providers. Investors have predicted cost cuts and other synergies in the range of $6 billion to $10 billion.

According to a report by Reuters, SoftBank, the controlling shareholder of Sprint, was positioning itself for talks with T-Mobile’s top shareholder, Deutsche Telekom AG, once a US government auction of spectrum ended. The companies that participated in the auction last May were banned from engaging in merger discussions.

Following the end of the auction, the FCC now plans to lift the ban on April 27, when down payments are due from the auction winners. The fact that T-Mobile and satellite provider Dish won the bulk of the auctioned spectrum makes them more appealing merger targets, according to analysts. T-Mobile now has more leverage to improve its network and support unlimited data packages for customers. The company’s financial results have also improved since it last held merger talks with Sprint in 2014.

Published in Government
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