Displaying items by tag: Federal Communications Commission

Consumer watchdog blasts proposed merger of US operators

Written on Thursday, 07 February 2019 10:17

A leading US consumer watchdog has voiced their concerns regarding the details of the proposed merger agreement between mobile operators T-Mobile US and Sprint.

Published in Telecom Operators

US completes its first 5G auction

Written on Tuesday, 29 January 2019 12:20

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has completed its first 5G auction, with a sale of 28GHz spectrum licensing which raised a cool $702 million.

The chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai expressed his delight at the successful completion of the first auction and said that it represented a significant step towards positioning the United States as a leader in 5G.

In addition to this, he declared that it was the objective of the commission to continue to pursue its strategy of pushing more spectrum licenses into the commercial marketplace. It was also confirmed that a 24GHz auction will take place in the next few months, and that will be followed by three more spectrum bands later in 2019.

The chairman of the FCC said that by that spectrum auctions were critical in helping it execute on its goal which enables US consumers to benefit from the benefits provided by 5G.

He said, “By making more spectrum licenses available, promoting the deployment of wireless infrastructure, and modernising our regulations – the three components of the FCC’s 5G FAST plan – we’ll ensure that American consumers reap the substantial benefits that will come from the next generation of wireless connectivity.

A total of 3,072 licences offered in 425MHz blocks were up for grabs in the 28GHz auction. Of these, only 107 received no acceptable bids. However, the identities of the winning bidders will remain private and anonymous until the close of the 24GHz auction.

Earlier in the month the FCC had reiterated its desire to continue to work on scheduled spectrum auctions, as it prepared to temporarily close down most of its other operations.

In November 2018, the agency had said it set strict performance requirements for the licences to encourage the swift rollout of 5G services - and will take dim view on any attempt to seek a waiver of the requirements ahead of construction deadlines.

Published in Telecom Operators

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

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

Francisco Partners, a leading technology investment firm, has completed its investment in iconectiv, an independent subsidiary owned by Ericsson. As part of the investment, Francisco Partners invests US$200 million to acquire a 16.7 percent ownership in iconectiv. The partnership between Ericsson and Francisco Partners will enable iconectiv to accelerate growth and deliver shareholder value.

Headquartered in the United States, iconectiv develops solutions that enable operators to interconnect networks. The company's solutions are used by more than 1,200 service providers, regulators, enterprises, and content providers worldwide. iconectiv also provides numbering solutions and most recently was designated by the US Federal Communications Commission to serve as the Local Number Portability Administrator in the country.

Francisco Partners is a global private equity firm, which specializes in investments in technology businesses. Since its launch over 17 years ago, Francisco Partners has raised over US$10 billion in capital and invested in over 200 technology companies, making it one of the most active and longstanding investors in the technology industry. The firm invests in opportunities where its deep knowledge and operational expertise can help companies realize their full potential.

The US$200 million has been transferred to Ericsson as a dividend. The transaction has no material impact on Ericsson group income.

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

Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Ajit Pai says he wants to end an “ill-conceived” plan by the previous administration to lift a ban on passengers making mobile phone calls on planes. Pai said he felt that moving forward with the plan, which was introduced by his predecessor Tom Wheeler, is not in the public’s best interest.

“I stand with airline pilots, flight attendants, and America’s flying public against the FCC’s ill conceived 2013 plan to allow people to make phone calls on planes,” he said. Removing the plan “off the table will be a victory for Americans across the country, who, like me, value a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet,” Pai added.

Pai released a statement about his wish to terminate the proceeding which was issued by the FCC in 2013 to relax the rules against mobile communications on planes. Wheeler was chairman at the time of the proposal, and sought to relax the rules put in place in the 1990s banning the use of voice calls on planes, suggesting the rules weren’t technologically necessary. Wheeler proposed introducing equipment on planes to allow for in-flight calls.

Interestingly, a report by USA Today noted that when the issue was opened up to the public for comment, majority of people dismissed the need for allowing phone calls on planes, with many expressing how they enjoy a quiet flight. Pai will reportedly need the backing of two other commissioners to terminate the proposal.

Published in Government

US telecoms giant AT&T said it will purchase Straight Path Communications, a spectrum license holder, for $1.6 billion. AT&T’s interest in the firm springs from the fact that it holds licenses of millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum in the 28GHz and 39GHz bands, both of which have been approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to be used for 5G.

Straight Path Communications Inc. specializes in maximizing the value of assets such as microwave bandwidth licenses and intellectual property. AT&T said the acquisition fits well with its previous purchase of FiberTower Corporation – a provider of spectrum and fixed wireless services – completed in January, which “augments the company’s holdings of mmWave spectrum.”

AT&T, which fiercely competes with its rival Verizon in the US, is planning to build its 5G network using mmWave spectrum. The acquisition of Straight Path Communications will give AT&T 735 mmWave licenses in the 39GHz band and 133 licenses in the 28GHz band, which cover the whole of the US including all of the top markets.

Straight Path Communications was in a strong position as the third largest owner of spectrum licenses approved by the FCC, Bloomberg reported, but the company was pressured to sell after it was fined by the FCC which found the company had misrepresented putting the spectrum to use.

The FCC fined Straight Path Communications $15 million in January, with a further $85 million suspended until next year. Straight Path would have to pay 20 percent of the proceeds to the FCC if it solds the licenses within the timeframe.

AT&T’s acquisition of Straight Path, which is subject to approval by the FCC, includes liabilities to be remitted to the FCC, in this case Straight Path shareholders will receive $1.25 billion in total.

Published in Finance
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