Thursday, 20 January 2022 12:18

US FCC announces winning bidders in 3.45GHz auction

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US FCC announces winning bidders in 3.45GHz auction Pixabay, Mohamed Hassan

In the US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) completed the auction of 5G spectrum in the 3.45GHz band.

The FCC advised that AT&T spent over US$9B, Dish Network, bidding under the name Weminuche LCC, spent US$7.33B, with T-Mobile spending US$2.9B on spectrum.

“Today’s 3.45 GHz auction results demonstrate that the Commission’s pivot to mid-band spectrum for 5G was the right move,” said FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.

“I am pleased to see that this auction also is creating opportunities for a wider variety of competitors, including small businesses and rural service providers. This is a direct result of the Commission’s efforts to structure this auction with diversity and competition front of mind.

"Enabling commercial use of this spectrum is important to America’s continuing economic recovery and 5G leadership, and I look forward to the continued collaboration between the FCC, NTIA, and other federal agencies to find innovative ways to make spectrum available for next generation commercial and government services,” Rosenworcel concluded.

Detailed information on the spectrum auction results can be found here on the FCC website.

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  • US FCC announces over US$640 million for broadband through the rural digital opportunity fund

    The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it is ready to authorise more than US$640 million through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to fund new broadband deployments in 26 states bringing service to nearly 250,000 locations.

    The FCC says that to date, the program has provided US$4.7 billion in funding to nearly 300 carriers for new deployments in 47 US states to bring broadband to almost 2.7 million locations.

    “Today’s funding will help connect hundreds of thousands of Americans to high-speed, broadband internet service,” said FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “As we approve this funding, we remain committed to making sure that this program serves areas that truly need broadband and funds carriers that can do the job, and our new Rural Broadband Accountability Plan will ensure just that.”

    Earlier this year, Rosenworcel established the Rural Broadband Accountability Plan (RBAP), a new effort to monitor and ensure compliance for universal service high-cost programs including the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund and Connect America Fund Phase II Auction. The RBAP made a number of changes and enhancements to existing audit and verification procedures, including doubling the number of audits and verifications, conducting the first on-site audits for the programs, and focusing audits and verifications on the largest winning bidders.

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    A fact sheet on the RBAP is available here.

    The FCC also announced a number of defaulted bids, making the census blocks in those defaulted bids potentially eligible for other funding programs. A list of the eligible census blocks covered by defaulted bids is available on the Auction 904 website under the “Results” tab, here.

    The FCC stated that the other steps it is taking to strengthen oversight of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund program include:

    • Sending letters to 197 applicants concerning areas where there was evidence of existing service or questions of waste. Bidders have already chosen not to pursue support in approximately 5,000 census blocks in response to the Commission’s letters.
    • Denying waivers for winning bidders that have not made appropriate efforts to secure state approvals or prosecute their applications. These bidders would have otherwise received approximately $350 million.
    • Conducting an exhaustive technical, financial, and legal review of all winning bidders.

    For a list of RDOF providers and funding amounts by state, go here.

  • US 5G operators agree to delaying C-band deployment near airports
    in 5G

    Tensions rise between US mobile operators and the airline industry over the deployment of 5G in the C-band, requiring the White House to step in and negotiate a path forward.

    AT&T and Verizon spent billions on obtaining spectrum last year. In December 2021, the two carriers agreed to a 6-week pause on the deployment of C-band 5G to allow testing to ensure 5G C-band didn't interfere with airline safety systems. As this pause period came to a close, the airline industry has protested vigorously to the White House, FAA, FCC and other bodies regarding their concerns around potential interference to navigation systems resulting in possible safety issues.

    In another agreement, brokered by the White House, Verizon and AT&T have agreed to delay the 5G deployment around key airports and to work with the airline industry to ensure 5G can safely co-exist with air systems.

    US President Biden said, "I want to thank Verizon and AT&T for agreeing to delay 5G deployment around key airports and to continue working with the Department of Transportation on safe 5G deployment at this limited set of locations. This agreement will avoid potentially devastating disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations, and our economic recovery, while allowing more than 90 percent of wireless tower deployment to occur as scheduled.

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    "This agreement protects flight safety and allows aviation operations to continue without significant disruption and will bring more high-speed internet options to millions of Americans. Expanding 5G and promoting competition in internet service are critical priorities of mine, and tomorrow will be a massive step in the right direction.

    "My team has been engaging non-stop with the wireless carriers, airlines, and aviation equipment manufacturers to chart a path forward for 5G deployment and aviation to safely co-exist – and, at my direction, they will continue to do so until we close the remaining gap and reach a permanent, workable solution around these key airports, the US President concluded.

    FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said, “Next-generation 5G technologies will be the backbone of our economic future. Today's agreement makes it possible to bring this technology to millions more consumers and businesses throughout the country starting tomorrow using the C-band.

    "This is welcome news because we know that deployment can safely co-exist with aviation technologies in the United States, just as it does in other countries around the world. The FAA has a process in place to assess altimeter performance in the 5G environment and resolve any remaining concerns. It is essential that the FAA now complete this process with both care and speed,” Rosenworcel concluded.

    In a statement Verizon said, “Verizon is proud to lead the nation in 5G. Tomorrow, Verizon will launch its 5G Ultra Wideband network which will enable more than 90 million Americans to experience the transformative speed, reliability and power of this game-changing network on the go or in their homes or businesses. Americans have been clamouring for 5G and tomorrow we will deliver it. As the nation’s leading wireless provider, we have voluntarily decided to limit our 5G network around airports.

    "The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and our nation’s airlines have not been able to fully resolve navigating 5G around airports, despite it being safe and fully operational in more than 40 other countries. Thanks to the best team in the industry for delivering this technology which promises a revolutionary next step in wireless communications including tremendous benefits for our nation," Verizon concluded.

    From the tone of the Verizon release they aren't happy with the situation. The delay in launching C-band 5G has no doubt cost the mobile carrier significantly, they purchased the spectrum in good faith from the FCC on the basis that it was deployable from December last year.

    Meanwhile a number of international airline carriers have suspended flights to some US airports. Emirates said it would pause flights into the following airports: Boston, Chicago O'Hare, Dallas Fort Worth, George Bush Intercontinental in Houston, Miami, Newark, Orlando, San Francisco and Seattle.

    There is also tension between the FAA and the airline industry as the FAA moves to prove that C-band 5G does not interfere with airline systems. This needs the cooperation and support of the airline industry, an industry feeling the pinch of several lean years due to COVID.

  • Outcome of 850/900MHz band spectrum auction
    in 5G

    Two companies, Optus and Telstra, have won spectrum in the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s (ACMA) latest spectrum auction.

    All 16 lots available were allocated. The allocation realised a total revenue of $2,091,618,000, equivalent to almost $1.21/MHz/pop.

    Optus won eight lots of spectrum at auction for $1,119,183,000, and acquired a total of 12 lots of spectrum for $1,475,958,000. Two set-aside lots were allocated to Optus for a pre‑determined price, and two lots of 1 MHz were automatically allocated also to Optus as the winner of the 900 MHz lower products.

    Telstra won four lots of spectrum for $615,660,000.

    TPG Telecom did not participate in the auction.

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    ACMA acting chair Creina Chapman said the spectrum has been designed to support the deployment of 4G and 5G networks across Australia.

    “This spectrum will support the deployment of more wireless broadband services, facilitating higher speeds and more reliable networks for consumers,” Chapman said.

    “The successful allocation of 850/900 MHz band spectrum is another important step forward for Australia’s transition to 5G, and the deployment of new technologies.”

    Licences won at auction will come into force on 1 July 2024, for a 20-year term ending in 2044. Winning bidders may have the opportunity to obtain early access to the spectrum under special circumstances before licences commence, the ACMA advised.

    The full results have been published on the ACMA website here.

    Minister for Communications Urban Infrastructure Cities and the Arts Paul Fletcher welcomed the conclusion of the auction.

    This auction follows the completion of the high band 5G auction in April 2021, making 2021 the ‘Year of 5G’.

    “In 2021, the Morrison Government has delivered two major spectrum auctions to facilitate the growth of 5G, and have set the groundwork for the pace of 5G network rollouts to increase in the year ahead.

    “The Government recognises the opportunities the 5G rollout presents for economic growth and innovation, including in Australia’s regional communities. The outcome of this auction is an important milestone in making sure the benefits of 5G will be shared by all Australians.

    "As a result of the Morrison Government’s work to reform and modernise the Radiocommunications Act 1992, the spectrum licences are 20 year licences, instead of 15 years. Reforms to the Act were passed by the Parliament late last year and commenced in June 2021, meaning this auction was the first to be able to offer bidders the certainty arising from longer licence tenure," Fletcher concluded.

    Telstra chief financial officer and group executive strategy & finance Vicki Brady said securing this spectrum was strategically important for Telstra and its commitment to providing its customers the best mobile network across the country.

    “With the 2x10MHz of 850MHz spectrum we’ve secured in this auction, added to our existing spectrum holdings, we now hold 2x40MHz of low-band spectrum in the major cities and 2x45MHz in regional and remote areas. This is more than any other carrier, which is important given our larger customer base, and will help us continue to provide the best mobile coverage and service,” said Brady.

    “Mobile and wireless broadband are key components of a successful digital economy, and this low band spectrum will help us support Australia’s digital economy ambitions which is critical to our nation’s pandemic recovery. The spectrum is essential for carrying mobile data, particularly 5G, over the vast distances needed across regional and remote areas and also enables us to provide better coverage indoors and other difficult to reach places in metro locations.

    “This outcome helps to ensure we continue to meet the growing demand of our customers across the country, and especially in regional areas. Our current 850MHz spectrum licence has played an important role in our 5G rollout which now extends to more than 4,000 sites across the country, reaching 75% of the population. This new spectrum will help us meet the commitment in our T25 strategy to provide 5G coverage to 95% of the population by 2025.

    “Over the seven years to end FY22, we will have invested $11 billion in our mobile network nationally with $4 billion of this invested in our regional mobile network. Because of this our mobile network now covers one million square kilometres more than any other telco – that’s the size of New South Wales and Victoria combined.”

    Brady said Telstra would keep investing to ensure it maintained its leading mobile coverage and helped regional and remote communities fully participate in the digital economy.

    “This is especially important as our nation rapidly digitises, as migration to regional areas continues at pace, and as billions of devices, like water sensors, home and business security cameras, and smart meters are generating data like never before.

    “All of these factors have increased demand on our network in regional Australia nearly threefold in the past three years. We will continue investing and this includes boosting regional connectivity with at least another 100,000 square kilometres of new mobile coverage as part of T25,” concluded Brady.

    Optus was awarded 2 x 25 MHz of 900 MHz spectrum nation-wide for a total of $1.476 billion. Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin said, “The auction result is a fantastic outcome for Australian consumers and businesses. Optus is building the network of the future for our customers and 900 MHz spectrum is its foundational layer.

    "With this additional spectrum, and our existing mid and high band spectrum, we can continue to deliver great coverage and bring the benefits of our technology leadership to more Australians.

    “We applaud the Government for prioritising competition and consumer interests in ensuring a competitive auction process that has also delivered more equitable holdings of this critical low band spectrum,” Bayer Rosmarin concluded.

    Optus vice president networks Lambo Kanagaratnam said, “We are steadily advancing the rollout of Australia’s fastest 5G, and combining it with value and innovation, like our suite of Living Networks features.

    "This spectrum means we can offer a significant uplift of 5G coverage nation-wide, to even more Australians.

    “Optus aims to power optimism with options, and options have just become a whole lot better for Australians,” Kanagaratnam said.

    Optus says that economic modelling by PwC shows that competitive national deployment of 5G could boost the national economy, with cumulative benefits over the decade of $130 billion – equal to 1.2% of GDP – and the creation of 205,000 net new jobs.

    The same modelling shows that the benefits of 5G deployment in regional Australia over the decade would be $38 billion – equal to 1.4% of GDP – with 45,000 net new jobs created, Optus concluded.

    TPG Telecom did not participate in the auction. TPG Telecom CEO Iñaki Berroeta said, "Our recent merger brought together the spectrum held by the former VHA and TPG entities. As a result, TPG Telecom has strong low-band spectrum holdings that are already deployed in our 4G and 5G networks.

    "Given our existing low-band spectrum, TPG Telecom determined it was not in the best interests of our customers or shareholders to acquire more low-band spectrum at this auction.

    "We will continue investing heavily to roll out our 5G network across Australia’s largest cities. Our build program has been accelerating, with more than 150 sites delivered last month alone.

    "We are already maximising the potential of our infrastructure, as demonstrated by the recent tripling of our 5G coverage. Our 5G standalone network now covers more than 85 per cent of the population in ten of Australia’s biggest cities and centres, and we look forward to bringing 5G to more customers in coming months and years, Berroeta concluded

    Low band spectrum, such as the 850/900 MHz band, has particular characteristics that allow it to transmit efficiently over long distances and through objects such as trees and buildings. It is therefore a highly valued component of mobile networks, particularly in regional Australia, the Ministers office says.

    Much of this spectrum has been in use for cellular mobile from the outset of 1G in the 1980s (850MHz) and 2G (900MHz) in the early 1990's. It is beneficial, and sometimes co-incidental, for spectrum licences to be aligned to technology lifecycles, allowing business cases to be extended well into the future. Extending the spectrum leases to 20 years provides certainty for operators as they look to make those long term investments in 5G technologies.

    Both operators should be relatively happy with the price of $1.21/MHz/pop. I recall that the same 850MHz spectrum was renewed last time at a slightly higher price of $1.23/MHz/pop. Taking into account inflation over the 15 year period the outcome is a significant discount on the previous price.

    The economic issue for mobile telcos is that to keep ahead of demand they have purchased and deployed significantly more spectrum over time. The renewal or repurchase of these growing spectrum holdings along with growing number of cell sites, due to the higher bands, must be driving up both capital and expense budgets for the carriers. It is no wonder the carriers are looking to increase ARPU with increased prices and to grow in other areas such as IoT.

    For Government, spectrum is a national asset and getting a good return on that asset can be viewed in two ways:

    • The direct payment in terms spectrum licences which the carriers need to pay in order to stay in business.
    • The economic multiplier benefit can result in substantial economic grow.

    However economic growth can be stymied if the spectrum burden on the carriers drives price to levels where utilisation declines and availability of capital is reduced to deploy the technology extensively. A balanced approach is needed to ensure that spectrum is allocated at affordable levels so that economic growth is maximised.

    This first appeared in the subscription newsletter CommsWire on 8 December 2021.

  • TPG Telecom allocated 2.1GHz spectrum in Singapore
    in 5G

    The Singapore Infocomm Media Authority (IMDA), the Singapore equivalent of the ACMA, announced the results of its 2.1 GHz spectrum auction.

    The purpose was to make available more spectrum to support the growth of 5G mobile services. This spectrum is in addition to the first tranche of 3.5 GHz spectrum issued in June 2020 for the deployment of 5G nationwide networks.

    The 2.1 GHz spectrum rights auction is a key milestone in Singapore’s 5G journey to have a world-class, secure and resilient infrastructure, putting Singapore in a stronger position to grow our 5G innovation ecosystem; and positioning us for the next bound of growth in the digital economy, IMDA says.

    The successful bidders were Singtel Mobile Singapore Pte Ltd (Singtel Mobile), a consortium comprising M1 Limited and StarHub Mobile Pte Ltd (M1-StarHub Consortium), and TPG Telecom Pte Ltd (TPG).

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    Singtel and the M1-Starhub Consortium walked away with five lots of 5MHz paired spectrum each and TPG Telecom with two lots of 5MHz paired spectrum.

    Singtel Mobile and the M1-StarHub Consortium may use the new spectrum to enhance the coverage and capacity of their existing 5G Standalone (SA) networks deployed with the first tranche of spectrum issued by in 2020, the IMDA advise.

    IMDA added that both Singtel and M1-StarHub consortium are on track to establish two nationwide networks with full-fledged 5G SA capabilities[3] with at least 50% coverage by end-2022, and nationwide coverage by end-2025.

    TPG will be required to deploy a new 5G network in the same manner and time frame as Singtel Mobile and the M1-StarHub Consortium’s deployment conditions. TPG must roll out a 5G SA network with at least 50% coverage within two years, and nationwide 5G SA coverage within five years, from the commencement of its 2.1 GHz spectrum rights. TPG will also be required to ensure that its network will be secure and resilient, the IMDA says.

    Winning bidders will have rights to the 2.1 GHz spectrum for deployment of 5G network and services from 1 January 2022.

    Some lots were allocated on a first right of refusal basis to the existing 2.1GHz spectrum holders, two paired lots to the M1-Starhub consortium and one paired lot to Singtel Mobile at a continuity price of S$3M per paired lot. The rest of the spectrum was allocated at S$15.5M per paired lot. M1-Starhub paid S$52.5M for 25MHz of paired spectrum, Singtel paid S$65M for 25MHz of paired spectrum and TPG Telecom S$31M for 10MHz of paired spectrum.

    This first appeared in the subscription newsletter CommsWire on 29 November 2021.

  • US bans China Telecom Americas from operating in the country

    The American Federal Communications Corporation has banned China Telecom (Americas) from operating in the US, claiming it may be a threat to national security.

    In a statement, commissioner Brendan Car said the decision was informed by "the views submitted by the Executive Branch agencies with responsibility for national security reviews".

    In May 2019, the FCC blocked China Mobile USA from entering the American market, claiming a similar threat. The decision was taken eight years after the company applied for permission to operate mobile services.

    China Telecom is one of the top three mobile operators in China, the others being China Mobile and China Unicom.

    {loadposition sam08}Carr said Executive Branch agencies had advised there were "substantial and unacceptable national security and law enforcement risks associated with China Telecom Americas' continued access to US telecommunications infrastructure".

    "They also stated that China Telecom Americas' operations provide opportunities for Chinese state-sponsored actors to engage in espionage and to steal trade secrets and other confidential business information."

    On Monday, in a decision apparently driven by fear that a Chinese mobile company would take over Digicel Pacific, Australia's biggest telco, Telstra announced that, along with the Australian Government, it had acquired Digicel's business in the South Pacific region for US$1.6 billion (A$2.14 billion), plus an additional US$250 million depending on how the business fared over the next three years.

    Telstra said the government would pay US$1.33 billion of the price, while the company would contribute US$270 million, own and operate the company and own 100% of the ordinary equity.

    Carr's statement said: "Indeed, the FCC's own review found that China Telecom Americas poses significant national security concerns due to its control and ownership by the Chinese Government, including its susceptibility to complying with communist China.s intelligence and cyber security laws that are contrary to the interests of the US.

    "Our review also found that China Telecom Americas conduct towards the commission and other agencies lacked candour and trustworthiness."

    China's biggest telecommunications equipment vendor, Huawei Technologies, was placed on a US blacklist, the so-called Entity List, in May 2019, preventing the company from importing components from American companies without government approval.

    Huawei got around this by buying what it needed from branches of American firms in other countries. The only thing it could not source were the proprietary apps that come with Google's Android mobile operating system. It developed its own operating system, HarmonyOS, using the open-source port of Android as a base.

    In May 2020, the US put in place further restrictions to cut off Huawei's supply of semiconductors which it gets made mostly by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company.

    This was done through the Foreign Direct Product Rule that makes it necessary for any company — American or foreign — that sells American products or those made using American technology to require a permit before selling to Huawei.

    On top of that, new export control rules were imposed by the US Government in August 2020 and these made it well-nigh impossible for Huawei to obtain the SoCs it needs to build its flagship smartphones.

    Carr said the FCC should move quickly to close what he called a loophole in the equipment authorisation process to ensure "that equipment from Huawei and other entities that pose a national security risk will no longer be eligible for FCC approval".

    Three Republican senators recently issued a call for blacklisting Honor Device, a low-budget smartphone firm formerly owned by Huawei.

    Huawei sold Honor to a consortium of 30 dealers and agents, operating under the name Shenzhen Zhixin New Information Technology, for an unspecified sum in November last year.

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