at&t and General and Spectrum and SprintNextel and T-Mobilechris on 26 May 2011 08:17 am

In my last dish, I emphasized how important it was for at&t to go beyond their typical playbook to get approval for their merger with T-Mobile. The company has done just that and continues to move the ball forward on messaging and the approval process.

Once again, I’m not going to go on the record (yet) on my opinion on the deal. Instead, I will offer a few thoughts for my friends at at&t and Sprint to chew on…  Enjoy!

Silicon Valley - I love at&t’s proactive outreach to this community. In 2004, the mobile-social revolution was not on the radar and we did not have to court the valley. However, the innovations and services driving the wireless ecosystem is a real success story for the industry. At the moment, there is a ton of money being invested in everything mobile. This group has a huge stake in this deal, and having them on board or just neutralized is huge.

Continue Reading »

at&t and Spectrum and T-Mobilechris on 21 Mar 2011 01:55 pm

A month ago, I wrote on my Facebook wall:

friendly advice for T-Mo & Sprint – did George Washington play by the same rules as the British in the Revolutionary War? he did not. you cannot play the game the same way as your much larger enemy or you will continue to lose (or eventually become extinct).

The recent news yesterday regarding T-mobile’s acquisition by at&t confirms the above.

Moving beyond competitive strategy in both the marketplace and in Washington, the above combination is going to dominate the telecom policy conversations in DC for the next 12-18 months.  I’m not going to delve into the matter of whether this is good for consumers or not.  I want to focus my thoughts on some issues that my friends at at&t and T-Mo need to consider as they work to get approval.  Continue Reading »

CTIA and Policy and Spectrumchris on 23 Mar 2010 01:24 pm

As always, it is great being in Las Vegas for another CTIA show.  This industry is happening and I’m really excited to learn more about some of the new gadgets and products on the horizon.  With that in mind, I thought I’d hear more about the evolving nature of this industry and it is this evolution that makes it quite exciting.  However, the major message coming out of CTIA, in my opinion, is much more policy focused than usual — “We need more spectrum.”

Ralph de la Vega (CEO, AT&T Mobility) kicked off the start of the show with a snapshot of where the industry is and what will be needed (more spectrum).  Mr. de la Vega highlighted the fact that the United States leads the world in 3G subscribers.  It is estimated that the U.S. has 117 Million 3G subscribers with Japan (101M) and South Korea trailing (40M).  With subscribers in mind, Mr. de la Vega discussed how much the industry is spending and plans to spend on wireless infrastructure.  Specifically, he projected that the industry will spend $22-$23 Billion in 2010.

After providing this snapshot of the industry , he addressed the critical question of whether or not the industry can handle the growing appetite for mobile broadband.  Accordingly, he offered up a blue print for taking on this issue.

(1)  “increasing available spectrum” – This point has been hammered everywhere.  On that note, the FCC recently called for 500 MHz to be available for wireless broadband over the decade and that 300 MHz be available within the next 5 years.

(2) “accelerating network efficiency” – In this instance, Mr. de la Vega discussed LTE and the network efficiencies that can be derived from that technology – it is about 2.5X more efficient that HSPA.

(3) “capitalizing on Wi-Fi and Femto” – I don’t have too much to add on this point.  Offloading traffic is an important part of the solution.  I’ve always been a big fan of Wi-Fi.

(4)  “ensuring application efficiency” – This is a point that is starting to be repeated more often and it is a good thing.  Developers need to be cognizant of the amount of bandwidth a particular application is going to have on the network.

Spectrum is the lifeblood of this industry and we need more capacity to keep the momentum going in this space.  The FCC’s efforts in the National Broadband Plan is a great start.  However, there needs to be more talk about spectral efficiency as we get ready for the long battle ahead to free up more capacity.

General and Policy and Spectrumchris on 17 Mar 2010 09:04 am

I’m still chewing on the National Broadband Plan that was released yesterday by the FCC.  It is quite large and I’m focusing on the spectrum roadmap set by the Commission.

In any case, Congress is going to review the plan next week.  With regard to the Senate, they will hold a Full Committee Hearing on Tuesday, March 23.  The House will hold a Subcommittee Hearing on Thursday, March 25.


General and Google and Policy and Spectrumchris on 20 May 2008 09:54 am

As diners know, this is the district of communications and wireless is always a hot dish in this city.

On that note, Larry Page will be coming to town and discussing GooG’s vision for expanding broadband access across America with Michael Calabrese (New America Foundation). Mr. Page will also delve into spectrum policy too.

You can register here

Broadband and General and Policy and Spectrumchris on 13 May 2008 10:16 am

I’ve been digesting the latest from policymakers and regulators the last few weeks. Overall, lots of good conversations about the wireless industry and thoughts about what is on the horizon. These are exciting times…

This new world of communications isn’t built around voice and text-messaging. It is a world built on innovations – many from startups and small companies – that can thrive on next generation wireless networks. A world where we know where our friends are at all times and a world where we can shoot mobile video – anytime and anywhere. It is our world and we are driving this revolution.

Carriers are currently evolving their traditional networks and building for this broadband revolution. A revolution where not just a few participate but one where we all are active. This revolution will allow everyone the ability to browse, search and share on their wireless device…

Unfortunately, there is a little bit of noise and static from a few folks in Washington. These folks believe they know what we want to do with our wireless devices – when most of them are still stuck in analog. These folks want to take us back to the antiquated world of spectrum caps. These are the folks who are not happy with the results of the 700 MHz auction and have an appetite to micro-manage a sector that doesn’t need it…

How many times do we have to go down this road? Spectrum caps only hurt consumers. Continue Reading »

CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment 07 and Google and Microsoft and SpectrumAshley on 23 Oct 2007 01:05 pm

I’m here at the CTIA keynote session listening to Steve Largent interview Steve Ballmer. Steve just asked Ballmer if Microsoft plans to participate in the 700 MHz auction, and unlike the ambiguous answers I’ve heard from certain Silicon Valley companies lately- Ballmer answered an affirmative “No.” He said, “We have a core competence, and the telecom industry has a core competence; it takes a real expertise to set up networks and provide customer service.”

Refreshing to get a straight answer :)

General and Policy and Spectrum and Verizon Wirelesschris on 11 Oct 2007 01:59 pm

Any doubt about FCC rule changes on the C-block spectrum? 

Here’s Chairman Martin’s quote from the NY Times:

“I don’t have any plans to try to revise our open-platform rule the way Verizon wants us to.”

General and Google and Spectrumchris on 16 Aug 2007 02:08 pm

It is no secret that GooG is interested in the mobile market.  Most recently, they pushed their vision for how the 700 MHz spectrum auction should be managed.  As we know, they got some of what they wanted (open access and open devices) but not everything (wholesaling).  We also know that they have been in talks with other carriers and recently reached a deal with Sprint to provide services on it Wi-Max network. 

The question I get asked most frequently now that the auction and service rules have been adopted is: “do you think GooG is going to bid?”  The answer – YES.     

Google has to bid in the upcoming auction from both a policy and business perspective.  They were very aggressive in their advocacy and they have to make an effort to demonstrate to the policymakers and regulators that they are “true” to their word.  Some will argue that they didn’t get everything they wanted and shouldn’t feel forced to bid.  That isn’t going to cut it.  GooG tried to depress interest in the C block by advocating to policymakers that conditions on the licenses will bring a new competitor.  They didn’t get everything but they got enough.  Accordingly, as a winner in the auction, they can implement wholesaling.  In fact, one reason Chairman Martin gave in consideration of the automatic roaming order, was not adding broadband to the mandate because he believes that would undermine efforts of a new competitor offering broadband roaming as part of a business model. 

With regard to the business, extending GooG’s market dominance in search and web advertising to the mobile sector is a no-brainer.  With 62.5% of smartphone users (in April) visiting GooG, the mobile internet could start with a “G” too.  GooG has every incentive to dominate the mobile web market while it is still in the embryonic stages.

Whether or not GooG is successful in the 700 MHz auction – I just can’t answer.  However, I can say they have made a difference in wireless policy and stoked the creative juices in the carriers regardless of the outcome.

What do YOU think?  Will GooG bid in the auction?

Disclosure – I represent CTIA and the Wireless Broadband Coalition on spectrum policy.

General and Spectrumchris on 01 Aug 2007 03:55 pm

I thought this post by Randolph May (Free State Foundation) on 700 MHz was juicy…


at&t and General and Policy and Spectrum and Verizon Wirelesschris on 01 Aug 2007 02:54 pm

The FCC voted and adopted a revised 700 MHz band plan and service rules yesterday.  There were really no surprises.  We knew Chairman Martin had the votes and we heard him justify his proposal last week in the House Commerce Committee.

With regard to the rules, I thought an interesting take-away from the meeting was majority concern with the Chairman mandating a reserve price on the spectrum auction.  As you may know, Martin has put a reserve price on the C-block spectrum of $4.6 billion and the whole auction at $10 billion.  Martin has taken this step to make sure that the auction brings the miniumum expected proceeds to the federal treasury (which Congress will use for deficit reduction and other initiatives).

Here’s what they said:  

Adelstein – “the reserve price and second auction requirements set out in this item leave open a real potential for gaming and may result in unintended consequences.”

Copps“the item now imposes reserve prices on each of the individual spectrum blocks, something without precedent in previous auctions and something, it seems to me, rather at odds with letting the market pick the auction block winners.”

McDowell- “with respect to auction reserve prices, I believe these are best left to market forces.”

Micro-managing competition is never a good idea.  Trying to satisfy one large company’s business model at the expense of other carriers (especially small rural carriers) is not in the public interest.  at&t and Verizon will survive the tailored 700 MHz rules – the small guys will sell.  The auction process is not perfect but it has proved to be better than any beauty contest the FCC has held.  Chairman Martin may have cooked up a recipe that nobody seems to be craving - only time will tell…

Dish disclosure – Our firm represents CTIA and the Wireless Broadband Coalition (at&t and Verizon Wireless are members) on spectrum issues.

General and Policy and Politics and SpectrumAshley on 27 Jul 2007 10:14 am

The Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing yesterday on consumer education for the DTV transition set to occur on February 17, 2009, which is the hard date set for analog TV signals to be turned off. On that day, analog TV’s that receive over-the-air signals only will go dark, and whether or not consumers are prepared with converter boxes or new TV’s depends solely on how well informed they are. Sen. McCaskill said it best: “No anger compares to the anger of Americans who can’t get their TV.” A little dramatic, but she has a point- Americans are not going to be happy if this transition does not go smoothly.

John Kneuer, of NTIA testitfied at the hearing and faced some tough grilling from Senators about the need for more consumer education. NTIA has $5 million to spend on consumer education. To put that in perspective, the UK is also currently transitioning to digital, and it is spending $400 million on education, while the city of Berlin spent $1 million to educate just 3 million people about its 2003 transition. Berlin’s transition went smoothly, and the U.K.’s looks to be headed that direction as well- 80% of consumers know about the transition and the analog cut-off date. In the U.S. on the other hand, only 10% of Americans are aware of both the transition itself and the cut-off date.

So whose responsibility is it to make sure that consumers are knowledgeable about the transition? According to Kneuer, its industry’s responsibility. He said during questioning that while $5 million is a limited amount, the vast majority of education will be done by companies that have a vested interest in a smooth transition, such as broadcasters and cable and satellite providers. Also, when questioned about the amount of traffic on the agency’s DTV consumer education site, he explained that currently, people go first to the NTIA site and then to other industry sites, but he hopes that the tables will turn so that company information sites are the first stop for consumers (which would probably behoove consumers- compare the DTV Transition Coalition site with that of NTIA).

Never-the-less, those with internet access are not likely to be the ones most affected by the transition. Nowadays, odds are, if you have an internet connection, you have a triple play package that gives you digital cable, or at least have analog cable. I, along with many of the Senators on the Commerce Committee, am concerned about the estimated 21 million homes that rely on over-the-air television for news, weather, sports, and entertainment. Many of these people are economically disadvantaged, elderly, or non-English speaking. NTIA, the FCC, and industry all have initiated efforts to reach out to these communities, but with only 10% of the population aware of the transition date and less than six months before coupons for converter boxes are to be distributed on January 1, 2008- it is unlikely that these often disenfranchised communities have been reached.

Although the agencies and industry are the ones finagling over the logistics of this responsibility, Congress is likely to bear the brunt of the blame if things go wrong when TV’s go dark in ’09.  The Committee is right to be concerned, and it is probably in Congress’ best interest to oversee this transition to ensure that disenfranchised populations and everyone else are well informed of the transiton and their options. 

Dish Disclosure: Our firm represents Comcast on set-top-box issues.

Policy and Spectrumchris on 24 Jul 2007 02:05 pm

Chairman Martin and the rest of the Commissioners testified in front of a full house this morning in the House Commerce Committee.  As expected the topic du jour was the draft 700 MHz rules and I thought Chairman Martin’s logic behind those rules was sound – even though I disagree with the approach. 

Martin’s justification for the 22 MHz block (C-Block) to have open access conditions reverberates back to the policy discussions a few years ago on number portability.  In this instance, he is concerned about a consumer paying for new devices – like an iPhone – that they cannot take with them.  Not to mention a related concern with the early termination fee (“ETF”).  The justification for an ETF is that it is in place to subsidize the phone.  Many next generation devices will not be subsidized.  Accordingly, this spectrum will allow device portability as well as apply Carterfone principles to incent innovation in wireless broadband.

Chairman Martin did not feel it was necessary to adopt Carterfone principles on the rest of the 700 MHz band or legacy spectrum held by the industry.  Mr. Martin also does not believe that additional conditions - wholesale – are necessary.  With regard to wholesale, he believes that the condition can be a disincentive to investment by the organization that has the license.  Commissioner Adelstein and Commissioner Copps believe the wholesale provision would be a good thing.  They feel it might mitigate the impact these rules will have on rural wireless carriers - which has been a frequent topic at the diner.

One interesting exchange this morning was with Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX) and Chairman Martin.  As you may know, Martin has put a $4.6 billion reserve price on the C-block and a $10 billion price on the whole auction.  Barton asked Martin if he did that because he was concerned that putting conditions on the spectrum will lower interest in the spectrum.  Martin responded: “I was concerned that you were concerned.”  Martin went on to explain that he is comfortable with the CBO score for the auction ($12.5 billion). 

Chairman Martin has the necessary votes to approve these rules and get the auction started in a manner that meets the deadlines specified by Congress.  I disagree with the Chairman’s approach but appreciated the opportunity to hear him discuss his proposal this morning.  It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out over the next few years…

Dish Disclosure – Our firm represents CTIA and the Wireless Broadband Coalition on spectrum issues. 

General and Policy and Spectrumchris on 17 Jul 2007 08:07 am

We have had a week to chew on Chairman Martin’s draft 700 MHz rules and I’m trying not to get sick.  Besides all the conditions on the upper 700 MHz spectrum and Reed Hundt’s complaining - I’ve decided to weigh in on the biggest loser of these draft rules — the rural wireless carriers.

A few reasons why there is no soup for them -

  1. The upper 700 MHz band is slated for REAG licenses which are relatively large regional geograhic areas.  Rural carriers actively advocated that one of the bands should have been slated CMA or EA (smaller licenses).  The build-out requirements tied to those large blocks is tough for smaller carriers to swallow.
  2. Presumably, the lower 700 MHz band becomes hot property with no conditions (open access etc.) attached to them and higher power limits granted at the April meeting.  Although the license sizes are smaller – “A” block on an EA basis (176 licenses)/ “B” block on a CMA basis (734 licenses) – the small carriers will get outbid by carriers with deeper pockets.
  3. No spectrum to upgrade their technologies will leave them at a disadvantage to compete with the large carriers in a particular market.  This will only lead to further industry consolidation forcing smaller wireless companies to sell.

Some may say that the writing is on the wall at FCC.  On the horizon, is implementation of an interim cap which will prevent wireless carriers from receiving universal support funds to build in high-cost areas.  The combination of that decision (no funds) and a long shot to win spectrum in the lower band may leave some rural carriers with an appetite to exit the business.

Disclosure – I have not seen the draft 700 MHz rules and have pieced together what is in the rules from various press reports and information gathering.

Dish Disclosure – Our firm represents CTIA and the Wireless Broadband Coalition on spectrum issues.

General and Policy and Spectrumchris on 15 Jun 2007 11:49 am

The Senate held another hearing on 700 MHz.  Senate Committee Chairman Inouye (D-Hawaii) assembled two good panels to discuss the upcoming auction.  The first panel looked at Public Safety spectrum needs in the context of Frontline’s proposal.  The second panel discussed commercial use and allocation of the 700 MHz spectrum. 

There were no real surprises yesterday.  However, I believe a great deal of information was gleaned from Paul Cosgrave (Comissioner, NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications).  I want to focus my thoughts on his comments to the Committee.  I touched upon most of what was discussed on the second panel earlier this week. Continue Reading »

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