Tag Archives: verizon

Verizon could close a big competitive gap with Charter’s fiber

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Verizon needs to build more than 100,000 new cell sites and add more fiber connectivity to close a capacity gap with its U.S. competitors, according to a report from New Street Research. And, the report concludes, buying Charter Communications – as rumors say it might – could help solve some of Verizon’s problems. It wouldn’t be much benefit to Charter, though.

The report estimates that when the number of cell sites and the amount of spectrum used is taken into consideration, Verizon has a bit more than half of the capacity per subscriber that AT&T and T-Mobile have. In order to catch up, Verizon would have to build 69,000 new macro – traditional, big – cell sites, or 138,000 or more small cell sites. New Street estimates that if small cells are properly located to reach high concentrations of subscribers, it would only take two to replace a big cell site. To fully cover the same geographic area, though, the ratio is more like ten to one.

Those sites would all need back haul, of course, which is where Charter comes in. Verizon still has some wireline assets of its own, but Charter’s footprint is much bigger and U.S. cable companies have more fiber – and more easily accessed fiber – than telcos. “Cable has much greater fiber density than their wireline competitors”, the report says. “To put this in perspective, the Cable industry has 320,000 nodes today, the vast majority of which are fed with fiber. By contrast, telecom carriers have 23,000 fiber fed central offices”.

So a cable acquisition would be an advantage for Verizon. From Charter’s perspective, the benefits aren’t clear. New Street discounts speculation that a cable-mobile merger would reduce churn, concluding that Verizon’s is a low as it can go and there’s no hard evidence that it would have much more than a marginal impact on Charter’s.

The report makes several other good points about the cable and mobile sectors, and telecoms in general, and is worth reading. New Street’s top line conclusion is that an acquisition is less likely than originally thought, and “our working hypothesis is that it will be very tough for Verizon to structure a deal that Charter will find compelling”.

5G for fixed service is so ordinary says T-Mobile

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It’s like I said, their view never changes.

There’s a war of words between T-Mobile and its larger competitors, AT&T and Verizon, over using advanced mobile technologies – 5G is the undefined buzz word – as a DSL replacement to provide fixed Internet service to homes and businesses. Neville Ray, T-Mobile’s chief technology officer, says 2017 isn’t the year to get excited about 5G, particularly AT&T’s and Verizon’s version of it

No one’s more excited about this brilliant technology than I am. But it will take several more years for 5G to be meaningful for mobile. The carriers’ current vision for 5G is mind-numbingly limited. 5G’s potential is so much larger than replacing in-home broadband and IoT. But they can’t see beyond their own wallets. AT&T wants to “connect your world” – including your bank account – to AT&T. Verizon’s grand vision is that you Netflix at home with wireless Verizon broadband. How is that game changing?

Of course, with their copper networks, AT&T and Verizon have a different business model and motivation than wireless-only T-Mobile. According to a story in Fierce Wireless by Mike Dano, the two legacy carriers are moving ahead with or without a firm 5G spec…

Both AT&T and Verizon are moving forward with plans to at least test and potentially commercially deploy fixed wireless services that would leverage initial 5G technologies (industry executives expect the 3GPP’s [ the 5G standards body] to finalize the initial standard for fixed 5G in the coming months). Verizon, for example, has already installed 5G equipment for fixed wireless services in more than 10 U.S. cities. However…Verizon may have to upgrade its physical equipment at its sites in the 10 cities in order to ensure that its services work with the 3GPP’s forthcoming 5G standard.

AT&T also has fixed wireless tests in the works, including its so called wireless local loop technology that it plans to use as a replacement for wireline service in rural California.

Haven’t seen the facts about AT&T, Time Warner merger, Trump says

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Translation: never mind.

Donald Trump is backing off from his stated opposition to the AT&T – Time Warner transaction. According to the Axios blog, Trump said in an interview

“I have been on the record in the past of saying it’s too big and we have to keep competition. So, but other than that, I haven’t, you know, I haven’t seen any of the facts, yet. I’m sure that will be presented to me and to the people within government.”

Wall Street’s optimism about a kinder attitude toward big mergers in Washington, DC appears to be a safer bet.

Yuge telecoms companies expect to get yuger

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Big money is leaning in the direction of a permissive, rather than populist, Trump presidency, at least when it comes to big telecoms mergers. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson met with Trump last week. Although both AT&T and Trump’s team insist that the pending acquisition of Time Warner wasn’t discussed, Stephenson continues to project optimism that federal regulators – the justice department’s anti-trust unit and, possibly, the Federal Communications Commission – will allow it to go forward. That’s despite Trump’s initial – and probably knee jerk – public opposition to it.

Now comes word that Verizon wants to buy Comcast or Charter. That’s a much different beast. According to a story in the New York Post, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam is on the prowl for a big cable company

The CEO told friends at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month that he wants to buy into cable, one source said.

“They need it for 5G,” said a second source, confirming McAdam’s interest.

The most likely targets would be “Charter or Comcast,” the source noted.

“Altice is too small,” the source speculated.

To be sure, Verizon is not in talks with any cable company and may not ever make such a move.

A vertical integration play, like AT&T and Time Warner, is one thing. The Obama administration allowed Comcast to vertically integrate with its acquisition of NBC-Universal. But up until now, there’s been a limit on large scale horizontal combinations – Comcast wasn’t allowed to buy Time Warner Cable (although Charter, a smaller company, was) and neither Sprint nor AT&T gained permission to hook up with T-Mobile.

In addition to the Verizon rumor, there’s renewed speculation about another try at a T-Mobile and Sprint combo, or maybe even a three-way Comcast-Charter-Cox takeover of T-Mobile. The mere fact that the possibility is taken seriously says that Wall Street analysts and big company CEOs – arguably the people who know Trump best – see him as the deal maker he’s always been rather than the anti-establishment candidate he became.

Update: Trump is backing off from his stated opposition to the AT&T-Time Warner transaction. According to the Axios blog, Trump said in an interview

“I have been on the record in the past of saying it’s too big and we have to keep competition. So, but other than that, I haven’t, you know, I haven’t seen any of the facts, yet. I’m sure that will be presented to me and to the people within government.”

Mobile carriers losing the data upgrade race to Californian demand

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You can get more bits per second from mobile broadband carriers in California, but your odds of getting those faster speeds at any given moment are dropping. That’s what the California Public Utilities Commission’s mobile field testing result are showing. You can read the excellent blog post by commission staffer Rob Osborne here. He shows that mobile broadband speeds are increasing, but sums it up diplomatically: “it’s hard to say, but it appears the likelihood of getting the average speed at a particular location is lower than before”.

The CPUC has been running a regular series of Internet speed tests at more than a thousand specific locations for several years now. Over that time, mobile companies have upgraded their infrastructure and are capable of delivering fast, sometimes really fast, service. But judging from the latest results, either Californians are increasing their consumption of mobile data at an even faster rate, or the consistency of the new technology being deployed is dropping, or both.

Between the tests conducted a year ago and the latest round done this past spring, Verizon’s average speed in California – the highest of the four major carriers – increased from about 14 Mbps to just over 16 Mbps. Sprint stayed even at about 8 Mbps, T-Mobile went from 12 Mbps to 13 Mbps, and AT&T increased from 12 Mbps to just under 14 Mbps.

On the other hand, you have less of a chance of actually getting that kind of performance at any given moment. Rob does a good job of explaining the math and the methodology, but the bottom line is that the speeds you can expect to experience, as opposed to overall average speeds, are dropping: from 4 Mbps to just over 2 Mbps for Verizon, more or less the same range but a bit lower for AT&T and an even steeper drop to 1 Mbps for T-Mobile. Sprint only dropped a little, but its expected speeds are in the sub-2 Mbps range.

Mobile carriers are investing in more and better infrastructure, but judging from the CPUC’s measurements, not quickly enough to keep pace with Californians.

Advertising group sides with Verizon, slaps Comcast Internet claims

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When elephants mud wrestle.

Comcast’s advertising claims that it “delivers America’s fastest Internet” and “the fastest, most reliable in-home WiFi” aren’t supported and should be pulled. That’s the finding of the advertising industry’s self-regulation board, called the National Advertising Division (NAD). Responding to a complaint filed by Verizon, which naturally would prefer you think it has the fastest Internet service, NAD said Comcast used dubious data to back up its pitch

As support for its claims that XFINITY delivers America’s “fastest Internet,” Comcast relied on crowdsourced data from Ookla’s “Speedtest” application. Ookla’s “Speedtest” is an application which consumers download on their mobile devices and can run to measure their current upload and download speeds. Ookla’s “fastest Internet in America” award is based on a different methodology than previous NAD cases involving superior speed claims, but is also intended to show the “top-end performance of a given ISP.”

However, NAD noted in its decision, instead of relying on an aggregation of crowdsourced data on download and upload speeds, Ookla based its award on the top 10 percent of each ISP’s Speedtest download results.

NAD determined that Ookla’s methodology wasn’t a good fit for the purposes of substantiating Comcast’s overall superior speed performance claim that “XFINITY delivers the fastest Internet in America.” NAD recommended the claim be discontinued.

The WiFi claim was skating on even thinner ice – it was based on an in-house comparison of Comcast’s and Verizon’s home routers.

NAD also dinged Comcast for saying “Verizon is eliminating its traditional home phone service in certain markets” and that “Verizon is discontinuing its copper wire-based home phone service”. It called the statements “potentially confusing” and recommended Comcast change it to avoid giving the impression that Verizon was eliminating phone service completely.

Comcast’s response was to disagree and say it would appeal the finding.

New network standards fuel Verizon IoT push

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U.S. mobile carriers will offer specialised Internet of things (IoT) services in a big way next year. Some of the motivation is competitive, the result of pressure from companies using unlicensed spectrum, but it seems to be mostly the result of new technology protocols for the LTE standard that support IoT applications and, critically, business cases.

Verizon announced its plans for full, nationwide deployment of a key IoT standard by April 2017 at the Telit IoT Innovation conference in Las Vegas yesterday. Erik Varney, senior manager of IoT consulting at Verizon Wireless, said that their network will be upgraded to support the LTE category M1 protocol, which supports low bandwidth applications running on low power equipment, on licensed spectrum. As the table above shows, the M1 standard falls midway between the conventional LTE standard and the more aggressive LTE NB1 (for narrow band) which is optimised for fixed, very low power IoT devices for applications with very low bandwidth needs.

One question yet to be fully answered is how much will it cost? During audience Q&A, Varney said that Verizon is becoming more flexible and moving away from traditional mobile phone data plans, but more work is needed on the network side too: pricing models are, to a degree, a function of a network designed to support high priority, high priority communications on demand – 911 calls, for example – but IoT applications often involve intermittent, non-time sensitive transmission of a few bytes of data.

Ken Bednasz, vice president of application engineering at Telit (and the guy who presented the table above), pointed to 2018 as the time frame for IoT-optimised protocols, which were released earlier this year, to be in full, mass market deployment in the U.S. Cat M1 technology will come first and NB1-based systems, which he described as being better suited to new market segments, following.

Speed doesn’t matter so give us the money, Verizon tells FCC

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Will the cherries blossom in Washington?

Verizon wants the Federal Communications Commission to give it an open and privileged path to do an end run around the statewide service obligations attached to the current round of Connect America Fund (CAF-2) rural broadband subsidies.

In comments it filed regarding the FCC’s proposed bidding rules for the next round of CAF-2 subsidies, Verizon wants extra credit given if it makes minimum service – 10 Mbps down/1 Mbps up – bids for unserved areas it turned down last year, but doesn’t want competing bids to be given greater weight if higher, even gigabit, speeds are offered, because, well, who needs all that bandwidth…

For every location in the gigabit tier that is awarded support because of a large weight, several other eligible locations would be left without any broadband service whatsoever. These customers would have been well served by services offering the “baseline” speeds and capabilities, which are sufficiently robust to support most consumers’ online activities.

What’s doubly disingenuous about Verizon’s comments is that it’s trying to game the system so that it can cherrypick the rural communities in its service territory that it deems sufficiently lucrative to upgrade. In the first round of CAF-2 subsidies last year, Verizon could have had those subsidies handed to it on a platter, if it agreed to upgrade all eligible locations in a given state.

Verizon said no, preferring instead to come back later and bid on the particular areas it wants to serve. As it’s entitled to do. But the FCC shouldn’t let Verizon use its existing monopoly advantage to all but automatically claim cherrypicked communities and lock them into the lowest tier of service, while ignoring the rest.

No progress, no paperwork, no grants for California broadband projects

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Five broadband projects are about to lose funding, as the California Public Utilities Commission prepares to cancel $4.5 million worth of grants originally given to pay for construction costs. The companies that would have received the subsidies either decided not to move ahead with the project or just sort of disappeared and failed to file the proper paperwork.

Verizon had two of the projects – one in Pinyon in Riverside County and the other in the Sea Ranch area of Sonoma County. It’s not clear what, if anything, Verizon actually built, but it didn’t file necessary reports or even ask to draw down the money. So the $2.5 million it was awarded from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) will go back into the kitty. It’s odd – Verizon apparently finished the work but, for some reason, didn’t want the reimbursement.

Shasta County Telecom is losing $2.2 million for a fixed wireless project northeast of Redding, because it apparently disappeared off the face of the planet. The narrative in the draft resolution rescinding the grant reads like an account of a lost expedition to the South Pole: a cryptic message about bad weather, and then silence. Search parties couldn’t find their tracks and they were never heard from again.

A $149,000 DSL project in the Westport area of Mendocino County was cancelled, apparently because people in the local community were opposed to plans to build a microwave backhaul link. At least that’s what WillitsOnline told CPUC staff.

The private beachfront community of Monterey Dunes won’t be getting a fiber-fed upgrade. Surfnet Communications received a $79,000 grant from CASF to pay for 60% of the cost, plus a $26,000 loan to cover another 20%, but residents reneged on their agreement to pay for the rest. One of the problems, which the draft resolution neglects to mention, was that the CPUC took more than 14 months – 11 months longer than the time allowed – to process the application.

Assuming commissioners vote to cancel the subsidies, the $4.5 million will be recycled back into the CASF infrastructure grant account and become available for other projects.

Tellus Venture Associates assisted Surfnet with the Monterey Dunes project proposal. I am a frustrated commentator, not a disinterested one. Take it for what it’s worth.

Mobile data lifeline can’t hold its own weight

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You need a thick line, not a slim thread.

Verizon is kicking heavy bandwidth users off of its unlimited mobile data plans. That begs the question of what exactly unlimited means, but that’s for another time. The justification Verizon offers, though, shows why the Federal Communications Commission’s plan to include grossly inferior mobile service in its broadband lifeline program is nonsense. As reported by Fierce Wireless, Verizon said it can’t handle the load

“Because our network is a shared resource and we need to ensure all customers have a great mobile experience with Verizon, we are notifying a very small group of customers on unlimited plans who use an extraordinary amount of data that they must move to one of the new Verizon Plans by August 31, 2016. These users are using data amounts well in excess of our largest plan size (100 GB),” a Verizon spokeswoman wrote. “While the Verizon Plan at 100 GB is designed to be shared across multiple users, each line receiving notification to move to the new Verizon Plan is using well in excess of that on a single device.”

The FCC’s mobile broadband lifeline cap is 500 megabytes – half a gigabyte – as compared to the 150 GB cap it allows customers taking wireline service. The mobile cap will rise to 2 GB over a couple of years, but that’s still far below any reasonable minimum for a family’s monthly usage. Assuming the entire family actually gets to share the single phone the program allows per household.

What Verizon’s statement tells us is 1. very few customers use mobile bandwidth at the same level most of us consume wireline service, and 2. if mobile lifeline customers did try to use it for everyday purposes – say, homework, the FCC’s marquee example – they would quickly rack up huge excess data charges. Its plans for that kind of shared use have data caps in the same ball park as wireline service, albeit at many times the price.