Tag Archives: verizon

Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile accuse each other of spectrum hoarding and market domination

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Tmobile los angeles spectrum

T-Mobile is building up its inventory of mobile bandwidth, first by leasing low band, 600 MHz spectrum from a private investment firm and then, it hopes, by buying more capacity when the Federal Communications Commission auctions off C-band frequencies later this year.

That bothers AT&T and Verizon, which have formally registered their annoyance with the FCC. Although neither company publicly opposed T-Mobile acquisition of Sprint (what their lobbyists and lawyers do behind closed doors is often a different story), they’re both complaining that T-Mobile is already holding too much spectrum – exceeds the spectrum screen as the jargon goes – and shouldn’t be allowed to buy or lease any more, until AT&T and Verizon have a chance to catch up. Presumably by buying spectrum at auction without having to compete against T-Mobile’s bids.

In a blog post, an AT&T staff lobbyist argued…

In the wake of its acquisition of Sprint (in which the FCC declined to require any divestitures), T-Mobile itself now exceeds the Commission’s screen by an unprecedented margin throughout much of the country. And T-Mobile continues to add additional spectrum to its hoard. Additional spectrum leases with Dish will cause T-Mobile to exceed the 250 MHz screen by as much as 136 MHz.

Given this unprecedented level of spectrum concentration in the hands of a single carrier, we have entered a new era for the FCC’s spectrum acquisition analytical tools. The Commission must now take action to reaffirm the importance of a spectrum aggregation tool and define a meaningful approach going forward.

T-Mobile’s CEO, Mike Sievert, blasted back in a blog post of his own

Verizon, as the holder of the most spectrum in the U.S. marketplace by far, which they gained through their own financial dominance, has the anti-competitive instincts and sheer audacity to complain that a much smaller T-Mobile has too much. After holding massive spectrum advantages over T-Mobile and others for decades, Verizon and AT&T just can’t stand the idea of anyone else being ahead of them or having a fair shot in an auction where they plan to use their financial might to do what they have always done – dominate.

This squabbling is worth watching. Maybe a beefed up T-Mobile will be a competitive counterweight to AT&T and Verizon. Or maybe the three will settle into a comfortable state of non-competitive tension.

Mobile carriers use arbitration board to debunk each other’s ads

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

The three major U.S. mobile carriers are fighting each other’s advertising claims via an arbitration process run by the Better Business Bureau. First, it was T-Mobile who successfully challenged AT&T’s 5GEvolution scam. The BBB’s National Advertising Division (NAD) said that putting a 5G label on 4G service was misleading, and the appeals board run by BBB agreed.

Verizon objected to T-Mobile’s wide-ranging claims of wide ranging 5G coverage and NAD agreed, albeit while blessing verbiage about the superior building penetration ability of the low band spectrum it’s using.

To round out the set, earlier this month the appeals board upheld an earlier NAD ruling – the result of a complaint by AT&T – that Verizon shouldn’t be calling its service “the most powerful 5G experience”…

The evidence in the record does not clearly demonstrate what consumers understand “powerful” to mean in “the most powerful 5G experience” in the contexts shown. The panel found that the claim “most powerful” conveys a broad superiority message and that the advertiser would need to demonstrate consumer understanding of the term “powerful” in order to make the claim.

The panel therefore concluded that absent this evidence of consumer understanding of the term “powerful,” Verizon did not have proper support for the claim “Verizon is building the most powerful 5G experience for America” and recommended that it be discontinued. The panel did note, however, that the claim would have been supported had it been non-comparative because the evidence in the record demonstrated that Verizon’s future 5G network when generally available will provide the essential network metrics, whether one accepts NAD’s interpretation or Verizon’s interpretation of “powerful.”

There’s no enforcement mechanism attached to any of these opinions. Verizon said it will pull the offending adds, and T-Mobile is taking its case to the appeals board. AT&T effectively ignored that board’s decision, and continues to identify its 4G service using a 5GE icon.

Ad watchdog says some T-Mobile 5G claims are bogus, some aren’t

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Tmobile billboard 2 las vegas 6jan2020

T-Mobile’s ads about the wonderfulness of its 5G network and the limitations of Verizon’s went too far, according to an independent watchdog. The national advertising division (NAD) of the Better Business Bureau, which has been acting as a mobile broadband advertising referee lately, said that T-Mobile supported its claim that its 5G service is faster than its competitors and covers more ground, but was misleading about metrics and its ability to project 5G service into places where even 4g is troublesome…

NAD noted that the challenged claims also convey a message about metrics other than speed. There was no evidence comparing 5G to 4G on metrics like reliability and metrics that “will change our lives in really big ways,” therefore NAD recommended that T-Mobile modify its claims to more clearly state the metrics like speed for which 5G is superior to 4G.

Further, NAD determined that the challenged advertising reasonably conveys the message that T-Mobile’s 5G typically delivers service in the physical locations shown in the advertising, such as basements and elevators, where cellular customers are accustomed to potentially experiencing a coverage gap. While it was undisputed that T-Mobile’s low band signal can penetrate walls, there was no evidence of the extent to which it does so, or whether it delivers coverage in locations that have traditionally challenged cellular service.

T-Mobile is putting 5G service on its low band 600 MHz spectrum, which has more range than the mid-band frequencies typically used for 4G service, and far greater range than the millimeter wave bands that are the focus of Verizon’s 5G deployments. The trade off is capacity. Mid-band frequencies deliver more digital bandwidth and millimeter wave bands far more.

Although NAD doesn’t have any enforcement power, it has a history of turning over disputes to regulatory agencies that do if a company doesn’t cooperate. So far, mobile carriers have sorta done so, albeit after taking advantage of the opportunity to appeal adverse findings. Which T-Mobile says it will do.

AT&T rejects California disaster response obligations

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

AT&T is striking back at covid–19 emergency relief measures adopted by the California Public Utilities Commission. Flanked by Verizon and T-Mobile (via the mobile industry’s lobbying front organisation), AT&T wants the CPUC to repeal rules that require the company to waive things like installation or remote call forwarding fees when people are forced to relocate because of the covid–19 emergency. Those are CPUC mandates that also apply to any other “housing or financial crisis due to a disaster”. AT&T calls that “an act in excess of the Commission’s jurisdiction”.

Those rules also obligate mobile telephone companies to deploy temporary cell sites and other equipment when disaster strikes a particular community, and to provide WiFi access “in areas where impacted wireless customers seek refuge” and mobile phones “for customers seeking shelter from a disaster to use temporarily at a county or city designated shelter”.

AT&T’s landline-oriented arguments against mandatory disaster relief boil down to the CPUC can’t tell us to do that, and if it involves VoIP service, the CPUC can’t tell us to do anything. This is AT&T longstanding position, and as a result it is fighting a multimillion dollar fine and accusations of obstreperous behavior during massive power outages last year. The company is unapologetic and makes the bizarre claim that “VoIP service is not a telephone service”.

The mobile industry’s lobbyists characterise the disaster response measures imposed by the CPUC as “unlawful”, because mobile telecoms are regulated by the federal government and because the Federal Communications Commission is trying, with varying degrees of success, to prevent any state or local control over broadband service.

AT&T and most other big, monopoly model telecoms companies stepped up with voluntary and temporary consumer relief offers during the covid–19 emergency. But unlike other regulated utilities, broadband providers and telcos don’t have to, as Frontier Communications’ refusal to match low income service offers shows. As lockdowns ease and people go back to work, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile don’t want the CPUC, or anyone else, interfering with whatever plans they have for recovering their covid–19 response costs and collecting from customers temporarily unable to pay their bills.

Telcos struggle as subscribers dump legacy video and copper subscriptions

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

San benito pole route 13apr2019

It’s been a bad couple of weeks for big wireline telcos. Frontier Communications’ bankruptcy led the parade of dismal news. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission made a couple weeks ahead of going into bankruptcy, Frontier pinned the blame for its problems on its legacy copper business and the less-than-lucrative rural customers who depend on it. But that was no surprise.

AT&T’s and Verizon’s troubles weren’t exactly a shock, either. Some business lines, like video and copper-based broadband service, have been fading for some time. The covid–19 emergency accelerated that trend. In the first three months of 2020, AT&T lost 897,000 video subscribers and nearly 300,000 DSL customers. Even though its broadband business added 209,000 fiber subs, it still saw a net loss of 73,000 broadband accounts overall. Verizon lost 84,000 FiOS video subs, while gaining 59,000 fiber broadband customers.

AT&T gained wireless subscribers in the first quarter, while Verizon lost some, blaming the store closures forced by the covid–19 lockdown. The real numbers to watch, though, will be the results of the now big three mobile operators in the second quarter. By July, we’ll know if the shift to in-home mobile network-enabled hotspots is significant.

Both companies “withdrew financial guidance”, which means they’re not willing to make any predictions about how shareholders will fare over the next few months.

AT&T’s captain is jumping ship. In a move that’s been long expected, CEO Randall Stephenson will hand off to COO John Stankey in July. Stankey has been working for AT&T for 35 years. He’s been running Warner Media since AT&T took it over, and is in charge of launching HBO Max, which is a streaming video service that’s supposed to compete with the likes of Netflix and Disney. That would be difficult for any executive, but for someone with no history and no apparent friends in the entertainment business, and who spends a lot of time talking about things like “headcount rationalization” – AKA firing people – it would be a miracle.

CPUC begins process of holding Frontier to account for service outages, but it might be too late

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Nearly four years after the fact, Frontier Communications is being held to answer for the fumbled cutover of Verizon wireline customers it acquired in 2015. Last month, the California Public Utilities Commission formally opened an investigation into the widespread reports of dead lines and customer service meltdowns that went on for weeks after Frontier closed on its purchase of Verizon’s decaying copper telephone systems and somewhat more modern fiber to the home FiOS territories in California. On top of that, according to the CPUC’s order instituting investigation (OII), Frontier disclosed customer information it was supposed to keep confidential…

Starting April 1, 2016, Verizon transferred (a process it refers to as cutover of services) its California voice, internet, and video services to Frontier. The cutover caused two issues: (1) Many Frontier customers experienced service outages or interruptions between April to June 2016 to their voice, internet, and video services; customers also experienced poor customer support from Frontier in resolving such issues; and (2) during the same period, Frontier published customers’ address records that were designated as blocked from publication in online and printed directories.

As a starting ante, the CPUC order proposes a $2.5 million fine for Frontier, for the unlisted information disclosures alone. And that number could go up, and additional fines for the outages could be imposed, as the CPUC investigation proceeds. Those fines aren’t the sort of debt that Frontier can easily wash away in the bankruptcy filing it’s planning to make in March, according to reports.

The OII is the beginning of a process that will run for a year or two. By the time it’s finished, Frontier could have completely new owners and management, or it might even be out of California altogether. The reports say Frontier wants to reorganise under chapter 11 of U.S. bankruptcy law, which allows for the possibility of keeping the company in one piece, but doesn’t guarantee it.

We’ll know in 2020 what kind of service and customer enthusiasm lies beneath U.S. 5G hype

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Small cell lacc 22oct2019

5G service will begin to enter the mainstream consumer market in the United States next year. Senior technology officers from all four major U.S. mobile carriers talked about their plans for moving beyond test markets and technology demonstrations last week at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Los Angeles. With consumer devices – smartphones, particularly – on the market and cell site construction and upgrades picking up pace, success will finally be judged on subscriber uptake and revenue, rather than on whose marketing pitch is the cleverest.

Verizon’s 5G rollout will lean heavily, if not exclusively, on high band millimeter wave frequencies, according to Nicki Palmer, a senior vice president with the company. Those bands are in the 20 GHz and up range, and can carry a lot of data – “massive bandwidth” that’s ideal for in-home service, Palmer said.

She also provided some insight into Verizon’s 5G in home service trials, the first of which was rolled out in Sacramento last year. Palmer claimed that Verizon can deliver between 300 Mbps and 1 gigabit download speeds to home users, some of whom are connecting up to 35 different devices to the network at once. That’s not so surprising, though – technophile adopters of any type of advanced service tend to be heavy users.

T-Mobile intends to offer 5G service on low, high and mid-band spectrum, according to chief technology officer Neville Ray. Getting access to Sprint’s midband frequencies is central to that plan, though, and that merger has not been approved yet.

Merger or not, Sprint is moving ahead with mid-band 5G service, according to chief technology officer John Saw. Sprint’s service on 2.5 GHz frequencies is the only mid-band 5G offering in the U.S., he claimed. He didn’t say how many customers are using the service, but the ones that are use three to five times more bandwidth than the typical 4G subscriber. That’s typical of technophiles and early adopters – the digital equivalent of four pack a day smokers.

AT&T’s 5G rollout strategy is aimed at businesses users more than consumers, according to chief technology officer Andre Fuetsch, who said enterprise applications will be “the sweet spot” for 5G. Even so, AT&T plans to light up 5G service nationwide on low band frequencies. What really got Fuetsch going, though, was the ability of 5G technology to serve many more devices at once. He said that where a 4G network can support thousands of devices, a 5G network will be able to serve millions in the same area.

Even so, 2020 will not see explosive growth in 5G subscriber numbers. Deployments will be meaningful, but it will be many years before any will be considered complete, and full availability in rural communities and less affluent suburbs might never come. Handset costs will also remain high, while technological challenges, such as battery life, are ironed out.

5G phone prices start high while 5G availability is low

by Steve Blum • , , ,

5g mwca 12sep2018

The first 5G capable smart phones are beginning the hit the market, and already there’s wailing about sticker shock – a Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G will cost $1,300 and only be available through Verizon, at least for the next few months. That’s a lot of money for an Android phone (although not exactly nosebleed territory for iOS fans). But it doesn’t say much about what it’s going to cost the average consumer to upgrade to 5G, by the time the average consumer can find 5G service.

The initial price of 5G phones isn’t indicative of anything except manufacturers starting at the top of the marginal price curve and getting ready for a quick downhill run. As manufacturing ramps up, and product bugs are squashed, the price will come down.

The first target market is technophiles – people who will buy it because it’s new tech. That’s probably a six-figure market in the U.S. They’ll pay the most. Second target market is early adopters – people who perceive a significant benefit from the increased performance 5G phones presumably will offer. That market is probably in the seven figure range. By the time 5G phones break out into the general market – eight and nine figures – price points will be in familiar, 4G territory.

Hardware and service adoption will follow service availability, and that will be the limiting factor for 5G uptake over the next two to three years. There’s very little 5G service available right now, and commercial-scale deployments won’t begin until next year. What we’re seeing from carriers now are pilot projects aimed at preparing for the buildout that’ll begin in 2020 and continue for the next five to ten years.

There’s no need for manufacturers to rush into 5G production or push down phone prices in the coming year. They’re wisely positioning themselves for the long haul.

Top mobile execs let air out of the 5G balloon, which will “never reach rural America”

by Steve Blum • , , ,

Deflating balloon

It’s one thing to promise the moon to customers and city councils, but quite another to mislead Wall Street. Creating outrageous expectations there can land you in jail. Which, presumably, is why two top executives from Verizon and T-Mobile are walking back expectations of a universal 5G wonderland.

According to a story by Sean Hollister in The Verge, it’s about the new frequency bands that mobile companies plan to use for high speed, low latency 5G service. Those bands are way up the spectrum chart, in the millimeter wave range, where data capacity is high but range and penetrating power is low. So to make it work, mobile carriers need to build a lot of small cell sites. Which is expensive and only pencils out where revenue potential is equally high…

“We all need to remind ourselves this is not a coverage spectrum,” Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg told analysts on the company’s Q1 2019 earnings call on Tuesday — just one day after T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray decried Verizon’s 5G rollout as one that would “never reach rural America.”

“Millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum has great potential in terms of speed and capacity, but it doesn’t travel far from the cell site and doesn’t penetrate materials at all. It will never materially scale beyond small pockets of 5G hotspots in dense urban environments,” Ray wrote.

5G technology can be used on any frequency band, and over time – decades, likely – it’ll replace 4G and older equipment. And there are plans to use it on a few lower frequencies with less data capacity and greater reach in the near term. But without network densification – lots of short range small cell sites – 5G will just be a tech upgrade, and not a quantum leap into a hyper connected world.

It’s a tech upgrade that will bring significant benefits, as did upgrades from 2G to 3G, and 3G to 4G, but it will take a long time for rural and suburban California to notice the difference.

Eight essential characteristics of 5G networks defined by Verizon CEO

by Steve Blum • , , ,

Vestberg keynote ces 8jan2019

Hans Vestberg, Verizon’s CEO, did a rockstar, black t-shirt keynote at CES in Las Vegas yesterday. Vestberg took over the top spot at Verizon last year. As he often did in his former job as head of Ericsson, Vestberg offered a clear and credible explanation of what 5G networks and technology – particularly, Verizon’s – will deliver.

According to Vestberg, the eight “currencies”, or defining characteristics, of 5G are…

  • Peak data rate of 10 gigabits per second. This is what the technology can deliver, the question will be whether the infrastructure and resources are deployed to support it in any given location.
  • Mobile “data volume”, aka network capacity, of 10 terabits per second per square kilometer. Again, depends on whether a given network is fully built out and provisioned.
  • Mobility. Users can connect while travelling at 500 kilometers per hour. That’s roughly 300 miles per hour and good enough for high speed trains. Not quite airliner speeds, though.
  • One million connected devices per square kilometer. That’s versus a similarly theoretical maximum of 100,000 connected devices per square kilometer for 4G networks.
  • End to end latency of 5 milliseconds. That’s at least ten times faster than what 4G networks deliver. The plain meaning of the words implies a roundtrip (end to end to end) latency of 10 milliseconds, which was also a spec Vestberg mentioned on stage.
  • Reliability of 99.999%. It’s the traditional and often attained “five nines” goal of copper phone networks.
  • Service deployment of 90 minutes. To logically configure a bespoke network, that is. One of the touted benefits of 5G technology is “network slicing”, the ability to easily create subnetworks for specialised uses such as, say, for first responders or internal organisational networks.
  • Energy efficiency of 10% of current consumption. It’s not clear if Vestberg means that individual 5G small sites will use 10% of the energy that a 4G macro site uses, which is credible, or if he’s talking about the entire network, which would be difficult to take on faith.

Verizon will only be able to hit these benchmarks, assuming it can, where 5G infrastructure is fully deployed. That means deploying a lot of small cell sites and stringing a lot of fiber to connect them.