AT&T Buys Straight Path Communications in $1.6 Billion Deal

AT&T will purchase embattled spectrum-license holder Straight Path Communications for $1.25 billion in stock plus liabilities to gain access to the millimeter-wave spectrum holder’s cache of 28 GHz and 39 GHz frequencies.  The deal objective is to enhance AT&T’s 5G capabilities via Straight Path’s holding of 28 gigahertz and 39 GHz millimeter-wave spectrum — frequencies the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has already approved to power fifth-generation (“5G”) wireless services.

Author’s Note:

The ITU-R WP 5D which has responsibility for standardizing “5G” as IMT2020, has agreed that “terrestrial IMT-2020 systems will incorporate the use of new technologies that benefit from the physical characteristics of the frequencies in the frequency range from 24.25 to 86 GHz and the large bandwidths potentially available which will provide higher data rates and lower latencies.”


The deal marks the second acquisition of high-frequency airwaves by AT&T this year. In January, the Dallas-based telecom behemoth purchased FiberTower Corp., which holds licenses for 24 GHz and 39 GHz bands of airwaves.

The deal comes after the U.S. government sanctioned Straight Path in and ordered it to sell its spectrum holdings or face an $85 million fine as part of a settlement related to fraud allegations brought against the company.

Straight Path’s spectrum licenses will allow AT&T to better compete with Verizon Communications Inc. and T-Mobile US Inc. as 5G networks roll out over the next several years.

Straight Path Communications has billed itself as a leader in providing high-frequency airwaves for carrying traffic that will grow as “5G” and the Internet of Things gain market traction.  The company is the third-largest owner of spectrum licenses for airwaves that have been approved by the FCC for flexible use with an eye toward 5G.

Verizon still has a wide lead against rivals in coverage with 28 GHz spectrum. Wireless carriers use a measurement called megahertz-POP — the amount of bandwidth multiplied by the potential number of people covered by the airwaves. Verizon owns almost 200 billion Mhz-POP of 28 GHz spectrum, more than 600 MHz on average nationally. T-Mobile controls 97.4 billion and Straight Path has 39.7 billion, according to a Bloomberg Intelligence analysis.


“The merger of AT&T and Straight Path Communications marks a vital point for us,” Straight Path CEO Davidi Jonas commented. “Importantly, this merger provides Straight Path shareholders with a compelling return since Straight Path’s spin-off to become an independent public company in 2013, with an initial price per share of $6.40 on July 31, 2013.”

The companies indicated the merger is expected to close within 12 months, subject to FCC review.


Wells Fargo Senior Analyst Jennifer Fritzsche in an April 10, 2017 note to clients opined that:

“This ultra-high band spectrum has fairly limited propagation characteristics, which likely means the spectrum needs to be within several hundred feet of a fiber-fed base station. We have long thought AT&T was in the early innings of its fiber deployment, and this announcement gives us more conviction in this view. It is worth noting this fiber build or leasing could even occur outside of its incumbent footprint to realize the full benefits of this spectrum.”

Wireless Week noted that “AT&T also seems to be moving down a fixed wireless path as part of its 5G roadmap.”

In a successful trial with Nokia earlier this year, DirecTV Now (Internet TV) content was streamed via a fixed wireless 5G connection in the 39 GHz band.

AT&T will be conducting a 5G video trial in Austin in the first half of this year that lets customers stream DirecTV Now over a fixed wireless 5G connection and also announced plans to conduct additional fixed and mobile 5G trials in the second half of 2017 in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands.





FCC Chair Pai Plans for Rollback of Open Internet Rules

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai met with with trade groups this week to outline plans for rolling back open internet rules, according to informed sources.

Mr. Pai has reportedly requested that Internet Service Provider’s (ISP’s) voluntarily commit in writing to not impeding consumer access to the Internet as part of their terms of service.   It is unclear if regulators could legally compel internet providers to adopt open internet principles without existing net neutrality rules.  As part of that move, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) would assume oversight of ensuring compliance.

Three sources said Pai plans to unveil his proposal to overturn the rules as early as late April and it could face an initial vote in May or June of this year.


FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, shown on March 8, aims to preserve the basic principles of net neutrality but shift enforcement to the Federal Trade Commission.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, shown above on March 8, 2017 aims to preserve the basic principles of net neutrality but shift enforcement to the Federal Trade Commission.



The FCC declined to comment, but Pai previously said he is committed to ensuring an open internet but feels net neutrality was a mistake.  In December 2016, he predicted that net neutrality’s days were numbered. The new FCC Commissioner told Reuters this February he believes “in a free and open Internet and the only question is what regulatory framework best secures that.”

Pai and congressional Republicans have moved quickly to dismantle Obama-era telecommunications rules.

Trump on Monday signed a repeal of Obama-era broadband privacy rules a victory for internet service providers (ISPs) and a blow to privacy advocates.

Until recently, the Federal Trade Commission was the government agency responsible for policing internet service providers. But last year a federal court ruled that the FTC had no jurisdiction over telecommunications providers since they were considered common carriers — a tag placed on industries that allows them to be regulated like a public utility.

When the bill to repeal the privacy rules was signed on Monday, Pai said that he would work to put the FTC back in charge of internet service providers, something that would require at least a partial repeal of the net neutrality rules.


It remains unclear when the FCC could move forward with the planned rollback, which is sure to spark an outcry from consumer groups and some congressional Democrats. They—along with some internet firms—view strong net neutrality rules as crucial to maintaining competition on the internet. They are skeptical of any effort to roll back the rules.

Mr. Pai’s plans could begin to be adopted as soon as the FCC’s monthly meeting in May, although the June meeting remains possibility, according to one person familiar with the matter. The FCC currently comprises Mr. Pai, Republican Michael O’Rielly and Democrat Mignon Clyburn. Two seats on the five-person panel are vacant, waiting for President Donald Trump to nominate new commissioners.

The multi-step plan that is emerging appears aimed at eventually shifting oversight for net neutrality to the FTC, which has long overseen most internet-related business, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Under federal law, the FTC lost much of its oversight of broadband providers when the FCC adopted its net neutrality policy, because the FCC rules reclassified broadband providers as common carriers subject to the agency’s oversight.

Mr. Pai’s plans likely would reverse that reclassification eventually, so the FTC again would have jurisdiction over the telecommunications carriers. To preserve the basic tenets of net neutrality, the plans would require broadband providers to pledge to abide by net neutrality principles such as no blocking or paid prioritization of internet traffic. That would allow the FTC to go after violators for deceptive or unfair trade practices.

Some details of the meeting were first reported by Politico Pro.

Mr. Pai also is believed to be considering provisions to restore FTC oversight of broadband providers’ consumer privacy protections. GOP lawmakers, with the backing of Mr. Pai, recently passed a measure repealing an Obama-era FCC privacy rule that broadband providers criticized as unfairly restrictive.


ISP’s like AT&T Inc, Verizon Communications Inc and Comcast Corp have argued net neutrality rules would make it harder to manage internet traffic and investment in additional capacity less likely. Websites worry that without the rules they might lose access to customers.

AT&T and major trade groups sued the FCC in 2015 over the net neutrality rules.

Democrats and privacy advocates say net neutrality is crucial to keeping the internet open.  This author*strongly agrees!


* End NOTE:  

Author finds there is NO REGULATION of Internet Service in CA or anywhere in the U.S.!

In 2015, this author had several complaints about his “broadband” Internet service and ISP (AT&T municipal contacts for CA and NV) which was submitted to one regulatory agency after another, including the FCC, FTC, California Public Utilities Commission, City of Santa Clara Telecom Policy Coordinator, CA Dept of Consumer Affairs, CA Dept of Justice, etc. These regulatory agencies either said they have no jurisdiction over Internet service or (in the case of the FCC and City of Santa Clara) they passed on the complaint to AT&T without taking any action or enforcement.

The FCC complaints website says: “We encourage you to contact your provider to resolve your issue prior to filing a complaint…..By filing a consumer complaint and telling your story, you contribute to federal enforcement and consumer protection efforts on a national scale and help us identify trends and track the issues that matter most.”

It turns out there is NO U.S. AGENCY THAT REGULATES OR ENFORCES INTERNET SERVICE OR PRACTICES.  I was told that ONLY VoIP is regulated- not Internet data services.

Open Network Summit: ONAP Steals the Show with Broad Support

During a Tuesday morning “disruptive collaboration” keynote at the Open Network Summit (ONS), John Donovan, Chief Strategy Officer at AT&T, revealed that the company had “software defined” 34% of its network by the end of 2016, which exceeded its goal of 30%.  This year’s goal of 55% network virtualization (via an overlay network*) will be a major milestone.

“When you get to 55% there’s no turning back,” said Donovan. “You’re more software-defined than you are not software-defined. When you hit that tipping point you start to say, OK, now what? Now what do we do when we have a software-defined network and how do we capitalize on it?”

*  Note: Network virtualization via an overlay network is to be contrasted with pure SDN which requires an entire new network infrastructure consisting of a centralized SDN controller for path computations and L3 packet/L2 frame forwarding engines.

The next step for AT&T is “Network 3.0 Indigo” which makes heavy use of ECOMP [1] – the orchestration platform AT&T created to power their version of software-defined network.  [See Andre Fuetsch’s comments below on current uses for ECOMP].

Donovan reminded the audience that in February 2017, AT&T announced it was moving its ECOMP platform code to the Linux Foundation where it was then merged with the Open Orchestrator (ON-O) initiative [one of two major Linux Foundation open source MANO (management and organization) projects] and is now called Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) [2].

Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and CTO, said during this same keynote, “We have over seven global operators representing nearly two billion mobile subscribers participating in the ONAP project.” Fuetsch also said there were significantly more operators planning to join the ONAP initiative in coming months, representing  another one-third of global operators.

“ONAP is about many things, but what is most important is about working together as a common aligned community to innovate and deploy faster,” Andre said. “It’s about working together to build new things and not the same things twice,” he added.

Fuetch also said that, “ECOMP is a model driven operating system for SDN automation.  It’s been in production for 2 1/2 years and supports over 100 different Virtual Network Functions (VNFs).”  He added that VoLTE calls were partly handled by ECOMP which also supports AT&T’s Mobile Packet Core (MPC) and manages wavelengths on the telco’s optical transport network.


Note 1.  ECOMP = Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy. It provides the necessary software automation platform that enabled AT&T to achieve aggressive network virtualization goals across enterprise, infrastructure, mobility and consumer use cases.

Note 2.  The Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) Project brings together top global carriers and vendors with the goal of allowing end users to automate, design, orchestrate and manage services and virtual functions. ONAP unites two major open networking and orchestration projects, open source ECOMP and the Open Orchestrator Project (OPEN-O), with the mission of creating a unified architecture and implementation and supporting collaboration across the open source community. The ONAP Project is a Linux Foundation project. For more information on ONAP, please visit


This new ONAP project seems to be led by AT&T and China Mobile, but has gotten huge support from other telco’s and network equipment vendors.  At ONS this week, it was announced that group’s 27 members now include about 33% of global network operators, which deliver wireless services to 38% of the world’s mobile subscribers. China Mobile  is the world’s largest mobile operator with 800 million subscribers.  New ONAP member (see below for complete list of new members) Reliance Jio claims to be the largest 4G network operator in India with 100 million total subscribers.

Six new members announced at ONS are: platinum member Reliance Jio; silver members Ciena, Microsoft, H3C Technologies, and Wind River; and associate member Open Networking Foundation.

“We’re excited to see how developers and others in the industry contribute to the ONAP code,” said Chris Rice, ONAP Chair and Senior Vice President, AT&T Labs. “Today is an important day for ONAP and open networking. Collaboration is key in open source projects and we’re looking forward to the community’s efforts to harden the production-ready code.”

The ONAP code base was said to be production-ready and in use. Open source software developers are invited to access it at


Harmonization of Open Source Projects:

ONAP represents a significant example of what the Linux Foundation calls “harmonization” – the coordinated collaboration and sometimes combination of what has become a plethora of open source networking groups, often with competing or overlapping objectives and functionality.   Therefore, it will be important to observe if the combination of the two approaches to network orchestration actually produces something stronger than the individual efforts, without losing momentum in the process.

Mazin Gilbert, VP of advanced technologies and architecture at AT&T, will head the ONAP Technical Steering Committee.  He said that ONAP will issue its first software release in the fourth quarter of 2017.  Gilbert noted the modular approach each project has taken will make it easier to merge them.

“You have to realize with ECOMP you have about 8.5 million lines of code,” said Gilbert. “Open-O is the same caliber. By definition, it’s complicated. We have spent a lot of time working with the Linux Foundation. We agree on the principles. Now we go into the details. As a community we, by the last quarter of this year, will make a release, and it will be a joint release.”

Yachen Wang, deputy director of network technology at China Mobile Research Institute said,  “On behalf of ONAP members, I would like to welcome the new members to the team. We anticipate close collaboration that will further the automation of SDN and NFV networks, and will enable all the community to take advantage of the best architectural components and implementation from ONAP.”  Yang also said that developing a target architecture that considers OSSs as well as NFV/SDN and service delivery is another major issue.

Margaret Chiosi (x-AT&T lifer, NFV pioneer and now with Huawei) said during her Wednesday morning keynote:

“You have all these open source pieces — they are great initial pieces, but you can’t just clean it up and run it, because it’s not complete,” Chiosi said, in an interview following her keynote presentation here. “The challenge for the industry is how do we get from here to production — there are a lot of gaps.”

There are two open source projects devoted to SDN controllers — OpenDaylight and ONOS — and Huawei participates in both, but has created its own controller, taking what it sees as the best of breed from both projects.

During a Thursday morning ONS panel session on Harmonizing Open Source Networking, Linux Foundation Networking General Manager (long time friend of IEEE and this author) Arpit Joshipura noted that AT&Ts ECOMP framework consisted of eight modules, while the work done by Open-O resulted in code that’s been consolidated into three additional modules. Both ECOMP and Open-O had orchestrators – ECOMP had a master service orchestrator while Open-O had a global service orchestrator. The way to blend them is to combine all the orchestration ECOMP provides with Yang models and all orchestration from Open-O with its Tosca data model.  Arpit believes these two orchestration methods are complementary.

Moving forward, in terms of who wins when there are disputes about code, Joshipura said, “Linux has set governance. It’s always meritocracy. The right answer wins.”  We couldn’t agree more!


Finally, the ONAP Governing Board members this week elected the following individuals to serve as officers:

  • Chair: Chris Rice, SVPYachen Wang of AT&T Labs
  • President: Yachen Wang, deputy director of the Network Technology Department at China Mobile Research Institute
  • Treasurer: Vincent Danno, director of Wireline Standards of the Innovation Technical & Marketing at Orange

In closing, Arpit said: “We congratulate the Governing Board officers on their election to serve.  They will be responsible for working with other members to support the ecosystem growing around the project, while technical governance remains separate in the hands of the developer community.”


Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) Project Releases Code, Expands Membership and Announces Board Positions


Comcast to Offer Xfinity Mobile Service using Verizon network

Comcast has outlined details for the Xfinity Mobile cellular service it plans to introduce for current subscribers, with unlimited data plans ranging from $45 to $65 per month. As the new Xfinity Mobile service will use Verizon’s cellular network, Comcast will become a MVNO.  Comcast will sell handsets made by Apple, Samsung and LG.

Many subscribers will save money, especially if they don’t use a lot of data. The catch: Only Comcast cable Internet customers can sign up for the Xfinity Mobile service.

Comcast, which has nearly 25 million high-speed internet customers, said its wireless service is aimed at holding onto its customers. Comcast’s key competitors — AT&T’s DirecTV and Verizon’s FiOS — are part of companies with wireless offerings.

“We’re not getting into the mobile business to be the number one carrier,” said Sam Schwartz, chief business development officer with Comcast Cable. “It’s to benefit our existing core business. We’re not going to make billions of dollars in profit.”

The service Comcast is selling will be essentially the same as a Verizon plan, though Comcast will reduce speeds on unlimited plans after 20 gigabytes. Verizon’s threshold is higher, at 22 gigabytes, and reduced speeds apply only when there is network congestion.

Comcast will initially require customers to buy phones through the company. It’s offering iPhones, Samsung Galaxy phones and one budget model from LG. Customers can pay in full up front or in monthly installments, just as they would through a traditional carrier.

Comcast’s pay-per-gigabyte approach is similar to what Google is doing with its wireless service, Google Fi. Customers don’t need to guess ahead of time how much data they plan to use; both plans charge them only for what they use. With traditional carriers, unused data might get carried over to the following month; even if not, the customer still pays for the unused amount.

But Google Fi hasn’t caught on, in part because it works with only a few Google-branded phones and uses networks from T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular, which aren’t as robust as Verizon’s. Comcast says it can also take advantage of vast array of marketing channels for internet and voice services.

Read entire AP story here.

AT&T Building Nationwide Broadband Cellular Network for 1st Responders

AT&T has been selected by the U.S. Commerce Dept. to build the first nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated to America’s first responders.  This record-breaking public-private partnership is a significant investment in the communications infrastructure that public safety desperately needs for day-to-day operations, disaster response and recovery, and securing of large events. It will also make 20 MHz of prime broadband spectrum available for private-sector development.

“Today is a landmark day for public safety across the Nation and shows the incredible progress we can make through public-private partnerships,” said U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “FirstNet is a critical infrastructure project that will give our first responders the communications tools they need to keep America safe and secure.  This public-private partnership will also spur innovation and create over ten thousand new jobs in this cutting-edge sector.”

The broad terms of this 25-year agreement between FirstNet and AT&T are:

  • FirstNet will provide 20 MHz of high-value, telecommunications spectrum and success-based payments of $6.5 billion over the next five years to support the Network buildout – FirstNet’s funding was raised from previous FCC spectrum auctions;
  • AT&T will spend about $40 billion over the life of the contract to build, deploy, operate and maintain the network, with a focus on ensuring robust coverage for public safety;
  • Additionally, AT&T will connect FirstNet users to the company’s telecommunications network assets, valued at more than $180 billion.

The FirstNet network will be designed to give priority to first responders, said FirstNet President T.J. Kennedy. Through special SIM cards inserted in their phones, police, fire and medical officers will be better able to communicate with one another. Much like current technology, the new network will allow them to send and receive video, data and voice calls before they reach a crisis area. But that information will arrive uninterrupted and in real time.

“They will always be prioritized. They’re always at the front of the line,” Kennedy said. “This happens inside the network at the millisecond level.”

FirstNet is administered by the U.S. Commerce Department and was proposed in the years after Sept. 11, 2001, when emergency workers responding to the day’s terrorist attacks struggled to communicate across clogged channels and incompatible technologies.

Under the contract, AT&T will spend $40 billion of its own money deploying FirstNet. It will also receive $6.5 billion from the federal government at the end of five years if it successfully meets a number of milestones designed to fast-track the project. The government is awarding the company with as much as 20 megahertz of new wireless airwaves that AT&T intends to integrate into the service. That “spectrum,” will expand the network’s capacity and help ensure that communications do not fail.

The ability to communicate seamlessly across jurisdictions is critical for law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services (EMS) when securing large events or responding to emergencies and disasters.  In those instances, networks can become overloaded and inaccessible, limiting responders’ use of vital communication technologies, such as smartphones and applications dedicated to public safety services.

That will change with a high-speed network built specifically for the millions of public safety users in all 50 states, 5 U.S. territories and the District of Columbia, including those serving rural communities and tribal lands.  The Network will modernize first responders’ communications and deliver specialized features that are not available to them on wireless networks today.

“This public-private partnership is a major step forward for the public safety community as we begin building the broadband network they fought for and deserve,” said FirstNet Chair Sue Swenson.  “FirstNet and AT&T will deliver high-speed connectivity to help millions of first responders operate faster, safer, and more effectively when lives are on the line.”

“It’s not going to be a build-from-scratch type of thing,” said FirstNet chief executive Mike Poth. “So it’s a win for us and public safety because it’s going to accelerate the time to market.”

To take advantage of the network’s capabilities, public safety departments will need to buy a subscription to FirstNet. Automatically included is the preemption feature, which is among the most-requested by first responders, said Chris Sambar, AT&T’s senior vice president for FirstNet.  Mr. Sambar declined to say how expensive the rate plans will be but said that they would be priced “below market [rates].”

Designing a system such as FirstNet has taken years because of the sheer number of public safety departments in the United States who expect to use the network, according to an industry official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because details of the project remain private.

“It’s been a long hard slog, because it’s complicated technically to think about building a network like this,” the official said. “We’ll see how it goes, but obviously AT&T’s serious about it and it has the potential to be a big win for public safety.”


Verizon to launch nationwide LTE Cat M1 wireless network for IoT

On March 31st, Verizon said it will launch a U.S. nationwide Category LTE M1 (Cat M1) wireless network designed to help developers, businesses, utilities and municipalities deploy secure internet-of-things (IoT) devices at lower cost.  The LTE Cat M1 network will span 2.4 million square miles and will be the first of its kind, the company said.   Cat M1 is competing head on with other Low Power Wireless Wide Area Networks (LPWANs) like LoRa, Sigfox, NarrowBand (NB) IoT, Weightless SIG, and various proprietary specs.

“We are very proud to again demonstrate our innovative leadership by providing this commercially available network for our customers, an industry first,” said Mike Haberman, Network Vice President at Verizon. “As the natural shift from CDMA-based IoT solutions to the more robust and cloud-based LTE technology occurs, it’s important we stay ahead of that technology evolution for our customers so we can continue to provide them service on the best and most advanced wireless network. Our commercial deployment of the nationwide LTE Cat M1 network does just that.”


LTE Cat 1 vs other LPWANs:

Many IoT network technologies have been slow to catch on, due to hype and confusion caused by too many alternatives.  As noted above, LTE Cat M1 is a low-power, LPWAN technology that competes most directly with other LPWAN networks like LoRa, Sigfox and NB IoT. Cat M1 and Narrowband run on licensed spectrum, while the others run on unlicensed spectrum which is inherently prone to interference.

Verizon believes Cat M1 will also compete against Bluetooth, ZigBee and Z-Wave, wireless local area network (WLAN) technologies that connect to devices like thermostats and a wide array of appliances, such as washing machines and dryers.

Steve Hilton, an IoT analyst at Machnation thinks Verizon’s Cat M1 and similar networks will be game changers for IoT deployments.  “Cat M1 competes directly with Zigbee, Z-Wave and … Bluetooth,” said Mike Lanman, Verizon senior vice president for IoT, in an interview. He added, however, “there will always be other connecting technologies, and some might make more sense economically.”

Hilton agreed that some companies and utilities might want to deploy a Cat M1  approach and pay Verizon a monthly charge for the wireless service instead of managing a WLAN themselves.

“It really depends on how long the enterprise expects the device to live, how much management control the enterprise wants over the IoT network and relative prices,” Hilton said.

LTE Cat M1 Silicon:

Sequans, Altair Semiconductor, Qualcomm, Telit,  are among the LTE Cat M1 chip makers.

Verizon’s LTE Cat M1 partners include industry leaders including Sequans, Telit, U-Blox, Sierra Wireless, Gemalto, Qualcomm Technologies, and Altair, who together with Verizon are solving for the next generation of IoT use cases. Today, Verizon offers certified chipsets, modules and devices for Cat M1 from Sequans, Telit, Qualcomm Technologies, Encore Networks, Link Labs, and NimbeLink.

Devices running Cat M1, such as water and power meters and asset trackers,  will get longer battery life and can be left unattended for up to a decade, Lanman said. The Cat M1 network will also provide broader and more consistent coverage, reaching areas like basements, and devices that are in-ground or behind walls.

Cat M1 operates at lower bandwidth than 4G LTE, usually between 300Kbps and 400Kbps. Verizon typically provides 4G LTE bandwidth download speeds of 5Mbps to 12Mbps.

Cat M1 would be suitable for wireless connections to devices like water meters that need to send their on-off status or usage readings on an hourly, weekly or monthly basis. It would be unsuitable for connecting to video monitors or devices needing fast video streams, Lanman said.


A Comparison of LPWAN Technologies

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