AT&T 5G SA Core Network to run on Microsoft Azure cloud platform

AT&T will run its 5G SA Core network on Microsoft’s Azure public cloud computing platform.  Microsoft AZURE, which is the second largest cloud computing provider by revenue behind rival Amazon Web Services, has been building out specific cloud computing offering to attract carriers.  AT&T is Microsoft’s first major deal in the 5G SA Core network space.

The two giant companies said that Microsoft will purchase software and intellectual property developed by AT&T to help build out its offerings for carriers. The companies did not disclose the terms of the deals, but said that Microsoft will make job offers to several hundred AT&T Network Cloud engineers.

Microsoft will use AT&T’s software and IP to grow its telecom flagship offering, Azure for Operators. Microsoft is acquiring AT&T’s carrier-grade Network Cloud platform technology, which AT&T’s 5G core network (when completed) will run on.

The companies disclosed a few key details about their new deal, but did not provide any firm numbers or any financial arrangements/guidance:

  • Microsoft will “assume responsibility for both software development and deployment of AT&T’s Network Cloud immediately,” according to the companies, and will transition AT&T’s existing network cloud operations into Azure over the next three years. Eventually, all of AT&T’s mobile network traffic will run over Microsoft’s Azure.
  • The effort will start with AT&T’s 5G core, but will eventually include virtually all of the company’s network operations, including its 4G core.
  • Microsoft will be the company to certify all of AT&T’s software-powered network operations for inclusion in the AT&T network. That will include software from other vendors. AT&T has not yet named its 5G core network vendors.
  • Microsoft will acquire AT&T’s Network Cloud technology – including its AT&T engineering and lifecycle management software – and its cloud-network operations team. The companies did not disclose exactly how many AT&T employees that transaction might cover, but an AT&T official suggested it will be in the “low hundreds.” Microsoft will then incorporate AT&T’s intellectual property into its Azure for Operators offering, which is for sale to other 5G network operators.
  • Microsoft and AT&T did not provide the logistics of their deal, including exactly how many Azure computing locations might be necessary to power AT&T’s network. It’s an important issue considering AT&T’s cellular network spans an estimated 70,000 cell towers across the country, and the operation of the radios on top of those towers might eventually be handled by programs running inside of Microsoft’s cloud. A top Microsoft executive involved in the deal told Light Reading that Microsoft’s Azure software will be installed into some of AT&T’s existing computing locations. Several of those compute server locations are staffed by AT&T technicians.
  • AT&T said the company plans to continue to run its network workloads inside of its own data centers and facilities. However, AT&T added that the deal today is focused on AT&T’s 5G core network and that the companies might explore additional elements of the network such as Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) technology over the course of the agreement.

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Sidebar5G SA Core networks to run on cloud service provider platforms:

  • In late April, Dish Network made a similar deal to have Amazon run its 5G core network on AWS.
  • In late May, Telefónica said it had validated AWS Outposts as option for 5G SA core deployment in Brazil.
  • Earlier this week, TIM said it was building its 5G SA Core network on “Google’s cloud solutions” (whatever that means?)

Do you think the cloud service providers will essentially take over the implementation, operations, and maintenance of 5G SA Core networks, especially since they will likely all be “cloud native.”  Please post a comment in the box below this article to express your opinion and why.  Thanks!

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“This deal is not exclusive, so I fully expect Azure will try to assert itself as the telecom cloud provider for many carriers around the world,” said Roger Entner of Recon Analytics LLC.

“It’s the first time a Tier One operator has trusted their existing consumer subscriber base to hyper-scaler technology,” Microsoft’s Shawn Hakl, VP of the company’s 5G strategy, told Light Reading. Before joining Microsoft in 2020, Hakl was a longtime Verizon executive.

The deal follows a $2 billion agreement in 2019 in which AT&T said it would start using Microsoft’s cloud for software development and other tasks. At that time, AT&T said it would continue to run its core networking functions in its own private data centers.

Andre Fuetsch, AT&T’s chief technology officer, said that shifting to a public cloud vendor will let AT&T take advantage of a larger ecosystem of software developers who are working on technologies such as wringing more use out of pricey 5G spectrum or creating new features for users.  “That’s what we at AT&T want to do, and we think working with Microsoft gives us that advantage,” Fuetsch told Reuters in an interview.

“AT&T has one of the world’s most powerful global backbone networks serving hundreds of millions of subscribers. Our Network Cloud team has proved that running a network in the cloud drives speed, security, cost improvements and innovation. Microsoft’s decision to acquire these assets is a testament to AT&T’s leadership in network virtualization, culture of innovation, and realization of a telco-grade cloud stack,” said Andre Fuetsch, executive vice president and chief technology officer, AT&T. “The next step is making this capability accessible to operators around the world and ensuring it has the resources behind it to continue to evolve and improve. And do it securely. Microsoft’s cloud expertise and global reach make them the perfect fit for this next phase.”

Microsoft intends to use the newly acquired technology – plus the experience gained helping AT&T run the network – to build out a product it calls Azure for Operators, which it will use to pursue 5G core network business from telecommunications companies in the 60 regions of the world where it operates.

“I think we’re going to have operators around the planet that are quite interested in that,” Jason Zander, executive vice president of Microsoft Azure, said in an interview.  On the AT&T website, Zander said: “With Azure, operators can provide a more flexible and scalable service model, save infrastructure cost, and use AI to automate operations and differentiate customer offerings.  Through our collaboration with AT&T, Microsoft will expand its telecom portfolio to support operators with a carrier-grade cloud that provides seamless experiences across Microsoft’s cloud and the operator’s network.”
According to the GSMA, operators are expected to spend $900 billion worldwide between 2021 and 2025 in mobile capital expenditures (CapEx), roughly 80% of which will be in 5G and much of it could run on cloud infrastructure. Operators moving to the cloud can save on hardware and development, benefit from cloud-enabled automation and data analytics, and manage real-time responses and peak traffic on demand. The delivery of new services can be accelerated through cloud-driven AI and IoT.
Post MWC comment by Iain Morris of Light Reading:
“AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud muscled into the sector, promising innovation and cost savings for their debt-ridden (telco) clients.”
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AT&T’s Cost Cutting Continues:
In 2020, AT&T announced a cost-cutting program aimed at trimming $6 billion from its budget by 2023. Part of that effort includes an “IT rationalization” that involves eliminating unneeded applications and moving other applications into the cloud.  With its new Microsoft Azure deal, AT&T said it hopes to “substantially reduce engineering and development costs.” However, the companies haven’t provided a firm cost-savings estimate for AT&T’s 5G SA Core network running on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform.  One would think that would have financial implications for both companies.
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Addendum —  Cloud Service Providers led by Amazon and Microsoft:
John Dinsdale, a Chief Analyst at Synergy Research Group, said: “Amazon and Microsoft tend to overshadow the market, with Amazon share staying at well over 30% and Microsoft growing its share from 10% to 20% over 16 quarters. However, after excluding those two, the rest of the market is still growing by over 30% per year, pointing to growth opportunities for many of the smaller cloud providers.”
“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in computer capabilities, increasingly sophisticated enterprise applications and an explosion in the amount of data being generated and processed,” he added.
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References:

https://news.microsoft.com/2021/06/30/att-to-run-its-mobility-network-on-microsofts-azure-for-operators-cloud-delivering-cost-efficient-5g-services-at-scale/

https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/industries/telecommunications/

https://about.att.com/story/2021/att_microsoft_azure.html

https://www.reuters.com/business/media-telecom/att-run-core-5g-network-microsofts-cloud-2021-06-30/

https://www.lightreading.com/the-core/atandt-to-offload-5g-into-microsofts-cloud/d/d-id/770600?

https://www.lightreading.com/service-provider-cloud/atandt-has-locked-itself-into-risky-affair-with-microsoft/a/d-id/770608?

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-06-30/at-t-agrees-to-outsource-its-5g-network-to-microsoft-s-azure

UPDATED: Mid-band Spectrum for 5G: FCC C-Band Auction at $80.9B Shattering Records

The FCC’s latest auction has raised more than $69.8 billion after three weeks of bidding, a record sum that could alter cellphone carriers’ prospects for 5G and the next decade. The C-band auction, offering 280-megahertz of spectrum, started on December 8th.  Just within two weeks, it’s by far the biggest U.S. spectrum auction ever.  The auction will now pause for the Christmas holidays until Jan. 4th , when total bids could move even higher.

The radio frequencies being offered range between 3.7 GHz and 4 GHz, a middle-of-the-road range considered well-suited for 5G service. New 5G smartphones can already connect to those frequencies in other countries that have licensed equivalent mid-band spectrum. The U.S. is also selling big chunks of spectrum all at once, enhancing its value.

The high offers benefit the U.S. Treasury, which will collect a windfall after the winners pay for their licenses. The victors will also need to spend at least $13 billion more to help modify equipment for a group of satellite companies that already use the frequencies. The satellite operators agreed to an FCC plan that shifts their TV transmissions to a narrower portion of the radio spectrum.

The current auction proceeds have already topped the $44.9 billion in provisional bids in a 2015 FCC sale of mid-band spectrum licenses, which U.S. cellphone carriers used at the time to enhance their 4G LTE service. Those telcos are now investing billions of dollars in 5G coverage. Some higher-end estimates for the auction had ranged from $35.2 to $51 billion.

After 45 rounds, the average nationwide price per MHz PoP price for licenses was of $0.81. That rises to $0.96 across categories when factoring in accelerated clearing payments and relocation costs to move satellite operators out of the band band, estimated at $9.7 billion and $3.3 billion respectively.

Editors Notes:  The B block consists of 100 megahertz (five 20-megahertz sub-blocks) from 3.8-3.9 GHz) and the C block makes up the final 80 megahertz with four 20-megahertz sub-blocks; there are 406 available Partial Economic Areas (PEAs) across the United States. 406 available Partial Economic Areas across the United States.

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Analysts had estimated C-band licenses would be between $0.20-$0.50 per MHz PoP (Point of Presence).  The nationwide price for A block licenses per MHz Pop was $1.21 as of Wednesday, while BC prices were $1.11 per MHz PoP according to tracking by BitPath COO Sasha Javid.

Demand for most of the category A blocks (which includes the first 100-megahertz tranche of spectrum in 46 of the top 50 markets that has a clearing schedule of December 2021) has evened out.  In the top 20 PEAs at the end of round 43 there were still 12 markets that had competition, mostly for BC blocks, but also a few category A, including PEAs of Miami, Phoenix, and Minneapolis-St.Paul.

PHOTO: ADREES LATIF/REUTERS

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The recent bids have blown past Wall Street’s highest forecasts, suggesting that several companies are fighting over the most valuable wireless rights.

There are 57 participants in the clock phase of this auction, but each bid is cloaked in secrecy until the auction process ends. Industry analysts expect mega telcos like AT&T  and Verizon Communications to obtain a large share of the licenses to match the trove of 2.5 GHz assets that rival T-Mobile US acquired from Sprint.

Wall Street analyst firms like Wells Fargo, believe Verizon will spend the most, previously estimating around $22 billion in gross proceeds to acquire 120 MHz of mid-band spectrum.  AT&T could spend anywhere from $4.3 billion to $20 billion for the C-band.

All three major U.S. wireless carriers have rolled out nationwide 5G either using low-band spectrum or dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) technology, but performance hasn’t proved better than 4G LTE. Verizon has deployed 5G with high-band millimeter wave in parts of 60 cities, and AT&T has a few mmWave markets, but mid-band is seen as the sweet spot in delivering both capacity and coverage.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile says its 2.5 GHz can deliver 300 Mbps and peak speeds up to 1 Gbps.

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Mid-band spectrum will be where 5G lives,” said Walt Piecyk, a telecom analyst for research firm LightShed Partners. He added that T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint “clearly put pressure on Verizon and AT&T” to match their rival’s war chest.  “When the numbers get this big, you have to assume that everybody’s getting more aggressive,” Mr. Piecyk said.

“Gross proceeds have been driven by surprisingly robust and persistent demand,” wrote Javid in an analysis Tuesday morning. “In Round 36, I suspect that a large bidder pulled back significantly in the largest markets given that all the top 10 markets experienced a drop in demand.”

Mobile service providers are also bidding against investment firms and new market entrants. Satellite provider Dish Network Corp. won many of the licenses sold in the 2015 auction. The company this month raised more cash through a $2 billion convertible-note offering to help fund more network investments. Dish is building its own 5G network after buying spectrum assets and about 8 million customers from Sprint.

Cable internet providers (MSOs) could also influence the auction’s outcome after years of experimentation with wireless services. Comcast Corp. and Charter Communications Inc. teamed up to bid in the current auction after they spent nearly $1 billion on a smaller license sale earlier this year.

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Cellphone carriers can afford to commit to big payments given their low borrowing costs and relatively stable service revenue (AT&T is an exception due to its high debt), said Raymond James analyst Frank Louthan. “Investors see these companies as some of the most secure around,” Mr. Louthan said. “I don’t think a slight change in a debt ratio would make much of a difference. Time to market matters. We generally see prices get high when you can deploy spectrum quickly.”

The FCC won’t reveal the auction’s winners for several days after the auction ends, meaning the broader telecom industry could remain in suspense until February. Federal rules against coordinated bidding also limit what the auction participants can say about the process, restricting their ability to raise capital or discuss major deals involving spectrum.

The auction is a first step in a multiyear process. Wireless customers might not see the full band cleared for cellphone service until late 2023, though there is an early tranche slated to move by late 2021. Auction winners with no time to spare could also pay the incumbent satellite users larger fees to quicken their relocation. That would allow some companies to repurpose spectrum in base stations and related cell-tower equipment that is already transmitting data on other frequencies–just not the bands in question. The change could result in faster and more reliable 5G service.

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This author is astonished there has been no concern expressed regarding C-Band Auction’s Threat to Aviation. Viodi View principal Ken Pyle wrote:

The RTCA is recommending that the mobile wireless and aviation industries work with their respective regulators to take appropriate steps to mitigate the risk associated with the deployment of 5G in the C-Band. The question is what impact will this interference risk have on the rollout of 5G in the C-band?

It will be interesting to see how the potential interference risks raised by RTCA impact the rollout of 5G in the C-Band.

On December 7th, Reuters reported that House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio urged a delay in the FCC auction of C-Band spectrum over concerns it could jeopardize aviation safety. He cited a six-month review of 5G network emissions with safety-critical radio altimeter performance by the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) that found serious risks of harmful interference on all types of aircraft.

Caveat Emptor!

References:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/5g-auction-shatters-record-as-bidding-tops-66-billion-11608731335 (on-line subscription required)

https://www.fiercewireless.com/5g/c-band-nears-70b-rockets-above-prior-us-spectrum-auctions

https://www.rcrwireless.com/20201223/spectrum/fccs-auction-holiday-haul-closing-in-on-70-billion

https://viodi.com/2020/11/30/c-band-5gs-threat-to-aviation/

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-spectrum/u-s-lawmaker-urges-delay-in-spectrum-auction-citing-aviation-safety-risks-idUSKBN28H2WK

https://www.wsj.com/articles/everything-you-need-to-know-about-5g-11605024717

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January 18, 2021 Update:

The Federal Communications Commission has completed the first round of the auction of the 3.7-3.98 GHz band, raising the most ever in a spectrum auction in the US. All 5,684 blocks on offer were acquired, with total bids of USD 80.9 billion, nearly twice the previous record for a FCC auction.

VSG LEADERBOARD : AT&T #1 in Fiber Lit Buildings

AT&T was the top U.S. network service provider in fiber lit buildings, according to the Vertical Systems Group’s 2018 U.S. Fiber Lit Buildings Leaderboard. AT&T ranked #1 in Vertical Systems fiber lit buildings findings for the third consecutive year.

Verizon, Spectrum Enterprise, CenturyLink, Comcast, Cox, Crown Castle Fiber, Frontier, Zayo, Altice USA, and Windstream were the other fiber lit leaders. Each of those companies had 10,000 or more on-net U.S. fiber lit commercial buildings as of year-end 2018, according to VSG.

Vertical Systems Group defines a fiber lit building as a commercial site or data center that has on-net optical fiber connectivity to a network provider’s infrastructure, plus active service termination equipment onsite. Excluded for purpose of the Leaderboard rankings analysis are standalone cell towers, small cells not located in fiber lit buildings, near net buildings, buildings classified as coiled at curb or coiled in building, HFC-connected buildings, carrier central offices, residential buildings, and private or dark fiber installations.

“Following a flurry of mergers and acquisitions, fiber providers focused on new buildouts in 2018 to meet customer demand for higher speed dedicated access to business services and to support 5G pilots,” said Rosemary Cochran, principal of Vertical Systems Group, in a prepared statement. “Our research shows that while the majority of large and medium size commercial buildings in the U.S. are fiber lit with one or more providers, relatively few small multi-tenant buildings are fiber connected. Cable MSOs and regional network operators have been most actively targeting fiber investment opportunities in this underserved segment.”

Thirteen companies qualified for VSG’s 2018 “Challenge Tier” (listed here in alphabetical order): Atlantic Broadband, Cincinnati Bell, Cleareon, Cogent, Consolidated Communications, FiberLight, FirstLight, GTT, IFN, Logix Fiber Networks, Segra, Unite Private Networks, and Uniti Fiber. These fiber providers each qualify for the 2018 Challenge Tier with between 2,000 and 9,999 U.S. fiber lit commercial buildings.

Fiber Provider Research Summary:

-AT&T ranks #1 on the Fiber Lit Buildings LEADERBOARD for the third consecutive year.
-Frontier moves into the #8 position, up from ninth in the prior year.
-As a result, Zayo falls to #9, down from eighth position.
-Windstream enters the LEADERBOARD at #11, moving up from the Challenge Tier.
-Atlantic Broadband and GTT advance to the Challenge Tier, both moving up from the Market Player tier.
-Cincinnati Bell’s acquisition of Hawaiian Telecom, which was completed in 2018, is reflected in this analysis.
-Segra is the new brand name for the merged entity of Lumos Networks and Spirit Communications.
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VSG “Market Players” include all other fiber providers with fewer than 2,000 U.S. commercial fiber lit buildings. The 2018 Market Players tier includes more than two hundred metro, regional and other fiber providers.

https://www.verticalsystems.com/2019/03/26/2018-fiber-lit-leaderboard/

SCWS Americas: Verizon and AT&T 5G Roadmaps Differ on FWA vs mobile “5G”

Verizon has no plans for linear or on-demand (or any other form) of pay TV for its “5G” FWA (Fixed Wireless Access) based residential/Verizon Home broadband service, according to  Bill Stone, the company”s VP of technology development and planning.  Stone stated that in a question from this author (during the Q&A session after his second presentation) at the excellent SCWS Americas conference in Santa Clara, CA on December 5, 2018.  Instead, Verizon has a partnership with YouTube TV (first three months free) to provide OTT video to its FWA customers.   Verizon Home customers get a free Apple TV 4K or Google Chromecast Ultra (Internet TV adapters with HDMI connection to the customer’s TV) when they sign up for 5G Home service.

Stone also said that Verizon’s FiOS will continue to offer higher speeds than its 5G Home service, which will transition from its proprietary “5G TF” spec to 3GPP release 15 5G NR NSA (non stand alone) in the near future.   He told me privately that any wireless base station vendor that supports 5G NR would be able to interoperate on the carrier’s 5G FWA network (we don’t think so for many reasons).  Verizon’s 5G Home service is currently available in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento.

Stone noted with pride that the mega carrier continues to bolster its 4G LTE network with new technologies.  “LTE has a lot of runway left,” Bill said to the audience.

Verizon currently says that customers of its 5G Home service will receive download speeds of at least 300 Mbps.  A video was shown of satisfied customers who all got download speeds of 800 Mbps or higher.  The mega carrier said that speeds can range up to 1 Gbps depending on customers’ location in relation to the towers for the service.

Verizon currently charges new customers $70 per month for 5G Home service, but only $50 per month for existing customers (with 1st three months free) who also subscribe to the carrier’s $30/month mobile data plan.  Voice is offered along with high speed Internet access, but no pay TV is available as with FiOS.

“The peak data rates here in millimeter-wave will definitely increase,” Stone told the audience.  Verizon currently runs its 5G Home service in its 28 GHz licensed spectrum in 400 MHz channels. But he said the carrier has the ability to increase that spectrum allotment to 600 MHz and 800 MHz channels (Verizon owns huge amounts of millimeter-wave spectrum via its purchases of XO and Straight Path). Stone explained that expanding the service’s spectrum channels would both increase user speeds and increase Verizon’s network capacity.  Verizon will move from 400 MHz to 800 MHz, and that will result in the speeds and capacity available  would double as a result.

Currently, the antennas and receivers for Verizon’s Home broadband service are installed by “white glove” professional technicians.   In the future, the carrier is planning to offer a self-installation option for its 5G Home service.  “Over time the goal is to introduce the ability to drop ship equipment that the customer can install on their own,”

Stone said, without providing a timeline for such a move. tone touched on several other data points for its FWA home broadband service:

  • 50% of Verizon’s 5G Home customers do not subscribe to the operator’s mobile service.
  • The service can transmit 1 Gbps downstream up to 3,000 feet.
  • The millimeter-wave service works in conditions including rain, snow and non-line-of-sight scenarios. Indeed, Stone said some transmissions work better in non-line-of-sight scenarios than when customers are within sight of the tower, due to the fact that millimeter-wave transmissions can reflect off various objects in order to reach their intended destination.
  • Verizon’s 5G Home customers are switching to the carrier from a variety of other service providers, though no details were provided.
  • Verizon ultimately expects to expand 5G Home to 30 million households at some unspecified time in the future, though Dunne said the carrier may revisit that figure as the company’s rollout progresses.
  • Verizon won’t build any more locations with its 5GTF equipment, and will instead wait for 3GPP release 15 5G NR equipment to become available before expanding to additional neighborhoods and cities.  However, the implementation of 5G NR by vendors will initially be non stand alone (NSA), which means its dependent on a LTE core network and LTE signaling.  That may differ amongst wireless base station vendors as will the frequencies used for different 5G NR carrier networks.
  • Verizon is making significant progress toward implementing vRAN technology on its 5G network, working with its vendors—including Ericsson, Samsung and Nokia—to virtualize the lower layers of its network in addition to the upper layers. The process of virtualizing the baseband functions in the RAN is part of a broader trend in the wireless and wider telecom industry in which operators are increasingly looking to move away from expensive, dedicated hardware from traditional suppliers and toward general-purpose compute servers running (mostly) open source software.
  • Verizon remains interested in providing edge computing services, services he said the operator could sell to companies looking to provide offerings ranging from drones to autonomous vehicles.  Verizon’s efforts in edge computing stem from the carrier’s moves to densify its network and to virtualize parts of its network functions. Those efforts, Stone said, would create a foundation for Verizon to eventually run edge computing sevices for third parties.

5G Home is one of many services Verizon plans to offer via 5G network technology with mobile 5G (again, based on 3GPP release 15 “5G NR”o NSA) being the next “5G” offering.  When mobile “5G” is deployed in the 11st half of 2019, the Motorola moto z3 smartphone, paired with the 5G moto mod and a Samsung 5G smartphone will be available.  So will an Inseego 5G hotspot that can access Verizon’s mobile network.

Addendum:  5G is one network, multiple use cases, Verizon CEO says

Last week at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg touted the carrier’s 5G home residential broadband service as complementing its wired Fios offering while extending the ability to provide a wireless alternative to home connectivity. While the fixed wireless access service is only available in four markets, the carrier said half of the customers are new to the company.

In a discussion with John Hodulik of UBS Investment Bank and HSBC analyst Sunil Rajgopal, Vestberg said 5G Home comes with a guaranteed 300 Mbps but its millimeter wave spectrum can support up to 800 Mbps or 900 Mbps.

“It’s a totally different way to doing broadband, meaning, instead of having a cord into the house, you have a wireless wave into the house, but the experience is the same in the house. And I think that’s a big opportunity for us. We have one footprint of Home, and that’s the Northeast where we have our Fios footprint. For the rest of the country, we don’t have it. So of course, we see that as an opportunity.”

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In a SCWS Americas keynote speech, title “Building our 5G network,”  Al Burke, AT&T Assistant Vice President – RAN Hardware and Software Development, described the progress the carrier has made in upgrading its network for 5G.  The key points he made were:

  • 5G will facilitate and support new applications such as VR/AR, remote surgery (Bill said he doesn’t want to be one of the first patients), connected cars, etc.
  • Small cells will be an integral part of 5G networks and “bring them to fruition”
  • By the ned of 2017, 55% of AT&Ts network functions were virtualized (I take that to mean they were implemented as software running on commodity compute servers)
  • There have been huge shifts in AT&Ts network in the last few years:

1.  From hardware to software implementations (e.g SDN, NFV);

2.  From centralized to decentralized control (e.g. EDGE computing)

3.  From observation (of network events, alerts, alarms) to insight via AI/ML (e.g.AT&T’s INDIGO)

  • Open RAN (ORAN) is the way to move forward.  Via disaggregation of RAN functions with well defined interfaces, ORAN is “open, modular, enables automation, and is lower cost.  ORAN results in interchangeable network modules (from different vendors) vs vendor proprietary equipment.

AT&T’s 5G Roadmap (only mobile 5G was shown on Al Burke’s slide – nothing on fixed 5G):

  • 2019:  5G NR access with LTE Core network and LTE Access (=signaling?).   The spectrum for AT&Ts initial mobile 5G rollout was not disclosed, but many believe it will be mmWave.
  • 2020-2022+:  5G NR access with 5G Core network (3GPP Release 16 SA or IMT 2020?); also LTE Core with LTE Access
  • 2019-2022+:  mmWave NR : Evolution to Ultra High Speed and lower latency
  • End of 2019-2022+: (unspecified time frame?), AT&T will provide sub 6 GHz 5G coverage in the U.S. speed and latency; dedicated & shared spectrum (LTE-NR-Coexistence)

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When AT&T introduces its “5G” FWA residential service it will be based on LTE, according to Mr. Burke.  In answer to a question from this author during the Q&A session, he said it would start as LTE but then transition to 5G NR based FWA.  The spectrum to be used was not revealed, but you can assume it will be mmWave (like Verizon’s 5G Home).

Author’s Closing Comments:

A claim we’ve heard before (by Ericsson and Vodafone), but don’t believe:  LTE network and terminal equipment will upgrade to 5G NR via “only a software upgrade.”As noted many times by this author and others,

AT&T has repeatedly stated they would roll out “standards based 5G” in 12 cities by the end of 2018 (they have only 3 weeks to fulfill that promise) and 19 cities in 2019.  Some of the cities identified by AT&T for the 2018 launch include Houston TX, Dallas TX, Atlanta TX, Waco TX, Charlotte NC, Raleigh NC, Oklahoma City OK, Jacksonville FL, Louisville, KY, New Orleans LA, Indianapolis IN, and San Antonio TX.

How long can AT&T claim their “5G” network is standards based when they only support 3GPP release 15 “5G NR” NSA access with a LTE core network and LTE signaling?  The ONLY 5G RAN/RIT standard is IMT 2020 which won’t be completed till the end of 2020.

 

 

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Fierce Wireless writes about what to expect from AT&T’s 5G mobile service.  We’d like to know How much will it cost? And who will subscribe when only a WiFi hotspot with 5G backhaul is offered?

 

SCWS Americas: Verizon and AT&T 5G Roadmaps Differ on FWA vs mobile “5G”

Verizon has no plans for linear or on-demand (or any other form) of pay TV for its “5G” FWA (Fixed Wireless Access) based residential/Verizon Home broadband service, according to  Bill Stone, the company”s VP of technology development and planning.  Stone stated that in a question from this author (during the Q&A session after his second presentation) at the excellent SCWS Americas conference in Santa Clara, CA on December 5, 2018.  Instead, Verizon has a partnership with YouTube TV (first three months free) to provide OTT video to its FWA customers.   Verizon Home customers get a free Apple TV 4K or Google Chromecast Ultra (Internet TV adapters with HDMI connection to the customer’s TV) when they sign up for 5G Home service.

Stone also said that Verizon’s FiOS will continue to offer higher speeds than its 5G Home service, which will transition from its proprietary “5G TF” spec to 3GPP release 15 5G NR NSA (non stand alone) in the near future.   He told me privately that any wireless base station vendor that supports 5G NR would be able to interoperate on the carrier’s 5G FWA network (we don’t think so for many reasons).  Verizon’s 5G Home service is currently available in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento.

Stone noted with pride that the mega carrier continues to bolster its 4G LTE network with new technologies.  “LTE has a lot of runway left,” Bill said to the audience.

Verizon currently says that customers of its 5G Home service will receive download speeds of at least 300 Mbps.  A video was shown of satisfied customers who all got download speeds of 800 Mbps or higher.  The mega carrier said that speeds can range up to 1 Gbps depending on customers’ location in relation to the towers for the service.

Verizon currently charges new customers $70 per month for 5G Home service, but only $50 per month for existing customers (with 1st three months free) who also subscribe to the carrier’s $30/month mobile data plan.  Voice is offered along with high speed Internet access, but no pay TV is available as with FiOS.

“The peak data rates here in millimeter-wave will definitely increase,” Stone told the audience.  Verizon currently runs its 5G Home service in its 28 GHz licensed spectrum in 400 MHz channels. But he said the carrier has the ability to increase that spectrum allotment to 600 MHz and 800 MHz channels (Verizon owns huge amounts of millimeter-wave spectrum via its purchases of XO and Straight Path). Stone explained that expanding the service’s spectrum channels would both increase user speeds and increase Verizon’s network capacity.  Verizon will move from 400 MHz to 800 MHz, and that will result in the speeds and capacity available  would double as a result.

Currently, the antennas and receivers for Verizon’s Home broadband service are installed by “white glove” professional technicians.   In the future, the carrier is planning to offer a self-installation option for its 5G Home service.  “Over time the goal is to introduce the ability to drop ship equipment that the customer can install on their own,”

Stone said, without providing a timeline for such a move. tone touched on several other data points for its FWA home broadband service:

  • 50% of Verizon’s 5G Home customers do not subscribe to the operator’s mobile service.
  • The service can transmit 1 Gbps downstream up to 3,000 feet.
  • The millimeter-wave service works in conditions including rain, snow and non-line-of-sight scenarios. Indeed, Stone said some transmissions work better in non-line-of-sight scenarios than when customers are within sight of the tower, due to the fact that millimeter-wave transmissions can reflect off various objects in order to reach their intended destination.
  • Verizon’s 5G Home customers are switching to the carrier from a variety of other service providers, though no details were provided.
  • Verizon ultimately expects to expand 5G Home to 30 million households at some unspecified time in the future, though Dunne said the carrier may revisit that figure as the company’s rollout progresses.
  • Verizon won’t build any more locations with its 5GTF equipment, and will instead wait for 3GPP release 15 5G NR equipment to become available before expanding to additional neighborhoods and cities.  However, the implementation of 5G NR by vendors will initially be non stand alone (NSA), which means its dependent on a LTE core network and LTE signaling.  That may differ amongst wireless base station vendors as will the frequencies used for different 5G NR carrier networks.
  • Verizon is making significant progress toward implementing vRAN technology on its 5G network, working with its vendors—including Ericsson, Samsung and Nokia—to virtualize the lower layers of its network in addition to the upper layers. The process of virtualizing the baseband functions in the RAN is part of a broader trend in the wireless and wider telecom industry in which operators are increasingly looking to move away from expensive, dedicated hardware from traditional suppliers and toward general-purpose compute servers running (mostly) open source software.
  • Verizon remains interested in providing edge computing services, services he said the operator could sell to companies looking to provide offerings ranging from drones to autonomous vehicles.  Verizon’s efforts in edge computing stem from the carrier’s moves to densify its network and to virtualize parts of its network functions. Those efforts, Stone said, would create a foundation for Verizon to eventually run edge computing sevices for third parties.

5G Home is one of many services Verizon plans to offer via 5G network technology with mobile 5G (again, based on 3GPP release 15 “5G NR”o NSA) being the next “5G” offering.  When mobile “5G” is deployed in the 11st half of 2019, the Motorola moto z3 smartphone, paired with the 5G moto mod and a Samsung 5G smartphone will be available.  So will an Inseego 5G hotspot that can access Verizon’s mobile network.

Addendum:  5G is one network, multiple use cases, Verizon CEO says

Last week at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg touted the carrier’s 5G home residential broadband service as complementing its wired Fios offering while extending the ability to provide a wireless alternative to home connectivity. While the fixed wireless access service is only available in four markets, the carrier said half of the customers are new to the company.

In a discussion with John Hodulik of UBS Investment Bank and HSBC analyst Sunil Rajgopal, Vestberg said 5G Home comes with a guaranteed 300 Mbps but its millimeter wave spectrum can support up to 800 Mbps or 900 Mbps.

“It’s a totally different way to doing broadband, meaning, instead of having a cord into the house, you have a wireless wave into the house, but the experience is the same in the house. And I think that’s a big opportunity for us. We have one footprint of Home, and that’s the Northeast where we have our Fios footprint. For the rest of the country, we don’t have it. So of course, we see that as an opportunity.”

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In a SCWS Americas keynote speech, title “Building our 5G network,”  Al Burke, AT&T Assistant Vice President – RAN Hardware and Software Development, described the progress the carrier has made in upgrading its network for 5G.  The key points he made were:

  • 5G will facilitate and support new applications such as VR/AR, remote surgery (Bill said he doesn’t want to be one of the first patients), connected cars, etc.
  • Small cells will be an integral part of 5G networks and “bring them to fruition”
  • By the ned of 2017, 55% of AT&Ts network functions were virtualized (I take that to mean they were implemented as software running on commodity compute servers)
  • There have been huge shifts in AT&Ts network in the last few years:

1.  From hardware to software implementations (e.g SDN, NFV);

2.  From centralized to decentralized control (e.g. EDGE computing)

3.  From observation (of network events, alerts, alarms) to insight via AI/ML (e.g.AT&T’s INDIGO)

  • Open RAN (ORAN) is the way to move forward.  Via disaggregation of RAN functions with well defined interfaces, ORAN is “open, modular, enables automation, and is lower cost.  ORAN results in interchangeable network modules (from different vendors) vs vendor proprietary equipment.

AT&T’s 5G Roadmap (only mobile 5G was shown on Al Burke’s slide – nothing on fixed 5G):

  • 2019:  5G NR access with LTE Core network and LTE Access (=signaling?).   The spectrum for AT&Ts initial mobile 5G rollout was not disclosed, but many believe it will be mmWave.
  • 2020-2022+:  5G NR access with 5G Core network (3GPP Release 16 SA or IMT 2020?); also LTE Core with LTE Access
  • 2019-2022+:  mmWave NR : Evolution to Ultra High Speed and lower latency
  • End of 2019-2022+: (unspecified time frame?), AT&T will provide sub 6 GHz 5G coverage in the U.S. speed and latency; dedicated & shared spectrum (LTE-NR-Coexistence)

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When AT&T introduces its “5G” FWA residential service it will be based on LTE, according to Mr. Burke.  In answer to a question from this author during the Q&A session, he said it would start as LTE but then transition to 5G NR based FWA.  The spectrum to be used was not revealed, but you can assume it will be mmWave (like Verizon’s 5G Home).

Author’s Closing Comments:

A claim we’ve heard before (by Ericsson and Vodafone), but don’t believe:  LTE network and terminal equipment will upgrade to 5G NR via “only a software upgrade.”As noted many times by this author and others,

AT&T has repeatedly stated they would roll out “standards based 5G” in 12 cities by the end of 2018 (they have only 3 weeks to fulfill that promise) and 19 cities in 2019.  Some of the cities identified by AT&T for the 2018 launch include Houston TX, Dallas TX, Atlanta TX, Waco TX, Charlotte NC, Raleigh NC, Oklahoma City OK, Jacksonville FL, Louisville, KY, New Orleans LA, Indianapolis IN, and San Antonio TX.

How long can AT&T claim their “5G” network is standards based when they only support 3GPP release 15 “5G NR” NSA access with a LTE core network and LTE signaling?  The ONLY 5G RAN/RIT standard is IMT 2020 which won’t be completed till the end of 2020.

 

 

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Fierce Wireless writes about what to expect from AT&T’s 5G mobile service.  We’d like to know How much will it cost? And who will subscribe when only a WiFi hotspot with 5G backhaul is offered?

 

Comcast claim: #1 Gigabit Service Provider in the U.S. but what about “5G” BWA?

Comcast says its Xfinity Gigabit Internet and Comcast Business Gigabit services are now available to nearly all of the 58 million homes and businesses the company’s infrastructure passes in 39 states and the District of Columbia (it’s not available in Santa Clara, CA where top downstream speed is 400M bits/sec). That makes the cable MSO the largest provider of gigabit Internet service in the U.S. based on the number of potential homes passed.

Gigabit Internet service is a residential XFINITY Internet service that delivers download speeds of up to 1 Gbps and upload speeds of up to 35 Mbps to customer homes via Comcast’s next technology DOCSIS 3.1 Hybrid Fiber-Coax (HFC) network.  Gigabit Pro is a newer ultra-fast tier  delivered via a fiber-to-the-home solution and offers symmetrical upload/download speeds of up to 2 Gbps.

Comcast notes it has increased speeds 17 times in the last 17 years and that the capacity of its broadband network has doubled every 18-24 months. The company uses Xfinity xFi to give customers control over their internet; xFi is a digital dashboard that allows users to personalize, monitor, and manage WiFi connected devices inside the home or business.

“Comcast continues to offer an unmatched Internet experience that combines gigabit speeds with wall-to-wall WiFi, personalized tools and controls, and enough capacity to stay ahead of tomorrow’s innovations,” said Dana Strong, president of Consumer Services, Comcast. “We’ve built an innovative high-speed data platform that combines speed, coverage and control features and really sets our broadband experience apart from the competition.”

“One of the ways that we compete, of course, is ensuring that we’ve got the fastest and the most reliable network,” Matt Strauss, executive vice president of Xfinity Services at Comcast, told Fortune. “What’s partly behind the announcement is reinforcing that now we have one gig deployed across our entire footprint.”

Comcast started deploying gigabit service in earnest about three years ago. The company, which has 24.4 million total home broadband customers, wouldn’t say how many people have signed up so far, disclosing only that 75% of all its customers now receive speeds of 100 megabits/sec or higher.

However, a Morgan Stanley survey released on Thursday said that only a tiny fraction of U.S. households—3% of cable Internet customers nationwide—have 1 gigabit/sec speeds or higher.

But 1 GB speeds may gain in popularity in the future. While a typical high-definition movie file is about 3 GB or 4 GB, a growing number of movies are available in 4K, for which files sizes can exceed 100 GB.

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The top two U.S. fixed line telecom carriers Verizon and AT&T are just starting to introduce competing home Internet services with new “5G” (proprietary) fixed broadband wireless access (BWA) technology.  Those “5G” BWA services are 10 to 40 times faster than current 4G LTE wireless networks, which are generally NOT used for BWA.  Those two mega carriers along with Comcast are ranked among the best ISPs.

Google Fiber may not be too far behind in it’s use of fixed BWA technology to deliver triple play residential services.  Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has put Google Fiber projects on hold in San Jose, Portland, and California. Google states that the move to wireless is inevitable, it will not neglect existing markets and will continue signing up new customers with wireless instead of fiber. Plans are underway to provide cities such as Dallas, Los Angeles, and Chicago with wireless internet service. Wireless technology is less expensive as it does not require labor-intensive constructions, the issues with the telephone owners, current copper and fiber providers and much cheaper to roll out.

In October 2016, Google bought Webpass, a company that specializes in the provision of wireless internet that at speeds of 1GBps at around $60. Webpass uses antennas on a building’s rooftops to provide internet connections to both businesses and residences. Unlike in conventional ISPs where you would need to have a modem, with Webpass you only need to have a router where you can plug in an Ethernet cable and distribute the internet to your office or residence.

https://www.lightwaveonline.com/articles/2018/10/comcast-were-the-largest-us-gigabit-broadband-provider.html

http://fortune.com/2018/10/18/comcast-declares-victory-in-gigabit-home-internet-race/

https://hothardware.com/news/comcast-gigabit-internet-rollout

https://medium.com/@artiedarrell/fiber-no-more-google-fiber-is-switching-to-wireless-57e871ee8bc4

https://www.reviews.org/internet-service/best-internet-service-providers/

http://www.thurstontalk.com/2018/10/22/comcast-now-nations-largest-provider-of-gigabit-internet/

AT&T building NB-IoT network in US, Mexico; LPWAN deployments disappoint

AT&T says it will launch a narrowband internet of things network across the US and Mexico in 2019. “Adding NB-IoT to our portfolio will expand our LPWA capabilities, help drive investment in our evolution to 5G, and support our customers as they deploy IoT solutions across the US and Mexico,” said Chris Penrose, AT&T’s president of IoT Solutions.

“Adding NB-IoT to our portfolio will expand our LPWA capabilities, help drive investment in our evolution to 5G, and support our customers as they deploy IoT solutions across the US and Mexico.”

“It really spans every industry out there, connected cars is one of our biggest verticals where we’re adding over a million cars every quarter; we’ve got tons going on in healthcare, agriculture, retail, manufacturing, and asset tracking,” Penrose told ZDNet.

“You name it, we’ve got different solutions out there, and I think we’ve really established ourselves as a true global player; that’s one of the things we also like to say, we can make it happen for you anywhere in the world.”

According to Penrose, AT&T sees smart cities as being a big area, with traction happening in four to five areas: Energy, such as smart lighting; water, including leak detection, smart irrigation, and water quality maintenance; transportation, for instance parking and optimising traffic flow; and smart infrastructure, including roads and bridges.

“We’ve got solutions in all of those different areas, where we’re able to bring to the cities these kind of solutions that they can deploy into their cities to be able to address those particular areas,” he said.

As a result, AT&T created a series of spotlight cities across Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, Portland,, Montgomery County, Mexico City, and various college campus environments wherein it allowed the cities themselves to choose what they wanted to solve, and then worked with them to meet those needs.

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Author’s Rebuttal:
We strongly disagree with Global Data (Ms Weldon)’s belief that “5G” will overtake LPWANs.  Most importantly, only about 8 to 12% of IoT applications will need the low latency that 5G will deliver.  The overwhelming majority of IoT applications are low speed, low power, low duty cycle and low cost.  They need solid reliability and strong security much more than (5G) low latency or high bandwidth.
Next is the misconception that “5G is coming sooner than expected.”  That may be true of wireless carrier’s PROPRIETARY deployments, but not IMT 2020 based 5G which will be the only true 5G standard.
It’s curious why so many pundits think anything coming out of 3GPP is a standard when that (honest) organization says their specs have no official status.  3GPP’s first IMT 2020 submission will be a combination of Release 16 (in development) and 15 (completed) at the July 2019 ITU-R WP 5D meeting.
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Reference:

AT&T – Nokia Partnership for Reliable IoT Connectivity

AT&T is partnering with Nokia to provide reliable connectivity for the Internet of Things (IoT) devices.  Chris Penrose, the President of the IoT Solutions of AT&T, said the carrier’s enterprise customers will benefit from this partnership through the simplified adoption of IoT devices and the improved ability of the network operator to respond to the concerns of its customers. Furthermore, the carrier noted in its announcement that this partnership enables AT&T to address specific business concerns of companies using latest technologies including 5G network slicing.

Worldwide IoT Network Grid (WING), a service that is developed and managed by Nokia, will be used by AT&T.  WING assists network operators in managing IoT devices, securing connected appliances, and facilitating the billing of the carrier’s customers. Another advantage of utilizing Nokia’s WING service is that it allows AT&T’s customers to access the global IoT ecosystem and infrastructure of the Finnish tech firm. It is expected that the core network assets of Nokia’s WING service will become available in 20 different countries by 2020.

AT&T will also utilize its own cloud-based service dubbed as the Multi-Network Connect platform. This platform enables businesses to manage their IoT devices remotely using a variety of communication technologies, including 2G, 3G, 4G LTE, Low-Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN), and satellite. Aside from the compatibility with a variety of communications standards, the carrier claims that another benefit of using its Multi-Network Connect platform is the ability to manage and monitor the devices using a single portal.

The partnership will begin developing, testing and launching IoT offerings this year. Offerings will be available in more than 20 countries in Europe, Asia, North America, South America and the Middle East by the first quarter of 2020. The partners will target a number of industries, including transportation, health, manufacturing, retail, agriculture, utilities, consumer electronics and smart cities. The initiative will “help set the stage for the evolution to global 5G,” according to the companies.

More specifically, the partnership will:

  • Address specific business requirements through capabilities like 5G network slicing that allows a single network to be partitioned into multiple networks.
  • Meet local regulatory requirements for IoT devices.

This is not the only IoT partnership in which AT&T is involved. In February, the mega telco and Ericsson said that they are teaming  up for IoT device certification. The collaboration includes testing, verification and “white glove” assistance with regulatory approval process. The program is available in more than 150 countries.

Early last year, AT&T said that Carrier, one of the world’s largest appliance and equipment manufacturers (made famous by Donald Trump’s visit), will build AT&T’s IoT functionality into its heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) product line.

 

References:

https://www.androidheadlines.com/2018/06/att-nokia-to-provide-reliable-iot-device-connectivity.html

https://www.business.att.com/solutions/Portfolio/internet-of-things/

http://www.telecompetitor.com/att-nokia-iot-partnership-targets-enterprises-worldwide/

 

Is FCC Net Neutrality Rollback Coming? Will that spark cablcos investment in rural/ suburban areas? AT&T won’t challenge FTC

Net neutrality advocates are declaring June 26 another day of action in support of Democrats’ resolution to restore the 2015 Obama-era net neutrality rules. Public Knowledge, Common Cause, Consumers Union and other groups want to bring pro-net neutrality Americans directly to the offices of their representatives in the House to lobby for passage of the measure, drawn up under the Congressional Review Act. The Senate passed it 52-47 last month, and so far 124 House lawmakers have signed the paperwork to force a floor vote (they need 218, so they’ve got some work cut out for them). TechFreedom is hosting a more skeptical panel discussion on Democrats’ effort Tuesday. Among the panelists slated to appear is Grace Koh, who advised President Trump on telecom issues until she left the White House earlier this year.

Tom Leithauser of TR Daily (subscription required) wrote yesterday:

The rollback of net neutrality rules by the FCC will spark broadband investment in rural and suburban areas served by small and mid-sized cable TV operators, Matthew Polka, president and chief executive officer of the American Cable Association, said on this week’s “The Communicators” program.

“It created a sense of greater innovation and investment that these companies can now deploy,” Mr. Polka said on the show, which is set to air on C-SPAN tomorrow and C-SPAN2 on Monday.

He noted that broadband networks were increasingly being viewed as “infrastructure” by policy-makers and that deployment to underserved and unserved areas was a top priority at the FCC and among some members of Congress.

One impediment to broadband deployment, he said, is the time and cost required to arrange access to utility poles. Andrew Petersen, an ACA board member and senior vice president for TDS Telecom who also appeared on the C-SPAN program, said pole attachment rates for his company averaged $7.80 per pole, but were significantly higher in some markets. “It really retards our ability to make those investments to extend broadband,” Mr. Petersen said.

Mr. Petersen expressed hope that the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee would offer recommendations on ways to lower the cost of pole attachments and other broadband deployment expenses, which he said were his company’s top cost.

“When you bring robust broadband to a new area, you’re combatting the ‘homework gap,’ [and] you’re allowing for economic development and commerce to take place,” Mr. Petersen said. He said it was unlikely, however, for 5G service to bring broadband to unserved areas because those areas generally lack structures needed to place 5G equipment.

“We’re not bullish that 5G is going to make its way to suburban and rural areas immediately,” he said. “I don’t believe 5G technology is going to make its way to those areas in the next several years.”

In a related CNET post, Margaret Reardon wrote:

AT&T has given up efforts to challenge the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to regulate broadband (Internet access) providers.  AT&T on Tuesday informed court officials that it would not file a petition to the US Supreme Court to challenge a lower court’s decision in the case. In 2014, the FTC sued AT&T in the US District Court of Northern California, accusing the company of promising unlimited data service to customers and then slowing that service down to rates that were barely usable. The case hasn’t yet gone to trial since AT&T had argued that the FTC has no authority over any of AT&T’s businesses.

The US Appeals court in Northern California rejected that argument in February and said the case could proceed. AT&T had until May 29 to file an appeal the the Supreme Court to challenge the decision.

AT&T indicated earlier this month in a status report submitted to the appeals court that it was considering appealing to the Supreme Court to stop the case.

This case was being closely watched by net neutrality supporters, because the question of whether the FTC has authority over AT&T would have had big implications for the future of the internet and whether there will be any cop on the beat ensuring that consumers are protected from big phone companies abusing their power online.

Why? When the Federal Communications Commission gave up its authority to police the internet with its repeal of net neutrality regulations in December, it specifically handed authority to protect consumers online to the FTC.

Net neutrality is the idea that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally and that large companies like AT&T, which is trying to buy Time Warner, can’t favor their own content over a competitor’s content. Rules adopted by a Democrat-led FCC in 2015 codified these principles into regulation. The current FCC, controlled by Republicans, voted to repeal the regulations and hand over authority to protect internet consumers to the FTC.

But there was one hitch in the law that could have made it impossible for the FTC to oversee some of the biggest broadband companies. Many of these companies, like AT&T and Verizon, also operate traditional telephone networks, which are still regulated by the FCC. AT&T argued that because some aspects of its business, like its traditional phone services, are regulated by the FCC, the FTC doesn’t have jurisdiction.

A federal appeals court disagreed with AT&T’s argument, stating the FTC can fill in oversight gaps when certain services, like broadband, aren’t regulated by the FCC. If AT&T had appealed to the Supreme Court and if the court had taken the case and ruled in AT&T’s favor, it would have meant that phone companies providing broadband or wireless internet services would be immune from government oversight. By contrast, cable companies, which do not operate traditional phone networks regulated by the FCC, would still be under the authority of the FTC.

For now, that doomsday scenario is put to rest and the lower court’s ruling that the FTC can, in fact, oversee all broadband providers stands.

Meanwhile, net neutrality supporters continue their fight to preserve the 2015 rules. Several states, including California and New York, are considering legislation to reinstate net neutrality rules. Earlier this year, Washington became the first state to sign such legislation into law. Governors in several states, including New Jersey and Montana, have signed executive orders requiring ISPs that do business with the state adhere to net neutrality principles.

Democrats in the US Senate are also trying to reinstate the FCC’s rules through the Congressional Review Act, which gives Congress 60 legislative days in which to overturn federal regulations. The resolution passed the Senate earlier this month and must pass the House of Representatives and eventually be signed into law by President Donald Trump to officially turn back the repeal of the rules.

AT&T Moves Aggressively on G.fast & Expansion of its Fiber Network

AT&T Expands G.fast & FTTH Deployments:

In sharp contrast to Verizon’s decision NOT to deploy G.fast, AT&T has announced expansion of its G.fast service for multi-dwelling units (MDUs) and its fiber-to-the-home network (AT&T Fiber).

The mega telco will extend its all-fiber network in two markets — Biloxi-Gulfport, MS and Savannah, GA.  AT&T will also be offering its hybrid fiber-coax service for MDUs in 22 metropolitan markets.

The AT&T G.fast deployments will use “fiber runs to the telecom closet on the property, and individual coax runs to each apartment unit,” an anonymous AT&T spokesperson said to Telecompetitor.

Residents of properties served will also be able to obtain DIRECTV service without installing a dish at their individual units. Instead, the video service will be delivered over D2 Advantage, which the AT&T spokesperson described as “a centrally wired satellite dish that is shared among residents in the property.”

AT&T announced eight metro areas where G.fast can be deployed immediately, including Boston, Denver, Minneapolis, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle and Tampa. In 14 other markets, consumers in target MDUs can order service now for deployment in “the near future,” the company said.

AT&T is one of multiple carriers that are looking at G.fast as part of their broadband strategy. The technology can support considerably higher speeds than DSL or fiber-to-the-neighborhood (FTTN) services – and although bandwidth is lower than it might be for a fiber-to-the-home deployment, the cost is considerably less.

The news that AT&T is deploying G.fast is not surprising, as the company already has conducted a trial of the service in Minneapolis and executives have indicated deployment plans.  At this year’s Open Network Summit (ONS), AT&T’s Tom Anschutz told an audience that G.fast would improve the speed and signal quality of data transmission on older, low grade twisted pair, which is used in many MDUs and in condominium complexes (where this author lives).  He hinted that market segment would be a focus area for AT&T.

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AT&T is extending the reach of its fiber network:

AT&T claims to have the largest fiber network in its 21-state home broadband footprint, reaching more than 5.5 million residential and commercial locations across the 57 markets after adding over 1.5 million sites since January 1st. Plans call for extending service availability to another 1.5 million locations by year’s end, boosting the total to 7 million.

Of those 5.5 million homes and businesses now reached by AT&T Fiber, the mega telco said it has signed up more than 2 million broadband subscribers. The company did not, however, break out how many of those subs are new ones, as opposed to DSL customers who have been upgraded to the new FTTH network.

AT&T  is the US’s third-largest broadband provider after Comcast Corp and Charter Communications Inc with nearly 15.7 million subscribers at the end of June, 2017.

However, the mega telco ranks #1 on Vertical Systems U.S. Fiber Lit Buildings (Fiber to commercial buildings) leaderboard:

References:

http://about.att.com/story/att_g_fast_on_sale_now_to_apartment_and_condominium_properties.html

http://www.lightreading.com/gigabit/gigabit-cities/atandt-spreads-fiber-and-gfast-wings/d/d-id/735645

http://www.telecompetitor.com/att-g-fast-launch-will-expand-broadband-reach-outside-of-its-traditional-territory/

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2017/08/03/att-verizon-spectrum-enterprise-lead-in-fiber-optic-business-connections/

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2017/08/16/verizon-passes-on-g-fast-in-favor-of-fttp-for-mdus/