FCC Chairman Says Yes to WCS for 4G

2012-10-01 15:19:33

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FCC Chairman Says Yes to WCS for 4G
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's chairman stands to make AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) one happy operator this Wednesday as his office proposed opening up spectrum in the WCS band for 4G services.FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s office sent out a proposal to enable Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile broadband deployments in 20MHz of spectrum in the Wireless Communication Services (WCS) band. Back in June, AT&T said that it compromised with Sirius Satellite Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI) over how to deploy LTE in the 2.3GHz WCS band close to the existing radio service while minimizing interference. The operator followed that up in August with a buyout of WCS spectrum holder NextWave Wireless Inc. (Nasdaq: WAVE) for a total that could reach up to $650 million.AT&T, however, still needs the FCC to approve its use of LTE in WCS before it can start deploying a network. A proposed order from the chairman's office is usually a good indicator that things are moving toward a regulatory conclusion."Today's action is part of Genachowski’s continued efforts to remove regulatory barriers that limit the flexible use of spectrum, which is one way he has led the Commission towards helping address the continued 'spectrum crunch,'" says Tammy Sun, director of communications at the FCC in a statement. "By unleashing 20 megahertz of spectrum now -- and up to 30 megahertz in the future -- the Chairman continues to leave no stone unturned when it comes to maximizing opportunities to refill the mobile spectrum pipeline that had begun to run dry over the last decade.Why this mattersFCC approval of 4G services in the WCS band will give AT&T much more spectrum to play with. The operator, however, has stressed that it will use the spectrum for "alternative" LTE services. It is not yet clear what kind of alternative ambitions AT&T has, but they could include using the spectrum for fixed wireless and backhaul links.
Even FTTH Rides the Wireless Wave
DALLAS -- FTTH Council Expo -- This may be a fiber conference, but there is an awful lot of talk about wireless technology here.Whether it's the backhaul market, using wireless for extending broadband service from fiber or managing wireless networks inside fiber-connected homes, there's no escaping the impact of wireless success on fiber deployment.That doesn't mean the FTTH segment is in lockstep agreement here on fiber-related issues. For example, using wireless to extend the reach of a FTTH network seems acceptable for casual or short-term use, but it's a point of contention as a long-term option.Gary Evans, president and CEO of Minnesota-based Hiawatha Broadband, said his company was happily using a Wi-Fi network built by a local university to extend the reach of its network to a lot of places where there's no wireline coverage. And Mark Ansboury, president of Gigabit Squared, a venture-backed startup building fiber in six university communities, viewed gigabit wireless as a means of offering service in advance of building out fiber. Ansboury went so far as to suggest that wireless traffic patterns can be used to predict where the fiber buildout needs to go next."For us, it's a gap-filler until fiber can be cost-justified," he said.At the same time, Evans added, using wireless to extend the fiber network on a more permanent basis "destroys the central concept" of an all-fiber network in terms of quality control. That's a concern shared by other fiber providers.Stoking the wireless debate Kevin Morgan, VP of Marketing for Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN), admits there can be something of a "religious debate" among his customers about using wireless extensions, but ultimately he sees them as comparable to DSL extensions, which the local loop fiber community has been using for years."Ultimately, FTTH is the goal, but how do we prove it business-wise? Wireless is one way to do that," Morgan says.Since its acquisition of BlueSocket, which makes virtual wireless LANs, Adtran has been actively exploring not only enabling its network operator customers to use wireless extensions but also to offer Wi-Fi offload as a wholesale service to mobile operators, something Morgan says is just down the road. (See Adtran Buys Bluesocket.)There was no debate over the value of the mobile backhaul market, but there was a lot of drooling. The folks building out fiber networks can't get to the cell towers fast enough."This is a huge business for all of us," said Evans.The demand is so great that Frank Latini, technical services manager of Gainesville Regional Utilities, said there are rumored instances where fiber isn't being trenched in traditional ways but basically laid on the ground, awaiting trenching at a later time, to get to the tower quickly.On a later panel, George O'Neal, VP of Network Services for GVTC , which serves a group of Texas communities near San Antonio, said his firm is also finding mobile backhaul to be lucrative. But the company had to upgrade its network to a Layer 3 offering, from a Layer 2, to meet the service level agreements of major wireless operators. Thus far, GVTC has connected 14 towers to a mobile switch for Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and is working on similar connections from 17 AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) towers to a local switch, in addition to planning work with Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile USA ."It is a lucrative market, but it is more complex than we thought," O'Neal said.Adtran's Morgan argued that such complexity isn't necessarily required."Ethernet has enabled a simple model for mobile backhaul that meets the RFPs [requests for proposal] of wireless operations, including SLAs [service level agreements] for less than 5-millisecond delay," Morgan says. "Mobile operators are looking for an Ethernet hand-off. The only time Ethernet has a problem is if you want mesh network redundancy."Home is also where the network is The inside-the-home network –- being called the final frontier by many here -– is already dominated by Wi-Fi wireless technology and most don't see that changing, but Verizon is pushing fiber deeper into its residential units, including both multiple-dwelling units (MDUs) and single family homes, says Christopher Levendos, Verizon's executive director of strategic initiatives and performance monitoring. (More on this topic is coming soon.)Other network operators are still heavily focused on figuring out how to manage all the devices that are attached to the broadband network via Wi-Fi, says Geoff Burke, senior director, corporate marketing, at Calix Networks Inc. (NYSE: CALX), which has been focused on remote management of the in-home network this year. (See Calix Gets SaaS-y Wth Customer Service .)Because the in-home performance of many devices will depend on the wireless portion of the network as well as the broadband fiber connection, FTTH providers can't escape managing those services for their customers as well, he says.
Bandwidth Trader Goes Live
Epsilon Capacity Exchange (eCX), a global, automated bandwidth trading platform, opened for business today, with pre-registered sellers and buyers receiving the log-in details that allow them to sell or buy SDH and Ethernet capacity on network routes worldwide.The platform has been developed in-house by the IT team at Epsilon Telecommunications , a managed interconnect service provider and systems integrator, which unveiled its plans to put the ghost of Enron Corp. to rest in May this year. (See Bandwidth Trading Is Back! for the full background.)Epsilon CEO Andreas Hipp had been hoping to start trading in July, but ironing out the final details took longer than expected."We had to capture a lot of data from our network and our customers' network inventories and then verify the data, which is the hardest part," stated Hipp, talking to Light Reading in his London offices.The service is starting with about seven capacity suppliers offering about 50 routes, including bandwidth on all the main subsea transport links (transatlantic, transpacific). Those initial suppliers include the likes of Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL), PCCW Ltd. (NYSE: PCW; Hong Kong: 0008) and Global Transit, while others, such as Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS), Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S) and Cable & Wireless Worldwide plc (London: CW) are in talks to offer their spare capacity to others.All the operators currently hooked up to Epsilon's interconnect hubs (about 400) are eligible to trade and, for those operators that become suppliers on the eCX there is one key rule -- whatever capacity they offer, they have to have it available, notes Hipp. (Penalties are imposed for any company breaking any of the exchange's rules.)Technical aspects aside (the platform, which aims to take the laborious manual hassle out of capacity trades, has been tested but not in live trading conditions as yet), the key to the success of the bandwidth market will be the flexibility of the suppliers, notes Hipp. Making capacity available for flexible time periods will be very important for attracting buyers, as operators often need short-term additional bandwidth on certain routes while maintenance is carried out, as backup during a specific customer project and so on.So who might those buyers be? Well, the companies currently hooked up to Epsilon's hubs include all manner of network operators, including the Web services and business applications giants that have their own infrastructure.And what about large multinational enterprises? "We're not going to build a sales channel to enterprises and we don't want to step on the feet of our existing [carrier] customers, but if a large enterprise came calling, would we turn them away? I'm not sure we would…"Now Hipp and his team, which had to develop the platform's functionality (order, SLA and performance management, among other things) because "we looked at off-the-shelf systems and none of them could do what we wanted," are waiting for feedback from users about the functions that work well, those that need improving and the extra features they'd like to see.More importantly, Hipp will be watching the platform to see if anyone's using it: If there are no trades, then that means no commission for Epsilon, which will take a variable cut of each trade (the percentage gets smaller as the trades get bigger).
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