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Wireless Executives Debate Role of Next-Generation Services

WASHINGTON, February 11, 2009 – Wireless industry veterans butted heads during a panel discussion at Tuesday morning’s Broadband Breakfast Club. Organized by BroadbandCensus.com, the event focused on the role of wireless services in next-generation broadband deployment.

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WASHINGTON, February 11, 2009 – Wireless industry veterans butted heads during a panel discussion at Tuesday morning’s Broadband Breakfast Club. Organized by BroadbandCensus.com, the event focused on the role of wireless services in next-generation broadband deployment.

The four-month delay in transitioning the United States to digital television will not affect Verizon’s plans to deploy its fourth-generation service dubbed Long-Term Evolution (LTE), said assistant vice president for wireless and spectrum policy Donald Brittingham.

Despite paying $9 billion for much of the 700 Megahertz spectrum that until last week had been set to vacated by television stations on February 17, Brittingham maintained that Verizon had never planned to begin deploying LTE immediately after the transition date. Instead, the carrier will conduct a period of testing before implementing an “aggressive plan” to deploy their 4G service before year’s end, he said.

Brittingham predicted that LTE will become the world-wide standard for 4G wireless broadband instead of the WiMax technology adopted by rival Sprint-Clearwire. The 700 MHz spectrum for LTE’s  will allow for “substantially better” service and let Verizon serve areas where it previously had not been economical, he said.

The transition will unleash productivity benefits for both consumers and businesses, as well as public safety and homeland security stakeholders, said Steve Sharkey, senior director of regulatory and spectrum policy for Motorola. While Sharkey said a smooth transition should “not be taken lightly,” he warned that the delay puts economic activity associated with next-generation services on hold.

The public safety sector has been moving into the 700 MHz band for years, said John Kneuer, formerly Assistant Secretary of Commerce and head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and currently a consultant working for a number of clients promoting public safety communications, including Rivada. Kneuer was confident that the DTV switch will allow even more communities to deploy next generation systems for their first responders.

Wireless services outside of the 700 MHz band should also be green-lighted to allow more broadband competition nationwide, said M2Z Networks CEO John Muleta. If the goal of increased penetration isn’t taken more seriously, than any policy on wireless broadband has failed, he said. Muleta said that a one percent increase in broadband penetration could create 800,000 jobs.

The variety of services available in the 700 MHz band means that consumers don’t have to choose one particular technology, said Motorola’s Sharkey. The choice between licensed spectrum and unlicensed “white space” devices is not an “either/or” choice, he said.

Sharkey broke from the practice of referring to wireless as a “third pipe” along with cable and fiber services. “We’re now at a place where we have five to six pipes,” he said. Policymakers should allow as many technologies as possible to be used to fill underserved gaps in the population, he said. But between LTE, WiMax, and other technologies, he suggested most communities have very competitive marketplaces for wireless services.

Convincing consumers to adopt wireless services will be a “nagging problem,” said M2Z’s Muleta.  Speed is only one factor in consumer choice, he said. Muleta lamented the lack of ecosystems for developing open, carrier-agnostic applications and said that wireless executives visit Silicon Valley and see how frustrated developers are at the lack of open standards for development. What consumers really want is “really cool applications,” he said.

Sharkey said that the success of Apple’s iPhone app store rebutted Muleta’s arguments. But Muleta dismissed Apple’s platform as a closed environment when compared with Google’s Android operating system and Verizon’s open device initiative. Government policies like the open access requirements of the 700 MHz auction support market innovations that drive new applications, Muleta said.

Sharkey said that the limiting factor in consumer adoption of wireless broadband has been hardware, not software. He predicted that as the performance gap between mobile devices and desktop machines narrows, open access will become the norm, much like the way software is loaded on a desktop PC today. Eventually, most people around the world will be on wireless broadband, he said.

A wireless world will have a place for smaller companies as well as the major carriers, said Tom DeRiggi of Rapid DSL and Wireless, a wireless service provider. Fixed wireless services like his company’s are “very nimble” and can provide faster speeds than mobile technologies, he said. While fixed wireless won’t compete head-to-head with fiber, DeRiggi predicted the high cost of fiber would allow space in the market for other services.

Fixed wireless has benefits no other service can provide, DeRiggi said. His company deployed service to the Capitol and Lincoln Memorial for last month’s inaugural festivities on little notice, with great success, he said. “Who can provide 100 megabits in two days?” he asked.

But consumers ultimately may not care whether their wireless is fixed or mobile as long as their access comes with “the least amount of friction,” said Muleta. Instead of focusing on getting subsidies to build out to rural areas, the industry and regulators should change the debate to one about what consumers want, not what the industry wants, he said.

Brittingham took a shot at M2Z’s proposal to offer a free tier of service over the Advanced Wireless Service 3 band in exchange for the spectrum license. It was  an idea supported by former FCC chairman Kevin Martin, but held up by concerns over plans to require the service to filter out adult content. “Buy it,” he told Muleta. “Don’t ask the FCC to give it away for free.”

But Muleta fired back, pointing out that 80 percent of the spectrum offered in the 2007 auctions was bought by 2 carriers, Verizon and AT&T. Spectrum isn’t sold in a free market, he said — the FCC is the only place to get it.

The Broadband Breakfast Club is sponsored by CTIA – The Wireless Association and the Benton Foundation.

Editor’s Note

The Broadband Breakfast Club is a monthly discussion form meeting on the second Tuesday of the month at the Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington.

Archived webcasts of the Broadband Breakfast Club are now available on the BroadbandCensus.com channel on TV Mainstream. One full year of online access to each premium webcast is available for $40.00, at http://www.tvmainstream.com/series/bbclub/

TV Mainstream

Telecommunications policy advocates, attorneys, policy-makers and journalists seeking to obtain insights from top officials in Washington can attend the Broadband Breakfast Club, which includes a full American and Continental breakfast, for as little as $45.00, plus a modest registration fee. Registration is available at http://broadbandbreakfast.eventbrite.com

The events are on the record and open to the public. Individuals who register to attend the Broadband Breakfast Club will also receive a full year of complementary online access to the webcast.

Andrew Feinberg was the White House Correspondent and Managing Editor for Breakfast Media. He rejoined BroadbandBreakfast.com in late 2016 after working as a staff writer at The Hill and as a freelance writer. He worked at BroadbandBreakfast.com from its founding in 2008 to 2010, first as a Reporter and then as Deputy Editor. He also covered the White House for Russia's Sputnik News from the beginning of the Trump Administration until he was let go for refusing to use White House press briefings to promote conspiracy theories, and later documented the experience in a story which set off a chain of events leading to Sputnik being forced to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Andrew's work has appeared in such publications as The Hill, Politico, Communications Daily, Washington Internet Daily, Washington Business Journal, The Sentinel Newspapers, FastCompany.TV, Mashable, and Silicon Angle.

Wireless

Starry Hosts First Earnings Call, Says its Model Positions it to Compete Against Larger Players

Starry CEO assured investors that Starry’s technology model allows them to compete with other more established providers.

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Photo of Staryy CEO Chet Kanojia, from Starry

WASHINGTON, May 12, 2022 – In its first earnings call since becoming a publicly-traded company, telecom company Starry Inc. reported continued profitability and a desire to expand its services.

Starry, which uses fixed-wireless technology for the last-mile with support from a fiber-based middle-mile, merged with special purpose acquisition company FirstMark Horizon Acquisition Corp to go public in March. Its founder and CEO Chet Kanojia said on the earnings call Thursday that Starry has the potential to be a disruptor.

“The opportunity in broadband is to be able to disrupt the sector with extremely low-cost technologies, and to be able to achieve scale with less investment compared to traditional approaches that have been used in the past,” Kanojia said.

“This is not a concept company – we have found investors willing to finance our approach,” Kanojia said. “However, the business ultimately will require more capital,” adding that last quarter, the average user consumed 574 gigabytes of downstream and a substantial amount of upstream.

Kanojia also emphasized that urban and dense suburban areas continue to make up the majority of Starry’s consumer base.

“In order to succeed as a service provider, we need to be able to match speed and capacity,” he added.

Kanojia also said that connecting a new customer to the network costs around $100, and this is over years of improving and refining the process in order to keep the cost down.

In addition to operating the infrastructure, Kanojia said that Starry owns it as well, which has allowed the company to cut down on supply chain interruptions and exercise more control over how the technology is implemented.

“The underlying economic model remains extremely healthy and unchanged,” Kanojia said. “We continue to see the potential for raising the profitability.

“This gives us a lot of confidence that the underlying economic model works as intended and reinforced our desire to expand.”

Chet Kanojia will be the guest on Broadband.Money’s Ask Me Anything! series on Friday, May 13, 2022, at 2:30 p.m. ET.

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Spectrum

Rosenworcel Proposes Funding Infrastructure and 911 Transition with Spectrum Auction Money

The FCC’s chairwoman spoke on the future of spectrum during a Tuesday CTIA event on 5G’s climate impacts.

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Photo of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel by T.J. York

WASHINGTON, May 11, 2022 – Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on Tuesday proposed using funds raised in upcoming spectrum auctions held by the commission to fund infrastructure projects and the transition to a next-generation 911 system.

The proposal came as part of a list of potential future areas of focus on spectrum from the commission during Rosenworcel’s session at wireless trade association CTIA’s 2022 5G Summit focusing on 5G’s impacts on climate.

Rosenworcel has stated in the past that she would like spectrum auction proceeds to go towards updating the national 911 system.

Proposed upgrades include allowing 911 callers to send first responders photos, videos and text messages rather than just calls. A bill also exists in Congress to upgrade 911, the Next-Generation 911 Act, authorizing federal grants to go towards the upgrades.

In March the FCC announced that in July it would auction 2.5 GHz band licenses for 5G services.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., also speaking at Tuesday’s event, added to the calls for upgrades to the national 911 system.

Rosenworcel also spoke about the possibility of legislation targeting mid-band spectrum and development of next-gen wireless networks, work on updates to the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act that governs allocation of spectrum to the commercial sector, as well as a greater focus on receiver performance and procurement practices rather than just examining transmitters.

She emphasized that the commission is always actively working on spectrum policy through the Affordable Connectivity Program, the freeing up of spectrum with a particular focus on mid band, advocating for a national spectrum plan, and broadband data collection via the provisions of the Broadband DATA Act. She stated that the commission is actively involved with National Telecommunications and Information Administration head Alan Davidson on freeing up spectrum.

Additional speakers at Tuesday’s event included director of the White House’s National Economic Council Brian Deese, who noted that in the coming weeks and months there will be many more announcements on broadband funding from the administration on money to come from new and existing sources, and Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky.

Guthrie voiced frustration with government agencies not designated authority on spectrum over the role they took in public debates on spectrum policy, largely related to the Federal Aviation Administration’s influence over cellular providers to make concessions on their rollout of 5G over safety concerns earlier this year.

“And we must always continue to address inter-agency coordination issues,” said Guthrie.

He stated the necessity of these agencies communicating concerns to the NTIA and FCC rather than directly involving themselves in policy discussions.

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WISP

WISPA Announces David Zumwalt as New CEO

Zumwalt’s tenure will begin on June 1.

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Photo of David Zumwalt used with permission

WASHINGTON, May 4, 2022 – In a press release Wednesday, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association announced that David Zumwalt will be the association’s president and CEO as of June 1, following selection by a search committee.

Zumwalt will be replacing Claude Aiken, who in February announced that he was stepping down from his position in April, moving to provider Nextlink Internet to serve as its chief strategy officer and chief legal officer.

Zumwalt has served as the CEO of Broadband VI, a major internet service provider in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He was formerly the founder, chairman and CEO of CNet, Inc., a provider of radio-frequency engineering and operational support system software and services.

Zumwalt was recruited to Broadband VI to prepare the company for scale, and during his tenure helped guide the organization to a historic $84.5 million from the Federal Communications Commission Connect USVI fund as well as provided operations leadership last year through the organization’s acquisition by a unit of provider Liberty Latin America.

He also has experience leading policy, workforce investment, infrastructure and market outreach initiatives as the CEO and executive director of the University of the Virgin Islands Research and Technology Park Corporation.

“David is simply the best person to guide our members to the tremendous opportunities at stake,” said Todd Harpest, WISPA’s chairman of the board.

Zumwalt praised the work WISPA has done upon his selection.

“WISPA’s active advocacy efforts extend the reach of members at the Federal level and within state and regional jurisdictions,” said Zumwalt.

“I am delighted to be joining WISPA and look forward to leading it as our membership, staff, and Board work to advance our Association’s mission.”

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