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RCA meets with FCC to discuss non-interoperable spectrum

The Rural Cellular Association met with FCC staff last Thursday to discuss what they term as the challenges that competitive carriers continue to face, including negotiating fair and reasonable data roaming agreements and a lack of access to mobile end-user devices. This lack of access, according to RCA, is a result of device exclusivity agreements and non-interoperable spectrum.

This ex parte meet and greet is part of a petition filed back in September 2009 in which four rural carriers; Cellular South, Cavalier, Continuum 700, and King Street Wireless, asked the FCC to require all mobile devices operating in the 700 Mhz band be capable of operating over all frequencies in the band. These carriers also asked the FCC to freeze the authorization of mobile equipment that is not capable of operating on all paired commercial 700 Mhz frequencies.

That these carriers had to meet ex parte with FCC staff over two years after the initial petition to reiterate the impact exclusivity agreements may be having on their ability to compete appears indicative of the carriers failure to persuade the FCC to move forward with a final order on the matter.

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Stop more taxes on cell phones

Posted October 29th, 2011 in Broadband, Congress, wireless communications and tagged , , , by Alton Drew

States and localities are hard up for money. The budget squeeze has them looking everywhere for additional revenue. Telephone service has always been a target. Why? Simple. We like to talk, and our penchant to chat, our human need for communication, and latent urge to do an impersonation of our favorite Star Trek character talking into a communications device probably means that we are too insensitive to additional taxes passed on to us in the form of higher prices.

Congress is in “no more taxes” mode, at least when it comes to mobile services. Two Democrats have introduced legislation to prohibit any new taxes on wireless services.

Yes, I said prohibit new taxes and Democrats in one sentence.

U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California, and Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, issued companion bills(HR 1002 and S.543, respectively)  that place a five-year moratorium on new taxes on mobile devices.

The reasoning is sound: Congress should prevent states and localities from discriminating against service providers in various states. Over two hundred congressmen sponsored Ms. Lofgren’s bill, while Mr. Wyden has 12 cosponsors for his bill.

Additional taxes would also make broadband look even more expensive in the eyes of minority consumers.

While the House is ready to vote on Ms. Lofgren’s bill, Mr. Wyden’s bill is sitting in the Senate Finance committee. In addition, the Senate does not appear to have a hearing scheduled on S. 543 anytime in the near future.

The question I need to have answered is how do the States and their localities view Congress’ attempt at trying to turn off the last drip of the faucet ?

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Feds did Sprint a disservice when it forced divestiture

Posted October 26th, 2011 in AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile USA by Alton Drew

Oh to get back five years. Sprint Nextel released its earnings reports today, according to The Wall Street Journal and the company’s Form 8-K. The company reported operating income of $208 million, a net loss of $301 million and a diluted loss of $.10 per share for the third quarter.

In addition, as of September 30, 2011, the company’s total liquidity was approximately $5 billion, consisting of $4 billion in cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments and $1 billion of credit that Sprint has yet to use.

The company has a hefty $2.3 billion to pay out in March 2012 when certain debt comes to maturity.

Five years ago this company had to divest wireline assets in order to consummate its marriage to Nextel. In my opinion, this meant taking itself out of the broadband play that Verizon and AT&T embarked on when they deployed their fiber optic facilities in the middle of the last decade.

Neither the federal government or Sprint exercised any foresight when it came to that divestiture, but both would love to see AT&T get rid of some assets in its attempt to merge with T-Mobile USA.

Should a company expending $ 15 billion over ten years on a phone that may be gathering dust in two years receive a government bailout? How much protection will a cash trapped Sprint seek when it finds $ 4 billion whittled down by a $2 billion debt payment in less than five months?

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Should we be surprised that most rural areas have wireless-only households?

A blog post in Connected Planet Online concluding that it is a bit of a surprise that the most wireless-only households are located mostly in rural areas. I am actually surprised at the surprise.

Maybe its urban bias. Our vision of people walking around with a phone stuck to their ear usually includes the talker driving through city streets, or walking downtown. We don‘t associate cell phones with rural living.

Is it possible that we may not have seen much wireless erosion in rural areas because there probably has not been significant landline deployment in rural areas in the past?

In addition to not being yoked to their nodes, terrain in western states especially made deployment costly, and probably even with high-cost support, the consumer opted for alternative modes of communications.

This raises the question, if rural residents like the open freedom of the range; enjoy not being tied down by a wire, is the Federal Communications Commission then choosing, by switching high-cost support to broadband service from telephone service, to promote wireless broadband access? Why add more to the spectrum crunch?

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MetroPCS wants a piece of the AT&T, T-Mobile action

Bloomberg News reported last Friday that MetroPCS may be interested in purchasing subscribers and spectrum from AT&T and T-Mobile. Analysts are estimating that such a transaction may cost MetroPCS between $2 billion and $4 billion, according to Bloomberg.

To satisfy the U.S. Department of Justice, nothing short of an exact replica of T-Mobile would probably suffice since the Justice Department is concerned about the impact a total absorption of T-Mobile would have on competition in the wireless market.

On the other hand, such an arrangement may get the Justice Department, AT&T, and T-Mobile closer to a settlement.

Given that MetroPCS is a small, regional player, there should be no antitrust hurdles for the company to leap, but it, along with AT&T and T-Mobile, would have to petition the Federal Communications Commission for permission to make any necessary license transfers.