Telcos demand tough review of rural subsidies

The Presidential election losers wanted to overturn the victory, with results we all know. Now. the telcos have persuaded key Congressman Jim Clyburn and 25 Senators to ask the FCC to overturn some of the results of the recent RDOF auction. The draft letter, circulated by Gary Bolton of Adtran and the FBA, says

We urge the FCC to validate that each provider in fact has the technical, financial, managerial, operational skills, capabilities, and resources to deliver the services that they have pledged for every American they plan to serve regardless of the technology they use. We also strongly encourage the FCC to make as public as possible the status of its review and consider opportunities for public input on the applications. Such transparency and accountability will be essential to ensure the success of this program and to minimize any opportunities for fraud or abuse.

The letter was organized by Seth Ismail in Rep Clyburn’s office, with strong support from Gary Bolton of the Fiber Broadband Association. Gary has left Adtran to work full time at FBA. Getting this kind of support in DC is a tribute to his ability.

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More Spectrum = Less Investment in London

America is approaching the #1 position in 5G coverage in the West. T-Mobile is reaching 100 million pops this month with 2.5 GHz spectrum. It is on track for 200 million in 2021. Almost all important 5G builds are in mid-band, 2.5 GHz – 4.2 GHz and T-Mobile has the only large holding in the U.S.  

D.C. assumes that releasing 270 MHz more mid-band spectrum will increase investment. A provocative empirical study of Greater London suggests the opposite was true in 4G rollouts. Telcos with more spectrum built 42% fewer sites in dense urban areas. 

With more spectrum, a cell site can serve more subscribers. That means the company needs fewer cells to deliver enough capacity.  

We find that MNOs with double the bandwidth use 42% fewer eNBs on average in dense urban environment (for approximately similar market shares). This difference decreases down to 27% and 23% fewer eNBs in lower density urban and suburban areas, respectively.

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AT&T $15 Unlimited for School Kids

AT&T will make good money on every schoolkid who signs up for the $15 “unlimited” wireless. The school will pay, saving collection costs. AT%T doesn’t need to offer phone discounts or spend much on acquisition. It requires additional advertising spend. The only apparent gotcha is a modest slowdown for some homes in the (surprisingly few) times of actual congestion. The connection should still be fast enough for a live video class.

AT&T, like most telcos, has far more wireless capacity than it can sell. Since at least 2014, wireless capacity has improved at a ferocious rate. AT&T & Verizon both estimate cost per bit is going down at 40% per year. Meanwhile, traffic growth has plummeted to 20%-35% per year. Result: telcos have an increasing surplus of capacity while spending the same amount. Even with 5G upgrades, most carriers expect capex to be flat or down.

Between 75% and 90% of U.S. unconnected kids can be reached by the existing networks in 2-3 months at moderate cost. That simple fact should push just about every proposal to “span the digital divide” on the backburner. Many will be seen as wasteful, except towers and backhaul in the 5% of the US currently dependent on satellite, called unserved. Europe and many other areas probably have a similar situation, but I don’t have confirmed research.

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Net Neutrality is Coming Back. So What Will That Change?

Bringing back Net Neutrality is a high priority for Biden, which is great. However, it will make little practical difference for the next few years. There have been no abuses of Net Neutrality with a big impact, although AT&T should never have favored HBO in its wireless plans.

Legendary AT&T lobbyist Jim Cicconi years ago said they could give up NN so long as gov didn’t force prices down. Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, Charter and the other dominant carriers do not want DC to make new rules on fees. So they have behaved and avoided controversy on neutrality.

The US has the highest Internet prices in the developed world and claims otherwise have been exposed as politicians’ truths. Pai, who has made smart moves on spectrum, has completely failed on his promise of affordable broadband for all. I’d like to think the Dems will do better, but they didn’t under Obama.   

I’ve supported what we call Net Neutrality since 1999, when I had a very public disagreement with Jeff Waldhuter of Verizon. I’m glad it’s coming back. 

Any competent engineer could connect 80%+ of the unserved schoolkids to 25/3 in 2 or 3 months. Wireless technology has been improving so rapidly the carriers have massive unused capacity. So do the cablecos. Chicago is doing it, at a total cost of 1/2 of 1% of the school budget.

It’s criminal we haven’t done that already.

Goodbye Marilyn Cade

Marilyn CadeMarilyn Cade was an exceptionally hardworking, always gracious leader in ICANN and IGF. She was a strong supporter of U.S. interests at ITU and a member of the US delegation at the WCIT.

Dozens have spoken of her at a memorial site, including Vint Cerf: 

“Marilyn was an elemental force in the ICANN, IGF and policy worlds. She was an advocate who could be counted upon to speak passionately for the causes to which she was dedicated. As I read all the “Marilyn stories” in these comments, I cannot help but think that we should say these things to our friends while they are still with us. I wish I had known of her health challenges sooner and now, of course, it is too late. She will be missed but not forgotten by the communities that knew her and benefited from her dedication.”

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Google’s top execs: 0 Black, 0 Latinx

Google top execs 230

I discovered all 16 Huawei leaders had worked together for 23 years or more and wanted to compare U.S. companies. At Google, I found 26 senior exec pictures and I almost couldn’t believe the visual. Some were Asian, but not one appeared black. No names seemed Latinx. If I have anyone wrong, please let me know. You don’t need my comment.

At the left, 9 smaller pictures including the Indian born CEO. Below, 26 pictures. 

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China’s security rules protecting TikTok

China trade restrictions 230Trump isn’t the only one who can use bogus security claims in a trade war. The Chinese have now declared TikTok’s software essential for protecting national security. All governments lie, I.F. Stone taught my generation.

Every Chinese schoolchild learns about the “unequal treaties” imposed after the Opium Wars, including the American role. They have resolved “Never again.” The attempt by the U.S. to hold back the Chinese economy will be resisted as fiercely as the Chinese resisted in Korea.

We will ultimately lose, a good reason to end this as soon as possible.

From Sina.com in Google translation

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Chicago connects 100,000 kids for free, paying $10/month to Comcast

Sepulveda left and Stu Reid on WHCR FM 230~100,000 kids in Chicago don’t have decent Internet for remote learning, a horror of the Digital Divide. Chicago Connected, working with Comcast and RCN, looks to connect all of them for free for the next 4 years. Comcast is offering a reasonable wholesale price, apparently ~$10, somewhat above the marginal cost of delivering the service. ($5-8) Ken Griffin, the Crown family, Illinois Tool Works, and the Pritzkers are supplementing the city funding.

Barack and Michelle Obama donated as well. He says

“Michelle and I want every kid in Chicago to grow up knowing even better opportunities than we had – and that requires full and equitable access to the best tools and resources. We’re happy to help Chicago Connected reach every kid in the city. This is where I found a purpose and a family – and it’ll always be our home.”

The program has some rough edges. Our society still needs to connect people without children. Far too many can’t afford U.S. prices, which are among the world’s highest.

New York State Senator Luis Sepulveda and I discussed the Chicago program on WHCR-FM’s Community and Technology. We don’t have anything like this in New York and he was very interested. I urged him to do what is necessary to connect the kids in his South Bronx district.

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Canada raises broadband prices, disincentivizing rural coverage

The Government of Canada just gave Darren Entwhistle of Telus enormous incentive not to serve rural and remote areas. It is raising wholesale prices across the country to enhance “the phone companies’ ability to invest in building high-quality networks, particularly in rural and remote areas.”

Entwhistle is one of the sharpest CEOs in telecom. He’d be a fool to invest more than the minimum in rural areas That way, the government will continue to give the company boons like this. 

Where will the money go? 

In May 2019, TELUS announced its intention to target ongoing semi-annual dividend increases, with the annual increase in the range of 7 to 10 per cent from 2020 through to the end of 2022. This announcement further extends TELUS’ multi-year dividend growth program originally announced in May 2011 and extended for three additional years in each of May 2013 and May 2016. This program provides investors with ongoing clarity with respect to TELUS’ dividend growth model.

My experience is that 2/3rds of improved cashflow goes to shareholders, not investment. That will almost certainly be true here, Telecom worldwide is a slow growth business due to cost per bit falling more than demand increases. If raising dividends is a priority, that’s where the money will go.

Telcos worldwide are holding back on rural coverage in order to get subsidies and government boons like this. 

Canada has long had superior networks in the cities and terrible rural coverage.

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Alternative facts behind German CDU attack on Huawei

Possible Chancellor acts as if Ericsson and Infineon don’t exist

“Norbert Röttgen, CDU politician with aspirations for the party chairmanship and the chancellorship,” writes Achim Sawall says, “European companies were not allowed to roll out 5G in China … Beijing would never even think of opening its 5G network to foreign providers.”

China Mobile and China Telecom/Unicom are Ericsson’s largest customers for 5G, I believe. Sawall adds, “The Europeans received over 40 percent of the core network orders from China Mobile.” This is widely reported and the German language press called Sawall on his error. 

He refuses to admit his mistake, like a Washington politician. (All parties.) It’s highly likely that “confirmation bias” makes it impossible for him to see facts in front of his face.

Around a decade ago, China allocated 10% of its telecom market to each of Alcatel, Ericsson, and Nokia, Alcatel CTO Marcus Weldon mentioned at the Brooklyn 5G conference. The Nokia purchase of Alcatel had been announced. Marcus said he wasn’t sure whether Alcatel’s share of the Chinese market would be added to Nokia’s. 

The Chinese allocated nearly a third of their market to European companies under threat of a ban on Huawei. China and Europe came to an agreement on industrial policy.

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Pompeo announces the Great Firewall of Washington + 30 other countries

Mike Pompeo and Xi Jinping US State Dept photo 230Inflammatory headline? Perhaps, but the clear reading of the announcement below implies the US wants to create the biggest split in Internet history. It goes far beyond the attacks on Huawei & TikTok. The U.S. Secretary of State just called for the US and 30 other countries to:

  • Remove Chinese and other “untrusted apps” from the Android and iPhone store
  • Not to allow China Mobile and China Telecom to connect with domestic telecommunications services
  • Block Alibaba and other Chinese clouds, even if they agree to store information domestically. (Alibaba is growing fast and a threat to the leaders, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google.)
  • Prevent apps from around the world – not just the US – from being installed on Huawei phones, currently the bestselling in the world. Huawei has close to half of the Chinese phone market, meaning that even those apps not blocked by China will be blocked in China by US fiat.

Pompeo made clear he wants much of the world to go along.  

      “Momentum for the Clean Network program is growing. More than thirty countries and territories are now Clean Countries”

Everyone reading this has her own opinion on the security and economic battle between the US and China. You don’t need to hear mine. 

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The documents for ITU Focus Group 2030 & New IP

I was a member of this group, which was led by exceptionally able and gracious engineers. There is an enormous amount of misinformation from people who haven’t read the primary documents. This isn’t about Chinese control, and I expect CNET and FT will soon correct the errors in their articles. It’s about telcos wanting control, to guarantee low latency/QoS and charge more. See the list below.

Putting it in the middle of the US China war will alienate those needed to prevent it being approved, especially the Europeans.  

I think New-IP was a mistake. I was actually on the ITU Focus Group 2030 where it was presented. Among those who approved the final document were

Mehmet Toy, Verizon
Alexey Borodin, Rostelecom
Yuan Zhang, China Telecom
Yutaka Miyake, KDDI Research (Japan’s #2)
Dong-Hi Sim, SK Telecom (Korea’s #1)
Sundeep Bhandari, NPL​

Actually, nearly all the large telcos, including Deutsche Telecom, Vodafone, and British Telecom, support this kind of control. (Deterministic Networking, also called Non-IP at ETSI, the European Standards group.)

Here’s the key document.  I will have more later. Meanwhile, email [email protected] for details.

 

Protectionism can work. Ericsson US 5G radio

Kyle Malady with Ericsson radio 230

Kyle Malady of Verizon is holding the first Ericsson 5G radio built in the U.S. It’s interesting to see the size and weight of the unit. Kyle is neither a giant nor a champion weightlifter; today’s base stations just aren’t that big. 

Verizon ordered over 10,000 of them, as have AT&T and T-Mobile. That wasn’t enough to persuade Ericsson to manufacture domestically, especially since the Chinese are buying 100,000 from Ericsson.

But DC came in, imposed a tariff, and put numerous non-tariff obstacles in front of Ericsson. Nokia and Ericsson lobbyists were laugh out loud silly when they attacked Huawei on 5G, given that both did primary 5G manufacturing in China.

Protectionism has disadvantages. By definition, it reduces competition in the short run, raising prices and hindering innovation. Economic orthodoxy has long been that “free trade” is always best, but Nobelists Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman use empirical data to rip apart the theory.

Apple has just started making its high-end models in India because of tariffs. America has 7 of the top 10 Internet companies. It would probably have 10 out of 10 if China hadn’t protected its companies. India, Germany, and France are now pressing for “digital sovereignty.”   

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Endorsements: Markey for US Senator, Maya Wiley for NY Mayor

Maya Wiley 230Ed Markey for two decades has been the most important US legislator protecting the Internet and consumer rights in telecom. His opponent, Joe Kennedy, has a distinguished name and an undistinguished record.

Maya Wiley, probably running for New York Mayor, forcefully advocated for protecting consumer and public access to spectrum for Wi-Fi when the telcos proposed to take too much for LTE-U. Sharing unlicensed spectrum is a reasonable idea, but the particulars of the telco proposal mismeasured the interference caused and the disruption of other users. Wiley, then working for New York City, was one of the very few who spoke up.

This is a technical publication and rarely makes endorsements except on a strong record on Internet and telecom policy. Readers should know the editor’s politics are left.

Stock price falls 25% as Google claims very limited market power. (Satire)

David McCabe in the NY Times reported a 67-page official Google filing claiming

it does not control enough of the industry … 
It has not built its system to give its own services an advantage …
They denied that the company’s software gave it an inappropriate advantage… 

Until Google presented these facts, investors (and just about everyone else) assumed that in fact Google did have strong market power. It was fined almost US$2 billion by the EU and the US Justice Department is likely to file an antitrust suit shortly, So are the state Attorney-Generals and possibly the UK.

The $1.067 trillion dollar market cap represented a 32:1 price to earnings ratio. As investors discovered they were mistaken about Google market power, the stock fell over $200 billion, although the P/E ratio remained above the 22:1 average of the Dow. 

(The stock price effect here is pure satire. Everyone knows Google lawyers were doing what American lawyers usually do, make claims on behalf of the client that are not true. Jennie laughed out loud when I told here what Google claimed.)

India’s ~600M broadband > U.S. + Western Europe

The remarkable rise of Reliance Jio, to 383 million 4G users in four years, has brought India to the #2 position in the world Internet. Bharti has 143 million broadband subs and Vodaphone 118 million. (Trai data).Some people still have two sims but that’s become less important as caps are more generous and other charges approaching unlimited.

The U.S. population is 329 million. Western Europe is 222 million.  All Europe, minus Russia is under 600 million. India’s Internet growth is slowing but still substantial.  It will be several years before India, like China, has more Internet users than the U.S.

One consequence is that Internet institutions, like ICANN and 3GPP, are not appropriate to lead if they remain dominated by the U.S. and Europe. Some are uncomfortable with the UN/ITU, but unless existing institutions change, what other choice do we have?

The Internet is for everyone, no matter their place of birth or skin color.   

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