Editors note: This week we’ll take a look back at the 50 stories that drew the highest level of engagement from our RCR Wireless News community.

Sprint makes major exec shuffle following T-Mo merger breakdown

After months of speculation, in November merger talks between Sprint and T-Mobile US broke down. Then, based on an internal email obtained by RCR Wireless News, Sprint made major changes to its organizational structure that CEO Marcelo Claure said are intended to “reduce management layers and bring leadership closer to the customer.”

Before Claure’s memo, COO of Technology Günther Ottendorfer announced that he was leaving the company to spend more time with his family in Austria and pursue other career opportunities. Ottendorfer’s move came in the aftermath of discussions between Sprint parent company SoftBank and T-Mobile US parent Deutsche Telekom regarding a potential merger.

Based on the email, which carried the subject line “#gettingbettereveryday: organizational changes,” Claure is reducing his number of direct reports from 16 to nine. Excerpted from the email, “We’re announcing a new, simpler organizational structure that will reduce management layers and bring leadership closer to the customer. This will also increase partners’ accountability and streamline decision-making. The new structure will enable us to improve the customer experience, increase partner engagement, and bring new ideas to market faster than ever before.”

Unlimited data fans on Verizon and AT&T being strong-armed to comply or at least pay a bit more for the privilege

Unlimited data has had a checkered history in the mobile telecom space. I remember back in my early days when data connectivity was metered out to customers on a per-minute basis both because consumers could understand what a minute meant and carriers weren’t really ready to track megabytes of usage. These connections were run over 2G networks, with few rate plans actually offering up unlimited data access.

Then, with the roll out of 3G services, carriers began to move towards megabyte-based billing and the option of unlimited data access. This was back in the day when there was really not much happening in terms of mobile data content beyond a carrier’s walled-garden portal and device screens were still more postage stamp-sized than postcard-sized.

In January, for those rocking the “big red,” the carrier yet again moved on “migrating” customers from its since discontinued “unlimited” data plans to one of its data capped “Verizon Plan.” The latest push came with a note that unlimited customers averaging more than 200 gigabytes of use per month will receive word they need to make the move before Feb. 16, or be banished from Verizon Wireless’ loving embrace.

IIoT use cases in the oil and gas industry

The oil and gas industry is riding out a violent wave that crashed crude oil prices per barrel to less than $40, down more than 60% from the high of summer 2014. The result is a favorable receipt at the gas pump for consumers, but massive losses for oil and gas producers. In fact, in the third quarter of 2014, when oil prices were more than $100 per barrel, major gas producers posted a total net income of $22.9 billion, according to Bloomberg. It had disappeared by the end of 2015.

An increased supply and lower demand has some countries in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, including Venezuela and Brazil, finding themselves in financial and political turmoil. For oil and gas companies, decreased earnings have resulted in a number of bankruptcies, layoffs and investment cuts.

Data collection is the single-most important reason an oil and gas producer would implement an IoT solution. With the production of millions of barrels of oil per day from rigs around the world, gathering and organizing data has never been more important. By some estimates, internal data generated by large integrated oil and gas companies now exceeds 1.5 terabytes a day. Being able to harness and use that data increases the efficiency of workflow, supply chain and people management, among other things.

Trial and error is money thrown away, so using robots and sensors to analyze surface and subterranean environments could save millions of dollars. Seismic nodes collect large amounts of data that can be used to determine sites for oil deposits. Sensors also can collect data on surface materials, temperatures and how equipment preforms in different environments. These readings all help oil producers find new hydrocarbon deposits, determine new spots for drilling and even find ways to optimize already-operational rigs. Read more here. 

Project AirGig: What is it really and why do you care?

When announced in October 2016, Project AirGig was described as being “transformative” using license free spectrum and power lines to provide the urban, suburban and rural markets with multi-gigabit ultra broadband internet service. The key words are license free spectrum and NOT the power lines. The technology essentially leverages the locations of existing wooden telephone poles that are seen in every U.S. neighborhood. These poles serve utility companies as well as telecom and cable operators. In AT&T’s case, the pole provides a physical location to place a radio access unit for the surrounding area.

License free spectrum within the United States can be the following frequency bands:

• 2.4GHz
• 5.8GHz
• 24GHz (24.050-24.250GHz)
• 60GHz (57-64GHz and 64-71GHz)

We believe that the bands that are most suitable for this specific application are the 24GHz and the 60GHz bands. There is 200MHz of license free spectrum available at 24GHz within the United States. Currently, there are PTP radios available for backhaul applications in this band.

The AirGig antenna which is part of the radio node plays a key role in how the solution works. The antenna design uses twelve 60GHz horn antennas, each with a fixed 30 degree beamwidth, to cover a 360 degree area. These horn antennas are solely for providing backhaul transport for the radio nodes. Using the full 14GHz of bandwidth would allow for multi-gigabit backhaul throughput for each AirGig radio node. The twelve horn antenna array is required in case the adjacent radio node is not in a straight line path. Take a deeper dive here.

Dish raises $1B as it looks to build NB-IoT network by 2020

Dish Network is looking to generate $1 billion through a debt offering, which the satellite television provider and wireless spectrum holder said it might use for “spectrum-related strategic transactions.”

The debt offering is in the form of 2.375% convertible notes due in 2024, which are set to be sold to a group of institutional investors. At maturation the notes will be valued at $82.22 per share, or a 32.5% premium over the company’s current stock price.

Dish is currently involved in the Federal Communications Commission’s 600 MHz incentive auction proceedings, which depending on the outcome will see the company potentially add to its already established haul of spectrum resources. Dish has said it currently holds approximately 75 megahertz of nationwide spectrum – which it has yet to put to use for commercial wireless services – including spectrum in the 1.7/2.1 GHz band through the FCC’s AWS-3 and AWS-4 auctions, spectrum around the 2 GHz band from the H-Block auction and spectrum in the lower 700 MHz E-Block.

Verizon seeks to cut $10 billion through virtualization

Verizon sees network virtualization as a “robust opportunity” to cut the costs anchored to telcos by $10 billion over the course of four years, said John Stratton, EVP and president of global operations for Verizon at the Wells Fargo Securities 2017 Media & Telecom Conference.

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam originally announced in September the company intended to slash $10 billion in business costs by 2020, allowing the organization to invest in its dividend with the savings.

“(CFO Matt Ellis) and I have decided that we see a real opportunity to take hard dollar cash out of the business and have set a target of taking $10 billion of cost, hard cash, out of the business over the next four years,” said McAdam said in September. “Our goal is we’d be able to fund our dividend through cash savings in 2022.”

Speaking on the company’s plans for network virtualization, Stratton said Verizon will be deploying more services based on virtualization and depending more on cloud services. In particular, the company is looking for some core technologies to virtualize the backend of its network.

Small cells, fiber and spectrum are key to 5G, AT&T exec says

Scott Mair, senior vice president of technology planning and engineering for AT&T, this week discussed how the carrier plans to evolve its LTE network to 5G with a focus on fiber assets, small cell deployments and new spectrum.

Mair said the carrier saw video traffic on its network grow 75% last year on the back of unlimited data plans. “It’s our responsibility to keep up with capacity,” he said. “We really owe it to the spectrum position we have. It is the best spectrum position in the industry. The most cost-effective way to deploy capacity is through spectrum; that’s why spectrum is so important.”

Earlier this year AT&T took some shots for what it calls 5G Evolution, available on Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ devices in Austin, Texas, and Indianapolis, Indiana. Competitors called out AT&T for marketing hype based on the underlying technologies, namely MIMO, carrier aggregation and 256 QAM–all functionality that falls under the umbrella of LTE-Advanced and LTE-Advanced Pro, not 5G New Radio, which is still being standardized by 3GPP.

Mair admitted as much during the interview. “We call them 5G Evolution, but it’s really applicatoin of LTE-Advanced and LTE-Pro capabilities. We have two live right now…we’re having really good results there. That’s a sign of things to come in how those markets will play out. Ultimately in Austin and Indy, we’ll also be deploying four-way carrier aggregation…and also LAA, which is unlicensed spectrum. We’ll get up to close to a gigabit per second.”

Verizon exec talks small cell benefits, challenges

Phillip French, Verizon Wireless executive director of the West and North Central area, shared some insight into the carrier’s approach to hetnet deployments that integrate macro level infrastructure with small cells and femto cells during a keynote presentation at the DAS and Small Cells Congress event.

Noting that “unlimited is putting a tremendous amount of pressure from a growth perspective,” on the carrier which is prompting “being creative around small cells.” He added that more than 50% of American households are “wireless only–the landline just doesn’t exist,” and that same average household has 13 connected devices.

“The way I look at network congestion,” French said, “how do I associate what my challenges with being a wireless carrier then trying to relate it back to somebody. We start to put new solutions in, new technology, new ways to solve that challenge from a growth perspective.”

Explaining a typical metro deployment, he said work starts with the macro layer, then moves into small cells. Noting that he represents about one-third of the U.S., French said he plans to deploy “a couple 1,000 small cells this year,” in his area of oversight. Also, “We’re big on femtocells. We’ll deploy probably 100 or 200 in any given year in any large city. They play a very specific role for us to do minor coverage enhancements.”

AT&T confirms reorganization reports

In July AT&T confirmed that it will reorganize in preparation for its planned acquisition of Time Warner. As expected, the carrier appointed John Stankey as head of a its media operations, a role Stankey has prepared for as CEO of AT&T Entertainment Group. Stankey will head up AT&T’s merger integration team as well.

In addition, AT&T has promoted Lori Lee and John Donovan to new positions. Lee, who has been overseeing the merger integration team, will head up AT&T International starting August 1, while Donovan will become CEO of AT&T Communications, which includes AT&T’s business solutions, entertainment group, and technology and operations group. Donovan was previously chief strategy officer and group president of the technology and operations group.

AT&T has not said whether any of its executives or employees will be relocating as part of this reorganization. The carrier is expected to operate Time Warner out of Los Angeles and New York if the merger is completed.

The executive changes are the latest in a series of signs that AT&T is highly optimistic that the U.S. Justice Department will approve its $85 billion Time Warner purchase. During its earnings call this week, the company said it expects the deal to close this year.

FirstNet, AT&T to allow early opt-in

The First Responders Network Authority and AT&T, the contractor for FirstNet’s national network, expect to deliver individual state plans for public safety coverage this month.

The targeted date for the plans was June 19, and all of them are expected to be released at the same time through an online portal. However, FirstNet is no longer calling those plans “drafts” — and if a state is satisfied with the proposed network plan it gets later this month, it can opt in right away.

FirstNet is “no longer using the term ‘draft plan.’ We’re just delivering the most complete, actionable state plans possible,” said Rich Reed, chief customer officer for FirstNet, during a call with the media on Thursday. “We heard from many states that they have the desire to move more quickly than we had originally envisioned, and we wanted to build in that flexibility.”

Once plans are submitted for review, “any time after that, when their comfort level is achieved, they’ll be able to opt in. They will not have to wait that full 180-day period. We’ve heard that that is very important to states,” Reed said.


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