AT&T Inks New Tower Agreement for 5G, Wireless Distribution

With more than 160 million wireless subscribers and big 5G aspirations, AT&T needs towers to distribute its network of communication and entertainment properties.

The telecom and American Tower Corporation Sept. 3 announced the signing of a new long-term agreement designed to streamline wireless network deployments on American Tower’s U.S. sites, enhancing AT&T’s deployment of 5G and other next generation technology across the U.S.

“This is essential for executing on both our 5G and FirstNet [public safety] network builds,” JR Wilson, VP of tower strategy and roaming, AT&T, said in a statement.

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The new agreement includes a focus on keeping up with booming mobile data usage while improving capacity and coverage across the entire country, especially in under-served rural areas.

“This agreement provides for an extended mutually rewarding strategic relationship, and we’re excited to help AT&T deliver the next generation of wireless technology to consumers, businesses and first responders quickly and efficiently,” added Steve Vondran, president of the U.S. Tower Division of American Tower Corp.

Studios Reportedly Back Private Sector 5G Spectrum Allocation

Next-generation 5G wireless technology continues to get a lot of attention (and hype) — notably as an enhanced distribution channel for mobile video entertainment.

Mobile data traffic worldwide is expected to increase from 28 exabytes monthly this year to 77 exabytes monthly by 2022, according to Statista. 5G is expected to add $2.7 trillion to the U.S. GDP by 2030.

Consumer awareness of the fifth-generation wireless technology successor has reached mainstream, according to The NPD Group. So too has government concern surrounding the security and allocation of increasingly coveted (and finite) spectrum (or megahertz) required to deliver 5G data.

The FCC reportedly is considering offering 5G wireless services through a government-backed network using existing and Department of Defense spectrum, an idea that would include repurposing current commercial bandwidth.

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This isn’t sitting well with some regulators, notably Federal Communications Commission board member Michael O’Reilly, a longtime champion of market-driven initiatives over government intervention/regulation.

“To call this [government 5G network] effort a trial balloon is insulting to balloons, as all the ideas mentioned have far less consistency than balloons, and more closely resemble a child’s bubbles,” O’Reilly wrote in a blog post last month.

Enter the C-Band Alliance (CBA), a lobbying group representing satellite operators it says represent “100%” of the C-band services currently provided in the United States.

The group sent the FCC a proposal it claims would “quickly clear” C-band spectrum and would pave the way toward the United States maintaining equilibrium with China and other countries in 5G wireless services.

The CBA advocates streamlining the allocation process of 200 MHz of C-band downlink spectrum to 18-to-36 months after the FCC finalizes repurposing satellite’s C-band spectrum for 5G service.

Specifically, the group says satellite operators would cover all costs to clear spectrum and to implement operations in the upper 300 MHz of the band.

“Compared to FCC-run spectrum auctions, which historically have taken as long as a decade, the CBA proposal can deliver valuable spectrum to the U.S. market years ahead of any alternative proposal,” the CBA wrote.

Satellite operators would also coordinate with domestic C-band users such as Hollywood studios, content holders and distributors to “repack hundreds of audio and video services” into the remaining 300 MHz.

Representatives from Disney, Viacom, Fox, CBS, Discovery and Univision, among others, reportedly met with the FCC advocating for speedier spectrum allocation.

Indeed, Disney said its ESPN unit last month used 143 C-band feeds in one day to produce its 24/7 sports content.

“No other distribution method matches C-band in ubiquity and reliability,” the studios wrote in a letter to the FCC. “Content companies and other programmers thus rely on the C-band as the principal means of delivering video to the many thousands of earth stations in the United States.”

NPD: 5G Consumer Awareness Reaches Critical Mass

Next-generation 5G mobile wireless network technology may be more hype than reality at the moment. But consumer awareness of the fifth-generation wireless technology successor has reached mainstream, according to new data from The NPD Group.

According to the latest NPD Connected Intelligence, 5G awareness among consumers reached 64% at the end of the second half of 2018. That represented a 20% gain from 44% at the end of the first half of 2018.

The report – based consumer panel research of 3,600 U.S. cellphone users completed in February – found 33% of smartphone owners interested in purchasing a 5G-enabled smartphone once available.

Millennials reported have the highest potential (49%) to make the move to 5G, while consumers on unlimited data plans, who NPD says value downloading and streaming video content, are slightly less eager (43%) to purchase a 5G-enabled smartphone.

Verizon late last year launched limited 5G network rollouts in Houston, Sacramento, Los Angeles and Indianapolis, while AT&T bowed service in 12 cities, including Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Fla., Louisville, Ky., Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh, N.C., San Antonio and Waco, Texas.

“In the last several days, we’ve seen the first 5G-enabled smartphone announcements and as expected, the devices are coming with a premium price tag, due to economies of scale, and a slightly larger form factor, given the hardware needs, than what consumers have become accustom to,” Brad Akyuz, executive director, industry analyst, NPD Connected Intelligence, said in a statement. “While consumer sentiment is positive, cost, form factor, and availability of 5G services will ultimately determine whether consumers will upgrade to 5G-enabled smartphones to enjoy much faster connection speeds.”

 

Verizon Eyeing New Customers, Entertainment Options for 5G

Verizon last October became the first telecom to launch residential 5G network coverage, with rollouts in Los Angeles, Houston, Indianapolis and Sacramento, Calif.

The $70 monthly (after 90-day free trial) service includes the choice of a free Apple TV device with 4K functionality or Google Chromecast device, and 90-days of access to online TV platform YouTube TV or Apple Music.

Verizon contends there is an addressable market of 30 million households for 5G – with about 50% first-time customers to the telecom.

Speaking Jan. 8 at Citi 2019 Global TMT West confab in Las Vegas, Ronan Dunne, president of Verizon Wireless, said early consumer feedback on the rollout is encouraging considering the dearth of 5G-combatible smartphones on the market.

Indeed, Verizon only revealed its first branded 5G smartphone – Motorola’s Moto Z3 – the day before the begin of CES Las Vegas. Samsung is making another one for the telecom.

Dunne said that unlike the challenging Fios pay-TV landscape, 5G promises new connections and content opportunities for creators.

“I think the whole content area will evolve … with developments of new genres of the snacking content, the short format content, which is so natural to the mobility space,” he said.

The executive doesn’t think 5G will necessarily be a lifeline to the existing pay-TV business model. Instead, Dunne believes 5G will enable a new business model that will evolve through a combination of what’s happening in the content space and the way people are accessing connectivity.

“Lots of people won’t have a traditional wireline [pay-TV] relationship, in which case they don’t need to buy 600 channels that they don’t watch,” he said.

 

 

Disney/Verizon Partnering for 5G Media, Entertainment

The Walt Disney Co. and Verizon Communications reportedly are partnering to explore entertainment and media opportunities in the nascent 5G wireless network platform.

5G claims to be able to deliver upwards of 10 gigabits of data per second, which could enable the downloading of a movie within seconds on a smartphone versus many minutes on 4G.

Disney’s upstart StudioLab unit is working with Verizon testing 5G applications for the distribution of content.

“We see 5G changing everything about how media is produced and consumed,” Jamie Voris, chief technology officer at Disney Studios, told Variety, which first reported the pact.

Verizon last October launched 5G network capability in four cities – a move rivaled by competitor AT&T. Still in the early stages of deployment and functionality, 5G marketing and hype – however – has shown no limits.

When AT&T recently changed the old 4G LTE logo to 5G on branded smartphones, Verizon (and T-Mobile) cried foul.

“The potential to over-hype and under-deliver on the 5G promise is a temptation that the wireless industry must resist,” Verizon wrote in a letter reported by Endgadget (which Verizon owns). “We’re calling on the broad wireless industry to commit to labeling something 5G only if new device hardware is connecting to the network using new radio technology to deliver new capabilities.”

T-Mobile, in a post on Twitter, was slightly less diplomatic, tweeting a video showing someone sticking a “9G” sticker on an iPhone with the following caption: “Didn’t realize it was this easy, brb updating.”

Indeed, without a 5G-capable phone, simply claiming to be able to deliver content faster over old technology is disingenuous.

“People need a clear, consistent and simple understanding of 5G so they are able to compare services, plans and products, without having to maneuver through marketing double-speak or technical specifications,” wrote Verizon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

AT&T Launching First Domestic 5G Mobile Network Dec. 21

AT&T, beginning Dec. 21, says it will become the first telecom in the United States offering 5G wireless service over a commercial, standards-based mobile 5G network.

The initial launch is limited to 12 cities, which include Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Fla., Louisville, Ky., Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh, N.C., San Antonio and Waco, Texas.

“This is the first taste of the mobile 5G era,” Andre Fuetsch, president, AT&T Labs and chief technology officer, said in a statement. “Being first, you can expect us to evolve very quickly. It’s early on the 5G journey and we’re ready to learn fast and continually iterate in the months ahead.”

Observers contend 5G could have a significant impact on home entertainment.

Over the next decade, media and entertainment companies will be competing to win a share of a near $3 trillion cumulative wireless revenue opportunity, according to the recently released “5G Economics of Entertainment Report” commissioned by Intel and conducted by Ovum.

The report says that as early as 2025, 57% of global wireless media revenue will be generated by using the super-high-bandwidth capabilities of 5G networks and the devices that run on 5G. The low latency of these networks means that video won’t stall or stop — livestreaming and large downloads will happen in the blink of an eye.

AT&T, which owns WarnerMedia, said that in the first half of 2019 it plans to deploy mobile 5G in seven additional cities: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose, Calif.

“As the ecosystem evolves, this technology will ultimately change the way we live and conduct business,” said Mo Katibeh, chief marketing officer, AT&T Business. “We expect that our initial adopters will be innovative, growing businesses. They’re the starting point for what we think will be a technology revolution like we’ve never seen before.”

Through an initial offer, select businesses and consumers will have access to mobile 5G device plus 5G data usage at no cost for 90 days. It gets pricey thereafter. Next spring, customers will be able to get access to AT&T’s 5G mobile hotspot device, Nighthawk (manufactured by Netgear), for $499 upfront fee and 15GB of data plan, which starts at $70 a month with no annual contract.