Pai, O'Reilly, and the telco lobbyists proclaim the new FCC rules will result in far more 5G small cells deployed. They are wrong, as any conscientious reporter could have discovered. The new rules by some estimates will move US$2 billion from the cities to the telco bottom lines. (I think that's a high estimate but haven't looked closely.)

Some cities have ridiculous rules that should be changed, but the industry has long proven they can almost always be dealt with. The primary result will be lower charges to the telcos. Most of the savings will go to shareholders rather than increased investment, per Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg.

I knew the promised construction boom was hogwash because the companies were telling Wall Street they would keep capital spending roughly flat. They won't be spending much on more small cells. This was confirmed by CEO Jay Brown of Crown Castle, with the largest deployment of small cells in the U.S. 

I wouldn't look at that and assume that we're going to see a material change in our 18 to 24 month deployment cycle. In fact, we don't believe that will result.

Brown has 30,000 small cell sites deployed and 30,000 more contracted for. They are designed to serve two or three customers, but he's having a hard time finding more than one in many places. Verizon and the other telcos have been cutting drastically the number of small cells they will need. 

Verizon tests found millimeter wave rate/reach is much higher than expected. They will be able to meet most of their needs with the existing network. In many places, 5G will require fewer cells than 4G because of the much greater capacity. VZ specifically said they will need very few small cells for 5G for at least 3 or 4 years. They will only add small cells where they were already needed for more capacity.

The other telcos have very little need for 5G small cells. With limited exceptions at AT&T and T-Mobile, their "5G" will be low and mid-band. Low & midband 5G uses 4G hardware with NR software. It has reach comparable to 4G and much further than mmWave. T-Mobile and Sprint plan 25,000 cells for better 4G coverage, but few additional for 5G. (Low & mid-band was not considered 5G in 2017 but the definition was changed for marketing reasons. Renaming 4G TD LTE to 5G NR bamboozled the FCC while eliminating the need for additional small cells builds. 

T-Mobile promises to cover the entire U.S. with 5G in the next two years, whether or not the Sprint deal goes through. Crown Castle's 60,000 sites can serve 100,000-150,000 carrier cells. It's pretty clear telco demand will be met with at most modest additions to current plans.

The cablecos are likely to do a large build as they attack wireless, but only where they already have right of way, power, and fibre backhaul. By and large, they won't need additional permits so weren't affected by the changes.

If Pai or the New York Times spent an afternoon asking the four companies that control 90% of U.S. wireless, "How much more will you build if your proposals are accepted?" they would have discovered this. 


Here's the transcript for context.

On your first question, I believe the deployment of both fiber and small cell is forever going to be a very localized business. So what the FCC did last month is helpful to the industry to the wireless carriers and to ourselves by making clear what the underlying fees are associated with deploying and the public right of way and then setting forth some timeline, which municipalities are expected to respond to request in order to do that. So, what it does as it gives a clear line of sight both in terms of cost and timing. But it in no way negates the necessity and the importance of us continuing to work with those municipalities as we manage and deploy the infrastructure in ways that are sensitive to the aesthetic and the needs of the local community.

So I wouldn't look at that and assume that we're going to see a material change in our 18 to 24 month deployment cycle. In fact, we don't believe that will result. But we do believe that it is helpful in some problematic municipalities where they've been absolute basically blockers to the deployment of the technology and the deployment of fiber and small cells in the public right of way. So in some places, we may actually see a little bit of benefit, but I think on the whole what you should expect is our deployment cycle will continue to be in that 18 to 24 months range, and the FCC order is helpful as the scale of the deployment, as I was mentioning earlier moves well past just the top 10 markets and moves across the larger portion of the U.S., as it gives us greater visibility on what the economics are going to look like and the timing of approvals et cetera at the local level.

The world needs a good news source on Internet and telecom policy. I hope to create one. Catch a mistake? Email me please.  Dave Burstein


Professor Noam's "Many Internets"

Until about 2010, everyone agreed the Net was a "network of networks," not a monolithic entity. There was a central authority, ICANN, keeping track of domain names, but that was a minor administrative function.
Columbia Professor Noam suggests we might be better off accepting that some nations or groups might want to organize their networks differently. It's easy to see demand for an Internet with much more effective filters against material some think harmful to children. (Any 10 year old can easily find porn today. Many do.)
Internet translation is getting better very quickly. You might want an "Internet" that translates everything into your language. Google Chrome translation isn't perfect but I was able to research most of this story on Russian language sites. With a few more years progress, I might welcome an alternate that brings me everything in English, including caching for better performance.
De facto, Internet news is already split, as hundreds of millions only get their news from Facebook. Google AMP pages, including for news, also favor selected parts of the net
Centralizing the DNS doesn't prevent censorship, as the Chinese have demonstrated. There are many Jewish and Muslim fundamentalists who want to block what they consider blasphemy and limit free speech. See . More from Noam

Russia Orders Alternate Root Internet System
It's actually practical and not necessarily a problem.The Security Council of the Russian Federation, headed by Vladimir Putin, has ordered the "government to develop an independent internet infrastructure for BRICS nations, which would continue to work in the event of global internet malfunctions ... This system would be used by countries of the BRICS bloc – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa." RT
Columbia University Professor Eli Noam and then ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé have both said such a system is perfectly practical as long as there is robust interconnection.
Actually, the battle over ICANN and domain names is essentially symbolic. Managing the DNS is a relatively insignificant task, more clerical than governing. ICANN Chair Steve Crocker pointed out they had very little to do with policy.
Some will claim this is about blocking free speech but that's rhetoric. Russia doesn't need to fiddle with the DNS for censorship, as the Chinese have demonstrated. The wonders of the Internet will continue so long as the resulting nets" are robustly connected. The ICANN and U.S. policy goal should be to help create that system for interconnection.
I expect contentions that “The Russians are taking over our Internet” and “They are splitting the Internet.” The Internet is a “Network of Networks.” It is not a monolith so what would “splitting” it mean or do?
After the WCIT, China realized that ICANN and the DNS are side issues not worth bothering about. They have been building alternate institutions including the World Internet Summit in Wuzhan and the BRICs conferences.  The Chinese have put their main work where decisions that matter are made. Wireless standards are set by 3GPP, where nothing can be approved without China's consent.
The American battle at ITU is proving to be a historic mistake.
Why does Russia want an independent Internet?
They fear that Western sanctions on Russia could cripple the Russian Net. Communications minister, Nikolay Nikiforov, worries about, "a scenario where our esteemed partners would suddenly decide to disconnect us from the internet." I think that's highly unlikely but Nikiforov points out, “Recently, Russia is being addressed in a language of unilateral sanctions: first, our credit cards are being cut off; then the European Parliament says that they’ll disconnect us from SWIFT."
It makes sense for the Russians to be prepared for such a contingency as the Cold War has been warming up on both sides. "Britain's top military chief Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach just made headlines warning Russian subs "could CRIPPLE Britain by cutting undefended undersea internet cables." Much more

ICANN Continues Excluding Russia & China From the Board
No wonder Russia wants an alternate root. Three years ago, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé promised "a seat at the table" to Chinese Premier Li. ICANN welched and this year added two more Americans.
Almost all the ICANN board is from the U.S. and close allies; only about 4 of the 18 board members are from countries on the other side of the North/South divide in Internet policy.  Claiming ICANN represents the Global Internet is inappropriate. China is 1/3rd of the Internet but has no representation on the board.
I know many of the board members. They are all basically honorable but generally share a strong opinion on North-South issues.
Larry Strickling of the U.S. government knew just what he was doing with the IANA transition. He handed over to a board with similar positions as the U.S. government.
"The system is unsustainable while it excludes half the world," I have been saying since 2012. More, including the transcript of Fadi's statements,

Sorry, Ajit Pai: Smaller Telcos Did Not Reduce Investment After NN Ruling
Pai justifies his NN choice with the claim, "The impact has been particularly serious for smaller Internet service providers." #wrong (Actually, NN has minimal effects on investment, up or down, I’m convinced. Competition, new technology, customer demand and similar are far more important.)
The two largest suppliers to “smaller ISPs” saw sales go up. Adtran's sales the most recent nine months were $540M, up from $473M the year before. 2016 was $636M, 2015 $600M. Calix the last nine months sold $372M, up from $327M. The full year 2016 was $459M, up from $407M in 2015. Clearfield, a supplier of fiber optic gear, was up 8% in sales in the smaller ISPs.
There is nothing in the data from others that suggests an alternate trend. Anyone could have found this data in a few minutes from the company quarterly reports.
The results in larger companies are ambiguous. I can "prove" capex went up or went down by selecting the right data. The four largest companies' capex - two/thirds of the total - went up from $52.7B in 2015 to $55.7B in 2016. The result remains positive after making sensible adjustments for mergers and acquisitions. That's as close to "proving" that NN led to increased spending as the facts chosen to prove the opposite.
Actually, whether capex went up or down in 2016 tells us almost nothing about the choice on neutrality. Everyone knows a single datapoint could be random or due to other causes. Much more, including the source of the errors

Elders Bearing Witness: Vint, Timbl, & Many More
Vint Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee, Steve Wozniak and more than a dozen true Internet pioneers wrote Congress to protect Neutrality. The best Congress money can buy didn't listen but I wanted to reproduce their letter.
I hope they are wrong believing "is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create." My take is the impact will be moderate in the short run.
From the letter:
We are the pioneers and technologists who created and now operate the Internet, and some of the innovators and business people who, like many others, depend on it for our livelihood. ... The FCC’s proposed Order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology. These flaws and inaccuracies were documented in detail in a 43-page-long joint comment signed by over 200 of the most prominent Internet pioneers and engineers and submitted to the FCC on July 17, 2017.
Despite this comment, the FCC did not correct its misunderstandings, but instead premised the proposed Order on the very technical flaws the comment explained. The technically-incorrect proposed Order ... More, including the full list,