Some Favorite Telecom Resources

Hello, telecom industry friends, former colleagues and contacts, and other readers.

As you know, it’s been a decade since I was last firmly ensconced in the telecom industry, at least to the extent it doesn’t overlap with the tech/IT industry, but it still represents a majority of my career, and I devour the latest news about it to stay abreast of developments. I don’t, however, blog about it consistently – as this is a side-project labor-of-love for me, I don’t blog about any telecom or tech concept consistently – so while I do hope you subscribe to this blog to allow my thoughts on topics of shared interest to find their way into your inbox, I thought it only fair to share a few of my favorite resources and encourage you to partake of them, too. To keep this short, I’ll start with three. Perhaps I’ll write a few sequels to this post in the future to help spread the wealth.

POTs and PANs

First up is POTs and PANs, the cleverly-named blog from CCG Consulting. With thoughts that seem to flow straight off the top of Doug Dawson’s head, this blog contains a wide range of telecom insights, thoughts on news events, and other well-considered, detailed musings of interest to telecom folks. A lot of them focusing on rural telecom, given Doug’s background. I met Doug early in my telecom career, at my very first job after grad school, and he was already an all-knowing telecom industry guru, a consultant widely revered in the industry with a seeming grasp of every nuance of the rural telecom industry in which I worked at the time.

In any case, POTs and PANs is always a fascinating read, at least if you’re interested in thinking deeply about the issues surrounding the telecom industry. And, of course, I am. Whether he’s writing about what’s happening at the FCC (“FCC to Tackle Rural Call Completion”), consumer trends in the industry (“Prices are Driving Cord Cutting”), wireless developments (“5G Cellular for Home Broadband?”), or more philosophical issues (“Public Networks and Privacy”), Doug’s writing in POTs and PANs is always a good read. It’s always time well-spent.

CommScope Blog

There aren’t a lot of large product vendor blogs that regularly hold my interest, but CommScope‘s blog is a rare exception. The topics span a broad range of tech and telecom, but it’s more than once that I’ve set aside one of CommScope’s articles to read later. (This is an advantage of subscribing to blogs via e-mail – they’re easier to time-shift. I find I return more often to a blog I’ve left in my inbox than to a link I’ve bookmarked.) Some of the definitional posts, for example, have remained set aside in an Outlook folder I return to periodically for years because they allow me to review the basics of topics I commonly encounter, particularly helpful to use as a starting point for discussions with those less familiar, but also useful in reviewing subject I circle back to infrequently. Articles I’ve set aside include “What is PON?” and “What is NFV?” Also helpful has been “Getting to Know Our Fiber Acronyms.” In addition, the CommScope Blog touches upon current trends, from technological trends, as covered in this post about 400 GbE, “The Next Big Thing in Cloud Data Center Networking”, to geographic technology trends, as noted in “How the MEA Can Embrace the Status Quo.”

Indeed, this blog uses many authors to cover a broad range of topics of interest to telecom and technology, from fiberoptics to wireless to satellite, often focused on the technology, serving up both the basics (because telecom is a big industry, and while we’re all experts in one or a few fiefdoms, we all benefit from some exposure to the other areas via articles written simply enough for us to understand) and the more detailed analysis. I subscribe to several vendor blogs, but I frequently notice how many of the posts that hold my interest come from CommScope’s.

Stephen Hardy’s Friday 5

If you know me, you know I don’t like streaming videos. The information is never provided at the pace or level of detail I want. They’re impossible to skim. I always prefer my information in text format, and if a website insists on auto-starting videos, since I surf with the sound off, I only notice if those videos cause the pages to load slowly or periodically freeze, and when that happens I find my information on a different website.

With all that lead-in, surprisingly, I actually enjoy Stephen Hardy’s Friday 5. It probably helps that I know Stephen. For my last couple years at KMI, it was owned by the same parent company as Lightwave. Of course, he’s still with Lightwave, currently serving as its Editorial Director and Associate Publisher.

Then again, that’s not really the point. Personal acquaintance can hardly overcome my disdain for receiving my information via video, but the Friday 5 is quick, to-the-point, and summarizes five stories that are actually interesting from the previous week. And the stories are fiberoptics-focused, which is one of my personal sweet spots within the telecom industry, so there’s that. The videos are about 5 minutes long, meaning there’s an average of a minute devoted to each story.

A recent Friday 5, the one from June 22nd, using the 5‘s countdown format, covered: 5) a cloud infrastructure spending market report, 4) a change in Fiber Broadband Association leadership, 3) Huawei faces national security concerns in Australia, 2) a change in ONF strategy, and 1) a research report predicting a decline in transceiver sales revenue as a result of ZTE issues. And that’s a typical weekly range of issues covered.

I don’t go to the Friday 5 web home, to which I’ve linked above, every week “unprovoked,” as it were. No, one of the Lightwave e-newsletters I receive directs me to it. But I do enjoy it… the once or twice a month I decide I’m in the mood for information via video. Given my predisposition toward text, that’s pretty darn good.

Conclusion

Those are three of my favorite telecom industry news sources. And as I was writing this, I thought of at least three more. Maybe I will provide a second installment later this year. For now, hopefully I’ve helped you find some new, interesting informational resources. I would recommend subscribing to those other sources if you’re a telecom industry geek like me. I’m sure you already receive my blog in your inboxes… don’t you?

My Reacquaintance With Millimeter Wave Equipment Vendors

Back in the mid-’00s when I worked as an industry analyst for NPRG, I penned our Fixed Wireless Carriers Report, marking our foray into off-the-shelf report-publishing in the microwave and millimeter wave space, and I’ve followed its progress ever since. Off and on, at least. Or I thought I did. I recently stumbled across the forays of both Fujitsu and Samsung into the millimeter wave waters, so I dug a little to find the backgrounds of their ventures into this space, assuming they had acquired some of the several vendors who had divvied up the market a decade ago. Indeed, no, these were ground-up systems these technology giants had developed over a number of years. Even as I’ve followed the carrier usage of these systems with interest – point-to-point millimeter wave service is getting increased attention for its backhaul prospects – clearly my vendor knowledge had slipped a bit. So it’s time to re-engage.

Of course, back when I wrote that report, microwave comprised a lion’s share of the fixed wireless market, particularly in the cellular backhaul space, and this 2016 Sivers IMA report summary suggests very little has changed in that regard.

As for the vendors, a quick search brought up this Global Industry Analysts report, and three of the nine major players (as noted in this more detailed table of contents) were among the top vendors when I wrote my report more than a decade ago. Also notable, Fujitsu and Samsung aren’t listed – indeed, eight of the nine vendors seem to be small, specialized equipment manufacturers – which means the market has not yet been overtaken by major multi-product equipment manufacturers, even as NEC has made inroads and at least a couple more of the big boys are beginning to sniff around. Notably, as I did just a little digging, while Fujitsu’s 5G millimeter wave research is touted, articles and press releases from the last 3-4 years seem to suggest it was geared toward autonomous driving purposes more than for telecom.

As for market size, the first few reports I stumbled upon seem to expect a $2.5 to $9 billion dollar market by the ends of their forecast periods, ranging from 2023 to 2025 with 2016 and 2017 market levels in the $500 to $600 million range.  Again, back when I did my research in the mid-’00s, the fixed wireless market was still microwave-dominated, so much so that I never bothered to call out a market size for the nascent millimeter wave market; indeed, it has grown by now to a respectable size.

With all of these interesting developments, it seems like a good time to refresh my millimeter wave knowledge.

Also of interest, though not exactly “breaking” news but helpful for an introductory piece, is this link to a Ceragon blog post from a couple months ago. It contains a wavelength x frequency graphic showing where decimeter wave (500 MHz-3 GHz), centimeter wave (3-30 GHz), and millimeter wave (30-300 GHz) fall, as well as indicating the segment of the spectrum commonly referred to as microwave (5-42 GHz). Of course, this article places a distinct cutoff point between microwave and millimeter wave at 30 GHz without overlap. Since millimeter waves are microwaves, the definition of microwave is definitionally arbitrary, though in the U.S., if I recall from a decade ago, the spectrum set aside for millimeter wave communication is in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, so the specific cutoff point isn’t important in practice, as there’s an FCC-defined cutoff point, at least for the purpose of telecom.

And, with that, this kickoff piece is officially “all over the place.” But watch this space as I’ll be making a concerted effort to include a lot of millimeter wave coverage in the coming weeks and months. I assume it’ll be a mix of targeted bits and the occasional general piece reacting to news articles and/or my own surfing for specific links (and the rabbit hole it takes me down). Also, if you’re one of my longtime industry contacts, expect to hear from me this year. And whether you’re an existing industry friend or someone I haven’t yet met, if you’d like to reach out to me proactively, don’t forget I have a contact form. I’ll appreciate your outreach and look forward to making your acquaintance.

Verizon Wireless Customer Service’s Twitter Save

For a few minutes, there was a post here on the blog complaining about Verizon Wireless customer service difficulties. Then my Tweet was responded to by Verizon customer service, so I took the post down – I reclassified the post from “posted” to “pending” – while I exchanged private messages on Twitter with Verizon’s customer service account. Very quickly and courteously, my problem was completely and satisfactorily resolved.

So the initial post detailing Verizon Wireless’ failings has been replaced with this post. When in-person customer service makes a mistake and over-the-phone customer services claims an inability to fix it, indeed, monitoring social media and responding quickly is a brand’s last line of defense. Tonight, Verizon Wireless’ last line of defense was up to the task.

Telecom Tower Terminology: Guyed Tower, Guy Wire

I recall the first time I encountered tower terminology when pricing out attachment rates.  At first, I thought I must have misheard the term “guy wire.” Of course, I already thought I was dealing with a “guide tower,” so what did I know?

Well, this blog post on the Launch 3 Telecom site entitled “What is a Guyed Tower?” tells you a little bit about guyed towers and guy wires (before it morphs into a Launch 3 Telecom advertisement).

Anyway, now you’ll now what guyed towers and guy wires are (and how to spell them), you’ll have to find other terminology to trip you up.

A Look Back at Aereo’s Interesting Final Year

The Source of My Policy Geekdom…

I wrote a couple times this past year about Aereo. This is mostly because I’m a bit of a telecom policy geek. My telecom policy geekdom all started decades ago, thanks to a class I took while studying for my B.A. in Telecommunications.  Telecommunications Law, I think it was called. The key thing I took away from that class, taught by the exceptional Professor Thomas Muth, was that it was often possible to credibly, honestly argue either side of a policy debate simply by interpreting the Communications Act of 1934 differently. I was working for telcos when that was replaced by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. What makes telecom law so interesting is that it is often up to interpretation, with case history sometimes providing a window into expected FCC and court decisions, but the Telecom Act often allows for changes in policy direction, if desired. And in the case of Aereo, there was even case history supporting opposing potential decisions.

…and How It Led to My Aereo Posts

So that’s what made Aereo so interesting to me; that’s what prompted two posts, first on April 8th and again on April 20th.  This was a situation in which both sides could find support in telecom laws and case histories; the main question was how those laws would be interpreted in this particular case.

The Unraveling of Aereo Since June, and the Beginning of Its Final Dismantling

I wasn’t blogging much, and therefore failed to publish any posts about Aereo, during the time period that Aereo was “deemed illegal” by the Supreme Court in June (as noted in this TechCrunch article) or when it lost its appeal to be consider a cable company in August (see this c|net article). Nor did I post in November when Aereo’s Chet Kanojia penned a final farewell to the company’s customers (which, at least for now, can still be seen on Aereo’s website).

Most recently, the company was in the news a couple weeks ago for a court decision allowing it to auction off its equipment (as detailed in this telecompaper article).

This seems to be the end for Aereo, but for the telecom policy geek in me, at least, it was interesting following the ups and downs of this potentially disruptive telecom business.

Which Telecom Providers Could Spin Off Assets as Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)?

Though I don’t have a lot to say about this article about telecom service providers spinning off REITs, by Reinhardt Krause of Investor’s Business Daily, a couple of things struck me about it.  It may be of more interest to me than to many of you, but it’s my blog, so I’m going to write about it.  It’s a topic I may return to as I run across articles with additional thoughts on the financial structuring of assets in the telecom industry or chat with industry contacts about their thoughts.

First, at the end of the article, I learned that the big tower operators American Tower and Crown Castle were structured as REITs (real estate investment trusts).  I didn’t know that before, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if I had thought about it; it makes perfect sense.

Of course, the key point of the article is the prediction that Frontier may follow Windstream down the path of telcos restructuring their network assets as REITs.  And the article points out that, even if an REIT trend ensues, large carriers like Verizon and AT&T are unlikely to restructure using REITs, if only due to the regulatory difficulties they would encounter trying to get approval.  The article lists CenturyLink, Cincinnati Bell, and TDS as other carriers who might follow Windstream into the REIT pool

In any case, it’s a concept worth keeping an eye on, particularly to those of us with interest in telcos, real estate financial structures, and the combination of the two.

And for those who’d like to read about the Windstream REIT spinoff that started all of this, I dug up this July 29 Windstream press release on Telecom Ramblings about it.

Recent News Items: Internet Speeds, Network Expansion, FTTP in Cincinnati

Just noticed a few items this past week that caught my eye.  The download speeds piece is probably of rather broad interest.  The others are articles about fiber network plans; clearly, after so many years of following those things during my career, those are items that catch my attention.  Anyway, here they are, just in case you missed them in other news sources:

Internet Speeds

The news that U.S. Internet download speeds are 25th in the world sparked an examination of the U.S. broadband market in this InfoWorld article by Caroline Craig. The article included a link to Ookla’s Net Index, which ranks the download speeds by country.  And yes, I can confirm that I get faster download speeds (and much faster upload speeds) in Eastern Europe than I do here at home in the United States.

Fiber Network Expansion and Pending Carrier Acquisition

Rob Powell’s Telecom Ramblings article discussed tw telecom’s East Coast network expansion using Zayo dark fiber. It also points out that this may be just about the end of this sort of announcements from tw telecom in advance of the closing of the Level 3 deal.  (As Channel Partners notes here, in early September, the DoJ cleared Level 3’s acquisition of tw telecom.)

Fiber-to-the-Prem in Cincinnati

Cincinnati Bell hopes to entrench itself in Cincinnati by reaching 70-80% of all homes via fiber-to-the-premises, as CEO Ted Torbeck noted in a recent presentation, per this FierceTelecom article by Sean Buckley.