Saturday, January 21, 2012

Wow -- 2011 is OVER, but when will 2012 really Start?

Is it 2012 already?  Yikes!

I don't know how you can really peer forward into the new year at this point, given our experience across the last 6 thing for sure -- it's going to be filled with change (but maybe not the kind we're looking for?)...

At least we have the election primaries to entertain us...I wonder though, if the election's outcome and it's potential effects on the economy will have an influence over how the carriers and service providers plan and execute work across the AZ market?  Only time will tell...

LightSquared's tribulations continue and the wrangling over GPS interference just keeps getting in the way of their progress...but it hasn't stopped them from inking deals (up to 37 entities at this point)...and it looks like someone's trying to buy some of their debt... things are definitely not going to sit on the status quo there for long.

AT&T and T-Mobile are shaking off the merger explorations and charting new courses ahead...and we're sure to see action from both of these guys this year -- it's hard to know how that's going to affect the AZ market though...T-Mobile is selling some towers, and AT&T is reheating some old relationships...Will T-Mobile pickup where it left off mid year 2011 when it put things on hold pending the merger?

Verizon is going to be doing some generator work and finishing up last year's production which was a little slow to conclude...I was hoping for bold moves there, to make strides while T-Mob and AT&T were wrapped in the merger talks...but nothing seemed to gel in this market...

Clearwire and Sprint seem to be checking out alternatives too...there could be losers and winners there...

Bottom line -- it's hard to tell where things are going and I've read that some carriers are limiting their CapEx this year -- it could be an odd, pieces/parts kind of year and a lean one for the ICs and vendors...kind of like how things went in the early 2000s when the tech bubble burst and all the money dried up...?

One thing's for sure, just like on any commercial flight -- you should keep your seatbelt fastened in case of turbulence...


Friday, August 26, 2011

Mix-up, Mash-up, Who knows what's up?

As far as summers go, it's hot...but taking a look at the wireless infrastructure market, it's hard to say that about business at this point (at least for the Phoenix market).

From a numbers perspective, Phoenix is arguably one of the top 10, if not one of the top 5 wireless markets in the US, but curiously, it's infrastructure business activity in the wireless market this season has been unusually least so say the boots on the ground here in the valley.

The rest of America says the wireless infrastructure market's just Booming this year -- and others think the Boom will continue (see also this article about Sprint).  I can see how other markets might be buzzing with that kind of activity, but you won't find it here in the desert -- and that's got me wondering why..?  I also would offer, that others here in the valley should also be asking this question -- the $$$ at stake could be huge...

I hate persistent questions, and it's likely that much will be resolved or become apparent when a few pending issues play out -- Namely, whether or not we'll see the birth of AT&T&T...

The AT&T / T-Mob merger is going into extra innings, as the FCC is pushing to extend the time to evaluate the idea -- the longer this decision is held off, the longer some folks will be standing pat, waiting to see what the aftermath of divestments will look like and where the deals are.

Sprint's been active in it's opposition to the above merger, and has been creative to boot...

(1) Sprint's working with LightSquared to provide the terrestrial element that company needs -- we'll see how the GPS thing resolves?  It looks like the FCC isn't in a rush to jump in and issue a decision on that yet so this LTE push for Sprint may be on hold for a bit...? 

(2) Sprint's working with Clearwire -- to provide some much needed capital (and it looks like Clearwire may be restructuring it's debt).  Will Sprint wind up controlling Clearwire -- and what does that puzzle piece bring to the mashup -- there's a push for LTE here, but what else?  

(3) Sprint may be teaming up with the Cable guys too...?  So far Cable's approach in wireless hasn't generated a home run, but maybe this time?

(4) Lastly, Sprint's going to be selling the iPhone!!!! But that may not be a good thing for their argument against AT&T&T!

From what I can tell, Sprint has embraced the diversity that spawned it's current stature, and is pushing for more -- if anything it's going to be an interesting Autumn...but again I'm left with the question -- why hasn't all this effort generated front line action in the Phoenix market -- and for that we'll just have to be patient I guess...

And thankful RCR reported "People are working more, but are happier about it..." -- Heck -- given the state of the country (unemployment, economy ect.) people who have a way to work and generate income better be happy about it...the alternative is not pretty and is certainly less enjoyable.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Arizona Wireless Association -- July Industry Update 2011

We're burning up in the desert, but the market's not on fire...yet...

Having recently relocated to the Phoenix area, it was tremendously helpful to be able to meet with other folks in this market -- and it was great to get reacquainted with a good number of people I'd lost track of...

I'd like to thank AZWA for that, but even more, I think we should be thanking AZWA for some much needed optimism this summer.

I thought the most important impact of the industry update was to hear from the industry sector that we most certainly will be finding a silver lining to this summer's sputtering, on-again, off-again work flow.  Nobody's crystal ball is clear enough to tell when that relief will come (many are hoping Sprint will usher that wave of change in) -- but given the information we received last week, from spectrum use and auctions, to finances and investment in the sector, to even the Fed's initiatives to bring broadband connectivity to more of the US, one had to leave the room at least hoping that some of that inertia would materialize into work on the front line.

One thing's for sure, change will come, and it will come often to this industry...I'm hoping for sooner rather than later, but some believe that a few major issues will need to clear before the market gets rolling:
  • How LightSquared fares with the GPS tuner/filtering issue will have impact, especially given the deals/partnerships that are now in place...and Ted Abrams has a great question that pushes past the towers and the interference they may create (terrestrial radio system interference question now being investigated with the FCC) -- what about the handsets that will be communicating with those terrestrial system towers? -- basically 1 Watt broadcasting devices sitting right on top of the GPS receivers in people's cars...?  How do you fix that...?  If the answer is to build better tuners into the GPS equipment, you're going to see a lot of conflict over that...
  • The TMob / AT&T merger will have impacts we'll see that roll through for several years -- anyone remember VZW / AllTell...?  It looks though, that the demand for data service is going to drive the creation of more wireless infrastructure, and that soon the public will have to face the notion that wireless sites must be closer if good 4G service and battery life are to be expected.  The infrastructure industry's been saying more sites are needed since I got into this game, and given the demands of the new technology and services, that's not changing anytime soon.  The challenge for deployment will remain where it always has -- with the local zoning and permitting laws...
  • It also looks like President Obama and the FCC are pushing the Broadband Initiative forward, and that will be a healthy thing for America -- currently (from a national perspective) our service is less than sterling.  Although I haven't seen strong research on the impact of broadband connectivity to our economy, we did get some information from the presentation last week -- and I think we need to see more.  If localities actually understood how critical this connectivity was to their local economies, they would be planning for it's expansion and development differently.  There's hope that the state information technology agencies will help localities understand those linkages and take steps to change their approach -- but this is an information gathering and advocacy effort that will take years, especially in light of the magnitude and severity of other stressors our local governments are currently facing.  I am cautiously optimistic on this though, as usually, when the markets slow down, local governments turn towards examining their internal processes and the regulations they have imposed on development -- now may be a good time for this issue to surface in those localities that are able to look forward.
So Kudos to the AZWA and the summer's update -- and to the tenacity of the industry sector in this market -- I'm sure with all this heat, sooner or later the market will warm up!


Monday, May 2, 2011

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

This summer, it seems, is going to be a "hunker-down and see what happens" kind of affair...I've been collecting a few articles, and it's hard to see how the Phoenix market is going to move much this year, given recent events.  In fact, I've been absent from the blog, waiting, to try and see which direction things were going in, to try and get a post together, and I finally realized -- there's so much change happening, it seems impossible to get a sense of direction right now, so why try?

Starting with LightSquared's abrupt halt to production in Phoenix at the beginning of the year, and now T-Mob's pending merger under consideration, infrastructure production activities in the Phoenix market, at least, seem to be slowing or pausing... presumably with folks waiting to see what happens.  This doesn't seem to be the model for the other large MSAs and I can't figure out why the 5th largest market in the US seems to be stalling...unless it has something to do with the larger economy and general market here, which does seem to be suffering.

Let's start with LightSquared -- although the GIS frequency issue still hasn't been resolved, they have been inking deals with lots of folks, and contemplating an IPO...and one must guess at least that if they overcome the frequency conflict issue, those deals (and the creation of the infrastructure to service them) will become a reality...
If LightSquared does succeed in its ambitious plans, the upside for consumers could be huge. As the wireless industry consolidates with big players gobbling up smaller providers, such as with AT&T's purchase of T-Mobile, LightSquared offers smaller wireless operators a chance to compete. It also provides new entrants in the wireless market a chance to come up with new business models that could change how consumers access wireless broadband services.

Read more:

I wonder if Clearwire's recent moves foreshadow the anticipation of LightSquared succeeding and working with Sprint, or if it's a cash strapped company looking to hedge it's bets for survival in a "Post AT&T/T-Mob merger market" (or maybe both?).  I'm also thinking that the deal between LightSquared and Sprint has to be a solid benefit for both -- since LightSquared could use help with the terrestrial infrastructure on the front end.

I also wonder to what degree the FCC and the fed want to see LightSquared succeed -- and is it possible that the President's initiative to increase connectivity across the nation (and maybe the FCC's spectrum plan) plays a role in that?

There's no question that the AT&T / T-Mob merger is a huge vector in the sector (sorry, couldn't help that).  There are as many Pros out there as Cons -- but I think the question is, to what degree would the FCC require divestitures (See Jonathan Kramer's article here), and how will they affect the market...what kind of opportunities will arise there?  Folks in the sector will remember the wave of decommissions after the last round of large consolidation (A' la Alltel) -- Would we see that again, and if so, would the opportunities created in FCC mandated divestitures re-claim some of those lost infrastructures?

Ironically, we're still seeing an increase in market penetration and in data use...even though we've witnessed the beginnings of the end of the unlimited data plans...and even in the open source world of Android, we're beginning to see carrier restrictions on tethering.  Verizon's iPhone launch, and Sprint's modest gains all speak to continued infrastructure growth, and it's also interesting to see the blending of the laptop and tablet format, which might just catch on...and generate serious data demand...but for now we seem to be in that awkward, pre-moment moment...

And, here in Phoenix, back at the ranch, all is quiet (too quiet), and we're waiting...


Thursday, March 10, 2011

More's a climate of change...

Today saw the surprise exit of Clearwire's CEO, as well as reporting that Clearwire is being sued for throttling internet speeds for residential users - You may recall that Comcast went through this and it was pretty embarrassing.  I'm assuming the two items are related...  It also looks as if LEAP Wireless will be getting some new leadership -- and that could be a healthy thing for everyone.  

Speaking of healthy, if our government gets it right we may see a little reduction in taxes related to wireless services -- but I'm not holding my breath -- the Fed's performance lately has me wondering...I am very optimistic that we'll be seeing more of this though -- using wireless to assist seniors and family with health care issues -- from cell phones to applications to some research by the NIH.  As this technology becomes more ubiquitous, and as developers gather inertia, I think we're in for some super ideas that really make a difference in our lives...

One thing that's always been true in the wireless sector -- change is a constant!!!


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Will embracing the "New" actually take us two steps Back..?

From what I'm seeing in the news, it looks as if the demand for wireless bandwidth is creating tangible growing pains on the street.  As the insatiable appetite for more sophisticated phones, connectivity and apps blossoms, and as more users seek those "goodies" (and as technology drives price points down) the standing wireless communications infrastructure that makes it all work is being saturated.  It's not that the wireless service providers aren't trying to augment and expand their infrastructure -- it's more that the demand is accelerating and for now, is impossible to catch.

Sprint and T-Mobile are doing the consolidation dance again...and I'd argue that consolidation makes sense in this environment -- we should expect it from others as well - because it takes a certain critical mass in terms of network infrastructure "density" to serve today's wireless data demands.  It's difficult to provide great service, when the data pipes are too small and there are too many customers with phones that pull too much data for the system to accommodate.  That could be part of Verizon's problems as well...While they arguably have the best coverage, can they really support the data intensity of the iPhone?  Time will tell, but current performance seems to be lagging a bit.  It's not just call quality anymore -- data speed and reliability is now a key metric -- and as bandwidth-hungry devices are quickly gobbled up by an increasing customer base, quality of service is taking a hit.

We're also beginning to see other wireless services emerge, and as concepts are proven, there will be acceleration there as well.  There's a nice summary of several here, and if you dig for more in the web you'll be pleasantly surprised.  I'm hopeful that Obama's initiative to encourage connectivity, and the FCC's response to that (in terms of frequency shuffling) will foster quick movement in this sector...but every silver lining has it's cloud.

I think that cloud is the local development process.  In order to create the infrastructure, industry has to develop it through localities and their zoning controls -- I'm not saying that controls are bad, but I am saying that these controls vary so widely, and in places are so draconian, that creation of the infrastructure that the public demands is significantly impeded.  We've been at the wireless game now for something like 20 years...but our approach to the deployment of the infrastructure, and the regulation of that deployment has gone from bad to worse...just at the moment when we need to see a better, more efficient development process with better designed end results.  It's almost like we've painted ourselves into a corner...and as more powerful phones and devices are released and we can do more with them, our ability to really use them may be compromised by our current approach to controlling industry's deployment of the infrastructure which makes them work.  In the end, is all that control really getting our communities what they want?


Friday, March 4, 2011

LightSquared, LightRadio, LightBeer...?

I keep reading in the press that LightSquared is launching in Phoenix, but here on the ground we're looking for signs of movement...and it's been quiet...too quiet.  LightSquared, where are you?

It'd be nice to see this market move forward with LightSquared -- it'd be well received...there's a tangible sense of malaise in the local economy, and we would all appreciate something positive.  I know property valuations went out recently, and every homeowner saw reductions in value that would stop a train.

On a LighterNote (sorry, couldn't help myself) -- even the sleepy planning forums picked up on the LightRadio splash, and urban planners are wondering -- will the towers go away, and should we be thinking about re-writing the ordinance?  I've been doing my part to try and get some rational thoughts in circulation, and I think Jonathan Kramer did an excellent job in his post...

I've also been surprised this week to read that newer LEEDS building standards may be creating some signal degradation for in-building coverage, directly related to the use of Low e, thats an unforseen and pretty ironic result...we'll see how that bounces off the planners out there.

Lastly, it's Friday, and unfortunately, I haven't figured out yet how to brew my own LightBeer...even so, I'd rather have that bottle in front of me...

Stay safe, and for goodness sakes, have some fun.