Wireless Deployment and the AWS-3 Auction

I would like to wish all of you the Happiest of Holidays! A very Merry Christmas! May you all be home and blessed over the Christmas holiday with loved ones!

So, this may seem like a strange subject. I mean most of you are thinking that the AWS-3 auctions will lead to more work, but how and when? Well, that is why I am here. I want to break it down for you so you have an idea what the auction is and how it will affect the industry.
Let me start by saying this is my opinion and I am putting this out for informational purposes only. I read a lot about this and thought you may want to know how to plan for future work.

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Let’s start with what is going on. The FCC release more air, that is bandwidth to raise money for the treasury and for FirstNet. Remember that FirstNet intends to spend $7 Billion, with a B, for their deployment. Now, this is a tremendous amount of money, but it probably won’t be enough to do what they want to do but I will get into that later.
Let’s go over some acronyms. AWS = Advanced Wireless Services, pretty simple, right. EA = Economic Areas. CMA = Cellular Market Areas. Now, let’s break down the frequency allocation.

Block Frequency Bandwidth MHz Area type # of licenses
A1 1695 to 1700MHz 5 EA 176
B1 1700-1710MHz 10 EA 176
G 1755-1760/ 2155-2160 10 (2 channels X 5MHz) CMA 734
H 176-1765/ 2160-2165 10 (2 channels X 5MHz) EA 176
I 1765-1770/ 2165-2170 10 (2 channels X 5MHz) EA 176
J 1770-1780/ 2170-2180 10 (2 channels X 10MHz) EA 176

The FCC was hoping to raise $10 Billion but the bidding is over $40 Billion so far. This is good for the USA and paying some debt down as well as funding FirstNet without tax payer money. However, who is paying The carriers, they need to dish out this kind of money before sticking one antenna in the air. The government will get that money up front and then more money in the form of taxes on your cell phone bill, and they are higher than ever. (Once again, the government found a way to double dip, but that is another subject. But I am getting off point, sorry.) There are 70 companies bidding on this. This is the first auction since 2008. There is an incentive auction scheduled after this one.

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So, this is the knowledge you need to understand what it is, but how does it affect wireless deployment. Well, that is obvious, because the carriers will want to build ASAP. This will happen but not until the OEMs, like Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, and maybe others get the product together, the testing takes place, and then devices have to be made. So that would probably be 6 months to a year after the build. Then the fun begins, site acquisition and then deployment. So when this deployment happens it will likely be LTE Advanced. I am not sure if they will wait for 5G. So then the deployments happen with all of the Remote Radio Heads (RRH) being put on the towers. This is a lot of loading. I would imagine that 2G networks will be decommissioned soon. So that will definitely happen o make room for this. Then the 3G networks will start to be decommissioned, but that will take a long time, maybe 5 or more years.
To put this into perspective, the carriers are mostly finishing up their current build. Sprint is still building out their Sprint Spark initiative but Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile should finish up in 2015. Then in 2016 I would expect things will start to heat up again. Remember that the carriers need to make the money back to show return on their investment. They also need the bandwidth because data is being used at an amazing rate. All customers ask for is more, more, and more. So how will they make their money back? Customers will need to pay for it and the deployment. It won’t be free to build but they must have a business plan to in place for payback. Just remember that the first place they will look to lower costs once again will be the climbers, fair warning.

Oh, by the way, FirstNet will also be ready to deploy early 2016, I hope, to get their network constructed. They have a huge task ahead of them because they committed to covering the continental US and all territories. That is a huge area. They also will be looking for partners. Will the carriers help out, who knows. What about Google? I think that would be the perfect partner because they could become a wireless carrier in a short time. Just my opinion! When FirstNet does build, it will be a lot of work all across the nation with the LTE build and the backhaul. The backhaul will be a combination of wireless and fiber, maybe both for redundancy.

So there it is, in about 18 months there will be deployment, beefing up towers, testing, optimizations, and more. Just in time to hear about the introduction of 5G. Then the upgrades will begin. Chances are the OEMs will be ready with mostly software updates but the antennas may have to be changed. Then 3G will be decommissioned.

So there should be plenty of work. Will the industry be ready to comply? Will the climbers have standard safety compliance? Will the schedules be reasonable? Will the tower crews get paid? We will have to wait and see.

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What are you thinking?

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