Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Communications Solid?

Of the thousands upon thousands of articles written on today’s presidential inauguration, two have caught our eye:

The New York Times article “
Inauguration Crowd Will Test Cellphone Networks,” and eWeek’s “Mobile Messaging to Reach Record High on Inauguration Day

Both stories address the expected overload of wireless networks in and around the DC area for the event. COWS, COLTS and SatCOLTS are in-place, in presumably record numbers – but will they be enough?

According to the New York Times Article It seems as if some of the carriers don’t think so:

“The largest cellphone carriers, fearful that a communicative citizenry will overwhelm their networks, have taken the unusual step of asking people to limit their phone calls and to delay sending photos.”

During huge events, carriers always try to squeeze more into traditional cellular and PCS bands, while most of them have huge swaths of WCS, AWS and other spectrum that sits unused. Rather than issuing statements hinting at their insecurity, would it have been effective to start tapping into these unused assets in preparation?

Of course, it’s easier said than done. As reported, Sprint Nextel already said it had been planning for the inauguration since April and has increased capacity of its cell sites and terrestrial transmission lines to sustain 10 to 15 times the number of users it would serve on its networks during a normal day.

AT&T stated that along the parade route, it was adding 80 percent to the capacity of its 3G network, and the company is improving its slower 2G network by 69 percent and increasing staff by 60 percent. AT&T also claims it has increased coverage at 11 major hotels and deployed two satellite COLTs and two reserve satellite COLTs.

You can only throw so much hardware and personnel at a problem before the solution needs to come from a different angle… it’s time to start thinking about using all technically feasible spectrum in cell communications.

What’s going to happen next inauguration when everyone wants to transmit live video from their phones?

Let’s put all the idle spectrum these carriers hold to use. If the build up to today’s historic situation in DC doesn’t warrant taking these spectrum assets off the shelf and into the networks – what will? A panicked reaction to patch broken networks?

photo credit: U.S. Department of Defense; U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Derrick Brooks (2nd from right) and U.S. Navy Yeoman 1st Class Lasean McCray, playing the roles of President-elect Barak Obama and Michelle Obama, are interviewed during the rehearsal of the 56th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 11, 2009. More than 5,000 men and women in uniform are providing military ceremonial support to the presidential inauguration, a tradition dating back to George Washington's 1789 inauguration. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Adelita C. Mead, U.S. Army. (Released)

Friday, January 16, 2009

South Carolina Offers Statewide EBS spectrum

South Carolina is currently offering statewide coverage of 2.5 GHz EBS spectrum for lease. The state has been collecting the licenses over the past few years and even formed a commission to oversee the management of the assets.

Spectrum Bridge, Inc. recently issued a press release about the offering of SC's holdings. According to the release:

The RFP process, which is currently under way, is
being enhanced via interactive spectrum-mapping technology developed by Spectrum Bridge for its SpecEx™ online spectrum marketplace. All licenses available from the Commission via the RFP can be researched, and customized views can be created, via a dedicated page on the SpecEx.com website. SpecEx attracts a wide range of potential bidders including both traditional and non-traditional 2.5 GHz wireless users.

“South Carolina is offering an impressive portfolio of broadband spectrum, and we are pleased to help them in their efforts to get the most value from their licenses,” said Richard Licursi, CEO of Spectrum Bridge. “The breadth and depth of licenses contained in this RFP represents a once-in-a-lifetime offering of broadband and WiMAX-ready spectrum. We anticipate it will attract interest from a wide range of bidders from within,
and outside of, the wireless industry."
This particular offering offers coverage of approximately 5.6 million people with 67 licenses available in whole or part. The RFP (pdf) has a Feb. 16, 2009 deadline.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Leasing Lessons Learned, part 2 of 2

By: Stephen E. Coran, Attorney, Rini Coran, PC
Part 2 of 2

With AWS-1 and 700 MHz auctions concluded in the past year and auctions for the AWS-3 band expected in 2009, there is an increasing supply of spectrum available for lease. If past is prologue, these are some of the lessons learned that can be applied to future transactions:

Determine Your Priorities – Each party needs to determine its priorities. For the licensee, the need for a lump sum payment may be the most important factor, or maybe the licensee would prefer periodic payments or an upside benefit if the lessee meets certain performance benchmarks. The lessee may insist on having a significant degree of control of the spectrum, or the right to extend the lease. Regardless of the priorities, it is important that these be assessed up front and communicated to the other party to help structure the deal and to determine early in the process if there will be any fundamental differences in the way the parties want to proceed.

Put It All on the Table – Once priorities have been identified and the outline of a transaction is in place, all those priorities and other critical deal points should be communicated to the other party. Raising deal points in piecemeal fashion prolongs the negotiations and limits the ability of parties to compromise on points that already have been decided. More importantly, the party that identifies new issues far into the process risks his credibility and may force the other party to employ the same tactics, delaying the time for an agreement to be reached.

Don’t Skimp on the Due Diligence – Be sure the FCC licenses are in order and there are no problems such as build-out issues, renewal challenges or rule making proceedings that could have a substantial impact on the value of the spectrum. If the license has been partitioned, make sure you understand exactly what you are getting (there are often partitions of undefined areas hidden in the FCC’s database, especially with respect to rural broadband PCS and WCS licenses). The licensee should also seek to mitigate risks regarding the lessee’s financial ability to perform the agreement, especially when payments are scheduled to be paid out over time.

Understand Your Regulatory Obligations – The FCC specifies two kinds of leases. Spectrum manager leases leave ultimate control with the licensee and require only notification to the FCC. De facto transfer leases place most of the regulatory burdens on the lessee and require prior FCC approval, a process that takes about 30 days. Sometimes, the lessee will want to lease the facilities as soon as possible and will not want to wait. In other cases, the lessee will want to exercise more control. In either case, understanding how the FCC process affects the transaction and the lease term are important considerations. In addition, the FCC requires lease agreements to contain specific language concerning the rights of the parties if interference is alleged, and the allocation of responsibilities in dealing with the FCC. Be sure these provisions are in the agreements.

By applying these lessons, lease transactions can be finalized more quickly with a high degree of trust and satisfaction.

Spectrum Bridge has incorporated these and other “lessons learned” in to the entire SpecEx marketplace system to insure that leases (and sales) can be completed as transparently, cost-effectively and quickly as possible. We are here to assist you and make the entire transaction go as smoothly as possible. By leveraging our online databases, standardized agreements, in-house experts and our growing ecosystem of industry partnerships, you can buy, sell and lease spectrum with greater ease and higher confidence than ever before. (Editor’s Note: Rini Coran developed the standardized leasing agreements used in the SpecEx marketplace)

Stephen E. Coran is an attorney at Rini Coran, PC, a Washington, DC law firm that provides strategic, transactional, regulatory and governmental relations counsel to help clients succeed in a dynamic telecommunications, media and technology marketplace. For more information, contact Mr. Coran at (202) 463-4310 or scoran@rinicoran.com or visit http://www.rinicoran.com/.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Leasing Lessons Learned, part 1 of 2

By: Stephen E. Coran, Attorney, Rini Coran, PC
Part 1 of 2

In 2003, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted rules to promote development of “secondary markets” in spectrum. In addition to adding clarity to policies that historically had evolved through court cases and regulatory proceedings, the FCC expanded the scope of its leasing rules, established two different leasing categories designed to place regulatory and operational compliance obligations on the appropriate party and streamlined the process for approving leasing arrangements.

In the past five years, licensees and spectrum users have engaged in thousands of transactions to promote increased commercial use of spectrum. Companies such as Clearwire and Sprint Nextel, which recently combined their 2.5 GHz spectrum assets, have made extensive use of the FCC’s leasing rules to create a nationwide footprint for WiMax services. Other companies such as FiberTower and IDT have successfully marketed their microwave spectrum for backhaul to support mobile and fixed wireless businesses. And the major wireless carriers, such as Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile, have entered into dozens of such arrangements as well.

Among other recent trends, major carriers are beginning to lease spectrum in rural areas to “partners,” who are willing to build the leased spectrum using the major carrier’s technology and to comply with strict service quality requirements, so that incoming customers will have the same high-quality experience when traveling into rural areas as they receive in their urban home markets. These arrangements enable major carriers to focus their own capital spending on their core metro area markets, while presenting to customers a virtual footprint that extends far into the countryside.

More and more, the secondary market appears to be headed in the direction of licensees using the lease process to improve their customers’ experience, and thereby reduce churn, without having to make long-term commitments. Lease arrangements for three to five years enable carriers to address their needs for the foreseeable future without being locked into obligations that may or may not be appropriate in meeting their long-term goals. Short-term arrangements may also provide an easy exit for the lessee, who can meet service obligations, create value and then return the spectrum and monetize its investment...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

SpecEx v1.5 Released

By Michelle Palmer, Director of Software Engineering, Spectrum Bridge

In our latest release of SpecEx, we have reached out to the licensed spectrum community to identify and prioritize a list of system enhancements. Our goal around this effort was to increase the usability of our products and services for both seekers and sellers of spectrum. As a result, we have added valuable data visualization tools and developed intuitive operational methods for member actions.

The following listing describes major enhancements added to the system for release 1.5 of SpecEx.com:

Enhanced Mapping Base Data
We have upgraded our spectrum mapping visualization capabilities by adding satellite imagery and have increased the granularity of our base map to include local roadways and bodies of water. By making these changes we are effectively assisting users in determining if the spectrum they are selling or looking to purchase/lease has any discerning characteristics such as water bodies, high population levels, and varying ground elevations. These capabilities allow for better planning and implementation of a wireless network infrastructure.

Fixed Transmitter Contour Visualization
There has been much excitement about our newest capability of mapping fixed transmitter locations for site based and microwave licenses. We have developed and implemented calculations to display estimated service contours boundaries by frequency and have calculated area (sq miles) and population data for each contour boundary within a license. This powerful feature gives spectrum holders and buyers the capability of truly distinguishing coverage areas for network implementations.

Linkage to FCC Website for Portfolio Tracking
We have enabled users to register their FRN numbers with us for portfolio tracking and have built direct links to the FCC for viewing of license details for a selected call sign. This allows for an up to date view on license and lease details while still allowing for interaction within SpecEx.

Spectrum Holder Comments and Disclosures to Potential Buyers or Lessees
We understand how important it is for potential users of spectrum to understand what it is they are buying, for this reason we have added the capability for holders to specify comments and disclosures to buyers along with updated construction and reporting dates. Disclosures include the ability to specify if the spectrum has a geographic partitioning and/or channel disaggregation.

Spectrum Listing Search
Our spectrum listing search tools now include the ability for users to search market and/or site based listings by geographic area. A spatial query is performed using our underlying databases to show the user the spectrum they need where they need it. This new search type may be used in tandem with our original licensed based search capabilities. The user may specify the number of records to display on the results screen and whether or not they would like to view the listings on a map.

Spectrum Holder Listing Review
Spectrum sellers now have the ability of filtering and sorting their active spectrum listings in a variety of ways (FRN, Call Sign, Bids/Offers, Price, and Listing Creation date). SpecEx will display the total estimated spectrum value based on ask price set for spectrum listings and the filters selected.

Export Capabilities
The addition of export routines allows holders and buyers of spectrum to export their search results and holder listings to a Microsoft Excel worksheet for offline viewing and record keeping.

Future releases for the site are already in the works. We are continuously receiving feedback in the form of our community’s thoughts, opinions, and request for enhancements. We would like to invite you to try our system either on your own or via demonstration and look forward to any comments you may have.

SpecEx has always been about creating a marketplace where holders and seekers of spectrum could come together and leverage the secondary spectrum market; with your help it is successfully happening.