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September 2020

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In This Issue

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FirstNet

FirstNet Network Expands Across North Carolina, New Jersey

First responders in North Carolina and New Jersey are receiving a boost in their wireless ...
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FCC

FCC Agreement Further Streamlines Collocation

The FCC has reached an agreement with two other federal agencies to streamline the review ...
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FCC Security

Ajit Pai: Why the FCC Calls Huawei, ZTE, National Security Threats

When the FCC announced its decision on June 30 to make final its designation of Huawei and...
Attorney General William P. Barr delivers the keynote address at the Department of Justice's China Initiative Conference. - Source: United States Department of Justice
Security

China Seeks to Exploit, Destroy, U.S. Institutions: Barr

The United States’ response to the global ambitions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) w...
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Security

O’Brien: Huawei, ZTE Sell Equipment at a Loss to Facilitate China’s Data Collection

The Chinese Communist Party is collecting your most intimate data — your words, your actio...
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Security

The Free World Must Unite Against Huawei

Keith Krach, undersecretary for economic growth, energy and the environmentSource: U.S. De...
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying's Regular Press Conference on July 17, 2020. - Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China
Security

China Responds to U.S. ‘Repression’ of Huawei

Speeches delivered by U.S. officials in June and July have described what they characteriz...
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5G

New Consortium to Develop a 5G-and-Beyond Strategic Roadmap for Future European Connectivity Systems and Components

The objective of achieving sustainable European technology sovereignty in 5G wireless comm...
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Business

Survey Reveals Contractor Issues With Carrier Onboarding Process

To do business with carriers or tower owners, contractor companies may have to prove they ...
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Business

The Business of Infrastructure

During the past century, the world’s economy has grown in parallel with the growth of comm...
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Edge

Edge Computing Is the New Frontier of the Internet

For Daniel Herb, senior director of product at Vapor IO, the network infrastructure edge l...
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Business

A Multifaceted Approach Boosts Infrastructure Contracting Success

Speaking on Jan. 30 at the AGL Local Summit in Seattle, Josh Broder, CEO of Tilson Technol...
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Software and SAAS

Supporting Remote Team Collaboration with Field Operations Platforms

We’re all Zoomers now. Even before COVID-19, remote collaboration tools like Zoom, Teams a...
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Business

The Frank Principles of Business

Frank was ex-Special Forces with a fine arts degree — an unusual mix. He achieved a lot in...
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FirstNet

FirstNet Network Expands Across North Carolina, New Jersey

First responders in North Carolina and New Jersey are receiving a boost in their wireless communications with the addition of purpose-built cell sites and other network enhancements statewide, according to information released by the First Responder Network (FirstNet) Authority, an independent authority within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The FirstNet Authority (FA) said the new infrastructure also would improve connectivity for residents and visitors. An FA statement said the FirstNet public safety broadband wireless network supports public safety agencies’ COVID-19 disease pandemic emergency response.

“When an emergency happens and lives are on the line, reliable communications are essential,” said Sheriff John Ingram of Brunswick County, president of the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association. “That’s true in rural areas and small towns, just as much as in major cities. Keeping first responders connected is what FirstNet and new cell sites like these are all about.”

FirstNet is the only nationwide, high-speed broadband communications platform dedicated to and purpose-built for America’s first responders and the extended public safety community. It is built with AT&T in a public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority), an independent agency within the federal government.

That is why AT&T has a responsibility unlike any other network provider and unlike commercial networks, FirstNet provides real, dedicated mobile broadband when needed with always-on priority and preemption for first responders. This helps ensure North Carolina first responders connect to the critical information they need, every day and in every emergency. The network also is giving first responders unthrottled access to the nation’s fastest overall network experience.

Building upon AT&T’s current and planned investments in North Carolina, we are actively extending the reach of FirstNet to give agencies large and small the reliable, unthrottled connectivity and modern communications tools they need. Currently well ahead of schedule, the FirstNet build has already brought Alleghany County first responders:

Purpose-built network enhancements — three new FirstNet cell sites are located in Alleghany County; one in Beaufort County and one in Wilkes County. These sites are joining other new facilities in rural North Carolina counties including Ashe, Cleveland, Halifax, Northampton and Warren. These sites were identified by state and public safety stakeholders as priority locations. With FirstNet, it is about where first responders need connectivity. That is what is driving our FirstNet build. These sites were constructed using Band 14 spectrum, as well as AT&T commercial spectrum. Band 14 is nationwide, high-quality spectrum set aside by the government specifically for FirstNet. AT&T also deployed Band 14 in about 400 towns across North Carolina, including Murphy, Weaverville, Lawndale, Red Springs, Hope Mills and Dunn.

Public safety-specific advanced capabilities — FirstNet is the only nationwide platform that gives first responders an entire communication ecosystem of unique benefits including mission-centric devices, certified applications and always-on, 24-hours-a-day priority and preemption across voice and data. This is like giving public safety communications the “lights and sirens” treatment so that they stay connected, no matter the emergency.

Unparalleled emergency support — North Carolina agencies on FirstNet also have continuous access to a nationwide fleet of 76 land-based and airborne deployable network assets. These portable cell sites can either be deployed for planned events or in emergencies at no additional charge. FirstNet Response Operations — led by a group of former first responders — guides the deployment of the FirstNet deployable assets based on the needs of public safety.

Free smartphones for life for public safety agencies — We also have expanded the benefits of FirstNet for North Carolina agencies, spanning law enforcement, fire, EMS, healthcare, hospital emergency departments, emergency management and 9-1-1 operations. Now, they can stay up-to-date with free smartphones for life at no additional cost on their FirstNet Mobile Unlimited plans. This means first responders across agencies of all sizes will have affordable access to their network for decades to come.

“North Carolina’s first responders deserve reliable coverage across the state to help them effectively and efficiently address incidents,” said Trey Rabon, president, AT&T North Carolina. “And with FirstNet, that’s exactly what they’re getting.We couldn’t be more pleased to support the public safety mission and bring the state’s first responders and residents greater access to the connectivity they need. Working with public safety, we have made FirstNet reliable, adaptable and scalable during times of need.”

Six new FirstNet cell sites have launched in the following New Jersey communities:

  • Bergen County: Two new sites were turned on, including one in Lyndhurst that improves coverage around Delafield Avenue, River Road, Route 7 and Valley Brook Avenue. A second site in Ramsey improves coverage around Erie Plaza.
  • Gloucester County: A new site improves coverage around Delsea Drive and Route 55 in Franklinville.
  • Monmouth County: This new site in Wall provides coverage around Campus Parkway and Highway 34.
  • Passaic County: The new site in West Milford improves coverage around Burnt Meadow Road, Crescent Drive, Snake Den Road and surrounding areas.
  • Sussex County: This new site in Sparta improves coverage around Newtown Sparta Road, Sparta Avenue, Andover Road and Sussex Mills Road.

“FirstNet is a dedicated broadband platform for public safety, by public safety,” said FirstNet Authority CEO Edward Parkinson. “We worked hand-in-hand with North Carolina and New Jersey’s public safety communities to understand their needs for the network. And these network enhancements are a prime example of how that input and feedback is becoming reality. We look forward to supporting the two states’ first responders’ use of FirstNet to help them save lives and protect communities.”

The COVID-19 health crisis illustrates precisely why public safety fought for the creation of FirstNet. Where public safety goes, we go. We have answered the call for tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods and other natural disasters. But with COVID-19, it is like experiencing a perpetual emergency in every community across the country. Public safety’s network is being tested in a completely new way, and it is hitting the mark.

Source: FirstNet Authority

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FCC

FCC Agreement Further Streamlines Collocation

The FCC has reached an agreement with two other federal agencies to streamline the review process for adding wireless equipment at existing tower sites covered by the Nationwide Programmatic Agreement for the Collocation of Wireless Antennas (Collocation NPA).

“NATE: The Communications Industry Contractor Association is pleased that the agreement accounts for the realities of next-generation site activities and encourages facilitating collocation on existing structures,” said Todd Schlekeway, NATE’s president and CEO, in a prepared statement. “It is essential that we as a nation commit to facilitating tower modification without excessive regulatory mandates as a critical means of closing the digital divide and enhancing communications capabilities throughout the country.”

Signed in 2001, the Collocation NPA was an agreement between the FCC, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO) that largely deregulated the review of applications for the construction of individual wireless communications facilities, limiting the situations where an applicant would be required to prepare an environmental assessment (EA).

Under the Collocation NPA, a collocation project that involved any excavation outside of a current tower site did not qualify for the established streamlined review process. “That conflicted with the streamlined review process that applies when providers are taking down and replacing a wireless structure — a process that allows for deployment and excavation up to 30 feet outside of the existing site,” The FCC said in a prepared statement.

The newly announced amendment facilitates the collocation of wireless facilities on existing towers by eliminating the requirement for a review under Section 106 of the NHPA for certain collocations that involve a limited expansion beyond the boundaries of a tower site. “Today’s amendment resolves that inconsistency by bringing the Collocation NPA into conformance with the tower replacement review,” the FCC said. Jonathan Adelstein, president and CEO of the Wireless Industry Association, said, “When combined with the FCC’s proposed compound expansion rulemaking, the road is cleared for the siting of generators, mobile edge computing, carrier collocations, competitive operator equipment, and more. In tandem with the rulemaking, it removes federal and local roadblocks for siting the equipment needed to maximize the benefits of 5G in the U.S. and win the global race to 5G.”

Commissioner Brendan Carr led the FCC’s wireless infrastructure modernization efforts. “This is a vitally important agreement to ensure our infrastructure policies can meet the challenges and opportunities of 5G,” he said. “It represents a commonsense approach to encouraging collocations where tower replacements are not necessary. The FCC team and our partners at ACHP and NCSHPO worked closely, and I want to extend my thanks and appreciation for the time and good-faith efforts that enabled us to reach this agreement.”

 

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FCC Security

Ajit Pai: Why the FCC Calls Huawei, ZTE, National Security Threats

When the FCC announced its decision on June 30 to make final its designation of Huawei and ZTE as national security threats, information the agency released did not include a separate comment from its chairman, Ajit Pai. However, Pai appeared on the Fox Business channel’s program, Lou Dobbs Tonight, that night, and elaborated upon the FCC’s decision.

FCC Chairman Ajit PaiFCC Chairman Ajit Pai on the June 30 Lou Dobbs Tonight Fox Business program.“Unlike in Communist China, we have the rule of law in this country,” Pai said. “In November 2019, the FCC proposed to ban the use of FCC funding being used by telecom carriers here in the United States on problematic equipment or services coming from carriers like Huawei and ZTE. We initially proposed to designate Huawei and ZTE as national security threats, but we allowed everyone to make their case.”

In the proceeding, the chairman said, the FCC heard from the executive branch, Congress, other stakeholders, Huawei and ZTE. He said the overwhelming weight of the evidence suggested that Huawei and ZTE would be national security threats, which is why the FCC moved forward with a firm designation to that effect. Thus, as of July 1, U.S. telecom carriers are not allowed to use Universal Service Fund monies on equipment or services from the two companies.

Pai said that the FCC is looking at the overall security of U.S. communications networks. He said that during 2019, the agency began discussions whether to extend the prohibition to include telecom network use of equipment or services even if the FCC does not fund them. He said the FCC has been working with Congress on so-called rip-and-replace legislation to finance the removal of problematic equipment. In the chairman’s view, the bottom line is that no matter what company it is, no matter what country that company is located in, if it is compromising the security of the United States’ communications networks, it is not allowable.

“What we found was that these two companies, Huawei and ZTE, had ties to the Chinese Communist Party and ties to the Chinese military apparatus — the People’s Liberation Army,” Pai said. “In addition, they are obligated under Chinese law: If they get a request from the Chinese secret police intelligence services, they must comply with it, and they are prohibited from disclosing the fact of that request to any of their customers.”

Especially with small rural telecom carriers, Pai said, it is not a risk the FCC believes is worth taking — a risk that he said could allow installation of backdoors, infection of the network with malware and the theft of intellectual property. He said the risks are not worth taking in the United States or elsewhere in the world.

“Based on my personal conversations with some of my foreign counterparts, we have gotten a good response from many of our allies throughout the world,” Pai said. “I talked with folks from South America, Europe and Asia. Those conversations are starting to have traction. Recently, Singapore, for example, took a step with one of its major carriers to limit Huawei’s installation of 5G equipment. The Indian government banned 59 Chinese-based mobile apps, including companies like Tik Tok, from their networks altogether.”

There is a growing recognition around the world, Pai said, that the Chinese Communist Party presents a unique threat to communications networks. “Here in the United States, we are sending a signal that we are not going to tolerate that threat any longer,” he said.

 

Attorney General William P. Barr delivers the keynote address at the Department of Justice's China Initiative Conference. - Source: United States Department of Justice
Attorney General William P. Barr delivers the keynote address at the Department of Justice's China Initiative Conference. Source: United States Department of Justice
Security

China Seeks to Exploit, Destroy, U.S. Institutions: Barr

The United States’ response to the global ambitions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will have historic implications and will determine whether the United States and its liberal democratic allies will continue to shape their own destiny or whether the CCP and its autocratic tributaries will control the future, according to U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr.

Attorney General William BarrU.S. Attorney General William Barr at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library.Speaking at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on July 16, Barr said the CCP rules with an iron fist over one of the great ancient civilizations of the world. He said it seeks to make use of the immense power, productivity and ingenuity of the Chinese people to overthrow the rules-based international system and to make the world safe for dictatorship.

On June 24, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien spoke about the CCP’s ideology and global ambitions, saying, “The days of American passivity and naivety regarding the People’s Republic of China are over.” On July 7, FBI Director Christopher Wray described how the CCP pursues its ambitions through industrial espionage, theft, extortion, cyberattacks and malign influence activities. A speech that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered on July 23 summarized what is at stake for the United States and the free world. “I hope these speeches will inspire the American people to reevaluate their relationship with China, so long as it continues to be ruled by the Communist Party,” Barr said.

The attorney general said China’s economy has quietly grown from about 2 percent of the world’s GDP in 1980 to nearly 20 percent today. He said that by some estimates, based on purchasing power parity, the Chinese economy is already larger than that of the United States. Barr stated that the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, who he said has centralized power to a degree not seen since the dictatorship of Mao Zedong, now speaks openly of China moving “closer to center stage,” “building a socialism that is superior to capitalism” and replacing the American Dream with the “Chinese Solution.”

“The People’s Republic of China is now engaged in an aggressive, orchestrated, whole-of-government — indeed, whole-of-society — campaign to seize the commanding heights of the global economy and to surpass the United States as the world’s preeminent superpower,” Barr said.

Barr said that a centerpiece of this effort is the Communist Party’s initiative, Made in China 2025, a plan for PRC domination of high-tech industries like robotics, advanced information technology, aviation and electric vehicles. Backed by hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies, he said, this initiative poses a real threat to U.S. technological leadership. He said that despite World Trade Organization rules prohibiting quotas for domestic output, the Made in China 2025 initiative sets targets for domestic market share sometimes as high as 70 percent in core components and basic materials for industries such as robotics and telecommunications. It is clear that the PRC seeks not merely to join the ranks of other advanced industrial economies, but to replace them altogether, Barr said.

“For American companies in the global marketplace, free and fair competition with China has long been a fantasy,” Barr said. “To tilt the playing field to its advantage, China’s communist government has perfected a wide array of predatory and often unlawful tactics: currency manipulation, tariffs, quotas, state-led strategic investment and acquisitions, theft and forced transfer of intellectual property, state subsidies, dumping, cyberattacks and espionage. About 80 percent of all federal economic espionage prosecutions have alleged conduct that would benefit the Chinese state, and about 60 percent of all trade secret theft cases have had a nexus to China.”

The attorney general said the PRC also seeks to dominate key trade routes and infrastructure in Eurasia, Africa, and the Pacific. He said it spread its power and influence through what looks like foreign aid, but that actually are investments designed to serve the PRC’s strategic interests and domestic economic needs through a form of modern-day colonialism.

“Just as consequential, however, are the PRC’s plans to dominate the world’s digital infrastructure through its Digital Silk Road initiative,” Barr said. “I have previously spoken at length about the grave risks of allowing the world’s most powerful dictatorship to build the next generation of global telecommunications networks, known as 5G. Perhaps less widely known are the PRC’s efforts to surpass the United States in other cutting-edge fields like artificial intelligence (AI).”

Whichever nation emerges as the global leader in AI, Barr said, will be best positioned to unlock not only its considerable economic potential, but also a range of military applications, such as the use of computer vision to gather intelligence.

In Barr’s view, the United States is dangerously dependent on the PRC for rare earth materials used in consumer electronics, electric vehicles, medical devices and military hardware.

America made China’s meteoric economic rise possible, the attorney general said, with a free flow of aid and trade. Barr cited how China’s communist leaders lured American business with the promise of market access, and then, having profited from American investment and expertise, turned increasingly hostile.

“The PRC used tariffs and quotas to pressure American companies to give up their technology and form joint ventures with Chinese companies,” he said. “Regulators then discriminated against American firms, using tactics like holding up permits. Yet few companies, even Fortune 500 giants, have been willing to bring a formal trade complaint for fear of angering Beijing.”

The attorney general said China has become the United States’ largest supplier of medical devices, while at the same time discriminating against American medical companies in China. He said America also depends on Chinese supply chains for pharmaceuticals. Meanwhile, he said, Chinese nationals working as employees at U.S. pharma companies have been caught stealing trade secrets both in America and in China, and the CCP has long engaged in cyber-espionage and hacking of U.S. academic medical centers and healthcare companies.

“The ultimate ambition of China’s rulers isn’t to trade with the United States, it is to raid the United States,” Barr said.

“Although Americans hoped that trade and investment would liberalize China’s political system, the fundamental character of the regime has never changed,” the attorney general said. “As its ruthless crackdown of Hong Kong demonstrates once again, China is no closer to democracy today than it was in 1989 when tanks confronted pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square. It remains an authoritarian, one-party state in which the Communist Party wields absolute power, unchecked by popular elections, the rule of law or an independent judiciary. The CCP surveils its own people and assigns them social credit scores, employs an army of government censors, tortures dissidents and persecutes religious and ethnic minorities, including a million Uighurs detained in indoctrination and labor camps.”

Additional points from Barr’s speech:

  • Reacting to the size of the Chinese market and requests to censor films if they are to be shown in China, Hollywood now self-censors scripts in a massive propaganda coup for the Chinese Communist Party.
  • Corporations such as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Apple have shown themselves all too willing to collaborate with the CCP.
  • The CCP has stepped up behind-the-scenes efforts to cultivate and coerce American business executives to further its political objectives — efforts that are all the more pernicious because they are largely hidden from public view.
  • The CCP also seeks to infiltrate, censor or co-opt American academic and research institutions.

“Globalization does not always point in the direction of greater freedom,” Barr said. “A world marching to the beat of Communist China’s drums will not be a hospitable one for institutions that depend on free markets, free trade or the free exchange of ideas.”

The American people are more attuned than ever to the threat that the Chinese Communist Party poses “not only to our way of life, but to our very lives and livelihoods,” Barr said. “And they will increasingly call out corporate appeasement.”

The attorney general said that if individual companies are afraid to make a stand, there is strength in numbers. He quoted Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. as saying, “Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.”

Despite years of acquiescence to communist authorities in China, Barr said, American tech companies may finally be finding their courage through collective action. He said that following the recent imposition of the PRC’s draconian national security law in Hong Kong, many big tech companies, including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Zoom and LinkedIn, reportedly announced that they would temporarily suspend compliance with governmental requests for user data. True to form, Barr said, communist officials have threatened imprisonment for noncompliant company employees.

“We will see if these companies hold firm,” the attorney general said. “I hope they do. If they stand together, they will provide a worthy example for other American companies in resisting the Chinese Communist Party’s corrupt and dictatorial rule.”

As Barr concluded his remarks, he said, “The CCP has launched an orchestrated campaign, across all of its many tentacles in Chinese government and society, to exploit the openness of our institutions in order to destroy them. To secure a world of freedom and prosperity for our children and grandchildren, the free world will need its own version of the whole-of-society approach, in which the public and private sectors maintain their essential separation but work together collaboratively to resist domination and to win the contest for the commanding heights of the global economy. America has done that before. If we rekindle our love and devotion for our country and each other, I am confident that we — the American people, American government and American business together — can do it again. Our freedom depends on it.”

 

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Security

O’Brien: Huawei, ZTE Sell Equipment at a Loss to Facilitate China’s Data Collection

The Chinese Communist Party is collecting your most intimate data — your words, your actions, your purchases, your whereabouts, your health records, your social media posts, your texts, and mapping your network of friends, family and acquaintances, Robert O’Brien, the national security advisor, said in a speech delivered in Phoenix on June 24 at the Arizona Commerce Authority. He said the CCP accomplishes this goal, in part, by subsidizing hardware, software, telecommunications, and even genetics companies.

“As a result, corporations such as Huawei and ZTE undercut competitors on price and install their equipment around the globe at a loss,” O’Brien said. “This has the side effect of putting out of business American manufacturers of telecom hardware and has made it very difficult for Nokia and Ericsson. Why do they do it? Because it is not telecom hardware or software profits the CCP is after, it is your data. They use ‘backdoors’ built into the products to obtain that data.”

When the Chinese Communist Party cannot buy your data, O’Brien said, it steals it. He said that in 2014, the CCP hacked Anthem insurance, collecting sensitive information on 80 million Americans. In 2015, the CCP hacked the Office of Personnel Management, which holds security clearance information, acquiring sensitive data on 20 million Americans who work for the federal government. In 2017, it hacked Equifax, obtaining the names, birthdates, social security numbers, and credit scores of 145 million Americans, O’Brien said.

In 2019, the CCP hacked Marriot, gathering information on 383 million guests, including their passport numbers, according to the national security advisor. And, in 2016, he said, a Chinese company even bought the dating app Grindr to harvest its data, including the HIV status of users, before the U.S. government forced a divestiture on national security grounds. “These are just a few of the instances we know about,” he said.

Other speeches delivered by FBI Director Christopher Wray and U.S. Attorney General William Barr in June and July have described what they characterized as threats by China of retaliation against U.S. companies. A fourth planned speech on the theme is yet to come from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Hua Chunying, contradicted O’Brien during a July 17 press conference.

“On the issue of Huawei, the United States has not a single piece of evidence that Huawei poses a threat to its national security,” Hua said. “Huawei is a Chinese company, more advanced than its U.S. peers in 5G sector, and that’s where the United States believes it has got wrong. The United States cannot tolerate anything better than it, so it has abused its state power to oppress Huawei on trumped-up charges. This is economic bullying, a blatant rejection of the market economy principles that the United States has always prided itself on. The world sees this very clearly.”

 

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Security

The Free World Must Unite Against Huawei

China simply cannot be trusted to handle the most private information of Western democracies.

Keith Krach is undersecretary for economic growth, energy and the environmentKeith Krach, undersecretary for economic growth, energy and the environmentSource: U.S. Department of StateThe United Kingdom’s decision to reconsider the use of Huawei in its 5G wireless communications networks resulted in a predictable backlash from China with Beijing threatening to punish HSBC and pull investment from major British infrastructure projects. It appears the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sees much more than mere financial benefit in having Huawei embedded in foreign 5G networks. It’s no wonder that so many countries are re-evaluating their partnerships with Chinese firms.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab recently remarked that it wasn’t just the devastation of COVID-19 that took the shine off China, but the fact that the CCP didn’t live up to the agreements that it made. The crackdown on Hong Kong is a case in point. As Raab said: “It comes down to an issue of trust. Otherwise, why would anyone trust them with other deals we might make?”

Governments and businesses around the world are asking a similar question regarding 5G systems that carry their most private information and intellectual property: Who do we trust? The primary choices are two world-class European vendors, Ericsson and Nokia, and two Chinese companies, Huawei and ZTE. Both Huawei and ZTE are required to abide by China’s National Intelligence Law, by turning over any and all data to the Chinese government upon request.

U.S. telecommunications service providers have chosen wisely. They are successfully deploying Ericsson and Nokia throughout their 5G systems and are working with other trusted firms for further expansion. They understand that a secure “edge” is just as important as a secure “core”, because it’s all part of an integrated system. And they know that talk of “secret back doors” is irrelevant because software updates provide a front door every day through which 5G vendors have the capability to pull data and interfere with networks.

Initiatives, such as those by the newly formed Open RAN Policy Coalition, show great promise in accelerating innovative, secure and trusted alternatives to Huawei. The United States looks forward to collaborating with our partners in Europe and around the globe to further advance these technologies. The U.S. government is also accelerating its efforts to protect 5G security, as exemplified by three recent announcements.

First, we secured a $12 billion investment from the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company to build a leading-edge semiconductor foundry in America, and bring eight of their suppliers with them, creating thousands of jobs.

Second, we unveiled a new rule requiring chip companies to obtain a license from the United States to sell certain 5G chips to Huawei that can only be produced with sophisticated U.S. technology. It is imperative that Europe adopt similarly stringent export controls to keep critical tech out of the hands of the CCP.

Third, we unveiled the 5G Clean Path initiative, requiring all data entering or exiting U.S. diplomatic facilities to transit only through trusted equipment, thus reducing the risk of Huawei or the CCP siphoning away our sensitive information. The United States encourages all of our partners — both companies and countries — to adopt similar 5G Clean Path models. Many already are. Across Europe, 5G clean countries are emerging that allow only trusted vendors in their 5G networks. The largest telecom companies across the globe, including Orange in France, Reliance in India and O2 in the United Kingdom, are also becoming clean telcos.

The coercion experienced by the United Kingdom is only one of the authoritarian tactics that China employs in its battle to dominate 5G. Concealment, coercion and cooption are a common three-pronged strategy of the CCP, including in its COVID-19 response. The CCP brazenly concealed the initial outbreak, coopted the crisis to turn a profit and coerced other nations through “face mask diplomacy” to do its bidding. Those three strategies are also on display in Hong Kong.

To prevent CCP authoritarianism from winning the day on 5G, we must maintain solidarity. The secretary general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, recently remarked on the China challenge: “We have to make sure that Europe and North America stand together.” As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently said, “The United States stands with our allies and partners against the CCP’s bullying. and we stand ready to assist our UK friends with any needs they have.” That goes for all freedom-loving countries, because the CCP’s 5G strategy is a real and urgent threat to all who value liberty and justice around the world.

Source: U.S. Department of State. Keith Krach is undersecretary for economic growth, energy and the environment.

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying's Regular Press Conference on July 17, 2020. - Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying's Regular Press Conference on July 17, 2020. Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China
Security

China Responds to U.S. ‘Repression’ of Huawei

Speeches delivered by U.S. officials in June and July have described what they characterized as threats by China of retaliation against U.S. companies, and Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that is typical distortion of facts and stark hegemonism. U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, FBI Director Christopher Wray and U.S. Attorney General William Barr and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered the speeches.

“Have you not seen how the U.S. government spared no efforts to repress Chinese companies including Huawei?” asked Hua. “Have you not seen how they crossed every line, violated human rights to intimidate and arrest Chinese business executives, and coerced and co-opted its minion to illegally detain Ms. Meng Wanzhou? I wonder has any American business had the same treatment or experience in China? China will not go low as the United States does. Instead, we will firmly advance all-round opening-up, foster an open economy at a higher level and create a level playing field for all businesses, Chinese and foreign alike. That being said, we will never allow the United States to rampantly trample on Chinese companies’ legitimate rights. We have every right to say no to bullying and injustice.”

[The “minion” to which Hua refers is the government of Canada. Meng has permanent residency in Canada. She is deputy chair of the board and chief financial officer of Huewei. Canadian officials arrested Meng in December 2018 upon the request of the U.S. Justice Department, which accused her of breaking Iranian sanctions. Since then, she has been resisting extradition to the United States.]

During a press conference on July 17, a reporter from Kyodo News cited a report that, starting on Aug. 13, the U.S. administration will put in force the National Defense Authorization Act to prohibit the U.S. government from purchasing products or services from any company that uses products of Huawei, ZTE and three other Chinese companies.

“On the issue of Huawei, the United States has not a single piece of evidence that Huawei poses a threat to its national security,” Hua said. “Huawei is a Chinese company, more advanced than its U.S. peers in 5G sector, and that’s where the United States believes it has got wrong. The United States cannot tolerate anything better than it, so it has abused its state power to oppress Huawei on trumped-up charges. This is economic bullying, a blatant rejection of the market economy principles that the United States has always prided itself on. The world sees this very clearly.”

The foreign ministry spokesperson said China urges the United States to stop abusing the concept of national security, stop slandering China and unjustifiably oppressing certain Chinese companies, and provide a fair, just and non-discriminatory environment for Chinese companies to conduct normal business in the United States.

“We all hope that China will provide a fair, just and non-discriminatory environment for U.S. companies,” Hua said. “But U.S. companies should also put themselves in the shoes of Huawei and think about this question: Is there any company from any other country rather than China, that has been treated so unjustly, unfairly and brutally in the United States, like Huawei and other Chinese companies? I think countries and people with a sense of justice should stand forward and make appeal.”

A reporter from Agence France-Press ask Hua to comment on Barr having said, in his speech, that he warned that China would take advantage of globalization to spread its political ideology. In her response, Hua alluded to the speeches not only by Barr, but also by O’Brien and Wray.

“Many U.S. senior officials have been attacking China with groundless criticism,” Hua said. “They are merely following a threadbare script to distort facts and deflect attention. The world has seen through their tricks.”

A Bloomberg reporter asked Hua to respond to Barr’s claim that hackers linked to China have targeted U.S. universities and companies in a bid to steal intellectual property tied to coronavirus treatments. The reporter further asked how China responds to Barr’s additional comments that the Chinese Communist Party has used public threats of retaliation and has barred market access to exert influence over U.S. companies.

“We keep stressing that China is a staunch defender of cybersecurity,” Hua said. “China has long been a major victim of cyber theft and attacks. We firmly oppose and fight all forms of cyber attacks and thefts.”

Hua said that given the virtual nature of cyberspace and that the many online actors are difficult to trace, it is important to have enough evidence when investigating and identifying cyber-related incidents. She said that groundless speculations should not be allowed. According to Hua, certain U.S. politicians are so irresponsible that they will say whatever needs to be said to make China a target.

“Those who have long been following cybersecurity issues have not forgotten the PRISM program,” Hua said. “They must have also heard of the Equation Group. Yahoo recently reported on CIA’s secret authorization to conduct cyber attacks. The United States and a few followers randomly wage cyber warfare against other countries. They are the biggest threat to peace and security in the global cyberspace.”

[Under the National Security Agency’s PRISM program, the NSA, FBI and CIA gather and search through Americans’ international emails, internet calls and chats without obtaining a warrant, according to Patrick Toomey, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. Research into the Equation Group, so named by the Moscow-based Kasperky Lab computer antivirus software provider, led Kaspersky to conclude it is “probably the most sophisticated computer attack group in the world,” according to author Dan Goodin, writing for ARS Technica in 2015.]

The ministry spokesperson said that cybersecurity is a global issue that bears on the shared interests of all countries and should be jointly guarded by the international community. She said the confrontational mindset, reminiscent of the Cold War, will only poison the atmosphere for cooperation and will not be conducive to the peace and security of cyberspace.

 

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5G

New Consortium to Develop a 5G-and-Beyond Strategic Roadmap for Future European Connectivity Systems and Components

The objective of achieving sustainable European technology sovereignty in 5G wireless communications and beyond receives support from a consortium of European companies, trade associations and membership organizations. Called COREnect and defined as European core technologies for future connectivity systems and components, the consortium announced on July 1 that the European Commission selected its project to be part of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research & Innovation program. The European Commission is the European Union's politically independent executive arm. The European Commission is responsible for drawing up proposals for new European legislation, and it implements the decisions of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union.

Nokia, a Finnish multinational telecommunications, information technology and consumer electronics company, released information about COREnect. III-V Lab, a Nokia subsidiary, represents Nokia in the consortium.

During a two-year COREnect coordination and support project that started on July 1, European industry and R&D leaders from the microelectronics and telecommunications sectors will jointly develop a high-level strategic roadmap of core technologies for future connectivity systems and components, targeting the next generation telecommunications networks and services, according to the Nokia statement.

“This roadmap will provide the foundations for a sustainable European technology sovereignty in 5G and beyond,” the information from Nokia reads. “It will promote innovation and business opportunities, including for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and contribute to build or reinforce European leadership in these areas. It will cover the full 5G value chain including materials, components, subsystem integration, connectivity platforms and will address vertical industry sectors in areas such as health, energy, manufacturing, automotive and smart cities, among others.”

According to Nokia, over the next 10 years, 5G and then 6G are expected to connect billions of devices, digitize industries and bring social and economic advances in many vertical sectors. Developing the necessary core technologies is crucial for Europe to decrease its dependence on non-European technologies, the statement from Nokia reads. It says that by bringing together the microelectronics industry (electronic chipmakers) and the telecommunications industry, COREnect will support the necessary coordinated and concrete actions to be taken in Europe.

The release spells out that the COREnect consortium involves prominent European industrial and academia players from the telecommunications sector (Ericsson, III-V Lab/Nokia and Technische Universität Dresden/ Barkhausen Institut), from the microelectronics sector (Infineon, NXP, STMicroelectronics, imec and CEA), industrial associations representing the smart networks and services and key digital technologies communities (5G IA and AENEAS), a leading industry player in one of the vertical markets for 5G (Bosch) and one of the major promoters of the European SME ICT community (Australo Interinnov Marketing Lab).

“COREnect has the potential to significantly impact European research and innovation (R&I) and the industry landscape of future connectivity systems, strengthening Europe’s position in the global digital scene,” the Nokia release reads. “Among its activities, the COREnect project will conduct a comprehensive landscape and impact analysis, encompassing the whole value chain from microelectronics ecosystems to the design of future connectivity platforms at system level and vertical applications. The definition of the strategic roadmap will involve three expert groups, supported by COREnect workshops and community building, ensuring coordination among industry and academia actors.”

In addition, the consortium will reach out to communities in related fields such as high-performance computing, artificial intelligence, photonics, internet of things and cloud computing, according to Nokia. “The overall vision and strategy will be published on the COREnect website, and the project will communicate extensively with national and international target groups throughout industry and wider society,” the statement from Nokia reads.

 

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Business

Survey Reveals Contractor Issues With Carrier Onboarding Process

To do business with carriers or tower owners, contractor companies may have to prove they comply with certain requirements. Third parties, such as Avetta, Browz and ISNetworld, perform the process, known as onboarding, on behalf of the contractors.

A membership organization, NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association, conducted what it called the 3rd Party Compliance Company Experience Survey in May 2020. The survey asked about onboarding problems called pain points and assessed the effect that the sometimes problematic onboarding practices have on NATE’s member contractor firms.

“As the work gets more diverse, onboarding has become a challenging issue,” said Todd Schlekeway, NATE president and CEO. “We are working with the on-boarding companies and the tier-one wireless companies to streamline the process and make it easier to navigate.”

The time it takes to fill out the compliance survey varies from 6 to 10 hours (18.4 percent) to more than 20 to 40 hours (28.43 percent) up to a period in excess of 40 hours (22.06 percent). Most renewals take 6 to 10 hours (30.54 percent). A typical response time from a third-party compliance company to a problem is within one week (58.91 percent).

“Our typical member doesn’t have the staff to spend hours and hours uploading all this documentation,” Schlekeway said. “We just want to make the process easier at the end of the day.”

The survey quantifies anecdotal information about the tension between the contractor companies and the third-party compliance companies. More than 73 percent of the survey respondents said they did not feel as though third-party compliance companies treat them as customers, and 71 percent said that their services match somewhat with the questionnaires.

“The survey is a benchmark that we can refer to as we seek to make favorable change,” Schlekeway said. “We’re working toward a positive solution. I think it is something we can all tackle collectively.”

The top three issues or pain points the respondents would like to see addressed include costs, the number of points of contact and customer service. Better explanations of the process status, non-applicable requirements and insurance requirements were also among the issues contractors would like to see addressed.

“The survey is a snapshot in time of the issues concerning compliance, such as customer service, lagging response times and the need for a single point of contact,” said Schlekeway. “If there is a red flag in the onboarding process, contractors need a quick resolution. It delays their ability to work for that customer. Our long-term goal is to eliminate the pain points and reduce some of the costs of the service.”

The NATE survey said more than 73 percent of respondents are in favor of their wireless customers standardizing the baseline onboarding requirements, safety manual, training requirements and certifications. To aid in the compliance process, NATE is updating its safety manual and cross-referencing it with all of the onboarding requirements.

“At NATE, we are investing in this effort in a major way ourselves by creating a more standardized, robust safety manual that our members can use as a reference in their efforts to comply,” Schlekeway said. “The updated NATE safety and health manual, which will be available to members, will be in line with many of the requirements of the onboarding companies.”

Additionally, NATE is having success in meeting with the tier-one carriers to work on streamlining the onboarding process, according the Schlekeway. “We are going to bat for our members,” he said. “There is some positive traction on the part of the carriers to standardize some of what they are requiring to make it is consistent within our industry.”

 

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September 2020

Site Name: Public Safety South Frio Tower

Site Owner: City of San Antonio, Texas

Height: 500 feet

Location: San Antonio, Texas

Year Constructed: 2011

Photography by Sabre Industries

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Business

The Business of Infrastructure

As part of the business of network infrastructure and especially with its 10 gigabits-per-second (10G) service initiative, the fiber-optic cable telecommunications industry stands ready to play a role in the future of 5G wireless communications.

During the past century, the world’s economy has grown in parallel with the growth of communication networks. Cable powers commerce and entertainment, enables people to connect regardless of distance and allows new ideas to spread faster than ever before. Most recently, we have seen cable’s importance demonstrated in relation to the COVID-19 coronavirus disease pandemic — while healthcare professionals and the government work to address the virus, cable has kept people working and learning safely at home.

How Cable Fuels the Economy

As with all industries, cable has direct, linked and indirect effects on the economy. Direct effects include things such as employee income, where cable professionals reinvest the money they earn on goods and services for themselves.

Cable jobs range from engineers to customer service operators to the thousands of operators climbing and installing cable lines that keep us connected. In addition, the industry has put special focus on helping veterans translate their skills into the workforce, connecting them with fellowships, programs that provide hands-on and classroom training, and even workshops for mock interviews and help with writing resumes.

The linked effect involves cable’s tie to allied industries. For cable, that includes everything from equipment manufacturers to content providers, such as TV networks and even national sports franchises. The subscription TV program network industry has a substantial economic effect of its own — one that is both linked to and distinct from its role as a supplier to the cable industry.

Finally, an indirect effect is the economic activity generated by companies that rely on cable. With the ubiquity of the internet, that is nearly every industry today.

According to research from the NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, the cable industry has a total annual economic effect of $450 billion; it contributes roughly $3.5 billion in fees to state and local governments; and it supports nearly 3 million jobs across the country. Nevertheless, as with transportation systems and electricity grids, communication networks tend to be capital-intensive and require high-cost investments. In fact, according to the same NCTA research, the cable industry has invested $290 billion in infrastructure during the past two decades. Now, let us look at mobility and cable’s tie to the wireless world.

Backhaul, Internet and Business

A significant portion of this infrastructure is known as backhaul, which can include wired, fiber-optic and wireless components and which supports the growth and stability of communications networks. Without backhaul infrastructure, it would be difficult to prepare current broadband networks to continue to meet rising bandwidth demands. Backhaul and other infrastructure investments are critically important because data use across the states has skyrocketed and — with the advent of 5G wireless communications, cable’s 10G platform and countless new internet-of-things (IoT) devices hitting the market each day — shows no signs of slowing down.

Although cable was once synonymous with cable entertainment-focused television, today the argument could be made that cable’s most profound contribution to society lies in the internet. The overall value of the internet is the connectivity and countless applications and opportunities it brings. This perceived value varies from person to person and could include a family-run business, providing education or enabling services or products of a globally traded public company. It is truly hard to overstate how much the business world relies on the internet today.

Sometimes categorized as the “fourth industrial revolution,” the utility of the internet is already changing the way we work, socialize, learn and share information — and yet we are still in the early stages of the transformation, and technologists agree there is more to come. In IoT Analytics’ 2018 “State of the IoT & Short-Term Outlook” report, researchers predicted the IoT market alone would reach $1,567B by 2025.

Technically Speaking

People are at the core of today’s communication networks, but it is also important to note the technology and recent advancements that are sustaining this connectivity. At its most basic, the internet is a large network of computers communicating together, linked physically by Ethernet cables or wirelessly using a variety of methods, including Wi-Fi and LTE systems.

When massive internet use started taking shape, people accessed the net via dial-up connections. Millennials and above will remember it was both painfully slow and tied up your home phone line. When broadband internet came along, it seemed like nothing short of magic. Suddenly, we could stay online as long as we wanted without blocking the phone, and we could depend on fast connectivity to be there when we needed it.

What is truly miraculous — and bodes well for the future — is that this transformation largely took place in the span of less than one generation. Using the trademarked Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) and fiber-based technologies, cable companies can serve more than 90 percent of U.S. homes. Soon, internet speeds will be reaching multigigabit speeds.

Between 2016 and 2020, cable networks offering 1-gigabit service jumped from just 5 percent to 80 percent of the country. Earlier this year, CableLabs published specifications for DOCSIS 4.0, which will both increase upstream speeds to 6 Gbps and unify two competing technologies: full-duplex DOCSIS and extended-spectrum DOCSIS. The sky is the limit as our talented engineers continue to enhance, scale and deploy next-generation networks to enable the future.

A Future Powered by 10G

The 10G (10 gigabits-per-second) platform is a joint cable industry initiative and the broadband technology of the future. It promises to deliver unprecedented speed, increased capacity, lower latency and enhanced security that will help to bring about a wide variety of services and applications. From virtual reality and autonomous vehicles to remote health care diagnostics and the ability to better age in place, 10G will enable many innovations that are currently difficult to support on a wide-scale basis.

With a high-speed network that covers most of America, wireless operators may use broadband for mobile backhaul. This would reduce the strain on the mobile network and improve wireless service — in short, it is not difficult to imagine that 10G broadband technology is also likely to play a role in 5G’s wireless future.

The cable industry is an important economic driver of the U.S. economy and the global economy at large. As the internet’s growth during the past two decades demonstrates, expanded connectivity boosts innovation and entrepreneurship and brings economic growth and prosperity.

Through aggressive investments in infrastructure and its efforts to deploy innovative services to consumers, the industry has fostered the development of a highly competitive telecommunications market and one that powers the connectivity that allows other industries to flourish. The future is bright for the business of network infrastructure.

Derek DiGiacomo is the senior director of energy management programs and business continuity at SCTE-ISBE. SCTE is the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers, and ISBE is the International Society of Broadband Experts, the international arm of SCTE and a technology society. SCTE-ISBE is a global not-for-profit membership organization for cable telecommunications. For more information, visit www.scte.org.

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Edge

Edge Computing Is the New Frontier of the Internet

Bringing compute power closer to users holds the key to countless applications that depend on 5G wireless communications.

For Daniel Herb, senior director of product at Vapor IO, the network infrastructure edge lies in between the regional data centers (internet exchange points) and the last-mile networks, often referred to as the middle mile. Speaking in January at the Seattle AGL Local Summit, Herb said that micro data centers represent neutral infrastructure at the edge. He described his company as a start-up that provides micro data centers, networking and exchange at the edge of the access network.

During the past five to 10 years, Herb said, the definition of the edge has been interpreted differently, and a big aspect of that interpretation is location. He said Vapor IO focuses on the opportunity to build at the edge of the access networks.

“A big question we are asked,” Herb said, “is how quickly can Vapor IO be at scale? For many of the use cases, if you’re a hyperscaler, if you’re a service provider, being in a particular location is a great proof point, but it is not a commercial offering. To be a commercial offering, you need to be present across the country. The race right now, is how can we, collectively as an industry, get there?”

Ecosystem-driven Use Cases

Meanwhile, Herb said, the use cases Vapor IO is seeing are what he called ecosystem-driven. He said everything Vapor IO is delivering requires not only the wireless carriers, wireless infrastructure operators and fiber route providers, but it comes part and parcel with cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.

Daniel HerbIt is important that edge compute providers make sure to build for tooling the cloud community uses.— Daniel Herb, senior director of product at Vapor IOPhoto by Don BishopVapor IO is trying to be cognizant that most of the use cases require coordination across the ecosystem, Herb said. He said his company is seeing a lot of remote control for automated vehicles and other devices that are taking the place of individuals in dangerous conditions. He mentioned the factory floor and towers as two environments where use cases that were driven from centralized networks are now coming out to the network edge. He said his company also sees a lot more decentralization of macro centers where the content delivery networks (CDNs) and the hyperscale community wants to distribute content as quickly as they can using the computer that they already are running.

Single Logical Fabric

It is important that edge compute providers make sure to build for tooling the cloud community uses, Herb said, so the edge experience fits with the way the business process rolls today. He said that it is critical to build out collectively in a way that stitches every edge location into a single logical fabric. This will allow the acceleration of edge deployment to the scale that everyone wants, he said

Despite doing business as a small company, Vapor IO is building out something that is not at all small, Herb said. “As an industry we’re at the early stages of the 5G rollout for wireless infrastructure, with roughly the same dimension of investment and build from the IT and the cloud side driven by digital transformation,” he said.

Shared Infrastructure

“As those worlds come together, we have to be prepared to move quickly with the large players with whom we are making long-term commitments,” Herb said. “We need to be able to put infrastructure in the ground that will be persistent and dependable. Building the edge will require a lot more than what exists today. Having been early in the wireless industry at the beginning of smartphone and LTE adaption 15 years ago, I remember that we did not foresee the way that Netflix and YouTube would change how we consumed content and what that would mean for networks. The idea that this sort of infrastructure could be shared and collectively used was derided, the same way Uber and Airbnb were in their early days.”

Opportunities and Challenges

Herb said the build out of the edge has created a moment of opportunity and challenge. He said he has noticed that the companies, ranging from chipset and infrastructure to network and cloud, that are investing and building now are typically the ones that participated in the last lift up. They saw that happen, Herb said, and they realized it was happening again.

“From our perspective, that has meant working with a broad ecosystem, being ready to go and making sure that we never become the bottleneck because the edge has to be made of shared infrastructure,” Herb said. “This is never going to work if each individual company or even market sector tries to do it on its own.”

Neighborhood Presence

Jonathan Kramer, a senior partner at the Los Angeles-based Telecom Law Firm, which represents local governments, asked Herb how close micro data centers must be placed to the network edge. Expressing concern about potential noise from micro data centers, he asked whether they would be placed adjacent to neighborhoods or eventually within neighborhoods.

Herb said Vapor IO assumes that, to place them close enough to users to make them effective, the micro data centers have to be within a five-mile radius. He said Vapor IO invests considerable effort to have its micro data centers fit the profiles for noise, safety and security within those environments, while still providing wireless service customers with the enhanced experiences they will demand but which cannot be served from a hyperscale data center located remotely.

As for electrical power requirements, Herb said the ideal power for micro data centers is redundant three-phase utility power.

Daniel HerbIt is fascinating to be a part of the next generation of the internet that is being built.— Lauri Abrahamson, director of business development at edge collocation company EdgeMicroPhoto by Don Bishop“For us to live in a market requires multiple sites,” Herb said. “Each of those sites is self-contained and has all of the systems necessary to operate a data center. Each of those systems comes with their own strengths and weaknesses. Nevertheless, our service level agreements (SLAs) and the way we interconnect our sites are designed for resilience that depends, in part, on the combinatorial effect. As such, Vapor IO’s Kinetic Edge edge operates as a single logical plane. From a connectivity perspective, each site is cross-connected and each can operate as backups to the others. You can think of it as a city-scale data center with multiple availability zones.”

Opposite Way

Herb further explained that customers achieve maximum up time and resilience from the way they deploy, because it is possible to deploy across many sites and orchestrate their operation for up time. In a way, he said, this is the opposite of the way customers have historically built resilience through a strong vertical vendor stack in which every component had to be as fail-safe as possible, as in the days of 3G and switch networks. Those economics will not work at the scale required of edge computing, he said.

“At the outset, we would have loved to have redundant power on a per-site basis,” Herb said. “We can use backup power, if we need it. But that’s not the intent. We’re not trying to build super-hardened facilities, because then they become larger and louder. Today’s design philosophy is different. We offer resilience through high availability across multiple sites, not through expensive redundancy of physical assets.”

The moderator of the session at which Herb spoke, Lauri Abrahamson, director of business development at the edge collocation company EdgeMicro, said: “It is fascinating to be a part of the next generation of the internet that is being built.

“We’re going to look back at this and see the new applications that get rolled out as a result of the work that’s taking place,” Abrahamson said. “What also is exciting is that it requires collaboration among cable companies, telephone companies, content providers and real estate property owners, managers and tenants. It requires everyone working together to make this a success. It’s a great story.”

 

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Business

A Multifaceted Approach Boosts Infrastructure Contracting Success

Reducing unit costs, developing a larger qualified workforce and helping to improve efficiency play a part in Tilson Technology Management’s wireless infrastructure contract work.

Speaking on Jan. 30 at the AGL Local Summit in Seattle, Josh Broder, CEO of Tilson Technology Management, gave a contractor’s perspective of the wireless telecommunications industry. As a designer and builder of telecommunications infrastructure, including fiber-optic cable routes, small cells and towers, Tilson employs 650 people. Broder spoke during the session, “Tower Services: Evolving to Meet Today’s Carrier Needs.”

Network Capacity

These days, Broder said, mobile network operators place a high priority on network capacity to carry data. He said tower service companies have spent decades working on coverage, and now they focus on capacity. This focus comes in the form of small cell construction in rights of way and in tower densification. “With small cells, I would describe that as $9 of fiber and $1 of wireless out of $10,” he said.

Lower Price Point

“The towers we climb on are increasingly loaded and equipment is being added much faster than it’s being taken off,” Broder said. “In-building towers are being off-loaded from a capacity standpoint, from systems within buildings. One of the trends is that the cost of the systems is coming way down as operators move from using distributed antenna system (DAS) networks to small cell facilities that use in-building cabling. That’s meant that we’re seeing a lot more in-building systems going in at a lower price point.”

Josh BroderThe apprenticeship program and a clear and portable certification program are absolutely necessary.— Josh Broder, CEO of Tilson Technology ManagementAs operators see the growth in wireless revenue slowing, their increased capital expense (capex) intensity draws more attention to deployment costs, according to Todd Schlekeway, executive director of NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association, who served as moderator of the session. He asked Broder how densification at a lower cost affects Tilson.

Automation and High Efficiency

“Unit costs have to be lower,” Broder said. “With slowing wireless revenue growth but increasing customer demand on the amount and quality of data, we must install more network and keep costs in line so the carriers can still make a reasonable margin.” Automation on the job and higher efficiency in the design phase hold the promise of lowering unit costs, he said.

Video photogrammetry and drone access help to automate projects, Broder said. So does working from a common set of 3-D-rendered images with wireless carriers from the beginning to the end of a project. Tower service companies face the increasing wage expectations of a full-employment economy, which Broder said is a bit of an intractable problem. Thus, the only answer to an increase in unit labor costs is to have fewer labor hours on the job, and Broder said most of that is found in the design phase of the project.

Tilson has experienced a not-too-subtle shift toward capital dollars moving into small cells versus towers, Broder said. The company now has about 40 percent of its field force working on towers and 60 percent working on small cells. Broder said it was the opposite three years ago.

Uncluttered Vertical Real Estate

What Broder said the company found lacking for small cell deployment was the availability of vertical real estate that was not cluttered or incompatible with some other use. He said the most common human-built structures, utility poles, were built for power, not small cells. Depending on the power territory, Broder said, utility poles may be incompatible with small cell collocation in a range of 85 percent to 97 percent, stemming from a combination of jurisdictional code and pole-owner design standards.

Asset Company

In places where jurisdictional standards were too stringent or the utilities are underground, Tilson found that vertical structures for small cells were missing. That led to Tilson starting an asset company five years ago that develops new poles for small cell collocation. It is not necessarily the main effort, Broder said.

“What we find is if we have 100 nodes in a polygon for a customer, we might find 60 to 75 percent collocation, which still leaves is a substantial number of new poles that need to go in,” Broder said. “In that asset company, our focus is on showing our work that we’ve maximized collocation on a services basis and then the remaining sites become owned assets that we deploy as a wholesale carrier.”

Workforce Development

To build the 5G wireless communications network requires attracting, hiring, training and retaining workers to install the wireless infrastructure. Broder said Tilson and other tower service companies assume there will be a strong demand for years to come, which leads to considering whether to make investments in a workforce for a long term.

For training field technicians, Broder said, Tilson makes its biggest investment in the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP), a joint venture of telecommunications companies, industry associations and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The program develops DOL-credentialed apprenticeship programs available to qualified employers for career development of a telecommunications workforce. Broder said the program allows Tilson to take technicians who enter the industry from outside or from a relatively junior position and train them in the right way over a period of years.

In addition to supporting TIRAP, Broder said Tilson supports the certification program of the National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA), which issues what he called portable credentials.

“Traditionally, there’s been a lot of poaching pressure between companies during spikes in the need for workers, and then generally that abates after a while,” Broder said. “We’re heading into a period where we’re still doing 4G densification while 5G is rising, and it’s going to be going on long enough that we have to add large numbers of new employees. Thus, the apprenticeship program and a clear and portable certification program are absolutely necessary.”

How to Make a Difference

Developing intellectual capital within companies that traditionally have delivered construction services within the broader construction industry will make a difference, Broder said. “In the construction industry as a whole, there has been basically no measurable efficiency improvement in 50 years. A unit of labor is still a unit of labor.” Broder mentioned the possibility of using artificial intelligence, machine learning or neural networks to bring better analysis and predictability to the work.

“I think of it as a combined bottom-up and top-down approach,” Broder said. “The basic credentialed skill sets of how we work and access these facilities safely deserve our focus as we bring in lots of new people, so you don’t have a drift-in quality of basic safety behavior. And then from the top down, we need to be more predictive analytically about how we manage the work.”

 

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Software and SAAS

Supporting Remote Team Collaboration with Field Operations Platforms

Field operations platforms offer workflow and collaboration tools for wireless construction programs, which is even more important now that many employees are working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’re all Zoomers now. Even before COVID-19, remote collaboration tools like Zoom, Teams and Hangouts were becoming more prevalent for both personal and business use. With the abrupt shift to remote work dictated by the pandemic, these platforms have become indispensable for day-to-day business operations and will most likely continue to play a role as many continue to work from home.

However, these platforms only go part way toward addressing the challenges associated with managing wireless construction projects. The business of deploying crews to build towers and small cells is loaded with risk because of the tight coordination required across multiple in-house and external players to complete projects on time. Inaccurate site details, weather conditions, missing tools and materials, dependencies on third parties and other challenges combine to stack the odds against a successful deployment. And if this wasn’t already complex enough, the balancing act has become even more precarious with the new constraints imposed by COVID-19.

Wireless Is Leading the Way

A recent survey by NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association, found that almost 75 percent of their members have had some employees move to remote work while still managing the same workload.

“This has crystalized what most of us already knew,” said Todd Schlekeway, NATE president and CEO, “which is how essential our industry’s services are. NATE member companies have crews on the front lines deploying and maintaining communications infrastructure that enable new forms of collaboration technology, such as tele-health, distance learning and other emerging services.”

Moreover, the volume of work, while facing some near-term delays caused by permitting and site access challenges, is expected to ramp up significantly. CTIA projects that over 700,000 small cells will need to be built by 2026 to keep up with the increased demand in broadband communications service for consumers, businesses and connected devices.

Because of this, many wireless construction companies have been rethinking how they use digital technology to manage their business operations. Legacy applications and spot solutions, such as spreadsheets, email, accounting systems and basic timekeeping tools, are not optimized for the additional complexity that comes with managing a high volume of small cell deployments, let alone the challenges associated with moving to a remote workforce.

Emerging Software Solutions

The good news is that an emerging category of software called field operations platforms, such as the FieldClix software platform, are designed to specifically address the unique requirements specific to managing field operations for wireless construction (discussed in more detail in the October 2018 issue of AGL Magazine).

These software platforms come with many “out-of-box” capabilities that can be rapidly deployed with minimal configuration, including crew scheduling and resource management, workflow management, mobility tools, budget tracking, timekeeping and payroll automation, material and asset management, invoice management, and reporting and analytics.

Typical benefits that come with field operations platforms include enhanced planning capabilities to help minimize project risk, standardized processes to improve team alignment and collaboration, real-time visibility into field activities and daily updates on project status and costs. Companies deploying these platforms are seeing field productivity improve by up to 30 percent and a 5 percent to 10 percent increase in profit margins.

Adapting to the New Normal

Dan Denda, the president of Ironbo, made the decision a few years ago to move his company onto a field operations platform. He is seeing unanticipated benefits now that his employees must work remotely. “With FieldClix, we’ve been able to move full steam ahead without missing a beat. The software allowed us to establish standardized workflows across the organization, which gives our employees immediate access to the tasks, information and documents they need to manage their day-to-day responsibilities.”

Before the spread of COVID-19, Dan had as many as 30 people working in his offices. He’s now down to a skeleton crew of six to eight. “I’m not sure how we would have handled the sudden shift to remote work without a field operations platform,” Dan said. “Like many others, we didn’t anticipate this situation and, fortunately, we had an emergency backup plan we didn’t know existed.”

For Dan Kunz, the COO of Crosslink Wireless, COVID-19 has created new logistical complexities in managing his field deployments. “We have to limit our crews to two people per truck and are facing issues in remote locations because of limited access to food and lodging,” Dan explained. “We also need to make sure our crews have access to personal protective equipment and are following new safety protocols while traveling and on site.”

For Kunz, these challenges emphasize the importance of planning vs reacting. Kunz’s project managers are making use of their field operations platform’s scheduling and dispatch capabilities to plan deployments in more detail and make sure their field crews receive automated updates with timely information about locations, site access details, required equipment and safety protocols.

Kunz’s budgets have also been affected by these new operational constraints. “You’ve really got to manage your costs, or the project will get out of control very fast,” Kunz said. “Using a tool like FieldClix, we get automated reports from our field teams, so we know what job they’re working on and can see how that project is doing compared to where they’re supposed to be.”

Dan has started to make use of this data to request additional fees from his customers. “We’ve been able to take our jobs, show our increase in project costs, go in and sit down across from our clients and get to the actual price we need in order to do these jobs to stay profitable.”

Keeping an Eye on Safety and Costs

Kent Smith from Wireless Communications is heavily focused on indoor and venue-based wireless infrastructure installations and is seeing new revenue opportunities open up as a result of the increased need for remote monitoring and security across the health care landscape.

It used to take Kent’s accounting team over 45 days to close their books. These delays affected his ability to manage the financial health of these complex programs. “We’ve now moved all our financial workflows out of email and into FieldClix, which allows us to maintain tighter control, even with our teams working across the country,” Kent said. “With COVID-19, it’s even more important that we get a handle on our costs, and FieldClix is giving us this information daily and providing increased visibility into many areas where we can begin to improve our efficiency.”

Even more important is the need to maintain a safe working environment for his field crews. Kent relies on his field operations platform to provide visibility into their daily movements. “Our field teams are moving in and out of many venues, including hospitals, and we rely on the real-time data to help us communicate with them and watch out for their safety while making sure they have information at their fingertips to comply with both CDC and venue protocols.”

Accelerating the Adoption Curve

A recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute found that construction has lagged behind other industries in the adoption of digital tools. They estimated that productivity gains greater than 30 percent are possible with the adoption of these new technologies.

Schlekeway said he believes the current pandemic will accelerate the move to digital tools. In fact, NATE currently offers the STAR Initiative mobile app to support site safety audits and is transitioning to virtual courses for a number of their training and educational programs.

We still don’t have a handle on how long COVID-19 will be around, and more importantly, the degree to which remote work will become a norm in the long term. One thing we know for sure is we will all be managing through this uncertainty for the foreseeable future. Field operations platforms offer a proven solution to help maintain stable and profitable business operations with distributed teams working in the field, in the office and from home.

Rob Tymchyshyn is a cofounder of FieldClix, a field operations platform designed to manage wireless construction programs. His email address is rob.tymchyshyn@fieldclix.com. Visit www.fieldclix.com.

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Business

The Frank Principles of Business

Blunt leadership lessons learned over a lifetime.

Frank was ex-Special Forces with a fine arts degree — an unusual mix. He achieved a lot in his business career by following five simple principles that he was able to apply to any business, and many others have achieved a lot by learning to do the same.

If you can apply these same principles consistently to your organization, you will find that you are able to move away from being a micromanager and instead become far more strategic in the way you run your business.

So what are these magic principles? Really, they are just good common sense, but as Frank was fond of saying, “Good business is just common sense, unfortunately common sense is not common practice.”

Principle 1: Define your role. Too often, business owners do not have clarity on the difference between management issues and ownership issues. Management issues are things such as dealing with the daily human resources concerns, accounting and administration and the sales process. They are seemingly urgent matters that must be dealt with in a timely fashion. The person overseeing these functions can be the business owner or an appointed manager.

Ownership issues are the things that only the business owner can do, such as dealing with the shareholders and banking partners, and setting the long-term strategy for the organization.

Frank’s approach was simple: Have a clear split between ownership of the business and management of the business and find the most talented people to run day-to-day operations. This sometimes means that the owner needs to step aside from management and make way for a better-qualified leader. A good example of this would be the way that Bill Ford stepped aside as CEO of Ford Motor Company to allow Alan Mulally to take on the role back in 2006. The result was one of the most successful business turnarounds in U.S. corporate history, as Mulally took Ford from near bankruptcy to record profits in 2013.

Concentrate on an area in which you are talented and do what you are passionate about. Let others take care of the things that you are not so good at and that conform to their strengths. Everyone will benefit.

Principle 2: Create a compelling vision. One of the most effective ways to harness the potential of an organization is to get everyone pulling in the same direction. However, without a compelling vision this can be difficult to achieve.

Frank realized that vision is a crucial component in getting employees to understand the direction in which the company is trying to go and therefore encouraging them to generate meaningful suggestions as to how to get there. It doesn’t matter if your vision revolves around customer service excellence or creating innovative products, as long as it is both inspiring and challenging.

Frank did not believe in having a vision that was just there to tick the box and display on a plaque behind reception. Rather, it was an important part of the overall company strategy.

Set aside some time to work on your business rather than in your business by developing a vision that enables you to grow your business and achieve your life goals. Don’t make the excuse that you are too busy to spend this time crafting a quality vision — it will be the best investment of time you ever make.

Principle 3: Hire “A players.” Frank believed that the key to running an organization successfully in the longer term is to hire great people. As he was fond of saying, “If you can surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are, then the chances are your business will do just fine.”

Many leaders feel insecure about hiring really smart people because they believe that it will undermine their credibility, but Frank knew that building a great team enhances your reputation as a leader.

A CEO of a $100 million company remarked recently that when he first took on his role 10 years ago he believed he was the smartest person on the management team, and that made him nervous as everything revolved around him. “It was exhausting,” he said. However, he has invested in hiring great people, and now he considers himself to be surrounded by people who are much smarter than he is.

Make sure that hiring A players is a priority for you as a business owner or leader.

Principle 4: Develop trust. The key to leading your team of A players is to develop trust. This is what keeps them working for you in the longer term. Frank knew that if you can become a better coach and mentor rather than trying to micromanage your best people you will find that they trust you and are more loyal to the organization. “After all, people leave bosses, not organizations,” Frank would say.

A players know their market value. What keeps them working for you is not money, but the ability to work independently and express their talents in their own individual way. They are self-motivated and driven to achieve excellent results. Too much interference from their immediate superior can be demotivating—an A player’s drive comes from within.

Principle 5: Have some fun. Frank was always firm but fair in the way he led his people. One of his greatest strengths was knowing when to have some fun. Celebrating success — such as winning a major new customer or having a particularly profitable quarter — was always something that he believed in doing as a way to reinforce the positive behavior that caused it.

Even when under extreme pressure to perform, Frank knew the value of a joke or lighthearted moment to relieve the tension. Look for opportunities in your own business to have some fun because this can be a key retention strategy for your A players. By following Frank’s simple principles you can not only grow your business, but also find you have a lot more time available to enjoy your family and pursue other interests. As Frank would say, “You only live once, and life is short, so you had better enjoy it.”

Richard J. Bryan is an international speaker, executive coach and author of Being Frank: Real Life Lessons to Grow Your Business and Yourself

. Through his experiences as the fourth-generation CEO in a family-owned business, Bryan gained a wealth of knowledge and developed into a true leader. By applying his creative strategies, he helps businesses hire the right people, forge dynamic teams and increase their profits. Visit www.richardjbryan.com.
 

Product Showcase

Software & SAAS

Two-Hole Washer for Ground Lug to Buss Bar

Bondwasher

New from Bondwasher: Our 2-hole lug washer line now includes the NEW BLOCKWASHER. Like the famous 2-hole Bondwasher, our new washer is used for the installation of a ground lug to the buss bar. The only difference is Blockwasher has two tabs, one on each end and is installed on the bolt head side of the buss bar opposite of the Bondwasher. The “Tabs” keep the bolt from turning, just as the lock washer keeps the nut from turning. Using both the Bondwasher and Blockwasher as a system ensures the integrity of the ground lug to buss bar connection. An additional bonus of using the Bondwasher System is easier and faster installation, as the Blockwasher Tabs act as a tool to hold the bolt head while tightening the nut with a wrench.

www.bondwasher.com

Photogrammetry Tool

B+T Group

Site360 from B+T Group is a photogrammetry tool developed by engineers to create better engineering deliverables. Site plans, mount analyses, construction bill of materials, site audits are some of the deliverables created from the Site360 data. Our clients can view these and their virtual tours on a secure online portal. Site360 is used for all types of telecom sites including towers, rooftops and small cell sites.

www.btgrp.com

Powerful Reports and Dashboards

Sitetracker

Make decisions and draw conclusions from data in Sitetracker reports and dashboards. Standardize reporting by automatically pulling data from a project into a report, improving your productivity, and saving hours every week. Select the best vendors by using reports to accurately track vendor performance and help efficiently evaluate which vendors are best for your business. Gain insights into your projects by creating custom reports to show any information you want to see: incomplete projects, overdues, or projects by states. The possibilities are endless. Use Sitetracker Reports and Dashboards to gain valuable insights into your business and make decisions.

www.sitetracker.com
 

Company Showcase

Legal & Finance, Insurance, & Real Estate (FIRE)

McGriff Insurance Services

McGriff Insurance Services provides a complete package of insurance for the Telecommunications Industry. Property & Casualty, Employee Benefits, or Surety Bonds — we are equipped to handle it all. Whether its WIFI, DAS, Towers, Fiber, Small Cell our entire staff is familiar with the coverage's necessary to run your business.

SBA Communications

For more than 30 years, SBA has been proud to be an independent owner and operator of wireless communications infrastructure including towers, buildings, rooftops, distributed antenna systems, and small cells — with operations in 14 markets globally.

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The Frank Principles of Business

Frank was ex-Special Forces with a fine arts degree — an unusual mix. He achieved a lot in...