News Feature | August 7, 2018

The Week In 5G: 8/8/2018 – FCC Implements 'One-Touch, Make-Ready' Pole Access, Vows To Preempt Local Laws Blocking 5G Deployment

By Jof Enriquez
Follow me on Twitter @jofenriq

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is adopting a "one-touch, make-ready" (OTMR) policy on attaching 5G broadband equipment to utility poles. It also warned that it will preempt local and state laws that continue to block moves to accelerate the deployment of 5G in the United States.

FCC explains that OTMR makes access to poles swift, predictable, and affordable for new attachers, because they will now be allowed to move existing attachments and perform all other work required to make the pole ready for a new attachment, instead of waiting for multiple parties with existing attachments on poles to make room.

"OTMR promises to substantially lower the cost and shorten the time to deploy broadband on utility poles," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. "It allows a new provider who wants to attach to a pole to move all the wires and equipment in just one “touch.”  It’s a bit like having to go to the grocery, the dry cleaner, and the bank. The slow way to do this would be to visit each business but return home each time. The rational thing we all do is to do each errand, one after the other, all on one trip. That’s essentially what OTMR is."

This streamlined process is expected to result in about $8.3 million incremental premises passed with fiber, and about $12.6 billion in incremental fiber capital expenditures, according to FCC.

Some towns and municipalities have invoked local and state laws to push for moratoria on the installation of 5G small cells on light or utility poles due to security, health, and aesthetic reasons. FCC warned in a declaratory ruling that blanket state and local moratoria on telecommunications services and facilities deployment are barred by the Communications Act because they, in the language of Section 253(a), “prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting the ability of any entity to provide any interstate or intrastate telecommunications service.”

FCC also said it has the right to rebuild or restore broadband infrastructure after a disaster, and may preempt local and state laws that block such actions.

Related to the goal of speeding 5G deployment, federal regulators reportedly are inclined to allow Sprint and T-Mobile to merge, so as to form a viable third major carrier alongside Verizon and AT&T, that is capable of deploying a national 5G wireless network.

"After studying the Sprint-T-Mobile proposal for more than three months, the Department of Justice, while not yet making a decision on the merger, now believes three carriers are needed to establish a true competitive marketplace, according to a source with direct knowledge of the thinking within the DOJ," reported the New York Post.

Looking to boost its own 5G deployment, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has scheduled in late November a 5G spectrum auction for 125 MHz of spectrum in the 3.6 GHz band, with 350 lots across 14 regions of Australia, according to ZDNet. The application fee to participate at the bidding is set at AU $10,000. ACMA plans to follow up with a millimeter-wave (mmWave) spectrum auction in 2019.

As for 694 to 960 MHz UHF (ultra high frequency), defragmenting the band will result in only small capacity benefits compared to 5G, according to the UK Spectrum Policy Forum and LS Telecom UK. Their joint study determined "that significant benefits from major changes within the 694-960MHz do not seem likely in the mid to long term. Should there be changes to the co-primary users of the band in response to business needs, the position for the band beyond 2030 should be reviewed," said David Meyer, chair of the UK Spectrum Policy Forum, according to 5G.co.uk.

Anticipating 5G services in 2020, Australian consumers are putting off upgrading their phones until 5G phones become available. Australian phone sales dropped by 3.7 percent in the first half of 2018, according to the latest Telsyte Australian Smartphone & Wearable Devices Market Study, via the Australian Financial Review. This reflects a global trend of declining phone sales as consumers hold off to see what 5G devices offer as the first ones hit shelves starting next year.

While Huawei has promised its first 5G phone by the second half of 2019, Lenovo's Motorola division could bring a 5G-capable phone faster to market by offering a bolt-on 5G mod with a 2,000 mAh battery and supporting USB 3.1 for the gigabit data transfers of 5G, according to The Register. Motorola's mods are add-ons that clip to the back of compatible Motorola phones. The Moto 5G Mod will be available in early 2019 for Verizon subscribers.

Meanwhile, 5G trials continue, with the latest involving the Canadian carrier Telus announcing that it reached download speeds of 28 Gbps in its 5G trials conducted with partner Huawei using millimeter waves, reported RCR Wireless. The trial operates in the 28 GHz band with 800 megahertz of bandwidth and includes many 3GPP key technologies, such as massive MIMO, filtered orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (F-OFDM), and the polar code mechanism.

In Asia, India says it will roll out 5G services by 2022. By contrast, South Korea, Japan and China will be ready to deploy 5G within two years.

“We are not there yet,” Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said in an interview with Bloomberg. “5G won’t be driven by supply, it’ll be driven by demand and the rest of industry needs to wake up to this.”

As part of the roll-out, India will increase its fiber backbone from 1.5 million kilometers currently, to 2.5 million kilometers (1.6 million miles) by 2022.

In technology news, Ericsson and Audi announced that they are testing 5G networking technology to wirelessly connect production robots working on car body construction, as well as on connected vehicles.

This "smart wireless manufacturing" technology "allows for faster data throughput rates and more network capacities, as well as promising highly secure availability. Moreover, ultra-low latency ensures fast response times between equipment in the factory system," said Ericsson CTO Erik Ekudden.

Ericsson, in cooperation with Japan's NTT DOCOMO, last week announced the successful trial of the world’s first 8 Gbps 5G communications with a fast-moving vehicle.