Month: August 2016

Small Cell Zoning: It’s a Problem, We Can Fix It

Please join Md7 Vice President, Tom Leddo, as he moderates the Small Cell Zoning: It’s a Problem, We Can Fix It panel at this year’s Tower & Small Cell Summit, co-located with CTIA Super Mobility 2016. The panel will be held on Thursday, September 8, 2016 from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM, at the Sands Expo & Convention Center, San Polo Meeting Room (Rooms 3401 – 3501).

ABOUT THE PANEL

Zoning is the Achilles’ Heel of small cell site development. The conflict between municipalities and cell site developers is stifling deployment and slowing wireless growth. This panel will cover common mistakes made in siting small cells and in creating zoning ordinances, as well as how we can improve the relationship between site developers and municipalities in order to move wireless industry densification initiative forward.

SPEAKER INFORMATION

Tom Leddo, Vice President, Md7 (MODERATOR)

Tom Leddo is a wireless industry executive with over twenty years of experience in developing and promoting new business concepts, maximizing business efficiency and negotiating. He has particular expertise in wireless real estate. Prior to Md7, Tom served as a Principal for BridgeWest, LLC, a private equity firm in San Diego, California that focused on wireless infrastructure. Tom also successfully founded and managed two niche tower companies from inception to sale, one in Arlington, Virginia and the other in Mexico City, Mexico. Tom entered the wireless industry in 1995 with Columbia Spectrum Management in Vienna, Virginia by negotiating complex, multi-party microwave relocation agreements on behalf of wireless carriers that secured FCC licenses in the initial PCS auction.

Jeffrey Melching, Partner, Rutan & Tucker LLP

Jeffrey Melching devotes a substantial portion of his practice to municipal law, land use planning and entitlement activities. He is the City Attorney for the City of Irvine and the City of Menifee, and the General Counsel for the Orange County Great Park Corporation. Jeff provides telecommunications advice to various clients throughout California in both entitlement and litigation contexts. Other significant components of Jeff’s practice include telecommunications law, cable law, adoption and implementation of fee programs under the Mitigation Fee Act, and land use litigation involving Constitutional (Free Exercise and/or Free Speech) issues.

Tripp May, Partner, Telecom Law Firm, PC

Tripp May specializes in wireless and broadband infrastructure regulatory and transactional matters for both public agencies and private property owners around the country. Approximately 50% of his practice involves advising local agencies on how to handle wireless permit applications on private property and in the public right of way. He also drafts and updates wireless permit applications, review procedures and code provisions for permitting agencies in states across the country.

Don Bach, VP of Engineering, SAC Wireless

Don Bach has spent the last thirty years working in telecom, beginning with analog two-way radio and public safety radio and working through the cellular revolution/evolution in various technician and engineering roles. Prior to SAC Wireless, Don was an RF Engineer at Nextel and Sprint.

Christopher B. Fisher, Partner, Cuddy & Feder LLP

Chris Fisher is Chair of Cuddy & Feder LLP’s Telecommunications Practice where he leads a team of dedicated professionals representing wireless operators, tower companies, and DAS and small cell infrastructure firms. He is President and a founding Board member of the New York State Wireless Association and a member of the WIA Innovation and Technology Council.


Spotlight on Wireless Technology: When Will the Smartphone Finally Replace Credit Cards?

By Tom Leddo, Vice President

By my count there are currently four different ways to make a purchase when standing in line at a retail store–not counting cash or checks.

  1. Swipe your credit/charge card
  2. Insert your chip embedded card
  3. Scan the QR code in a unique retail app on your phone
  4. Pay with your phone by tapping the payment machine with your smart phone using Apple Pay, Android Pay or Samsung Pay

In many countries, swiping is already a thing of the past and it soon will be in the rest. The static nature of the data embedded in a strip that is swiped is simply too easy to steal. Due to this outdated technology, my personal visa had to be replaced twice in the last six months.

The encrypted data in a chip embedded card is not static so even if it does get copied, it changes for every transaction so it is nearly impossible to counterfeit. This technology, known as EMV (an acronym for “Europay, MasterCard, Visa” who created the technology), is widely used throughout Europe and is relatively easy to use. However, in the USA, not enough retailers have invested in the terminals at each point of sale. Many of the companies that have actually installed the terminals are not yet using them and have a sign telling you to use the swipe instead. They may even have tape over the card slot to prevent you from inserting your card.

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I have been scolded by a handful clerks for vacillating between the swipe and the insert!

Using a QR scan code within a specific retail app is an easy way to make frequent purchases and accumulate loyalty points at places such as Starbucks or Subway sandwiches. But who wants to thumb through a bunch of unique apps to find the specific one that is needed to pay in a particular location. Not to mention that some require you to “load” your app by prepaying so they get interest-free use of your money.

Clearly the best solution is holding your phone near or tapping it against a payment terminal and paying via your account information stored securely in your phone. Mobile payments use the same EMV technology as the chip card, and have a second form of authentication by requiring your phone PIN or fingerprint. This can also be combined with an expanding number of loyalty programs. Mobile payments are faster, easier, more secure and I can consolidate all my loyalty cards. Woohoo!

So what the problem? Well, not every retail location has invested in the terminal to process mobile payments.

In the USA, the liability for fraudulent charges recently shifted from the bank to the retailer. This is providing the incentive for retailers to incur the expense to shift from traditional cards to EMV chips at the point of sale. But not all of these machines are compatible with mobile payments. Samsung Pay gets around this by allowing you hold your phone next to where you would normally swipe a credit card and then communicating with the magnetic card reader – this does enable your Samsung phone to work in almost all locations.

We still have a lot of options and a lot of confusion. I anxiously wait for the a transition to a more standard system to evolve!


Al Gore Was Right!

By Tom Leddo, Vice President

In April of 2009, I was at an industry event where one of the speakers was the former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore. He made a couple of predictions and as I look back on them it is quite obvious he was right.

No, no… I am not talking about that! I am of course talking about the wireless industry.

The event was the 2009 CTIA trade show in Las Vegas, and Vice President Gore was the keynote speaker on the final day. This was when CTIA was still at the Las Vegas Convention Center rather than the Sands Expo. CTIA often has a pretty big speaker on the final day and, as I assume it was intended to do, I stuck around to hear what he would say even if it is not directly related to the wireless industry. In this case, my expectations were pretty low but Mr. Gore made his comments very relevant. I often think back to what he said and how accurate he was about his predictions for the wireless industry.

Although he also spoke about global warming and national security, his comments that have caused me to reflect the most over the ensuing years were those he made about the economy and politics, particularly, how the mobile handset would really impact our nation. Acknowledging that the speech was over seven years ago and I can’t find a complete video or copy of the text anywhere online, I still think it is worth sharing my recollection of these two topics.

The impact of wireless on the economy

Bear Stearns, the investment bank and brokerage firm, had just collapsed in September of 2008 and at the time of his speech we were in the heart of the 2008-2009 subprime mortgage meltdown.

Attendance at CTIA was pretty low and the overall morale of the those attending the show was even lower.

While I never thought of Al Gore as an optimist, he spoke about how we were on the front end of a revolution and how as an industry we would continue to invest in infrastructure to meet growing demand. He was right.

At that time, according to Wikimedia, Apple had sold a total of only 17.37 million iPhones from the introduction of the original iPhone in Q3 of 2007 through the end of Q1 2009 when the second generation iPhone (iPhone 3G) was the new hot product. By comparison, Apple sold 125 million iPhones in the first six months of 2016 alone.

As further evidence of how the smartphone has evolved over the last seven years, I offer this photo that I took of Vice President Gore that day with my Blackberry Curve. Although small and with terrible resolution and clarity by today’s standards, it was virtually state-of-the-art at the time!

Article photo - Al Gore at CTIA 2009
Former Vice President, Al Gore speaks at CTIA in April of 2009. Photo taken with a Blackberry Curve.

Our industry was relatively stable compared to most of the economy at that time. If you lost your job in 2009 and found yourself sitting at the kitchen table trying to decide which bills to pay, you always paid your phone bill before your mortgage. You couldn’t find a job without a phone and the banks were easier to negotiate with than a cellular service provider.

Recurring service revenue and soon-to-boom smartphones sales weren’t the only part of our industry that rose during the economic downturn. The LTE build out began, and that kept many people in the wireless infrastructure industry employed while many friends and neighbors in other industries were struggling to make ends meet.

But bigger than our ability to endure through a struggling economy, Gore noted that information would be the dominant strategic resource throughout the 21st century. We are only sixteen years into this century but he appears to be right so far about information and how we communicate. And this leads me to the second of two things he spoke about that often causes me to reflect.

The impact of wireless on politics

When Vice President Gore spoke at CTIA in 2009 he compared the wireless handset at that time to the advent of the printing press and how information could be widely distributed to everyone. But, he said, the mobile phone will take it much further. The mobile phone would give a voice to the general population.

As I recall, he stated that prior to television, politicians had to create a local presence and go door-to-door to make speeches and meet voters. This allowed voters to speak with them directly and to influence decision making. But in the era of televised politics, communication became somewhat one-directional. Politicians would speak to a camera and buy advertising to influence voters who basically sat at home and listened. This lead many voters to become a bit lazy and less engaged.

Gore noted that the mobile phone would change that. It would return the power to the voters because they would have great ability to choose the source of their news and would be able to comment on what they would hear. The phone would always be within reach and the internet would allow each person to offer their thoughts and opinions to the entire world. Since that time, the explosion of various forms news and blogs as well as social media have changed our political landscape.

President Obama was the first candidate to use social media as a means to distribute his campaign message. And, regardless of one’s opinion of Donald Trump, there is no denying that he won the GOP primary with very little advertising and a whole lot of tweets. I would argue that the entire Trump phenomenon would not have even occurred if it weren’t for the way communication has changed over the last several years.

Entire political movements have quickly ignited and spread through social media – Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring and Black Lives Matter are perfect examples.

Regardless of who wins in November, future candidates will view and engage voters differently. Social Media flowing in both directions will be a major part of future elections.

Conclusion – Gore Was Right!

As noted previously, I was not able to find a complete video or copy of the text of Gore’s speech. But I did stumble across a Liveblog by a guy named Vikram who apparently was also in attendance that day. He notes that Gore stated that when “he and Bill (Clinton) took office there were only 50 websites”. That was in January of 1993.

Resisting the obvious opportunity to drop a joke about who “invented the internet” I’ll just give Vice President Gore his due. I walked into that 4,000 seat auditorium that day with an expectation of hearing a lifetime politician make a politically oriented speech about the “hope and change” that had just occurred three months earlier. Instead, I heard an excellent speech on the impact our industry will have on the future. I left feeling quite inspired and motivated, especially considering the economic environment at that time.

As I do each year, I’ll return to Las Vegas for the 2016 CTIA Super Mobility show at the Sands Expo September 7-9. This year’s headline making keynote speaker will be Mark Cuban; the businessman, investor, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and star of Shark Tank. We’ll see if he, too, has any bold predictions that inspire my thinking for the next seven years.

See you in Las Vegas!


Why Do We Need Small Cells?

Because the way we use our mobile phones has evolved.

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 The forecast for mobile video

By 2020, it is forecasted that wireless networks will carry 30.6 exabytes of video each month. That is the equivalent of 7.6 billion DVDs or a little more than one DVD for every person on the planet.

Video is and will continue to be a huge driver of the need for adequate capacity in networks.


 

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Traditional cell sites on tall towers and rooftops (“macro sites”) provide excellent coverage for large areas, but they do not offer the bandwidth needed to support the current growth rate of mobile data usage. Small Cells are placed on street lights and utility poles along public roads to alleviate the capacity strain on macro sites. They enhance coverage in locations where macro sites need support, such as beaches, residential neighborhoods and dense downtown areas. Small Cells are paving the way for the enhanced mobile network of the future, all while maintaining a much lower visual impact on the community than traditional macro sites.