What we learned about Dish during the earnings call

With Dish executives leading the company’s quarterly earnings call, details of the plan to crack into the US mobile market were revealed.

The next few years are critical for the US telecoms industry but also the credibility of the FCC and the Department of Justice. Both of these authorities dismissed opposition to the T-Mobile US and Sprint merger, ignoring suggestions it would damage competition. Dish was the reason competition could be maintained, irreversibly changing the US telecoms industry, so it better succeed.

Fortunately, the is being fairly transparent about developments, or certainly more so than most telecoms executives are. But what did we learn from CEO Erik Carlson and Chairman Charlie Ergen last week?

Firstly, $10 billion should be enough to build a nationwide network.

This is a figure which has been banded around quite a lot in recent months without any in-depth explanation, but Ergen believes $10 billion should be enough to meet FCC regulatory requirements and go beyond to create a nationwide network which can compete. There might be a few unforeseen expenditures, spectrum auctions for example, but the team is standing by this estimation.

While the Boost business has not been officially closed yet, the team should have launched in one market by the end of the year, with its own independent core but leaning on the T-Mobile access network. This MVNO agreement will be running for seven years, but the team have already begun talks with tower companies to push forward to create its own network.

What is worth noting is that this work is running independent of the assets which can be purchased from the new T-Mobile company. EVP of Corporate Development Tom Cullen highlighted that deployment planning has begun but once the Boost deal closes, Dish will also have first refusal to acquire cell sites from T-Mobile which are deemed surplus to requirements thanks to the network rationalisation process between T-Mobile US and Sprint.

Although this is detail which some might not have expected, there are still quite a few questions remaining. That said, there is absolute clarity on one area in particular.

“We also took a $356 million impairment charge during the quarter, related primarily to our narrowband IoT build and our satellites D1 and T1,” said CFO Paul Orben. “Now that the T-Mobile/Sprint merger has closed and there is more clarity surrounding our revised build-out requirements. We no longer intend to finish our narrowband IoT build.”

NB-IOT has been struggling to live up to the expectation in numerous markets and this will not help matters. Dish is officially turning its back on NB-IOT, choosing to take an impairment charge on FCC commitments and turn attentions to a 5G network instead of completing the project.

While this might not be the most encouraging of signs, the embracement of OpenRAN and Mavenir as the company’s first official supplier is.

“Marc [Marc Rouanne – Chief Network Officer] continues to work on the architecture and further vendor selection,” said Ergen. “So I would anticipate more of those announcements in the third quarter. And then we’ll share our deployment plans once those are formalized likely on the next call.”

The dynamic of network suppliers is an interesting one for Dish. Ergen highlighted there was a desire to use Huawei equipment, which he described as “best in class”, though the team is being asked to find innovation in new ways. We also found out there is an active dialogue between Dish and Japan’s Rakuten to learn about OpenRAN deployments in the wild.

This is an area many will be keeping a close eye on, not only for validation of a technology which is still not the real deal, but also vendor appointments. The scale of this network, and the aggressive deployment schedule, could force OpenRAN start-ups to grow very quickly. Dish could be a major catalyst for growth for the lucky few who are selected.

It is of course early days, but there are some very interesting developments to keep an eye on here. The team might have opened the door slightly, but there is still much left to discover.

Will the team be able to deploy a network for $10 billion? How will it build its wholesale business unit? When will network slicing begun to be factored in? Which OpenRAN suppliers will be added to the roster over the next few months? Which markets will the postpaid products be launched in first?

With the next earnings call scheduled for July 30, the next three months could offer some very interesting announcements.

California gives up opposition to T-Mobile US and Sprint merger

The final hurdle the long and arduous merger proceedings for T-Mobile US and Sprint has finally been overcome, 1 year, 8 months, 3 weeks and 3 days after it was first announced.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has announced a settlement with the two firms, and also said the legal fees of all the States would be covered by T-Mobile US. Alongside Becerra, a California judge has also recommended the state’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approve the deal. California has only been delaying the inevitable over the last few weeks, but the stubborn stance from the Attorney General has at least ensured at least some benefits for the State of California.

“Our coalition vigorously challenged the T-Mobile/Sprint telecom merger over concerns that it would thwart competition and leave consumers with higher prices,” Becerra said.

“We took our case to court to ensure that, no matter its outcome, we’d protect innovation and fair prices. Though the district court approved the merger, its decision also made clear to companies that local markets matter in assessing the competitive impact of a merger and that no one should underestimate the role of state enforcers.

“Most importantly, today’s settlement locks in new jobs and protections for vulnerable consumers, and it extends access to telecom services for our most underserved and rural communities.”

As part of the deal, the new T-Mobile company will:

  • Offer guaranteed data tariffs for a period of at least five years. 2 GB a month deals can be bought for $15, while 5 GB will be $25
  • Any deal which was bought prior to February 2019 will also be guaranteed for an additional two-year period
  • Certain low-income homes, nationwide, will be offered 100 GB of no-cost broadband internet service per year for five years or a free mobile wifi hotspot device
  • Create 1,000 jobs in a customer service centre in Kingsburg
  • Guarantee the number of jobs in California for the newly merged company will be the same in three years as is it today

California does certainly benefit from the Becerra opposition, but the Attorney General has also negotiated a $15 million purse which will be split between the coalition of State Attorney General’s who opposed the deal to pay for legal costs.

After all the legal battles, the T-Mobile US and Sprint merger can now be completed, though it does remain to be seen whether this ultimately is of benefit to the consumer. Critics have suggested the US courts have favoured competition to AT&T and Verizon from T-Mobile US over increased wireless competition for the consumer, though this is under the assumption that the Dish proposition will fail.

With Dish entering the fray as the fourth nationwide player, there is a beacon of hope for sustained competition, though it will certainly face an uphill battle. The service will run as a MVNO on the T-Mobile network for a seven-year period, though whether this is enough time remains to be seen. Its competition has been fine-tuning network deployment for decades, and still hasn’t perfected the art or blanketed the US in its entirety.

We are still trying to figure out the logic of how Dish can be an appropriate substitute for Sprint. Either, the courts have immense faith in the business, zero confidence in Sprint or simply believes three stronger players is better than four.

FCC proposes $200 million fine for location snooping telcos

The four major MNOs each face the threat of a weighty fine, collectively totalling more than $200 million, for helping third parties stalk customers.

Thanks to all four of the national US telcos selling customer location data to third parties over a sustained period of time, the FCC has proposed fines supposedly proportionate to the impact. While there are justified and responsible means for third party companies to use telco location data, this was certainly not one of them and the telcos have been found guilty of not protecting the data privacy rights of customers.

“American consumers take their wireless phones with them wherever they go,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “And information about a wireless customer’s location is highly personal and sensitive.

“The FCC has long had clear rules on the books requiring all phone companies to protect their customers’ personal information. And since 2007, these companies have been on notice that they must take reasonable precautions to safeguard this data and that the FCC will take strong enforcement action if they don’t. Today, we do just that.”

The proposed fines are as follows: AT&T is potentially liable for $57,265,625, Verizon $48,318,750, T-Mobile US $91,630,000 and Sprint $12,240,000. What is worth noting is that it appears the investment community has been buoyed by the figures presented by Pai.

Telco Price at close Friday 28 February Price at time or writing (pre-market trading)
AT&T 35.22 (-1.43%) 35.66 (1.25%)
Verizon 54.16 (-1.63%) 54.52 (0.66%)
T-Mobile US 90.16 (-1.18%) 91.05 (0.99%)
Sprint 9.19 (-1.08%) 9.35 (1.74%)

The final hours of trading for the telcos were hardly the most profitable for the industry, though as the proposed fines emerged over the weekend there has been recovery. There may well of course be other factors, but it does appear the investment community believed these fines could have been larger.

Privacy red flags were raised here following an article in the New York Times which claimed a Missouri Sheriff named Cory Hutcheson was making use of location finding services from Securus without the appropriate legal authority. Instead of uploading documents such as a search warrant, irrelevant documents were uploaded such as health insurance policies and pages from Sheriff training manuals. What soon emerged from the eventual investigation was a slurry of abuse and the development of a nefarious industry.

“This investigation is a day late and a dollar short,” said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.

“Our real-time location information is some of the most sensitive data there is about us, and it deserves the highest level of privacy protection. It did not get that here – not from our nationwide wireless carriers and not from the Federal Communications Commission. For this reason, I dissent.”

While it is hardly unusual for Democrat Rosenworcel to oppose the actions of a Republican controlled FCC, there is a valid point being made, despite it being somewhat lost in the immaturity of US politics. Firstly, the fines probably do not match the profits made or negligence from the telcos. Secondly, Pai elected to ignore action for far too long. And finally, the amount of redacted information in the documents blur the picture, protecting the reputations of the guilty telcos.

Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, another Democrat, has painted another very similar gloomy picture, also choosing to dissent to large swathes of the FCC process. The condemning tone is hardly surprising, but the FCC does not look the most competent coming out of this saga.

When the initial suspicions were raised, nothing was done. When it appeared the practice was still largely continuing, actions were meek. The investigation took too long and the fine does not necessarily look proportionate. Not only did these telcos mislead the regulator, they broke the law, lied to customers and profited for at least five years from the practice.

Under the leadership of Ajit Pai, the FCC has taken a much more hands-off approach to regulation of the telco industry, allowing business to be business. But there are more and more examples of private industry, not just the telcos, demonstrating they are not responsible enough to act independently within the parameters of responsibility.

DT CEO ups US ambitions to double down on momentum

Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Hoettges is looking to close the valuation gap between T-Mobile US and its rivals, as the telco revels following a very positive earnings call.

Share price in the German telco has jumped 3.9% in early morning trading following the financial results which saw revenues increase by 6.4% to €80.4 billion for 2019. Net profit was up by almost 80% to €3.9 billion, while free cash grew by 15.9% to €7 billion.

“The market environment in the European telecommunications sector is far from straightforward. Yet, despite the heavy regulation and inconsistent competitive situation, we emerged from the year just ended even stronger,” Hoettges said his letter to the shareholders.

“Not only that, but we are once again the leading European telco, based on both revenue and market value. That was and remains our overarching goal.”

Deutsche Telekom is one of the largest telcos across the world, but in recent years it is questionable as to whether it is one of the more progressive or future proofed. When looking at the penetration of full-fibre broadband or deployment of 5G infrastructure, the numbers are not as favourable, though the tide does seem to be turning.

The team now suggests 5G connectivity is being delivered in eight cities in its domestic German market, with ambitions to increase this to 20 by the end of 2020. Elsewhere, T-Mobile US launched its 5G offering in December and Austria has 31 5G base stations up-and-running.

Deutsche Telekom is heading in the right direction, but it is moving at a much slower pace than other telcos. It might want to proclaim itself as a leader in the telco arena, but realistically it is a fastish-follower at best, BT for example, has already launched 5G in 50 towns and cities across the UK.

One area where the company is proving to be incredibly aggressive is in the US, and this should continue over the coming months.

“We have the chance to become No.1 in the United States, to overtake AT&T and Verizon. That, at least, is our ambition,” Hoettges said during the earnings call.

With T-Mobile US and Sprint now looking at a clear path to the finish line, after a District Judge ruled in favour of the merger in the face of opposition from 13 Attorney Generals, the team can look further into the future. Following the merger, T-Mobile will be roughly the same size from a subscriber base as AT&T and Verizon, allowing more opportunity for the team to compete on a level playing field.

The US business is one which is once again proving to be very profitable for Deutsche Telekom.

T-Mobile US is the single largest business unit in the overarching business, accounting for just over 50% of the total revenues at €40.4 billion, a year-on-year increase of 10.7%. Momentum is clearly with the business also, the team boasted of 1.3 million branded postpaid net additions during its last financial results.

While the US is looking very positive for the telco, it will have to be careful sluggish activity in Europe does not open the door for rivals to steal market share in the various markets.

New York ends resistance to T-Mobile/Sprint merger

New York Attorney General Letitia James has announced her office will not pursue an appeal against the courts decision to approve the $26 billion T-Mobile US and Sprint merger.

While the other states involved in the lawsuit to prevent the combination of the two telcos are yet to formally make their position public, James was the primary driving force behind the legal opposition. Others might try to step up, but without one of the US’ fastest growing political forces at the helm, responses look relatively pitiful.

“After a thorough analysis, New York has decided not to move forward with an appeal in this case. Instead, we hope to work with all the parties to ensure that consumers get the best pricing and service possible, that networks are built out throughout our state, and that good-paying jobs are created here in New York.

“We are gratified that this process has yielded commitments from T-Mobile to create jobs in Rochester and engage in robust national diversity initiatives that will connect our communities with good jobs and technology. We are committed to continuing to fight for affordability and access for all of New York’s mobile customers.”

James’ opposition to the $26 billion merger first emerged in June 2019 when, alongside California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, support was raised for a multi-state lawsuit against the corporate transaction. James managed to convince 12 State Attorney Generals to oppose the deal, questioning whether it would be beneficial for the consumer and attempting to disprove that Dish would not be adequate as a fourth mobile operator.

In a 173-page opinion, Judge Victor Marrero effectively said the merger was a good idea as Sprint was not worthy of being called competition. The combined entity would be a much better representative, while Marrero believed Dish plans to scale rapidly were viable, even if few others do. His ruling effectively killed the resistance to the merger.

Although some will be disappointed the lawyers are giving up the fight, it might simply be a case of looking at the bigger picture. James has pointed to job creation promises in her state, though now the attention will turn to ensure these jobs are actually created. Back in October, Colorado and Mississippi both did the same; the legal opposition was dropped as agreements were forged with T-Mobile US and Dish to offer benefits to the states.

While there will be some benefits to the transaction, it is impossible to avoid the negatives. T-Mobile US and Sprint will be able to realise efficiencies to better compete with AT&T and Verizon, while Dish will offer more jobs. However, there will be a rationalisation project after the transaction leading to job losses in shared business functions (finance, legal etc.) and also in areas where the retail footprint overlaps. Redundancies are unavoidable.

The question which remains is who will get the best slice of the benefits?

Colorado agreed to drop the lawsuit against the merger if Dish was to create 2,000 jobs in the statey and will also keep its corporate HQ in the city of Littleton for at least seven years. The Attorney General has also negotiated an accelerated 5G deployment timeline with T-Mobile US in exchange. Over in Mississippi, former-Attorney General Jim Hood also negotiated an accelerated 5G deployment plan and also a ceiling on tariffs for consumers for a five-year period.

These were the only two states to drop out prior to the conclusion of the lawsuit, though now the lobbying for attention can begin as T-Mobile/Sprint and Dish are wooed by each of the states for their own benefit. James has said the deal offers new jobs to citizens in Rochester, New York, though with other states considering more legal action, T-Mobile US and Dish might have to hit the negotiating table elsewhere.

In California, Attorney General Becerra is considering his options, while Ken Paxton, the Attorney General for Texas, has not stated whether he will pursue an appeal to the decision. These might not be the catalyst for opposition that Letitia James is, but they will certainly be able to cause a problem. T-Mobile US, Sprint and Dish executives want this deal done, are will probably be willing to negotiate some attractive deals.

T-Mobile US finishes the decade with another 1m net phone additions

The final quarter of 2019 was one which certainly did not let T-Mobile US down, as the team boasted an additional 1 million postpaid phone net additions, taking the customer base up to 86 million.

While the firm still lags behind the leading duo in the US, AT&T and Verizon, CEO John Legere will likely be exiting the office on a high. Seven years in charge, and the business is looking remarkably different from the dreary days of 2012.

“T-Mobile delivered another incredible fourth quarter with strong customer growth, despite a very competitive environment – and we did it while lighting up the country’s first nationwide 5G network and working to close our merger with Sprint,” said Legere.

“7 million net customers have chosen to join the Un-carrier movement in 2019, and they are choosing T-Mobile because we treat them right, we eliminate their pain points, and we are changing the rules of this industry for customers everywhere.”

For the moment, this is a preliminary view of the final quarter of 2019, and as such financial figures have not been included. The subscriber numbers might also vary, though these are likely to be very accurate.

For the final three months of 2019, T-Mobile US can account for 1.9 million net additions in total, 1 million of which are branded postpaid phone net additions. An additional 300,000 customers were brought in through sales of wearables or tablets, 77,000 net additions were added to the prepaid column, while another 472,000 wholesale connections were added to the T-Mobile US network.

Looking across the whole of 2019, T-Mobile US added 7 million customers to its ranks, taking the total up to 86 million subscriptions across all segments. For the year, the team is suggesting 3.1 million branded postpaid phone net additions and 339,000 branded prepaid net additions.

Of course, the objective of this business is to compete with the likes of AT&T and Verizon.

T-Mobile US AT&T Verizon Sprint
Subscribers (total) 66,503 92,892 93,922 40,939
–       Postpaid 45,720 75,152 89,739 31,942
–       Prepaid 20,783 17,740 4,183 8,997
Net additions 1,747 10 112 385

*Subscriber numbers taken from most recent financial results

Looking at the number of consumer post- and pre-paid subscriptions of the major telcos in the US, AT&T and Verizon are clearly still the dominant force, but T-Mobile US is not that far behind. Then of course you have to add in the Sprint subscriptions (assuming the merger runs smoothly over the next few months), and it will almost certainly be on par.

These numbers do not tell the whole story of course. AT&T and Verizon have significant bets in both the broadband and content world, as well as a presence in IOT. The profits of the wholesale business units, which make notable contributions to both Sprint and T-Mobile US are also not included.

When you take out all the corporate rhetoric, exaggeration and misdirection, and simple look at the numbers there are two interesting takeaways. Firstly, John Legere has done a remarkable job to evolve T-Mobile US from a poor-mans telco which was an acquisition target of AT&T, to a connectivity behemoth which competes in the top table of the US digital rankings.

T-Mobile US is competitive today, but tomorrow presents a new market dynamic; 5G. While all of the telcos are pondering the implications of mmWave connectivity, T-Mobile US has a weapon its rivals cannot compete with; a monstrous hording of low-band 5G spectrum. It might not provide the high-speed of mmWave, but it does offer coverage. It will be interesting to see what impact this has on the attractiveness of T-Mobile US’ 5G proposition in comparison to rivals.

The second point to consider is competition. With three telcos scaled towards 100 million subscribers once the T-Mobile US and Sprint merger is completed, the credibility that Dish can compete in this market as a fourth, comparable and legitimate option is severely undermined.

Dish CEO claims it can compete from Day One

Dish CEO Charlie Ergen has been sitting in a New York court room to defend the approval of the T-Mobile US-Sprint merger, but also insisting his company can compete in the cut-throat telco industry.

This week is a critical one for executives in both the T-Mobile US and Sprint businesses. For the next few days, these men and women will be face-to-face with the 14 Attorney Generals, led by New York’s chief prosecutor Letitia James, in a court case which will decide the future of the business.

With approvals being granted by the relevant regulatory authorities, the last hurdle the duo has to navigate is the lawsuit from the Attorney Generals. These 14 lawyers oppose the merger on the grounds of competition, but Ergen is the star witness for T-Mobile US and Sprint.

“We will compete with the largest operators in the United States, and we’ll compete from day one,” Ergen said in court.

Ergen believes the Dish mobile business will be live within 30 days of the T-Mobile-Sprint merger being approved. At this point, Ergen will get his hands-on Sprint’s prepaid business, Boost. The brand will continue in the pre-paid market for the short-term, though Dish plan to move into the post-paid segment sharpish.

This is perhaps what the judgement will lie on. Will the court believe Ergen? Can this CEO convince Judge Victor Marrero that Dish is a viable alternative to the Sprint business which currently exists?

Looking at the positive side of the argument, Dish has spectrum. It has been competing in the spectrum auctions for years and has a treasure trove, which is currently under threat. Dish has been told to use it or lose it. Another interesting factor is the financing; Ergen claims to have $10 billion lined-up in loans from the banks. Then there is the agreement with T-Mobile US. For the next seven years, Dish will be able to make use of the T-Mobile US network where it hasn’t deployed its own.

These are all interesting points to consider, but then you have to look at the other side of the equation.

Dish has never been in the mobile business. Will it be able to get an effective mobile service up-and-running within 30 days? We’re not too sure. Is $10 billion enough to fulfil the grand promises which have been made to gain approvals from the authorities? If Sprint currently has 50 million subscribers, will the Dish mobile proposition ever reach this mark to maintain the current levels of competition across the US?

These are all queries which will need to be answered. Ergen will be placed under cross-examination from the Attorney Generals, and there are plenty of threads to tug on to unravel this story.

The question which remains is can Ergen prove Dish is a viable replacement for Sprint to maintain the competitive environment which is present today? That is the question which this case rests on.

5G over low frequency spectrum seems to be a waste of time

T-Mobile was able to claim the first US 5G network thanks to its 600 MHz spectrum, but it immediately started managing-down expectations, so what was the point?

Multiple reports are claiming TMUS has been telling its excited punters that the speed increase with 5G will be, on average, around 20%. That’s a pretty major anti-climax after all the hype suggesting 5G would be ten times faster and all that. As ever with the tendency of US operator marketing departments to massively over-promise, they have to confront the facts on the ground sooner or later.

Having said all that it’s important to stress that early tests of the TMUS 5G network have, at times, yielded speed increases far greater than that average (which also implies there are other times there will be now increase at all, or even a decrease). PC Mag has done a good job of initial testing and found results vary according to the expected factors such as distance from the cell and time of day.

PC Mag concludes that, while TMUS’s 5G does represent an upgrade over its 4G service, the improvement is neither so great nor consistent enough to get too excited about. Elsewhere VentureBeat, Cnet, and Slashgear offer similarly nuanced reports that all agree there’s a limited amount to get too excited about at this stage.

Meanwhile the Houston Chronicle was so underwhelmed it had a bit of a moan to TMUS and got the following statement in response. “In some places, 600 MHz 5G will be a lot faster than LTE. In others, customers won’t see as much difference. On average, customers with a 600 MHz 5G phone should see a 20 percent download speed boost on top of what T-Mobile’s LTE network delivers, and with the New T-Mobile they can expect that to get exponentially faster over time, just like we saw when 4G was first introduced.”

That’s all fair enough but it still feels like a pretty major climb-down from all the utopian noise we’ve been getting the US about 5G. TMUS even had the nerve to attack its competitors for over-hyping 5G earlier this week, only to then release the above statement. While there is some special sauce in 5G NR, the main bandwidth improvements are derived from simply using the fatter pipes available at higher frequencies.

The reason there’s all this spectrum available at higher bands is that it’s pretty rubbish for telecommunications. It has short range and poor propagation characteristics. So while the use of 600 MHz technically enables nationwide 5G, the kind of 5G that has been promised will only arrive once operators have added a zillion small cells to transmit higher frequencies and that won’t happen for a while.

Verizon, T-Mobile, and US Cellular lied on 4G coverage but will get away with it

Buried in the depths of a FCC press release, the authority has said Verizon, T-Mobile, and US Cellular exaggerated on 4G coverage maps but no punishments are being considered.

As part of the Mobility Fund Phase II, telcos were given federal support for rolling out 4G services to rural and underserved areas. This cash was supposed to bridge the digital divide, and as part of the agreement, the telcos were obliged to provide accurate coverage maps to ensure the cash was being spent in the right manner.

Following an investigation into the initiative, it was found Verizon, T-Mobile, and US Cellular misled the FCC on their 4G footprint. Data was presented to the Commission exaggerating the extent of 4G coverage, in other words, these three telcos were not spending federal money as promised. These telcos were effectively lying to the Commission and the general public.

Interestingly enough, the FCC does not currently have any plans to punish the trio, instead has created a new initiative to apply for federal funds. All three will be invited to apply for the Government hand-out. This is perhaps the latest example of a toothless watchdog, with the bureaucrats in charge in procession of the same spine as a lifeless slug.

The new fund will make $9 billion available to ensure 5G connectivity reaches the areas in the US which the telcos elect to ignore.

“We want to make sure that rural Americans enjoy these benefits, just as residents of large urban areas will,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “In order to do that, the Universal Service Fund must be forward-looking and support the networks of tomorrow.

“Moreover, America’s farms and ranches have unique wireless connectivity needs, as I’ve seen across the country. That’s why I will move forward as quickly as possible to establish a 5G Fund that would bring next-generation 5G services to rural areas and would reserve some of that funding for 5G networks that promote precision agriculture.”

The announcement of the 5G Fund for Rural America is the very press release the FCC decided to attempt to bury the findings of the report. Considering how much work has been done to disguise the Mobility Fund Phase II investigation, few should be surprised Verizon, T-Mobile and US Cellular will get away with ignoring rules and spending tax payer’s money in an irresponsible manner.

This is a saga which has been on-going for some time, after smaller, rural telcos complained the nationwide players were exaggerating coverage maps. These coverage maps helped the FCC determine who should get a slice of the $4.5 billion reserved for the Mobility Fund Phase II. What is being done to make sure the same abuses do not reoccur is unknown. It does appear nothing right now.

Telcos have shown on numerous occasions they cannot be trusted to act responsibly on their own, but when a watchdog ignores such flagrant disregard for the rules it simply encourages the telcos to push the definitions of right and wrong even further.

The FCC has failed the general public here, the very people it is supposed to serve.

Looking at the 5G Fund for Rural America, the objective is simple. Telcos prioritise deployment in areas which are commercially more attractive, the larger cities and major transport hubs. This is forgivable, these are commercial companies after all not charities, but the federal funds are designed to offset some of the extraordinary expense for network deployment. It is a reasonable way to spend federal dollars when managed correctly.

$9 billion will be set aside for the rural communities, which includes $1 billion which will have to be spent on delivering connectivity solutions for the agricultural industry. With an election on the horizon, this is a very intelligent move. In 2016, President Trump arguably won because he was able to mobilise communities and individuals who were feeling marginalised; in the digital world, farmers fit this description perfectly.

The question which remains is whether the same telcos can be trusted to appropriately spend their allocation of the $9 billion moving forward. Seeing as the FCC is currently proving itself as toothless, there doesn’t seem to be any deterrent to behave, which is an interesting position to be in.

T-Mobile launches America’s ‘first nationwide 5G network’

TMUS finally makes good use of its 600 MHz spectrum to be able to claim the country’s first 5G network with nationwide coverage.

The 5G network apparently covers 200 million people and a million square miles, which isn’t a bad effort. How much 5G wonder subscribers with get from the relatively small chunks of 600 MHz spectrum TMUS is using to achieve this first remains to be seen but, as ever the company itself concedes, it’s a ‘critical first step’.

“5G is here on a nationwide scale,” said TMUS CEO John Legere. “This is a huge step towards 5G for all. While dumb and dumber focus on 5G for the (wealthy) Few, launching in just a handful of cities — and forcing customers into their most expensive plans to get 5G — we’re committed to building broad, deep nationwide 5G that people and businesses can access at no extra cost with the New T-Mobile, and today is just the start of that journey.”

In his usual dry, understated style, Legere is presumably referring to AT&T and Verizon, although he doesn’t indicate which one is dumber. Being the seasoned telecoms exec he is, Legere realised he’d better also launch some compatible phones, so from the end of this week TMUS early adopters can get hold of OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren and the Samsung Galaxy Note10+ 5G for $900 and $1300 respectively.

“The carriers have been over-hyping 5G for years now, setting expectations beyond what they can deliver,” said Neville Ray, TMUS President of Technology. “When Verizon says #5GBuiltRight, they must mean sparse, expensive and limited to outdoors only. Meanwhile at T-Mobile, we built 5G that works for more people in more places, and this is just the start.”

There was lots more noise from them, as you would expect, but you get the message. TMUS is great and everyone else is rubbish and duplicitous. It’s not the most subtle marketing strategy but it seems to be working, so who are we to scoff? It looks like the 5G service doesn’t come at a premium over 4G either, and there’s some kind of extra incentive for people to switch networks, so TMUS seems to be going hard on this one.

Here’s the coverage map and those crazy guys even did a vid.