Industry associations appeal FCC’s announced SMR auction The FCC’s announced auction of SMR channels is drawing heavy fire from a number of sources as parties line up to take a shot at the agency’s proposed rules for auctioning 800MHz channels. The matter has spawned two appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia seeking overturn of the FCC’s decisions.
A group of 38 operators represented by Brown and Schwaninger, Washington, DC, has filed appeals to both the FCC’s Memorandum Opinion and Order and its Second Report and Order. In a separate appeal, the trade group SMR-WON is also opposing the agency’s decisions. Industry observers expect the appeals to be consolidated before the Court.
Major paging companies, such as AirTouch, Dallas, are also seeking to intervene in the appeals, stating that they believe the issues to be decided may affect any future auction of paging channels, including the agency’s authority to engage in the auction of encumbered spectrum. Nextel Communications, Rutherford, NJ, has filed papers with the Court asking it to turn down the appeal.
Meanwhile, the FCC has received numerous petitions for reconsideration to those same decisions. Small Business in Telecommunications (SBT) has noted that the decisions do not conform with law, including new sections of the Telecommunications Act adopted in August 1997. Industrial Telecommunications Association (ITA) states that the FCC’s plans do not conform with its Congressional authority. AMTA points out that the FCC’s rules unfairly eliminated installment payments. PCIA seeks substantial revision in the FCC’s decisions, including a recognition of costs to customers in participating in any frequency relocation.
The announced date for the auction is Oct. 28, but thus far five associations have requested reconsideration of various parts of the FCC’s scheme, and the agency may yet take the opportunity to address those problems prior to holding the auction.
S.C. Basnight wins PCIA’s 1997 Technician of the Year award The PCIA honored S.C. Basnight with its annual Technician of the Year award on Sept. 9, at the Board of the Directors’ Dinner and Industry Awards Ceremony during the association’s Personal Communications Showcase in Dallas. The award is given in recognition of “consistent demonstration of exemplary technical performance.” Basnight has worked for Commercial Radio Service, Nags Head, NC, for 35 years, and is now manager and head technician.
Basnight’s achievements during almost four decades are numerous. He installed the E9-1-1 system for Dare County EMS and the Centracom system used by county EMS, fire, police and sheriff’s office. He also installed equipment for Pasquotank County’s Command Center, a mobile communications base communicates with all emergency units needed to maintain an area during an emergency or disaster. Perhaps more valuable than his achievements, however, are his day-to-day presence and reliability. He is on call 24 hours a day to ensure that the equipment is operational.
In a letter to the PCIA, Dare County Communications Director David Cowan described Basnight as a “tremendous asset” to the county. “I work with numerous service providers,” Cowan said. “Of these providers, none are as pleasurable, competent or resourceful as Mr. Basnight.”
Test procedure verifies pager coverage using GPS, computer link Mobile Telecommunications Technologies (Mtel) has certified paging coverage in 30 cities, under real-life conditions.
Rather than rely on computer-generated coverage forecasts typical in the industry, Mtel teams were dispatched to key markets to determine and to certify coverage for Skyword Plus, an advanced messaging product.
“Mtel has implemented an on-site testing program that provides scientific validation of our coverage areas.” said John T. Stupka, Mtel president. “Traditionally, the industry has determined the coverage area in a market by generating forecasts based on theory_totally ignoring weather conditions, topography and building penetration.”
Equipped with one-way pagers, Skyword Plus units, global positioning systems (GPS) receivers and HP200LX palmtop computers, the teams crisscrossed the city throughout the day, going to more than 400 randomly chosen locations, both inside and outside of buildings.
For the next 12 hours, each paging unit was sent messages generated by the SkyTel Network Operations Center (NOC) in one-minute increments. Simultaneously, at 20-second intervals the GPS receivers pinpointed the test latitude and longitude coordinates and relayed the information to the HP palmtop.
These data were downloaded to a laptop and emailed to Mtel’s corporate headquarters in Jackson, MS, at the end of the day. The GPS data files were then compared to the percentages of message receipts on the pagers to verify actual coverage.
“During the certification process, the NOC sent more than 1.9 million messages, allowing us to accurately verify and define total market coverage,” said Ali Tabassi, vice president of RF network operations and engineering at Mtel. “In the next few months we will be sending teams back out to certify markets for other SkyTel products.”
Skywork Plus was released in April and features guaranteed message delivery. If a subscriber turns a pager off or travels out of range, the system stores the messages. When the subscriber returns to the coverage area or turns the pager on, the system delivers all stored messages automatically. An additional feature, Messagemender, automatically corrects garbled messages.
ITLA assigns frequency advisory activities to ITA supervision The International Taxicab and Livery Association (ITLA), Kensington, MD, is now under formal agreement with the Industrial Telecommunications Association (ITA) for the day-to-day management of its FCC-certified frequency advisory committee activities. The activities will be performed by ITA at its offices in Arlington, VA.
ITLA plans to continue to maintain an active role in all future spectrum management and regulatory initiatives through the formation of an ITLA and ITA jointly managed Taxicab and Livery Communications Council that will be governed by taxicab and livery license representatives.
Taxicab radio service applications (FCC Form 600) should be submitted directly to the Taxicab and Livery Communications Council, ITA, 1110 N. Glebe Rd., Suite 500, Arlington, VA 22201.
PCS network construction increases need for recruiting, training technicians Personal communications service (PCS) wireless telephone licensees, also known as “carriers,” use a combination of resources to find and to recruit people with skills to build and operate their cell sites and switching offices. Universities, colleges and trade schools provide graduates who are ready to be trained to work with specific equipment. Training is typically offered by vendors, consultants, contractors and the carriers themselves.
WirelessNorth, a PCS management company owned by independent telephone and utility companies that own PCS licenses in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota, already has activated some of its PCS systems. Asked how the carrier finds training vendors, company president Rick Rapp‡ said, “When you announce plans to spend $40 million to build a network, the vendors come to you with training.” Training is often conducted at the vendor’s facilities, with several customers sending employees to the same classes. “The training generally is not conducted at schools, hotel locations or trade shows,” Rapp‡ said.
Robert C. Shapiro, P.E., president of Strategic Telecommunications, Carrollton, TX, said carriers typically run through a cycle from the highest-priced to the lowest-priced technical talent as the network moves from design through construction and to routine operation. “First come the lawyers and engineers, who bill at rates approaching $100 or more per hour,” he said.
After the license application and system design stage, vendors are selected to build the system. Carriers use their own employees, contractors, vendors’ employees and their contractors or a combination. Strategic Telecommunications is a contractor that normally works for vendors and carriers.
“Once the system is built, the vendors and contractors normally are let go, with the exception of a few key representatives for a year or so to handle remaining work and to train the carrier’s employees,” Shapiro said.
When their systems have become operational, carriers typically continue to shift from reliance on consultants, vendors and contractors to reliance on full-time employees as their training is completed and as they gain experience.
“Carriers naturally want to reduce their operating costs, show a profit and amortize their capital investment,” Shapiro said. “Full-time technician salaries typically range from $40,000 to $80,000, which is less than it costs to use outside services to accomplish the same tasks.”
Bob Beers, WirelessNorth’s director of engineering, has recruited experienced employees from other carriers. In addition, he has hired graduates from Western Iowa Technical Community College in Sioux City, IA, and he has used a recruiting service for at least one other hire in a technical capacity. “We fill in a crew with one experienced technician and one or two others, with no experience, who are fresh from trade school,” Beers said.
Whereas Rapp‡ finds that most technical sessions offered at trade shows to be too general in nature and too sales-oriented, compared to training conducted at the vendors’ facilities, Beers has found that some specific topics are covered well.
“Vendors of dc power systems for cell sites, antenna vendors and test equipment vendors often offer seminars at trade shows that help us with our jobs,” Beers said. Shapiro said a key difference is the limited opportunity for hands-on training at trade shows with the switches, transmitters, receivers and other network equipment.
D&L Communications purchased by management employees D&L Communications, Fort Wayne, IN, has changed ownership after 34 years. Dwight Donaldson and Bruce LeVasseur, co-founders of D&L Communications, have announced their plans to sell the company to key employees Tom Murphy, vice president, and Kevin Stock, marketing manager.
Murphy will assume the position of president, while Stock will serve as executive vice president. Murphy and Stock will own the company jointly. Common stock options will be extended to members of the current management team.
Immediate plans call for an aggressive expansion of their SMR division, which now has more than 235 channels.
The company will increase spectrum, and the Ericsson EDACS system will serve as the platform.
The expansion will focus on high-tier dispatch users in business, industrial, public safety and utility markets.
Technician group changes name, refocuses membership The Association of Communications Technicians, a membership section of the Personal Communications Industry Association (PCIA), Alexandria, VA, has changed its name to the Alliance of Wireless Communications Engineers and Technicians (AWCET). The 850-member alliance previously had focused on the needs of technicians, but it is expanding its scope to include matters that are important to engineers involved with radio-related communications infrastructure and user devices.
“All along, we have offered services that are useful to wireless communications engineers as well as technicians, but the previous name might have deterred some engineers from considering membership,” said Ian Wright, vice president of sales and service for Dominion Communications Systems, Colonial Heights, VA. Wright is a current member of the alliance’s volunteer leadership council, a former chairman of the council and a current member of PCIA’s board of directors. “We want to market the alliance’s services to engineers as well as technicians, and the name change reflects this direction.” Information about AWCET is available by calling 800-759-0300.
Decibel Products opens environmental stress testing facility Allen Telecom’s Decibel Products Division has completed design and installation of facilities for environmental stress screening at its headquarters and manufacturing facility in Dallas.
The testing facility is highlighted by two test systems. The first is an environmental chamber capable of producing temperature dwell and shock tests ranging from 110¯F to 158¯F and humidity as high as 95%. The chamber can produce snow, sleet and ice conditions. The second system simulates heavy tropical storms and can subject equipment to heavy rains with recirculating winds.
The facility includes test stations for vibration, shear and tensile strength testing, wind loading, tip deflection, material hardness and chemical resistance.