AT&T and Verizon: New Attack on ISP Competition

By Ernesto Falcon, Electronic Frontier Foundation, June 8, 2018 | Original article here.

While the Net Neutrality Fight Continues, AT&T and Verizon are Opening a New Attack on ISP Competition

In 1996, Congress passed the Telecommunications Act in order to inject competition into the telephone market and set the stage for a nascent commercial Internet. Last month, US Telecom, the trade association of AT&T and Verizon, filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to repeal one of the central requirements of the 1996 Telecom Act that has promoted competition. That requirement being that incumbent telephone companies share their copper line infrastructure at regulated rates with competitiors to lower the barriers to entering an incumbent’s market.

If this US Telecom petition is granted, incumbent Wireline telephone companies will be free to raise prices or simply disconnect competitors’ access to their infrastructure and jeopardize the small amount of remaining competition that exists in high-speed broadband.

While copper wire infrastructure may strike people as the infrastructure of yesterday, its existence and the legal rights to access it remain essential for competitive entry into the high-speed broadband market. This is because it is one of the only remaining ways a new company can gain customers to then leverage to finance fiber optic deployment. Should the FCC grant the US Telecom petition, the growing monopolization of high-speed broadband above 25 Mbps where more than half of Americans have only one choice will likely become worse.

Shared Copper Wire Access Promotes Private Competitive Gigabit Fiber Networks

Congress envisioned that forcing incumbent telephone companies to share their infrastructure with new market entrants would spur competition. It worked fairly well in terms of facilitating the creation of hundreds of new companies known as Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs), but in the years that followed financial shocks (namely the dot-com bubble) and other challenges resulted in many of these companies to go bankrupt. The small number of CLECs that remain continue to rely on these sharing agreements as a means to help finance their growth to compete and most importantly help finance their own fiber optic deployments.

Compounding the importance access to copper wire infrastructure represents is the fact that the FCC explicitly exempted incumbent fiber optic infrastructure from sharing requirements in 2005, with the advent of Verizon FIOS. The history that has followed the 2005 decision to exempt fiber optics from infrastructure sharing requirements pretty clearly demonstrates limited success in a handful of urban markets, but ultimately more than half of Americans now with a monopoly choice (which one should mark down as a failure in policy).

How Does Access to Copper Infrastructure Lead to Competitive Fiber Optic Deployment?

Entering into the ISP market is very difficult. This is because deploying the physical infrastructure to create an ISP is expensive even though maintaining the ISP, once it has been deployed, is a substantially lower cost. It is the high sunk costs of deploying fiber optics that has resulted in the growing lack of competition Americans have in high-speed broadband because very few companies can successfully pull off entering the market. Here is where access to copper line infrastructure still remains important in at least the markets that have CLECs reliant on sharing rights.

Generally, there are three primary means to deploying competitive fiber optic high-speed broadband in today’s market:

  1. Have a pre-existing customer base that can be leveraged to obtain the finances necessary to absorb the high sunk costs of fiber optic deployment.

  2. Have deep pockets or other means that can be leveraged to obtain those dollars to deploy.

  3. Already have the fiber optic infrastructure deployed for purposes other than broadband and convert it over to broadband.

Many cities that launch their own community broadband service have some combination of 2 and 3 with their utility company while incumbent telephone companies like Verizon FIOS (which stopped deploying fiber years ago) started off with 1 and 2. A competitive entrant like Google Fiber had 2 and 3, but even they have stopped expanding their fiber build.

For any competitors or new entrants that are small by comparison, the access to copper infrastructure is effectively the bridge to get customers and build a base that can be leveraged for fiber deployments (option 1). Without it, one should expect many small competitors to effectively die off in the broadband market if they are unable to obtain the financing necessary to deploy. With fewer companies deploying competitive fiber, one should expect the regional monopolization of high-speed broadband to get worse in the U.S. market.

How Can the FCC Exempt AT&T and Verizon from the 1996 Telecom Law?

Congress predicted that not every provision of the 1996 Act would need to be applied to the industry forever. So, in order to allow the FCC the flexibility to decide which parts of the law remained applicable, it created the forbearance authority. Forbearance is the process where the FCC examines a provision within the law and decides whether those provisions are still needed to protect consumers, fulfill the goals of the Telecom Act, and is in the public interest. We saw forbearance used aggressively to craft the 2015 Open Internet Order to effectively narrow the 1996 law for broadband providers to ensure net neutrality.

Forbearance can also be invoked by petition from the industry itself, which carries with it a shot clock that requires the FCC to vote it down in the majority to reject or it will be approved (a tie, for example, would still grant the petition). That means on this question of competitor access to incumbent copper wireline infrastructure, the FCC is going to have to vote on it within about a year.

The consequences of granting the forbearance will impact broadband users across the country and an untold number of competitors in the market that depends on copper wire access. US Telecom would like to portray this as a win for consumers, but that requires a lot of assumptions about what will happen once they cut off competitors’ access to the infrastructure.

In their economic study towards the end of their forbearance petition, a large portion of the consumer benefits they predict are heavily premised on the idea that competitors will have the financing without copper wire access to immediately transition over to fiber optic networks. Thus, with more Americans enjoying competing fiber optic deployments, more will have access to high-speed broadband at lower rates.

This sounds great in theory, but a major failing in this assumption is that it requires us to ignore the market we have today and not ask questions as to what has happened in the 13 years since Verizon FIOS began deployment. For example, if it was easy to deploy additional fiber networks where smaller ISPs no longer need these protections, why is it that large companies like Verizon and Google Fiber stopped deploying fiber years ago? Has any smaller competitor deployed fiber networks without first entering the market through reselling services over the copper wire? Why is it that the EU market has explored sharing of fiber optic network infrastructure to promote competition while notably the US lags behind the EU by ever metric and has done so for years?

Until the FCC really digs into why the US market has a monopoly choice for more than half of Americans, it should reject efforts by incumbents to gloss over these important questions rather than take US Telecom’s word that it will all just work out. Otherwise, it might very well embark on a path where we go from more than half of Americans having one choice for high-speed broadband to where only the markets that have Verizon FIOS, Google Fiber, or a community broadband deployment as the only markets with more than one choice.

ISPs Say They Need Government Money to Expand Broadband . . . What???

Title-shopping: Broadband Industry now asks for handouts, arguing that broadband is essential — like a utility.

Adapted from the original article here by Jon Brodkin, ARS Technica, 8/16/18.

Wearing their Title I masks (as unregulated information services providers), broadband providers have spent years lobbying against utility-style regulations that protect consumers from high prices and bad service.

But now, broadband lobby groups are wearing their Title II masks (as regulated telecommunications services providers) arguing that Internet service is similar to utilities such as electricity, gas distribution, roads, and water and sewer networks.

The broadband lobby groups participate in this duplicitous masquerade to try to get it both ways:

  • The benefits of a utility (unfettered access to public rights-of-way)
  • Without the obligations of a utility (to provide universal service at reasonable rates)

These broadband lobby groups argue that broadband’s utility-like status is reason for the government to give ISPs more money, but then try to argue that the essential nature of broadband doesn’t require more regulation to protect consumers . . . What???

These are the argument made by trade groups USTelecom and NTCA — The Rural Broadband Association. USTelecom represents telcos including AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink, while NTCA represents nearly 850 small ISPs.

Jonathan Spalter and NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield wrote Monday in an op-ed for The Topeka Capital-Journal

"Like electricity, broadband is essential to every American. Yet US broadband infrastructure has been financed largely by the private sector without assurance that such costs can be recovered through increased consumer rates."

ISPs want the benefits of a utility, but not the responsibilities

While ISPs want the benefits of being treated like utilities — such as pole attachment rights and access to public rights-of-way — they oppose traditional utility-style obligations such as regulated prices and deployment to all Americans.

The industry’s main arguments against net neutrality and other common carrier regulations were that broadband shouldn’t be treated as a utility and that the broadband market is too competitive to justify strict regulations. "Utility regulation over broadband can only inhibit incentives for network investment," AT&T warned in November 2017.

Further Reading: Verizon FiOS claimed public utility status to get government perks

Industry groups have also tried to stop cities and towns from building their own networks, saying that the government shouldn’t compete against private companies. Telecom-friendly legislatures have passed about 20 state laws restricting the growth of municipal broadband.

Despite the industry’s fight against municipal networks, Spalter and Bloomfield wrote

"private-led investment model only works well in "reasonably populous areas. In rural parts of America, the private sector can’t go it alone. To close the rural broadband gap, the US needs solutions that unite the public and private sectors to finish the job of building a truly connected nation. This public/private model is without question . . . the only acceptable path forward just as it was in wiring rural America with electricity and building our nation’s highways . . . Broadband providers need a committed partner to finish the job of connecting unserved communities. That partner should be all of us as Americans—in the form of our government."

The op-ed did not explain why the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality rules wasn’t enough to spur expanded broadband investment, though broadband industry lobby groups previously claimed that the rules were holding back network expansions and upgrades. ISPs also promised more investment in exchange for a major tax break that was passed by Congress late last year.

Broadband’s similarity to utilities

To make their point, USTelecom and NTCA commissioned a report titled, "Rural Broadband Economics: A Review of Rural Subsidies."

The "costs per user" of building networks in sparsely populated areas led to "unsustainable business models to provide network services," the USTelecom/NTCA report says. The report was written for USTelecom and NTCA by telecom consulting firm CostQuest Associates. It continues:

"In this respect, there are similarities between networks in communications, electric power, roads, natural gas distribution, water distribution, and sewer networks. By the very nature of network economics, each industry exhibits economies of density and each reaches a point at which un-subsidized provision of service in low-density areas is not viable."

The report goes on to describe "the importance of subsidies to networks in low-density areas" for essential services including electricity, road networks, natural gas, water distribution, waste disposal, and broadband.

Despite subsidies, rural broadband is still poor

Of course, private Internet service providers already receive various subsidies from states and the federal government, including $1.5 billion a year for rural networks from the Federal Communications Commission’s Connect America Fund. Despite this, telcos like AT&T have mostly avoided upgrading their copper networks to fiber, except in areas where they face competition from cable companies, we noted in a recent article.

Further Reading: Telcos Canceled Fiber to the Home and Created the Digital Divide

Nearly 31 percent of the 43.6 million Americans in rural areas do not have access to home Internet service with speeds of at least 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up, according to the FCC.

The USTelecom/NTCA report argues that ISPs need more money from Americans, saying the government could boost subsidies to private firms with "access to low-cost infrastructure, low-interest loans, loan guarantees, up-front payments, on-going payments, and/or other mechanisms."

The report notes that, historically, telecommunications networks were subsidized in order to establish universal phone service, and carriers were subject to rate-of-return regulation that limited the amount they could charge consumers. Unlike today’s broadband providers, prices charged by electric companies and other utilities are still regulated in many US states.

Give us more money

But the increased subsidies for private ISPs proposed by the USTelecom/NTCA report apparently wouldn’t come with any limits on what carriers can charge consumers; the report states that rate-of-return regulation would be "unsustainable in modern competitive communications markets."

The report says:

Only three options (or some combination thereof) are possible in such low-density areas:

  1. prices are higher in low-density areas to reflect higher costs;
  2. service is not offered in low-density areas since demand is insufficient to cover the higher costs; and/or
  3. the higher costs of providing service are subsidized (at least partially).

The public and the FCC are disinclined to accept higher prices in rural areas (which often have lower incomes). The remaining choice is between subsidizing broadband, by some method, or leaving the most rural areas of the US without broadband service.

The Municipal Option

There are more options than just subsidizing private companies or having poor access in rural America, though. Instead of giving government money to private companies that get to choose what price to charge, many municipalities have built their own networks in order to boost speeds in areas neglected by private companies.

Proponents of municipal broadband say that the private model’s failure in rural areas shows that cities and towns should consider taking a more direct role in providing Internet access.

"The federal government has offered billions of dollars to CenturyLink and AT&T, resulting in little infrastructure improvement. Despite funding, speeds still do not meet the FCC definition of broadband," the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) notes in a fact sheet.

Local governments in more than 750 communities have invested in wired telecommunications networks, with cooperatives and other local organizations providing fiber-to-the-home in many areas that were underserved by private companies, the ILSR says.

Chattanooga, Tennessee, is a good example of the municipal model. The Electric Power Board (EPB) of Chattanooga offers gigabit Internet service for $70 a month and was the highest-rated ISP in a recent Consumer Reports survey. EPB built its network and turned a profit despite having to defeat a lawsuit filed in 2008 by Comcast, which tried to stop the network from being built.

Providing Internet service directly to residents isn’t the only municipal-led option, the ILSR notes. Cities and towns can also build "open-access networks [that] allow multiple ISPs to operate on publicly owned infrastructure, creating competition to improve speeds and lower prices."

That wouldn’t please broadband industry lobbyists who have been fighting municipal efforts to expand public broadband options. USTelecom and NTCA both fought an FCC attempt to preempt state laws that limit the spread of municipal broadband, and they cheered in 2016 when a court struck down the FCC attempt to allow expansion of city-run broadband networks.

In their op-ed, Spalter and Bloomfield argued that government funding should be given to

"experienced broadband providers rather than to newcomers. With adequate and constructive government support, alongside the continued commitment and innovation of our nation’s broadband companies, the dream of a truly connected nation is within reach. It’s time to make it a reality for all Americans."

S4WT Comment: the public deserves Title-II regulated fiber-optic broadband service, which would be broadband to everyone at reasonable rates via FTTP: Fiber to the Premises. The public already paid $400-600 billion for this promised FTTP service from 1993 to the present, but the Telcos and ISPs never delivered. Make the Telcos and ISPs return that money so municipalities can get the job done right. Americans don’t want or need cell phone towers in front of their homes for insecure, data-capped Wireless service. Instead we need uncapped, more secure, and more defensible (from natural disasters or attacks) FTTP directly to homes for $40-60 a month. It is time to break up the serial monopolists of AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, Comcast and Charter and restore actual competition over municipal broadband networks.

Verizon 4G/5G Antennas Put Sonomans on Edge

by Christian Kallen Aug 9, 2018; Original Sonoma Index-Tribune article here

It was almost a full year ago, on Aug. 24, 2017, that the City of Sonoma Planning Department received the first of 10 applications from Verizon to build a series of “wireless telecommunications small cell nodes” in town, the first atop a utility pole near 725 Verano Ave.

Since that time, nine more applications have been made for such installations, most near private homes, but three of them on commercial properties. The stated reason for the multiple small cell transmitters – 5G Close Proximity Microwave Radiation Antennas, or CPMRA – is so Verizon can provide improved wireless voice and data service in town, filling in purported coverage gaps.

But opponents of the new transmitters hold that they are dangerous, untested and unnecessary.

They also contend that the Planning Department has been slow to schedule public review of the new technology in Sonoma, a failure, they say, that puts the health of Sonoma residents at risk – with potential decrease of property values if not financial liability.

Such small-cell networks have run into public opposition in several local cities, including in Petaluma which recently put a 500-foot setback from residences on the transmission devices, and Santa Rosa which “paused” the ongoing installation of the Verizon small-cell network in June.

But in Sonoma, the first public hearing on the small-cell transmission project is finally being heard late this month, on Aug. 30, a full year after the proposals were filed by Verizon.

Continue reading “Verizon 4G/5G Antennas Put Sonomans on Edge”

Large ISPs Disregard Rural America

By Ernesto Falcon, August 9, 2018 | Original Electronic Frontier Foundation article here.

Companies like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon are going around to state legislatures and telling them that any laws they pass that protect consumers will harm their ability to deploy networks in rural America. They claim that any legislator eager to protect their constituents from the nefarious things that can be done by companies that control access to the Internet is somehow hurting residents most desperate for an Internet connection. But their lack of willingness to invest has nothing to do with laws like net neutrality or privacy, because today they are nearly completely deregulated, sitting on a mountain of cash, and have no shown intention of connecting rural Americans to high-speed Internet while their smaller competitors take up the challenge.

The Tax Cuts from Congress Gave Them Billions in New Profits Followed by No New Plans to Roll out New Networks

Congress cut corporate tax rates last year and substantially increased the profit margins of large ISPs. In total, the top three major ISPs expect to receive an additional $8.8 billion in profits just from the tax cuts alone for 2018 (Verizon – $4 billion, AT&T – $3 billion, Comcast $1.8 billion) on top of the more than $34 billion (their profits in 2016) they are expected to collect in profits. What has happened with a vast majority of that new money has not been invested in expanding or upgrading their networks to fiber to the home (FTTH), which is necessary to have a network able to handle the coming advancements in Internet services, but rather in stock buybacks. That is to say that they are not using their money to improve things for their customers but to increase the share of the profits each shareholder gets all while leaving rural America to languish.

Continue reading “Large ISPs Disregard Rural America”

How Real Is the Race to 5G?

Adapted from a Fortune article by Aaron Pressman, 8/7/18; Original article here.

A New Deloitte 5G Report, commissioned by the CTIA, Tries To Explain Why Winning the Race to 5G Matters

This kind of report sounds very similar to a 2017 5G report, by Accenture, also commissioned by the CTIA, that posited familiar unsubstantiated projections that are blindly repeated by many in Congress, at the FCC to justify heinous orders by the FCC in 2017–2018 and Federal Bills such as S.3157 — The STREAMLINE Deployment of Small Cells Act of 2018, which is attempting to rewrite Section 704 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act (also known as 47 U.S. Code § 332(c)(7) or the Facilities Siting; Radio Frequency Emission Standards Section.

S.3157, as written, is a disaster for local communities: it is extreme Federal overreach that will severely limit the actions local governments can take on all Wireless Telecommunications Facilities (WTFs) siting and will significantly reduce the time local governments will have to process these applications — all in an effort to make deployments cheaper, faster, and more consistent across jurisdictions.

In short, S.3157 will unnecessarily shove down the throats of those living in residential areas a slew of Close Proximity Microwave Radiation Antenna – Wireless Telecommunications Facilities (CPMRA-WTFs), aka so-called "Small Cells", proposed for Utility poles and Light poles that are as close as 15 to 50 feet to homes. If you don’t like the sound of that future for your community, then please go here to learn more and help define a better future for your community:

CPMRA-WTF installations in residential zones are unnecessary because Verizon recently admitted that their 28 GHz and 39 GHz signals can transmit 2,000 to 3,000 feet from the source CPMRA-WTF antennas:

Continue reading “How Real Is the Race to 5G?”

A Message From Ben and Jerry

This message is from Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, but you probably know us better as Ben and Jerry, the ice cream guys.

Our country is in a sticky situation. And let us tell you, being in the ice cream business for 40 years now, we know sticky. And we know how to deal with it. The 2010 Supreme Court decision, Citizens United vs the Federal Election Commission, opened the floodgates to money in politics and was one of the most cone-headed Supreme Court decisions in American history.

You can see the corrosive effects in Donald Trump’s billionaires-only White House today — including the horrific tax scam, the nomination of corporate crony Brett Kavanaugh to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court, and, now, threats to kill off the Endangered Species Act so that oil and gas companies can rake in bigger profits.

Now, more than ever, it’s Big Money vs. the rest of us.

Continue reading “A Message From Ben and Jerry”

Trump’s Multi-Pronged Attack on the Internet

By Susan Crawford, New York Times Op-Ed Contributor, April 17, 2017; Original article here.

S4WT Comment: Susan Crawford, a professor at Harvard Law School and the author of “Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age." wrote this prescient article in 2017. The Trump FCC is nearly done with its industry-friendly/consumer-unfriendly agenda and the worst is before us right now: S.3157: The STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act of 2018 — which is attempting to eliminate local control of public rights-of-way across the US. I can think few ideas — or legislation — that is more un-American.

If there’s one thing that brings Americans together, it’s our hatred of the giant companies that sell us high-speed internet data services.

Consumers routinely give these five giant Cable and Telecom companies —

  1. Comcast
  2. Charter (now Spectrum)
  3. AT&T
  4. Verizon
  5. CenturyLink

. . . basement-level scores for customer satisfaction. This collective resentment is fueled by the sense that we don’t have a choice when we sign up for their services.

By and large, we don’t.

These five companies account for over 80 percent of wired subscriptions and have almost total power in their territories. According to the Federal Communications Commission, nearly 75 percent of Americans have at most one choice for high-speed data.

2018 Net Inclusion Conference Keynote: Susan Crawford

Also view the Dividing Lines Documentary and Web Site

Continue reading “Trump’s Multi-Pronged Attack on the Internet”

Telcos Canceled Fiber to the Home and Created the Digital Divide

Adapted from an ARS Technica article by Jon Brodkin, 7/31/18 | Original article here

AT&T and Verizon have generally built fiber only where they face competition.

You already knew that home broadband competition is sorely lacking through much of the US. Much of this misery was created because our State Public Telecom Utilities (controlled by AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink and Frontier) failed us:

  • Since the mid-1990’s, these State Public Telecom Utilities collected tens of billions of dollars from landline customers for the express purpose of upgrading copper Wirelines to Fiber Optic Wirelines.

  • The parent/holding companies of these State Public Telecom Utilities — AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink and Frontier — pocketed the money, but never delivered the promised Fiber Optic service.

  • The parent/holding companies fraudulently transferred these funds from these State Public Telecom Utilities to their private Wireless subsidiaries to build out 4G/LTE.

  • This fraud has been well-documented at the FCC for decades, but the FCC functions as a branch office of AT&T and Verizon and the FCC aids and abets this fraud of the American people.

US Population Offered ISP Service by Telcos
(millions of people)

Telco ISP Total DSL Fiber % Fiber
AT&T 122.5 114.7 7.8 6%
Verizon 55.2 21.9 33.3 60%
CenturyLink 49.1 15.3 3.8 8%
Frontier 30 20 10 33%

The telcos have mostly avoided upgrading their copper networks to fiber —except in areas where they face competition from cable companies. These details are in "Profiles of Monopoly: Big Cable and Telecom," a report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR). The full report is available at this link.

Continue reading “Telcos Canceled Fiber to the Home and Created the Digital Divide”

Australia: Nationwide Class Action Suit over RF-EMR Hazards of 4G/5G Densification Scheme

by Darius Leszczynski and the Environment and Communities Safe from Radiation Assn. Inc. (ECSFR), July 30, 2018 | Original article here.

In the 1980’s, when the 1G mobile technology was commercialized, things were easy for the Telecom industry. Users of the expensive and cumbersome technology were few and, therefore, the number of those aware of the health hazards from pulsed, data-modulated, Radio-frequency Electromagnetic Microwave Radiation (RF-EMR) exposures was small. The knowledge about the biological and health effects of microwaves was available, but not many were aware of it.

Today, 40+ years later, with 4G/5G densification planning to be deployed on a massive scale, things are different. There is now a large number of users of the already existing 3G and 4G technology who are aware of the safety, privacy and property value hazards that 4G/5G densification brings to neighborhoods. The planned addition of 5G and IoT applications will make these numbers soar. Everyone will be forced to co-exist with 5G and the IoT, whether or not they are willing to be exposed 24/7 to the RF microwave radiation from these Close Proximity Microwave Radiation Antenna – Wireless Telecommunications Facilities (CPMRA-WTFs).

The knowledge of the harms of RF-EMR energy emitted by the Wireless communication devices and infrastructure has increased over the 40 years. The WHO agency, IARC, classified in 2011 RF-EMR energy emitted by the 3G and 4G devices as a possible human carcinogen (Group 2B IARC classification). Since then, additional studies in humans (epidemiology) and in animals (toxicology) have indicated that this radiation energy should be classified as a human carcinogen (Group 1 classification).

Continue reading “Australia: Nationwide Class Action Suit over RF-EMR Hazards of 4G/5G Densification Scheme”

World’s First Big 5G Deal: Nokia and T-Mobile Agree to $3.5 Billion Contract

By Eric Auchard; July 30, 2018; Original article here.

Terms of the deal call for Nokia to supply a range of 5G hardware, software and services that will allow T-Mobile to capitalize on licensed airwave to deliver, broad coverage on 600 megahertz spectrum and ultra high-speed capacity on 28 gigahertz airwaves in densely trafficked urban areas.

T-Mobile US named Nokia to supply it with $3.5 billion in next-generation 5G network gear, the firms said on Monday, marking the world’s largest 5G deal so far and concrete evidence of a new wireless upgrade cycle taking root. No.3 U.S. mobile carrier T-Mobile — which in April agreed to a merger with Sprint to create a more formidable rival to U.S. telecom giants Verizon and AT&T — said the multi-year supply deal with Nokia will deliver the first nationwide 5G services.

The T-Mobile award is critical to Finland’s Nokia, whose results have been battered by years of slowing demand for existing 4G networks and mounting investor doubts over whether 5G contracts can begin to boost profitability later this year. 5G networks promise to deliver faster speeds for mobile phone users and make networks more responsive and reliable for the eventual development of new industrial automation, medical monitoring, driverless car and other business uses. But cash-strapped Telecom operators around the world have been gun-shy over committing to commercial upgrades of existing networks, with many seeing 5G technology simply as a way to deliver incremental capacity increases instead of new features.

  • Nokia will supply T-Mobile with its AirScale radio access platform along with cloud-connected hardware, software and acceleration services, they said in a statement.

  • The network equipment business, which is led by three big players — China’s Huawei HWT.UL, Nokia and Sweden’s Ericsson (ERICb.ST) — has struggled with flagging growth since the current generation of 4G mobile equipment peaked in 2015.