Friday, January 28, 2011

Another loss and a tongue-lashing for T-Mobile

Neighbors win T-Mobile tower fight
'Cavalier attitude' toward Northridge residents cited.
By Tony Castro, Staff Writer
Posted: 01/27/2011 09:48:45 PM PST
Updated: 01/27/2011 09:50:12 PM PST

VAN NUYS - City officials Thursday dealt a death blow to a controversial cellular phone tower in Northridge and gave T-Mobile representatives a tongue-lashing over how the company treats residents.

The South Valley Area Planning Commission unanimously denied an appeal by T-Mobile of an earlier city zoning administrator's decision to block the tower.

Officials said they were swayed not only by the merits of the case against the tower, but also by what one commissioner said was T-Mobile representatives' "cavalier attitude."

Residents opposing the tower complained that T-Mobile's representatives had failed to faithfully work with them on finding an alternative site - a directive made by the commission to both sides at a Dec. 9 hearing.

Commission Vice President Gordon Murley said he did not accept a litany of excuses given by T-Mobile as to why other alternative sites were not viable and that the company could only build the tower at the originally proposed location.

"I would just say to any cellular that comes in here: Do your homework so we can support you," Murley said. "Don't come in and tell us you have a right to do it and that it's needed there without the proof presented."

Commissioners also chided T-Mobile representatives for trying to circumvent the residents' input by withholding an alternative design proposal until the hearing itself.

Residents complained that they were caught off-guard by the company's last-minute submission.

Hannah Lee, an assistant planning deputy for Councilman Greig Smith, whose district covers the affected neighborhood, told the hearing her office was opposing the T-Mobile appeal because it did not believe the company had seriously tried to work with the residents.

"(Smith) is not convinced (T-Mobile) tried to make a good faith effort," Lee said.

Commissioners said they would not take into consideration T-Mobile's last-minute design change submission because of its surprise nature.

The commission voted 4-0 to deny the appeal. One commissioner recused herself because she had been on maternity leave during the Dec. 9 hearing on the issue.

T-Mobile's only option for overturning the commission's decision is a lawsuit in the courts.

Two representatives for the T-Mobile contractor Synergy Development Services stormed out of the hearing and would not comment on the decision nor on the company's tactics.

Clark Harris, a T-Mobile spokesman who was reached by phone after the meeting, said the company would look for alternative sites in the area.

But residents were elated over the decision.

"This shows what can happen when you organize," said Irene Boyd, a board member of the Northridge South Neighborhood Council, which fought the application. "When you organize, you can win."

Clifton J. Burwell, the 82-year-old resident who spearheaded the opposition, called the decision a victory for the neighborhood in which he and wife Ginette have lived for 60 years.

"It's been worth what it took to win," he said.

Only last fall, these residents were celebrating what appeared to be a clear-cut defeat of T-Mobile's efforts to erect the tower in their neighborhood.

But they were caught off-guard when T-Mobile appealed the zoning administrator's denial of the application - something T-Mobile officials originally said they would not do.

Company officials said they changed their minds because they are obligated to improve service to San Fernando Valley customers.

"It is T-Mobile's standard practice to identify a site that both meets our coverage needs and follows all local ordinances and guidelines - this site accomplishes both," said T-Mobile spokesman Jarryd Gonzales.

"The residents of Northridge will benefit greatly from the improved wireless coverage provided by this new wireless facility."

T-Mobile had proposed building the cell tower on top of an existing commercial structure at the intersection of Saticoy Street and Louise Avenue.

Residents complained that erecting a 10-foot high tower on the roof of a second story building at the intersection would create an eyesore, destroy property values and pose a health threat from radiation emitted from the powerful signals.

At the hearing, several residents raised concern for the safety of children in a preschool nearby.

State and local governments are prevented by the 1996 Telecommunications Act from considering health concerns in locating wireless facilities. But Commissioner Lydia Drew Mather said it was a concern for the preschool children that was her uppermost reason for denying the T-Mobile appeal.

In denying the T-Mobile building request last October, city Zoning Administrator Maya E. Zaitzevsky cited - among other determining factors - that the company's proposed location "will not be desirable to the public convenience or welfare."

In her denial of T-Mobile's application, the zoning administrator listed other reasons for her decision including:

The location is not proper in relation to adjacent uses or the development of the community.

The use will be materially detrimental to the character of the development in the immediate neighborhood.

The proposed location will not be in harmony with the various elements and objective of the General Plan.

The project is inconsistent with the general requirements of the Wireless Telecommunications Facilities Standards set forth in Section 12.21-A.20 of the Municipal Code.

According to the city zoning administrator's report denying the T-Mobile request, no fewer than 224 such towers presently exist within a four-mile radius of the Saticoy and Louis location with applications pending for eight others.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

T-Mobile pushing to sell all their cell towers

Is the Tinton Falls tower really about improving voice coverage or is it part of T-Mobile's now publicly disclosed plans to sell their cell towers to generate revenue?? Read on...

UPDATE:T-Mobile Mulls Selling Tower Assets Valued At $2 Billion Source

By Roger Cheng


NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- T-Mobile USA is exploring the sale of its network of cellular towers, which could fetch around $2 billion and possibly more, according to a person familiar with the situation.

T-Mobile USA, a unit of German telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom AG ( DTEGY, DTE.XE), is taking a "measured approach" to the process, and hasn't fully committed to selling its roughly 7,000 towers, according to a spokesman.

"It's not a foregone conclusion," he said.

Earlier reports placed a $2 billion value on the assets, and called for the sales process to begin early in the second quarter.

The details shed more light on Deutsche Telekom Chief Executive Rene Obermann's comments from T-Mobile USA's investor day on Thursday. He said the company would consider selling these assets to raise funds for projects or the acquisition of wireless spectrum.

Obermann said on Thursday that T-Mobile USA has more towers than its U.S. rivals, as many of the other carriers have shed their own assets to focus on their core businesses. At the time, he said there was no rush to pursue a deal.

American Tower Corp. (AMT) and Crown Castle International Corp. (CCI) are seen by analysts as the most likely acquirers, although interest may also come from private investors.

"There's little doubt that these assets would see interest in the market," said Jonathan Atkin, an analyst at RBC Capital.

Spokesmen for American Tower and Crown Castle weren't immediately available for comment.

The other public tower company, SBA Communications Corp. (SBAC), is likely too small to make such a deal, analysts said.

Still, the public tower companies may not necessarily jump on the assets, said Jonathan Schildkraut, an analyst at Evercore Partners. He noted that Crown Castle has implied it doesn't need to expand further, while American Tower has more recently looked toward overseas expansion.

With a historical sales price of roughly $500,000 per tower, T-Mobile's assets could be worth as much as $3.5 billion, he said, adding that the price could change depending on demand.

T-Mobile USA tried to sell the assets previously, according to Atkin, and got bids at roughly the same price. He expects a higher bid this time around because it runs more towers than before.

T-Mobile USA started thinking about the tower sale option again this summer, Atkin said.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cell tower fire at GSP Exit 100 from 1/22/11

Once again, T-Mobile's site engineer testified he never heard of a fire at a cell tower or a cell tower collapsing. Here's some local pictures from 1/22/11. What caused the antennas to just start burning? Is this really safe to put 120 feet from residential homes?? Check out the video at:

Saturday, January 22, 2011

T-Mobile's plans

Here's an article confirming the real reason for T-Mobile inundating residential areas with cell towers, not for inadequate voice cellular service, as they claim, but for the expansion of their 4G network to compete with Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. There is no provision in the 1996 Telecommunications Act for this.

Also, another interesting item from this article says they are looking into selling their U.S. cellular towers to raise money. So I guess they are just trying to build this tower in Tinton Falls to turn around and sell it at a profit. Here's the article:

* * *

T-Mobile, with No iPhone, Eyes Tower Sales

Deutsche Telekom-owned T-Mobile, America's fourth-largest carrier after Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint, is gearing up to more effectively compete against its larger rivals. Without an Apple iPhone to help it, the carrier's game plan includes eventually upgrading to an LTE (Long-Term Evolution)-based 4G network, offering more exciting Android-running smartphones and selling its broadcast cellular towers.

The first U.S. carrier to offer an Android smartphone, the T-Mobile G1, T-Mobile saw customer growth slow from more than 40 percent to 10 percent between 2002 and 2008, Bloomberg reported Jan. 20. Its anticipated changes, then, are toward the dual goals of adding new customers and boosting sales and profits.

"T-Mobile is now ready to turn the business around," T-Mobile USA CEO Philipp Humm said during a presentation in New York Jan. 20, according to Bloomberg. Humm added that T-Mobile plans to offer the "best" data plan and fourth-generation network.

In November, jumping out ahead of Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile launched a campaign reintroducing itself as "America's largest 4G network" and launching a 4G-enabled smartphone, the HTC-made myTouch 4G. The network is based on HSPA+ technology, which the carrier had previously nicknamed "3.5G." However, during the launch, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray was quick to point out that the network was providing speeds comparable or faster than some WiMax and LTE-based networks.

At the Jan. 20 presentation, Ray said the network is scheduled to get faster still, climbing to 42M bps later this year, up from 21M bps.

A challenge to building out the network for LTE—which executives said will happen in a "a few years," once devices are readily available and on par with its HSPA+ offerings—will be acquiring additional spectrum. One means of doing so could include "partnering with other companies," an unnamed executive told Bloomberg, declining to cite the name of potential partners.

Another way to acquire the necessary assets could include the sale of its portfolio of U.S. cellular towers. A trend among operators, according to Reuters, is to sell their wireless towers to dedicated tower operators and then rent space in them. T-Mobile considered selling its towers in 2007, but decided the timing and financials weren't right. Again, it will only sell them if "the financials work out," Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Obermann told reporters, adding, "We're definitely not in a rush."

T-Mobile has also considered expanding its wireless airwaves access by partnering with companies such as Clearwire, which offers WiMax-based 4G, or LightSquared, the LTE provider that's financially backed by Philip Falcone's Harbinger Capital Partners.

The financially strapped Clearwire is in the process of auctioning off a portion of its considerable spectrum holdings, which has attracted the attention of Deutsche Telekom, as well as AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and cable operators Time Warner and Cablevision.

According to the Jan. 20 Reuters report, T-Mobile USA is the "main bidder left" in the spectrum auction.