President Trump appointed senior Republican commissioner, Ajit Pai, to serve as the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Since he is already on the commission, he does not require Senate approval until the end of his current five-year term later this year when he’ll require reconfirmation. While it’s challenging to predict exactly what policies our new FCC Chairman will put into place, it’s worth noting Pai’s criticism of net neutrality. Pai has already hit the ground running by introducing a proposal to waive some of the net neutrality transparency requirements. With an anticipated swing away from net neutrality policies, the industry expectedly debated the pros and cons of such regulation during the lead up to the inauguration. Small wireless providers made their stance known, joining together through the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), reaching out to President Trump, and asking for a rollback of net neutrality regulation and piracy rules, which they believe pose a disadvantage to small- and medium-sized business.

In addition to ushering in a changing of the guard, the FCC also began the fourth and final stage of its 600MHz auction. Two days before inauguration, the Commission announced that this will be the last round, “successfully concluding” the auction, which will repurpose 600MHz of “high-value, completely clear low-band spectrum for mobile broadband.” The FCC decided to go out with a bang, doubling the number of forward bidding rounds within this closing effort, with the reserve bidding closing at $10.1B and forward bidding currently hovering around the $19B mark.

While the scent of deregulation laces the winter air, the industry has been forecasting mega-mergers for the near future. AT&T’s CEO expressed “fairly high” confidence in securing approval to acquire Time Warner following a conversation with President Trump. There’s also speculation that Verizon and Charter Communications are exploring a show-stopping merger. Some believe synergy between the two giants resides in leveraging the wireless network to extend high-speed fiber optic connections to households at a severely reduced cost compared to physical build outs. It is also predicted that Sprint’s owner, Softbank, may try to merge the carrier with T-Mobile; however, it wouldn’t be surprising if other powerhouses, (Comcast for instance), respond with competing bids.

Analysts are still delivering their predictions for 2017 and IoT is front and center. Whereas 2016 served as a foundational year for IoT, this year is expected to revolve around real deployment, focusing on regulation, security, and edge rollout. A recent survey of IT leaders shows 50% plan to implement IoT devices this year. IoT is also expected to serve as the impetus for major development in Big Data analytics, which is expected to be processed via cloud architectures. Gartner released analysis concluding that while Big Data spending might be up, fewer companies are doing the spending. It seems that when it comes to next generation technologies that significantly drive telecom demand, some enterprises are on board and some are not.

That’s all for now. Don’t forget to stay tuned for up-to-date news and views from the Vertix team. Until next month…