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Some companies, like Inland Cellular, are only asking for a few hundred thousand dollars ($117,183 to be exact) in 'rip and replace' money. Others are asking for a lot more.

Mike Dano

February 9, 2022

20 Min Read
Here is every company asking for FCC 'rip and replace' money

Dozens of companies – both big and small – have stepped forward to ask the FCC for money to tear out "unsecure" equipment from their networks.

Some companies, like Inland Cellular, are only asking for a few hundred thousand dollars ($117,183 to be exact). Others, however, are asking for a lot more. For example, Viaero Wireless is seeking $1.2 billion in US government funding for the effort.

The number of companies asking for FCC money, and the size of their requests, is far above even the most aggressive predictions. Specifically, the total amount of money involved in the FCC's "rip and replace" program today – almost $6 billion – is more than eight times the $700 million lawmakers initially contemplated just three years ago.

Company

Applicant

Wireless

Wireline

Total

Vendor

Viaero Wireless

NE Colorado Cellular Inc

X

$1,194,000,000

Ericsson

Union Wireless

Union Telephone Company

X

$688,000,000

Nokia

ATN International

Commnet Wireless,

X

$418,768,726

Gogo

Gogo Business Aviation LLC

X

$332,770,202

NTCH

PTA-FLA, Inc.

$273,971,426

Lumen

Level 3 Communications, LLC

X

$269,999,994

Stealth Communications

X

$199,066,226

SI Wireless, LLC

X

$181,023,489

United Wireless Communications, Inc.

X

$173,471,477

Hotwire Communications, Ltd.

X

$141,299,003

Latam Telecommunications, L.L.C.

$138,060,092

NEMONT TELEPHONE COOPERATIVE INC

X

$125,551,024

NTUA Wireless, LLC

X

$124,447,019

Windstream Communications LLC

X

$118,271,652

Rise Broadband

Skybeam, LLC

X

$106,159,884

Pine Telephone Company

X

$87,095,419

Mediacom Communications Corporation

X

$86,171,976

Flat Wireless, LLC

X

$76,284,671

Pine Belt Cellular, Inc.

X

$74,856,191

James Valley Cooperative Telephone Company

X

$53,000,000

AST Telecom, LLC d/b/a Bluesky

X

$49,959,592

Country Wireless LLC

X

$47,508,982

Point Broadband Fiber Holding, LLC

X

$47,172,086

Board of Trustees, Northern Michigan University

X

$45,796,636

Hargray Communications Group, Inc.

X

$42,785,933

NfinityLink Communications, Inc.

$37,535,905

Plateau Telecommunications, Incorporated

X

$30,000,000

Texas 10, LLC

$29,088,795

Mark Twain Communications Company

X

$29,000,000

Panhandle Telecommunication Systems Inc

$28,925,552

TelAlaska Cellular, Inc.

X

$26,567,517

Central Louisiana Cellular, LLC

X

$26,264,528

TRANSTELCO INC.

X

$25,573,213

Beamspeed, L.L.C.

X

$19,596,157

Triangle Telephone Cooperative Association, Inc.

X

$18,336,507

Mavenir

Eastern Oregon Telecom, LLC

X

$18,122,185

Puerto Rico Telephone Company, Inc.

X

$16,857,851

Vitelcom Cellular, Inc. d/b/a Viya Wireless

X

$15,716,011

Santel Communications Cooperative, Inc.

X

$14,604,337

MHG Telco LLC

X

$14,456,482

WorldCell Soutions, LLC

X

$12,673,559

LIGTEL COMMUNICATIONS INC.

X

$12,000,000

Point Broadband Fiber Holding, LLC

X

$11,344,724

Copper Valley Wireless, LLC

X

$11,151,417

Premier Holdings LLC

$9,759,680

Eltopia Communications, LLC

X

X

$7,741,951

Metro Fibernet, LLC

X

$7,567,518

Bestel (USA), Inc.

$6,887,500

PocketiNet Communications Inc.

$6,741,452

Carrollton Farmers Branch ISD

X

$5,943,974

Windy City Cellular

X

$5,562,067

Bristol Bay Cellular Partnership

X

$5,269,183

Kings County Office of Education

$5,221,191

Interoute US LLC

$4,867,140

Pasadena ISD

$4,387,311

Velocity Communications, Inc.

X

$4,158,729

Advantage Cellular Systems, Inc.

X

$3,479,000

New Wave Net Corp

$3,365,772

FirstLight Fiber, Inc.

$3,306,644

Gigsky, Inc.

X

$3,128,678

Triangle Communication Systems Inc

$2,779,371

FIF Utah LLC

X

$2,662,538

Gallatin Wireless Internet, LLC

X

$2,399,162

Moore Public Schools

$2,023,243

HUFFMAN ISD

$1,920,588

Crowley ISD

$1,720,496

Castleberry Independent School District

X

$1,672,527

One Ring Networks, Inc.

$1,649,281

University of San Francisco

$1,570,437

Leaco Rural Telephone Cooperative, Inc.

$1,511,617

Zito West Holding, LLC

X

$1,453,469

Southern Ohio Communication Services Inc

$1,312,844

Xtreme Enterprises LLC

X

$1,097,283

Virginia Everywhere, LLC

X

$562,001

South Canaan Telephone Company

$542,139

Palmer ISD

$520,146

Waxahachie ISD

X

$457,396

Hunter Communications & Technologies LLC

$432,348

Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency

$413,760

COMMSELL

$302,400

VTel Wireless, Inc.

X

$283,618

Trinity Basin Preparatory, Inc.

$242,510

NTInet, inc

$198,340

LakeNet LLC

X

$193,277

IdeaTek Telcom, LLC

X

$181,899

Millennium Telcom, L.L.C., dba OneSource Communications

$165,195

Inland Cellular LLC

X

$117,183

Roome Telecommunications Inc

$92,144

Milford Independent School District

$40,399

Angeles Enterprises

X

$33,368

Crystal Broadband Networks

X

$28,704

Natural G.C. Inc.

$27,313

Webformix Internet Company

X

$22,400

Northern Cambria School District

$14,400

Deer Creek Independent School District

$-

$5,609,338,024

This FCC data was initially compiled by vendor Mavenir and then expanded, checked and edited by Light Reading staff.

"We've received over 181 applications from carriers who have developed plans to remove and replace equipment in their networks that pose a national security threat. While we have more work to do to review these applications, I look forward to working with Congress to ensure that there is enough funding available for this program to advance Congress's security goals and ensure that the US will continue to lead the way on 5G security," FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement.

The FCC's "rip and replace" program aims to reimburse US network operators for the costs involved in removing "unsecure" equipment – gear from Chinese vendors ZTE and Huawei – from their networks. The goal is to prevent Chinese spies from gaining access to US networks; however, the two Chinese vendors continue to argue their equipment cannot be used for such espionage. Nonetheless, lawmakers initially allocated $700 million to the program in 2019 – but analysts and others quickly began warning that wouldn't be enough. Based on FCC estimates, Congress set aside $1.9 billion for the program at the end of 2020.

FCC is now going back to Congress to ask for even more money to pay for a program that now totals $5.6 billion in requests.

Exploitable RAN

Some companies participating in the program are warning of bloat. "The real story is how certain suppliers are exploiting US taxpayers," argued John Baker of Mavenir, one of the equipment vendors looking to work with operators in the program.

Mavenir is one of a handful of US-based open RAN proponents. The company is hoping to use the interfaces created by open RAN technology to insert its equipment into wireless networks globally.

In the rip and replace program specifically, Mavenir successfully petitioned the FCC to acknowledge that some open RAN equipment is indeed less expensive than traditional, classic RAN equipment. In doing so, the agency essentially formalized Mavenir's argument to potential customers that its equipment would be less expensive than equipment from massive, established 4G and 5G equipment suppliers like Nokia and Ericsson.

However, those two vendors have so far managed to rack up significant wins in the rip and replace program. Indeed, if Viaero's rip and replace funding is approved, most of the $1.2 billion it requested will go to Swedish vendor Ericsson to replace Huawei's core, radio access network (RAN), microwave and router equipment across more than 900 LTE cell sites. That equates to roughly $1.2 million per cell site – an astounding figure considering Dish Network has said it expects to cover the entire US with just $10 billion spread across an estimated 40,000 open RAN cell sites, or roughly $250,000 per site.

In other rip and replace deals, Union Wireless said its $688 million would go for Nokia equipment, while Montana's Triangle Communications said its $18.3 million would go to Mavenir.

True costs

Ericsson argued against claims that it is overcharging for its equipment. "Purpose-built solutions represent the most mature, resilient and highest performing alternatives" to Huawei's equipment, the company wrote in response to questions from Light Reading. "Open RAN alternatives, at this time, have maturity and systems integration costs that may be prohibitive for this important application."

Ericsson also addressed the size of Viaero's funding request, albeit obliquely. "With respect to individual customer projects, scope varies considerably, particularly in swap situations, wherein product costs are often a relatively small component of a total solution. As such, attribution to a particular product or service is not possible," the company wrote.

Ericsson officials have acknowledged the company will support open RAN technologies where and when appropriate. But company officials also argue that Ericsson's traditional, classic RAN products are top-of-the-line offerings that cannot be compared with open RAN alternatives.

Regardless, a number of companies and associations are calling for Congress to allocate more money to the FCC's rip and replace program, which is formally called the "Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program."

"Nokia is working to support the providers engaged in the 'rip and replace' program," the company said in a statement to Light Reading. "We believe it is imperative for Congress to provide additional funding to meet the program's estimated needs and to do so at the earliest possible opportunity to provide certainty and to maintain momentum in the program."

"It is incumbent on Congress and President Biden to act quickly so that impacted carriers have the assurance necessary to move forward with eradicating this ongoing threat while continuing its efforts to provide critical services to unserved and underserved households in rural America," agreed Carri Bennet of the Rural Wireless Association (RWA), which represents many of the operators involved in the program.

The association said that, under the FCC's current rules, most program participants would get a pro rata share of the available funding if Congress doesn't allocate more money. Meaning, most companies would only get a third of their requested funding. And other participants – including those with more than 2 million customers, such as Lumen – would receive no funding.

Related posts:

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

About the Author(s)

Mike Dano

Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading

Mike Dano is Light Reading's Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies. Mike can be reached at [email protected], @mikeddano or on LinkedIn.

Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.

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