Straight Path Communications has settled with the FCC in its dispute over the usage of the spectrum it has been sitting on. There’s good news and bad news in there for Straight Path.
The bad news is that they will be paying up to $100M in fines and giving up 20% of the company’s spectrum licenses (see clarification below). $15M of that will be paid in installments over 9 months, and $85M will be paid if they don’t sell their licenses within a year – and if they do sell them then 20% goes to the FCC. The problem was that in order to renew some of the company’s spectrum holdings in the 39Ghz frequency range, the company got a bit too creative in satisfying the ‘substantial service’ requirements. They apparently put some equipment in place temporarily and then quickly decommissioned it, thus satisfying only their own lawyers. The trick let them keep sitting on spectrum without the expense of actually running a network.
The good news is that despite paying nine figures in fines, this settlement is being considered favorable. Now the path is clear for Straight Path to leverage its spectrum just as 5G looks like it is actually hungry for it. With the cloud that has been hanging over the company now dissipated, there is speculation that a bidding war may ensue for the 28Ghz and 39Ghz spectrum the company still holds.
Maybe now we will get a better idea of just what this once hapless swath of spectrum is worth today. Has it gone up since the purchase of XO by Verizon was announced? (That deal should close soon).
Followup: According to StraightPath, the actual number of meaningful licenses they are returning is 93 out of a total of 828 Economic Area licenses, or 11% rather than 20% — the balance being legacy licenses without material value.
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