In a Memorandum Opinion and Order (MO&O) released yesterday, the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau approved Verizon Communications’ proposed acquisition of millimeter wave and other wireless spectrum assets held by Straight Path Communications (SPC), concluding that the $3.1 billion transaction poses a low risk of competitive harm and is likely to serve the public interest.
Spotlighting the importance of highly-coveted millimeter wave channels above 24 GHz in fulfilling the fifth-generation (5G) network ambitions of the nation’s wireless carriers, Verizon succeeded last May in outbidding AT&T for the SPC license portfolio. Three months before withdrawing its offer to SBC which had been valued at $1.9 billion, AT&T announced plans to acquire rights to millimeter wave spectrum held by FiberTower Corp. The SPC deal also builds on Verizon’s recently-completed purchase of 28 GHz license assets held by XO Communications subsidiary NextLink Wireless in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and other major U.S. markets. The millimeter wave assets of SPC encompass 868 FCC licenses in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands that represent nearly 95% of the commercially-available 39 GHz spectrum capacity nationwide.
In approving the Verizon-SPC deal, the FCC dismissed objections raised by the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), Public Knowledge, the New America Foundation Open Technology Institute, and U.S. Telepacific Corp. CCA and the other petitioners opposed the transaction on grounds that Verizon’s resulting spectrum holdings would exceed the millimeter wave spectrum threshold of 1250 MHz set previously by the FCC in certain markets and would thereby result in an “anticompetitive aggregation” of millimeter wave spectrum. Rejecting these arguments, the FCC determined that Verizon “will remain below the revised millimeter wave spectrum threshold of 1850 MHz in all the markets at issue.” As it concluded that Verizon’s post-transaction holdings will “not raise concerns in light of the current state of the marketplace,” the FCC further decreed that, “as a direct result of the transaction, Verizon likely will be better able to develop and deploy innovative 5G services to the benefit of American consumers.” As such, the FCC predicted that approval of the requested license transfer “will allow Verizon to develop important uses and new technology for these millimeter wave spectrum bands.”