Airspan Networks, a 23-year-old private company that provides software and hardware for 5G networks, is merging with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), which will take it public under the name Airspan Networks Holdings. It will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange with the ticker symbol “MIMO.” The business combination is expected to close in the third quarter of 2021.
A SPAC, which is also referred to as a “blank-check company,” is an investment company that has no operations but raises money through an initial public offering and then uses those proceeds to acquire another company, often for the purpose of helping that second company to also go public. In this case Airspan is merging with the SPAC called New Beginnings Acquisition Corp., which will help Airspan go public.
The enterprise value of the combined company following the merger is expected to be $822 million. And the arrangement is expected to provide about $166 million of net proceeds to the combined company.
SoftBank and Dish Network have committed to invest $75 million in the common stock of the new company with participation from other existing investors, such as Oak Investment Partners and NEA. Qualcomm, which is an existing shareholder of Airspan, will also receive equity in the combined company.
Airspan anticipates a boom in its growth, citing the adoption of virtualization in networks, which will rely on the kinds of technologies it provides. And the company also noted the historic investment $80.2 billion in C-band spectrum, which portends a lot of capex being spent to deploy 5G on this mid-band spectrum. Airspan is also looking for growth in segments such as private 5G and fixed wireless access (FWA). “These seismic 5G industry trends play right into Airspan’s strengths,” said Eric Stonestrom, president and CEO of Airspan, in a statement today.
Airspan is well-known for creating the radio access network (RAN) technology for the Sprint Magic Box and also for creating both small cells and macro cells for Rakuten’s open RAN network.
The company claims to have more than 1,000 customers in over 100 countries worldwide.
In addition to high-profile work with Rakuten, Airspan is using its Mimosa FWA portfolio to help close the digital divide in rural areas of the United States. Jaime Fink, VP of technology for fixed wireless at Airspan, told Fierce recently that Mimosa is focused on helping WISPs, DSL providers and cable operators to provide FWA. The company is especially enthused about new funding that will come from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) to bring wireless technology to unserved areas.
And Airspan has also made news recently in the private wireless realm. The company was tapped by Foxconn to help stand up a private LTE network to monitor and manage Foxconn’s new factory in Wisconsin, using CBRS spectrum.