While the wireless industry continues to push the FCC to release midband spectrum for 5G, Globalstar is sitting on what some believe to be prime real estate: 2.4 GHz, which was approved for terrestrial wireless uses in 2016.
Yet whatever happens to Globalstar’s 2.4 GHz spectrum position is anyone’s guess.
These are busy times for Globalstar. The company on July 31 terminated a proposed merger with FiberLight, a landline company owned by Thermo Capital, which owns Globalstar—a merger that Globalstar Chairman and CEO Jay Monroe wanted to see transpire.
The decision to nix the deal came after Mudrick Capital Management, the largest independent shareholder in Globalstar, filed a lawsuit saying the merger would have resulted in the company and its minority shareholders overpaying for assets controlled by Monroe.
“While we remain focused on Globalstar's satellite business and spectrum, if the opportunity to strengthen the Company and enhance shareholder value through a strategic transaction arises, we will consider it,” Monroe said in an Aug. 2 statement.
Globalstar’s efforts to monetize its spectrum began in earnest as far back as 2013, when it started meeting with potential partners at cable, technology and wireless companies. In December 2016, the FCC approved Globalstar’s request to pursue a terrestrial wireless network using 11.5 megahertz of its satellite spectrum at 2483.5-2495 MHz, otherwise known as 2.4 GHz.
The company was told its spectrum would be much more valuable if it got the 3GPP’s blessing for standardization. The company achieved “working item” status at the 3GPP meeting in Chennai, India, earlier this year, and Globalstar is seeing that process through, although it’s unknown if that will be resolved this year or next.
Monroe during the company’s second-quarter conference call referenced a Nokia report confirming that independent, unencumbered spectrum like Globalstar’s is ideal for small cell use because it has no interference from macro cellular infrastructure. “It’s compelling and interesting and the Nokia report kind of puts a punctuation at the end of that concept,” Monroe said, noting that’s important in the 3GPP process, where Nokia and some other companies have been helpful.
Globalstar in November 2017 announced that the
Globalstar has not made it a point to talk about specific countries, but “suffice it to say that our little marching army is out there working across the globe,” and they anticipate having additional approvals in the near term, according to Monroe.
The CEO acknowledged that one of the simplest ways to monetize its spectrum is to do a spectrum lease with a service provider in the United States. They could then take the spectrum and do with it what they want. “There are a lot of additional opportunities in several evolving subsets of the LTE market,” he said, including private LTE.
Globalstar is working with some significant infrastructure partners to provide private LTE for operations that are not in downtown areas but are in rather remote regions, which could be mines or industrial sites in the U.S. or elsewhere. “We are certainly looking at a lot of different paths to monetize, including revenue shares, et cetera. We hope, because the United States is ripe now, that we’ll be able to do a spectrum lease in the United States with one party,” he said.
That would go a long way toward addressing the company’s capital structure, but there’s nothing in the near term to suggest they’re going to seal a deal. “I’m not trying to imply that we have someone in tow. In fact, we don’t,” Monroe said.
Besides its 2.4 GHz holdings, Globalstar has C-Band spectrum in two places that would be applicable to current discussions. At the end of the conference call, Monroe was asked why, given the material increase in the value of C-Band spectrum, the company hasn’t made a more aggressive effort there.
“We’ve been busy,” Monroe answered.