Space Data looks to monetize Narrowband PCS spectrum to fund LTE deployments

Space Data is looking to monetize its Narrowband PCS (NPCS) spectrum licenses to get funds to launch LTE service in remote areas of Alaska or the Gulf of Mexico. Space Data said it retained the brokerage and investment banking firm Stifel to advise it on selling or potentially using the NPCS spectrum as collateral to fund future deployments.

Space Data has amassed control of 1.6 MHz of NPCS spectrum (the FCC allocated only 3 MHz total of the spectrum for commercial use), which is part of the licensed 900 MHz band. The vast majority of Space Data's NPCS spectrum was acquired through a series of auctions and private transactions during the past 15 years. Space Data also controls a 10x10 MHz chunk of AWS-1 spectrum covering a swatch of western Alaska in the Wade Hampton census area, as well as two 5x5 MHz AWS-1 licenses in the Gulf of Mexico.

In an interview with FierceWireless, Space Data CEO Gerald Knoblach said that company has been using its NPCS spectrum to provide M2M communications for a variety of companies, including oil and gas firms to locate assets in the field and monitor pipelines. The spectrum has also been used for various two-way technologies, including Motorola's iDEN systems.

In July 2014 Oceus Networks demonstrated how an LTE-enabled balloon platform could be used to quickly deliver broadband services to first responders following an emergency or natural disaster. Oceus partnered with high-altitude balloon specialist Space Data on the trial platform. Space Data's SkySite communications system housed an Oceus Networks Xiphos LTE network in a box to provide broadband connectivity.

The NPCS spectrum was used as a control channel to control the SkySite communications system. The company used Band 14 data modems and smartphones from Motorola Solutions to connect with the airborne LTE network using experimental FCC licenses.

Overall, the NPCS spectrum is designed for low-bandwidth applications and could be used by utility companies for smart grid applications, or for remote surveillance, Knoblach said. Further, aerospace companies might want to use the licensed spectrum to control drones. Knoblach also said that there are a variety of Internet of Things applications NPCS spectrum could be used for, such as monitoring whether a propane tank for an outdoor grill is full or not.

Knoblach said Space Data is not looking to sell all of its NPCS spectrum and will still be deploying the SkySite system, which in recent years has also been used by the U.S. military. The company wants to get funds to deploy LTE service on its AWS-1 spectrum to provide broadband service to remote Alaskan communities or on oil and gas platforms in deep waters in the Gulf of Mexico, he added.

Knoblach declined to comment on how much money Space Data would want to raise from a sale of its NPCS spectrum, but he said the company might also use the airwaves as collateral and borrow against the spectrum to finance future projects.

For more:
- see this release

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