Wireless TowerA spectrum sale agreement announced yesterday between Verizon Wireless and Cincinnati Bell is unusual in that Verizon will not retain the spectrum but instead will assign its rights to acquire the licenses to private equity firm Grain Management and then lease the spectrum it wants to use from that firm. Grain Management specializes in media and telecom investments.

A Verizon Wireless spokeswoman told Telecompetitor that the deal was structured in this manner because Cincinnati Bell wanted to deal with just one company on its spectrum sale but Verizon was not interested in some of Cincinnati Bell’s spectrum holdings.

“We brought Grain Management in because that’s [the firm’s] business,” the Verizon Wireless spokeswoman said in a phone interview. “We brought them in so they can do what they want with the [licenses] that are not useful to us.”

A Cincinnati Bell spokeswoman said that company’s spectrum holdings include:

  • 50 MHz in Cincinnati:
    • 30 MHz PCS
    • 20 MHz AWS
  • 52 MHz in Dayton:
    • 20 MHz PCS
    • 20 MHz AWS
    • 12 MHz 700 A-block

The Verizon spokeswoman said Verizon is interested in using the AWS and PCS spectrum and plans to use it to support LTE service. The company is not interested in Cincinnati Bell’s 700 MHz A-block spectrum, having recently sold its own 700 MHz A-block holdings to T-Mobile.

It would not be surprising to see T-Mobile acquire Cincinnati Bell’s A-block spectrum from Grain Management after the Verizon/ Cincinnati Bell deal is closed. Like most spectrum deals the Verizon/ Cincinnati Bell deal requires regulatory approvals.

The A-block has had a troubled history since AT&T said several years ago that spectrum in that band was subject to interference problems. Although smaller companies with A-block licenses disagreed, the spectrum band to date has seen only a limited number of deployments.

That situation undoubtedly will change however as the result of an industry agreement reached last year that addresses most A-block concerns.

Cincinnati Bell’s exit from the wireless business eliminates another small player in a market that has been losing more and more small players.