Could Verizon Wireless be using an Academy Awards-style approach to its announcements about sales of its lower 700 MHz spectrum? Academy Awards presenters always start out with some of the more minor awards, gradually leading up to bigger awards like Best Actor and finishing with Best Picture. Perhaps we will see the same approach from Verizon, which earlier this month announced sales of just a few 700 MHz licenses to small rural telcos Panhandle Telecommunications Systems and Nortex Communications but today announced a considerably bigger one.
In a blog post, Verizon Wireless said regional wireless provider Clear Talk will purchase 10 of its lower 700 MHz B-block licenses covering five markets in Texas as well as markets in Maryland, Georgia, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico. It would appear that the license purchases represent a market expansion for Clear Talk, which currently operates in Columbia and Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina; Grand Junction, Colorado; Pocatello, Twin Falls, and Idaho Falls, Idaho; Jackson and Dyersburg, Tennessee; Florence, Alabama; Yuma, Arizona; El Centro, California and Jacksonville, Florida. In addition the company serves most of west Texas through an affiliate.
At least one and likely both of the previous two purchasers of Verizon Wireless lower 700 MHz B-block spectrum plan to use it to deliver fixed wireless broadband connectivity and it would appear that Clear Talk, which already has such an offering in some areas under the ClearBurst name, is also likely to pursue that business model. U.S. telcos have had difficulty obtaining mobile handsets for use in the lower 700 MHz A- and B-blocks because the quantity of devices they would require is considerably lower than for the larger national carriers that own most of the spectrum in some other 700 MHz blocks.
Verizon Wireless agreed to auction numerous unused lower 700 MHz licenses upon approval of its purchase of unused AWS spectrum from several of the nation’s largest cable companies and many industry observers have speculated that AT&T, which is hungry for spectrum, would be a logical purchaser.
Verizon 700 MHz B-block licenses in numerous metro areas – including markets as large as Los Angeles and Chicago—are still available for purchase. In addition Verizon is still holding 700 MHz A-block licenses in markets as large as New York.
Verizon Wireless’s 700 MHz sales announcements could yet culminate in a Best Picture-style sale to AT&T in markets such as those.
UPDATE- A Verizon Wireless spokesperson later today provided a list of the specific licenses that Clear Talk is purchasing. They are all in smaller markets, including Amarillo, Laredo, Lubbock, Midland and Odessa, Tex.; Frederick, Maryland; Athens, Ga.; Hardee, Fla.; Storey, Nev. and Lincoln, N.M.