5G and Beyond

Globalstar's mystery deepens

Satellite company Globalstar scored another $14.1 million in its most recent quarter for a "terms agreement" that has mostly stumped analysts.

The financial analysts at B. Riley Securities said they're more interested in Globalstar's "mysterious" new agreement than its core mobile satellite services (MSS) business that generated $30 million in quarterly revenues and $9.8 million in earnings before interest, income taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) – results above most expectations.

Globalstar isn't offering many details.

"In June 2021, the company received an advance payment of $37.5 million from a customer pursuant to an agreement related to the Terms Agreement," the company wrote in its recent quarterly SEC filing. "The company has also recorded $14.1 million as long-term deferred revenue on its condensed consolidated balance sheet as of June 30, 2021 related to additional advance payments received under this agreement."

Those obscure but tantalizing details are sparking plenty of interest among investors.

"What we do know is that Globalstar entered into an agreement back in February 2020 for a 'potential' customer for a 'potential service utilizing certain of Globalstar's assets and capacity,' and that 16 months later, on June 4, 2021, Globalsar received a $37.5 million advance payment pursuant to this agreement," wrote the analysts at B. Riley Securities. "Now we know that Globalstar received a second such advance payment later in June, bringing total cash proceeds in the period to $51.6 million."

What could be generating so much money for a satellite communications company that has suffered through decades of sluggish sales?

"We suspect the mystery project relates to the company's spectrum," the B. Riley Securities analysts wrote. "As such, we believe Globalstar at long last is starting to realize a return on both its satellite system and spectrum assets, making 2021 an excellent time to buy Globalstar before the market digests this change."

Globalstar owns S-band, L-band and C-band spectrum assets around the world. In recent months the company obtained 3GPP approval for 5G operations in its 2.4GHz S-band spectrum, dubbed Band 53, and Qualcomm earlier this year agreed to include Band 53 support in its new 5G X65 smartphone modem. Already Globalstar and Nokia said the Port of Seattle plans to use Band 53 for a private wireless network.

Globalstar executives said the company's overall spectrum efforts are showing promise. "The spectrum opportunity is also progressing very rapidly, and its potential gets clearer to us every quarter," said Jay Monroe, the company's chairman, in a release. "While Nokia, Airspan and XCom continue to pursue Band 53 opportunities, we have added to the growing list of Band 53 supporters to now include a large global systems integrator. We have deployed our first revenue producing private network in Africa at a large mining complex and have made promising inroads with several large potential partners across the continent while continuing to execute on opportunities in the western hemisphere."

There's plenty of reason for Globalstar to be excited about its spectrum holdings. After all, Canada's recent 3.5GHz spectrum auction raised record-breaking bids from the nation's mobile network operators. Meanwhile, utilities in the US are plunking down millions of dollars for spectrum holdings they can apply to their power grid operations. And satellite operators of all kinds are hoping to cash in on the intersection of 5G and space-based communications.

But Globalstar isn't the only company hoping to profit from newfound interest in all things spectrum. Anterix, Ligado and NextNav are among a number of companies hoping to find buyers for their own spectrum offerings.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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