Private Networks

Anterix gets a green light for its 900MHz private network plans

The FCC's chairman is moving forward on a five-year-old request from Anterix that would pave the way for utilities and others to build private wireless LTE networks in their 900MHz spectrum.

"For decades, this band has been allocated for narrowband communications like two-way dispatch radios used by business, industrial, and land transportation licensees," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wrote in a post laying out the agency's May meeting agenda. "The draft rules would make available six of the band's ten megahertz for the deployment of broadband services, while retaining four megahertz to continue incumbent narrowband operations. The new regulatory framework would allow 900 MHz licensees, like utilities, to obtain broadband licenses and would include operational and technical rules to minimize harmful interference to narrowband operations. To facilitate the quick transition to broadband services, we would use a market-driven process that primarily relies on negotiated agreements between interested parties."

The full, five-member FCC must still vote to enact the proposal, but if recent history is any indication, Pai's proposal will be approved.

Not surprisingly, Anterix – which holds roughly 60% of the 900MHz spectrum at issue in the top 20 metropolitan market areas in the US – cheered Pai's proposal.

"The utility and enterprise ecosystems in the United States are eager to put this spectrum to work fueling industrial 5G and delivering the benefits of secure, innovative, private LTE broadband networks," said Nextel co-founder Morgan O'Brien, CEO of Anterix, in a release. Companies like Motorola Solutions, Ericsson, Southern Linc, Ameren and Cisco voiced support for the FCC's action.

Continued O'Brien: "This decision will lead to new jobs, new investment, and new technology development."

Anterix's stock popped 10% on Pai's announcement.

Since changing its name from pdvWireless, Anterix has been working to drum up support for its spectrum proposal at the FCC by testing private LTE networks in its spectrum with the likes of Missouri utility company Ameren, The New York Power Authority (NYPA) and shipping giant UPS.

FCC approval of its proposal would allow Anterix to move forward with its plan to lease its spectrum to these kinds of customers, which would then build their own private networks using equipment from the likes of Nokia and Ericsson.

As noted by the Wall Street analysts at B. Riley FBR, Anterix is hoping to reach a $125M to $150 million revenue run rate by 2024, mainly via spectrum leasing agreements with up to 11 of the top 20 utilities around the country.

The FCC recently voted to approve a similar proposal from Ligado.

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

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