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Private Networks

US utilities still interested in private wireless LTE, Anterix promises

It's been almost a year since Anterix announced its last big utility customer for its private wireless LTE spectrum. But the company continues to maintain that it's in negotiations with dozens of additional potential customers – and that a handful are close to crossing the finish line.

"We fully recognize that continuing to close individual deals is a near-term imperative," Anterix CEO Rob Schwartz said during his company's recent quarter conference call, according to a transcript provided by the company. "Our goal is to capture the [utility] sector. While accomplishing this goal will take time, I remain confident that we are uniquely built to succeed in this effort."

Schwartz said the company is close to leasing its 900MHz spectrum licenses to four different potential customers. He didn't name the utilities but said they included "a large multistate, multi-operating company utility," "a large multistate utility," "multistate IOU [investor-owned utility] with several operating companies" and "the operating company level of a large multistate holding company."

Schwartz also said that Anterix has more than 60 prospective companies at various points in its sales pipeline.

(Source: Anna Berkut/Alamy Stock Photo)
(Source: Anna Berkut/Alamy Stock Photo)

"We are not going to get into the game of precisely who Anterix will sign and when," wrote the financial analysts at B. Riley Securities in a note to investors following the release of Anterix's latest quarterly earnings. The analysts noted that Anterix has been testing its services with the likes of Dominion, Evergy, Exelon, Duke Energy and other major utilities.

Importantly, Schwartz said that Anterix hasn't lost any potential customers yet. "Nothing has fallen out," he said. "Everything remains in the pipeline and moves forward."

Schwartz also acknowledged that other companies – ranging from Ligado Networks to Dish Network – are working to edge into the market where Anterix is playing. Those companies intend to lease their spectrum to utilities that can be used to build their own private networks, or to build a network that utilities will pay to use. Indeed, AT&T starting in 2012 had attempted to sell or lease its WCS spectrum to utilities, only to give up on the effort in 2020.

"There's...others who are talking about it," Schwartz said. "But...I'm confident we have a far more substantial position and see a lot more opportunity for growth."

Company officials have said Anterix is working on a variety of efforts to ease utilities into its 900MHz private wireless networking products. For example, they're preparing a service that will allow a utility customer to use a public wireless network while it builds its own private network. Anterix is also offering a cloud-based core network inside of Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Anterix had promised to ink a handful of private wireless networking deals worth over $200 million in "contracted proceeds" by March of 2022. That didn't happen. But the company continues to promise to reach $1.8 billion in "contracted proceeds" by the end of its fiscal 2024, which is less than two years away.

"Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet," Schwartz said to investors waiting for Anterix to show more progress.

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

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