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Verizon advances 700 MHz sale with advisor picks

Tue, 05/22/2012 - 1:50pm
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

Verizon Wireless is taking steps to move forward with the sale of some of its valuable 700 MHz assets, a plan it said it will only follow through on if the FCC approves its AWS acquisition.

The operator announced Monday afternoon that it has hired Loop Capital Markets as a co-advisor for the sale of its 700 MHz lower A-block and B-block licenses.

Loop Capital Markets, said to be the country's largest minority-owned full-service investment bank, will work with financial services firm Stephens to "reach out to a wide range of potential bidders, including minority-owned and female-owned businesses," Verizon said.

Neither of the finance companies could be reached for comment.

Verizon Wireless did not immediately respond to questions about whether the hiring of advisors signaled a vote of confidence that it will receive approval for the AWS deal, which could give it additional nationwide spectrum for its LTE network.

Verizon offered to sell off the 700 MHz licenses last month in an attempt to encourage the FCC to clear its purchase of AWS spectrum from four cable operators.

The 700 MHz offer is only on the table so long as the AWS transaction goes through, however.

The operator is deploying its LTE network on its 700 MHz C-block licenses and plans to incorporate AWS to supplement capacity. It has not put its lower A- and B-block licenses to use.

"The 700 MHz A- and B-block spectrum is not as suitable as a complement to Verizon Wireless’ existing 700 MHz C-block and AWS spectrum," Verizon said in a May 2 FCC filing.

The licenses could be attractive to rural and regional providers, the predominant holders of lower A- and B-block spectrum.

Verizon did not say whether the potential buyer of its lower A- and B-block licenses would be subject to the FCC's build-out requirements for the spectrum.

Licensees are required to provide service to 35 percent of the area covered by their 700 MHz assets by next summer. If they fail to meet the deadline, the FCC may shorten the amount of time they have to cover 70 percent of their market.

The FCC recently extended its review of the AWS sale by three weeks. Verizon executives have said they now expect the transaction to close in late summer.

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