According to MoffettNathanson Research analysts, recent acquisition deals in the mobile data industry may indicate a shift in the valuation of millimeter-wave, high band spectrum because of its importance to the industry's push for 5G. The most recent of these acquisitions is, of course, the deal recently announced between AT&T and Straight Path Communications – which was announced April 10. In that deal, AT&T is paying for an average of "620 MHz of spectrum in the top 30 markets" effectively buying 39 GHz spectrum covering the entire nation. The cost of the transaction is said to be around $1.6 billion. However, there have also been previous deals made that included the acquisition of a serious chunk of 5G capable spectrum. Verizon acquired XO Communications' fiber last business last year for $1.8 billion and that deal also included 1,200 MHz of spectrum across a variety of millimeter-wave bands.
The analysts say that the recent trends in transactions "clearly illustrate" just how much the millimeter wave spectrum means to the 5G future and at very least "set a precedent for millimeter wave spectrum going forward." Many carriers have already stated the importance of a fortified 4G foundation for 5G to rest on, but the analysis takes it a little further. While the lower-band spectrum is perfectly suited to reaching wider swaths of the country, higher bands have a much greater capacity over shorter distances. That means that where data consumption and population density are high, the millimeter-wave spectrum can serve as a foundation for 5G connections thanks to the fact that channels in the spectrum are "often hundreds of MHz wide."
The shift in priorities for the industry – and the impacts of it – will not be limited to mobile data carriers either, according to the analysis. Dish Network has significant holdings in the mid-band, but also managed to grab 28 GHz of high-band spectrum in a recent deal with EchoStar. It has also picked up plenty of spectrum over the last few years. Although the company had previously claimed intentions to create its own narrow-band "Intenet of Things" network, some analysts believe Dish could sell instead thanks to the recent industry shift. The company's prior mid-band holdings still have value, of course, but their recently acquired high-band spectrum may have just become a lot more valuable to those in the mobile industry.