Telecommunications is an important part of Doyon, Limited’s diverse portfolio – and has been for many years. We view telecommunications as a strategic investment and one that can be particularly important to our shareholders, many of whom do not have access to broadband. Our past investments in telecommunications have been quite successful. Denali Spectrum built out a wireless network and introducing fixed-price wireless services to the Chicago-area market
Currently, our subsidiary Northstar Wireless owns AWS-3 wireless spectrum licenses across much of the country. Spectrum is needed for wireless providers to provide high-speed and reliable service to their customers, including 5G connectivity.
About Northstar Wireless
Northstar Wireless was formed in 2014 through a partnership with our strategic investor DISH Network. We did this through the Designated Entity (DE) program, which is designed to encourage small business and minority-owned business participation in the wireless sector. It provides a 25% bid discount to DEs participating in spectrum auctions
Northstar Wireless participated in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 2014 AWS-3 spectrum auction, otherwise known as Auction 97. Northstar Wireless was one of the most successful bidders in Auction 97, winning licenses worth nearly $8 billion.
Unfortunately, after the auction results were made public, the FCC overturned decades of precedent and determined Northstar Wireless and another DE, SNR Wireless, were ineligible for DE bid credits. In response, Northstar Wireless kept the majority of licenses it had won in the auction but elected not to receive some of the licenses. It also challenged the FCC’s decision to deny the DE bid credits in federal court.
In 2017, the US Circuit Court for the District of Columbia determined that the FCC should have given Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless an opportunity to make changes to their arrangements with DISH Network prior to denying DE bid credits. In response, Northstar Wireless amended its arrangement with DISH Network and submitted its new plans to the FCC. Though the amendments were filed over two years ago, neither Northstar Wireless nor SNR Wireless have been informed of their DE status or the status of the licenses they elected not to receive after Auction 97.
As a result of the FCC’s delay, future business plans are on hold, and billions in spectrum needed to boost 5G and other connectivity across the country remain unused.
Response to COVID-19
Shortly after the first stay-at-home orders related to COVID-19 went into effect, and with the need for video conferencing and other telecommunications services on the rise with millions of Americans working remotely, Northstar Wireless stepped up in a big way. Northstar Wireless allowed Verizon Wireless the use of Northstar’s available spectrum at no charge for 60 days. The FCC approved the arrangement. As a result, Verizon Wireless was able to offer its customers expanded and better service at a time when it was most needed.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said, “Wireless services are a vital part of connectivity, and this has never been truer than during this crisis when so many people are turning to telework, remote learning, and telehealth options. I want to thank Northstar and SNR for their willingness to allow this use of the spectrum for which they hold licenses.”
COVID-19 is a reminder that the Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless spectrum is sitting on the sidelines when it is urgently needed for America’s 5G and other telecommunications needs. That’s why experts from the Federalist Society and to the Multicultural Media, Telecom, and Internet Council have called on the FCC to grant Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless their bid credits and associated spectrum the companies were forced to forego. Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless have also urged the FCC to render its decision in a timely manner.
Once resolved, Doyon, Limited, and Northstar Wireless look forward to developing plans to ensure this spectrum is quickly deployed so that more Americans have access to high-quality wireless services.