Nextel kick’n ‘um on the way out…

As you may have heard, Sprint Nextel is shuttering a substantial number of its legacy Nextel iDEN tower sites.  These sites are no longer necessary in light of Sprint decommissioning of the Nextel iDEN service and combining technologies through its grand Network Vision Project (for more on Network Vision, click here).

For impacted Nextel tower site landlords, lease terminations translate to the loss of anticipated lease income.  This is why I tell my landlord-clients that they should always view most wireless leases as being enforceable for only months on the tenant side, but for decades on the landlord side.

Getting back to Nextel’s current round of terminations, to add insult to injury Nextel has employed third-party vendors to call and ‘convince’ landlords why, on the way out, they should execute a novel “Lease Termination Agreement and General Release” document.  I first heard about this from my peer, friend and trusted colleague, Mike Ritter, Esq. of TowerSeekers, a firm specializing in serving wireless landlords in the religious and non-profit segment.

So it seems that Nextel, when terminating a lease, would prefer to save lots of money by not removing most of the equipment, wiring, conduits, cables, and other things it installs.  Removal of these items is typically required by most wireless leases, as is returning the leasehold to the landlord in the same basic condition that existing just prior to the lease.  Nextel’s preference now seems to be to abandon the equipment in place and transfer title of the abandoned equipment, with no warranties whatsoever, to the site landlord.  With the abandonment goes all of the legal liabilities, as well, which may include liabilities imposed by the local governments on Nextel, but transferred by this agreement to the landlord.

Just sign right  here on the dotted line and YOU get to take on all of OUR discarded stuff and legal risks, and you save us a boat-load of money, too!‘ is just one way to think about this proposed deal.  Such a deal!

What’s even better is that BlackDot suggests in writing–but does not guaranteey–that they can find a replacement carrier quickly because these decommissioned sites will be “plug and play” solutions for other carriers…IF…the landlord will give up a 25% commission for the life of the revenue stream BlackDot can negotiate. Such a better deal!

‘Plug and play?’  Huh?   I’m a radio frequency engineer as well as an attorney. I don’t think much of the pitch is remotely believable.  By the way, if you’re interested in this deal, give me a call: I have a famous New York bridge for sale that’s priced for quick sale.

Take a look at a redacted copy of the Agreement document, here’s one.   If you’re half-a-lawyer, you’ll see why this deal is no deal at all.

If you are a Nextel landlord and you’ve received a notice of termination (as have some of my clients), go back and pull out your lease documents, including amendments.  Look at the termination terms and restoration terms.  (They may be in several places in the lease.)

Even if you don’t get the follow-up sales pitch call to do the exit agreement, do talk with your attorney.  If you don’t have one, I happen to know of some good ones!  Just call me on 310-405-7333, or give Mike a call on (760) 917-1123.




Sprint(ing) Forward to 800 MHz LTE

The FCC has granted Sprint’s request to allow it to deploy LTE services in its 800 MHz band assignments.

This is a big deal, both for Sprint and for LTE deployment as the de facto 4G-ish standard.

The FCC’s decision (found HERE) allows Sprint to re-purpose its Nextel 800 MHz spectrum (the old iDEN band) and bond it with Sprint’s 1900 MHz spectrum to create a ‘super LTE’ channel (my term, not theirs).  Mathematically, this is represented by the complex formula:

zoom(800,000,000hz) x zoom(1,900,000,000hz) = ZOOM(WOW)MBs

Okay, maybe that’s not a legit math formula, but you get the idea.  Bonding two high speed data bands is better than having two stand-alone high speed data bands.

This is a huge deal for Sprint as it continues to decommission its old Nextel iDEN services and sites as it deploys its Network Vision project.  Network Vision is Sprint’s ‘one-box-does-all’ base station solution that allows it to communicate on multiple bands and using multiple signal protocols for both itself, and for electronic collocators it will charge to deploy on its upgrade cell sites.

For the LTE community, the Commission’s decision signals its intent to relax the existing technical rules that current prevent deployment of 4G-ish services in the cellular and ESMR bands.  AT&T and Verizon will likely be even happier than Sprint by the ruling as it will give those firms a legal path forward to phase ultimately out cellular on 860 MHz and bond LTE with their other band assignments, especially 700 MHz.

(Bonding 700 MHz and 800 MHz services makes a lot of technical sense as the signal propagation of those two bands is similar, where the propagation of bonding 800 MHz to 1,900 MHz are dissimilar.)

For LTE-supporters, the Commission’s ruling is a much clearer path forward for dominance of that communications scheme given that the Commission’s door-opening will make LTE and LTE band-bonding even more important.


LightSquared files for Bankrupcy (Chapter 11)

     To the surprise of very few, LightSquared has filed for Bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11.

Given that the firm has virtually no path forward to use its frequencies to provide 4G-type services in light (no pun intended) of the apparently unresolvable GPS interference issues, Chapter 11 gives LightSquared a way to step back and see what it can salvage of their operations.

In a Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding, in most cases, the debtor remains in control of its business and operations as a “debtor in possession.” The day-to-day operations are subject to the oversight and jurisdiction of the federal court (and typically the trustee). The goals of a Chapter 11 proceeding is for the company to find the cash to emerge from bankruptcy having paid its creditors some portion of the amount due, cancelling or renegotiating some contracts, and then resuming normal operations after completing the bankruptcy.

It seems pretty clear to me that the $9B contract LightSquared entered into with Sprint will be a target for cancellation.  That will place even more pressure on Sprint to fund its Network Vision project.

A Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding is is very different from Chapter 7 proceeding.

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy action the business ceases its regular operations.  The court-appointed trustee sells off all of the business’s assets and distributes the sale proceeds to the creditors. If there’s any money leftover after all the creditors are paid, that balance is returned to the owners/shareholders of the bankrupt company, and the company ceases to exist.

Sometimes a firm starting out on a Chapter 11 bankruptcy path can still end up shutting down.  It would not surprise me if that’s the case with LightSquared, especially if they are forced to sell off their licensed frequencies.

Time will tell.