It’s official: On September 30, Grain Management, LLC, a minority-owned firm, closed on a $287 million transaction in which it acquired 700 MHz B block spectrum from Verizon Wireless and AWS C block spectrum from AT&T. This transaction marks the largest minority spectrum deal in U.S. history.
Although it just closed last week, the historic transaction has been over a year in the making.
In April 2012, Verizon Wireless announced its intention to sell all of its Lower 700 MHz A and B block spectrum licenses, engaging Loop Capital Markets LLC, the largest minority-owned full-service investment bank in the nation, as co-advisor for the deal. Verizon also stated its intent to “reach out to a wide range of potential bidders, including minority-owned and female-owned businesses.”
Shortly after the announcement, Verizon also engaged the National Urban League, the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council’s telecom brokerage, and the National Council of La Raza to help conduct broad outreach to minority and women owned telecommunications companies and entrepreneurs. NUL, NCLR, and MMTC advised some 45 firms on procedures and strategies for bidding on the spectrum.
MMTC President David Honig has described the process as a textbook example of how the private sector can advance minority entrepreneurship. “Verizon Wireless is to be commended for conducting an open and inclusive sale process that specifically targeted a diverse group of potential bidders, including women and minority-owned businesses,” he said. “This sale process demonstrates Verizon’s continued commitment to diversity and inclusion, and Verizon continues to engage in discussions with us to identify other opportunities for women and minorities.”
According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 74 percent of African Americans, 68 percent of Hispanics, and 59 percent of Whites access the Internet through wireless devices. Wireless is the first technology for which people of color are the lead adopters – a phenomenon MMTC has named the “Minority Wireless Miracle.”
Honig expressed a positive outlook for what this transaction means for both minority entrepreneurs and consumers. “MMTC is hopeful that this transaction between Verizon Wireless and Grain will be the first of a series of major spectrum transactions involving wireless carriers and minority- and women-owned firms,” he said. “Transactions of this scale and greater will provide infrastructure, jobs, and opportunity to the communities needing them most.”
Marcella Gadson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Broadband and Social Justice Blog and Director of Communications at the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC).