Who’s Selling EBS Licenses?

May 1, 2021

Since the FCC rule change (FCC 19-62) was implemented on April 20th, 2020, there has been a high level of EBS license transactions. In the past 12 months, 72 EBS license assignments have been – in FCC jargon – “consummated” – meaning the sale & transfer of the license has been completed. It’s worth noting most of the sales concerned licenses with existing leases in place. Here’s a sampling of the 72 EBS license sales by public & private educational institutions over the past year.

“An EBS licensee most likely can sell its license even if it is leased”

— EBS attorney Clare Andonov. (Herman & Whiteaker attorneys, white paper)

  1. University of Southern California: Los Angeles, CA
  2. Catholic Broadcasting of Scranton: Scranton, PA
  3. Rutgers University: New Brunswick NJ
  4. University of Nebraska: Lincoln NE
  5. Midstate College: Peoria IL
  6. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie:  Erie, PA
  7. Minnesota Public Radio: Minneapolis, MN
  8. Logan-Rogersville School District: Rogersville, MO
  9. University Radio Foundation: Charlotte NC
  10. Liberty University: Lynchburg, VA

There are currently 1,300 educational institutions who collectively own 2,193 EBS licenses. (there’s a separate license for each “callsign” or chunk of spectrum). Among these 2,193 licenses are 2,087 active leases. So, 95% of EBS licenses are leased to commercial wireless operators, and in many cases, the lease payments do not reflect the increased value of the license. Until last year, schools had no alternative to monetizing their EBS licenses – they were stuck with lease payments that reflect a market with just a single “buyer.” But with the FCC rule change, licenses can now be sold to the highest bidder – including licenses that are already leased to mobile operators.

It’s reasonable to expect significant 2021 growth of license sales in this new EBS spectrum marketplace. Prices for licenses will increase as new spectrum investors enter the market. License holders will realize they can sell their license even when there’s an underlying lease. Educational institutions can take advantage of this opportunity to plug the many budget holes that have been exacerbated by the past year of pandemic.

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