Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A company that might be at the center of 5G's future is being thrown a lifeline.

Driving the news: Ligado Networks is raising $3.85 billion in expensive new financing to stay out of bankruptcy. The spectrum company's survival could be crucial to the long sought-after, and sometimes controversial, dream of deploying a nationwide 5G network.

Wireless companies like T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T are racing to acquire spectrum to build next generation 5G wireless networks. The type of spectrum Ligado holds, commonly known as L-Band, is a source of additional capacity and may help traditional carriers boost their ability to create even better networks.

  • One estimate from New Street Research says Ligado’s L-Band spectrum portfolio could be worth anywhere from $12-$23 billion, depending on how the carriers want to use it.

Stay of play: The Federal Communications Commission and Trump administration leaders like Attorney General William Barr, a former telecom exec, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo firmly back Ligado’s effort. But other U.S. agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Defense, and members of Congress have lobbied hard against the company.

By the numbers: JPMorgan bankers presented Ligado’s bond deal earlier this month with juicy interest payments of 13% on the highest priority notes and 16% on the more junior notes, according to an offering document reviewed by Axios.

  • But that wasn't good enough — the bank changed the terms yesterday in order to drum up more demand, according to one investor not authorized to speak publicly.
  • Ligado reduced the amount it is borrowing from $4.3 billion, and is now offering to pay a 15.5% coupon on the more senior notes and 17.5% on the junior bond, says the investor, adding the company will pay no cash interest right away.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Oct 14, 2020 - Technology

Apple's iPhone 12 bets may take time to pay off

The iPhone 12 Pro features both 5G support as well as a lidar sensor. Photo: Apple

With the iPhone 12, unveiled Tuesday, Apple has made some big technology bets that should boost demand for 5G networks as well as help spur developers to create more advanced augmented reality applications. However, phone buyers will probably have to wait for a payoff.

Why it matters: Many tech advances start out as chicken-and-egg problems, with developers waiting for a market to emerge while consumers don't yet see the value in spending more. Apple has the rare ability to push past that block. Because of its size and comparatively focused product line, its support of new technologies like 5G and lidar can vault them into the mainstream.

Pence to continue traveling despite aides testing positive for COVID-19

Marc Short with Pence in March. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, tested positive for the coronavirus Saturday and is quarantining, according to a White House statement.

Why it matters: Short is Pence's closest aide, and was one of the most powerful forces on the White House coronavirus task force. Pence and second lady Karen Pence tested negative for the virus on Sunday morning, according to the vice president's office.

AOC: "Extremely important" that Biden offer Bernie Sanders a Cabinet position

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that she believes it's "extremely important" that Joe Biden offer Sen. Bernie Sanders and other progressive leaders Cabinet positions if he's elected president.

The big picture: Ocasio-Cortez was pressed repeatedly on policy differences between her and the more moderate Biden, including her opposition to fracking and support for Medicare for All. She responded that it would be a "privilege" and a "luxury" to be able to lobby a Biden administration on progressive issues, insisting that the focus right now should be on winning the White House.

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