NextWave Telecom Inc. and the Federal Communications Commission have finally settled an eight-year battle over highly contested and valuable wireless spectrum.
Under the terms of the resolution, NextWave will return some of its licenses to the FCC, which can then auction them to other wireless carriers.
In January 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the FCC, saying NextWave rightfully held the spectrum despite having defaulted on payments to the government. But because of complicated license transfer rules, NextWave was unable to use its licenses freely until it reached last weeks agreement with the FCC.
"We can finally end the liigation and begin the innovation," said FCC Chairman Michael Powell, in Washington, in a statement. "This landmark agreement takes valuable spectrum resources out of the courts and will put it in the hands of consumers." NextWave will return 155 10MHz spectrum licenses in 60 commercial markets, said officials at the Greenwich, Conn., company.
The company will retain 30 10MHz licenses in 25 markets. These markets include some of the most lucrative markets in the country, including the Mid-Atlantic region. The FCC will retain $714 million that it received this month in connection with the sale of some license rights to Cingular Wireless, as well as $504 million that NextWave has paid since 1996, when the spectrum saga began.
Carriers have yet to announce formal plans to bid for the newly available spectrum but remain generally positive about any opportunity to buy.
"We love to see whats in store windows available for purchase," said Jeffrey Nelson, a spokesman for Verizon Wireless in Bedminster, N.J., which bid several billion dollars in the thwarted 2001 auction. "Were always looking," he said.
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