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FCC, NextWave Reach Spectrum Accord

NextWave Telecom Inc. agreed Tuesday to return billions of dollars of valuable spectrum to the FCC, which is expected to auction it. The settlement appears to resolve one of the longest running disputes involving wireless spectrum.

Nearly a decade ago, NextWave was the high bidder for 95 PCS (1900 MHz) licenses, but couldn't pay the $4.7 billion it had bid. For years, then ensued long rounds of litigation and argument over the dispute.

"This landmark agreement takes valuable spectrum resources out of the courts and will put it in the hands of consumers who can finally use it," said FCC chairman Michael Powell in a statement. "Making additional next-generation wireless services available is good for the economy and good for broadband deployment."

The settlement of the ongoing dispute also clears the deck for the FCC to make a decision on another important issue that's been facing the commission for a long time -- how to move Nextel out of the public safety mobile phone channels. Nextel wants to move into the 1900 MHz channel, but its mobile phone competitors want it to pay a few billion dollars more than what Nextel has been offering.

The break in the NextWave logjam came a few days ago when Cingular Wireless acquired 34 licenses from NextWave for $1.4 billion.

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