FCC finally returns operator deposits for unavailable spectrum...Following months of confrontation, the Federal Communications Commission has returned a percentage of the deposits paid by US mobile network operators for licences that were never officially available for auction. Operators will receive $2.8bn of their original deposits back - around 85 per cent of the total paid in January 2001. The government blunder came about as the FCC auctioned third generation licences that were already owned by bankrupt telco Nextwave. The FCC assumed it could buy the licences from Nextwave and signed deals with operators for a total of $15.85bn, taking deposits of $3.2bn. However, when the FCC tried to claim the licences, Nextwave refused to comply and is still the holding company. Since the events over one year ago, the mobile operators have been demanding the FCC returns their deposits. However, the initial contract signed by all parties was valid until 31 December 2001 and now Congress is deciding what to do over the dispute between Nextwave and the FCC. The FCC is retaining the remainder of the operators' deposits to tie them to their previous agreements pending Congress's decision on who should be able to use the licences.