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US battles for broadband licences

Five years on the fight continues...
Written by Heather McLean, Contributor

Five years on the fight continues...

The five-year battle to get prime US broadband wireless licenses out of the hands of the bankrupt NextWave and into circulation is in danger of being bogged down by red tape. US Congress has to agree that the government can take the licences from NextWave for a nominal price and re-issue them to other telcos that have already entered into an agreement to purchase them. However, Capitol Hill has failed to settle discussions before 31 December meaning any deal between the government and Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Cingular Wireless has become void. The telcos can now walk away from the government deal. US Congress closed for the holiday yesterday, and will not reopen until next year. Under the terms of the agreement, Nextwave will hand the licences over to the government for $5.85bn after Congress gives the nod. The government intends to sell the licences on to telcos that bid a total of $15.85bn for them last January. Congress' lack of action could spell the beginning of lengthy court battles during 2002 as the bidders look at alternatives to getting broadband mobile services to US consumers. Verizon, a subsidiary of Vodafone, has already stated it may look elsewhere for extra spectrum to cope with increasing numbers of mobile users and broadband content. Lars Godell, European telecommunications analyst at Forrester Research, said: "I don't think this is a make or break situation as it will be nice for the companies to have the spectrum for higher data rates."
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