NextWave Strikes Again

The wireless company that couldn't pay for spectrum it bought 10 years ago bought more in the FCC's first auction of advanced wireless spectrum. AWS Wireless, a wholly owned subsidiary of, NextWave Wireless LLC , took 154 licenses for $115.5 million in the FCC's recently closed auction for advanced wireless spectrum,
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The wireless company that couldn't pay for spectrum it bought 10 years ago bought more in the FCC's first auction of advanced wireless spectrum.

AWS Wireless, a wholly owned subsidiary of, NextWave Wireless LLC, took 154 licenses for $115.5 million in the FCC's recently closed auction for advanced wireless spectrum, or AWS, in the 1.7 and 2.1 GHz bands. NextWave is the company that placed a $4.7 billion bid for 95 licenses in 1996, made the $500 million down payment, but was unable to cover the rest. The FCC repo-ed the licenses, but when NextWave filed for bankruptcy in 1998, it claimed the licenses as part of the bankruptcy proceeding, with the U.S. Supreme Court's eventual blessing.

The standoff was settled in 2004. NextWave retained 10 percent of the licenses for which it originally bid, or about 30, 10 MHz licenses in 25 markets.

In the most recent auction, which closed Sept. 18, the reorganized NextWave made an upfront deposit of nearly $143 million, an amount that covers its bids and then some. The company's licenses cover approximately 63 million people in markets that include Pittsburgh, Puerto Rico, Indianapolis, Sacramento, Calif.; Tulsa, Okla.; Little Rock, Ark.; El Paso, Texas; Albany, N.Y.; Louisville, Ky.; Sarasota and Fort Myers, Fla.; and Anchorage, Alaska.

In a press release following the auction, NextWave said it's "currently developing WiMAX semiconductors and other wireless broadband technologies."

The top bidders in the auction were Deutsche Telecom company T-Mobile, taking 120 licenses for $4.2 billion; Verizon Wireless, with a bid of $2.8 billion for 13 licenses; and SpectrumCo, a consortium including majority owner Comcast, along with Time Warner Cable and Sprint Nextel, with a bid of $2.4 billion for 137 licenses.

The FCC raised nearly $14 billion in 161 rounds of bidding for the 1,087 licenses auctioned out of 1,122 offered.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin released the following statement at the auction's conclusion:
"The first Advanced Wireless Services auction, which closed today, is the biggest, most successful wireless auction in the commission's history. The spectrum offered was the largest amount of spectrum suitable for deploying wireless broadband ever made available in a single FCC auction. It grossed nearly $13.9 billion. I am particularly pleased that more than half of the winning bidders were small businesses. I hope many of these smaller companies will fulfill the promise of advanced wireless services in America's underserved and rural areas.

"Auction winners are expected to use this prime 'spectrum real estate' to roll out new devices, which will allow consumers to access the Internet and dedicated video services wherever they want, whenever they want. For example, sports fans watching their favorite team will no longer need to wait until they get home to catch up on the games--they will be able to watch highlights and obtain scores on their mobile devices in real-time."