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Licenses for Wireless
Service Auctioned

By Jeannine Aversa
Associated Press
Thursday, March 26, 1998; Page C03

Government licenses to provide telephone, television and Internet services via new wireless technology fetched pledges of $578.6 million at an auction that ended yesterday.

The Federal Communications Commission auction, which opened Feb. 18, closed after 128 rounds in which 139 companies submitted bids. Of 986 licenses on the block, 864 were sold. The rest will be auctioned later.

WNP Communications Inc. was the highest bidder, pledging $186.9 million for 40 licenses serving areas where 114 million people live. The company won licenses in markets including Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Dallas and Boston.

Based in Earlysville, Va., the company said it would become the largest corporate holder of wireless licenses in the world when the new ones are granted.

WNP plans to provide a mixture of high-speed data, voice and video services but hasn't completed its plans, President Thomas Jones said in an interview. He said he didn't know when the company would offer service to customers but said it is checking out equipment and working on detailed business plans.

The licenses are for a new technology called local multipoint distribution service, or LMDS, envisioned to provide services to compete with local phone and cable companies.

The new service's delivery system is akin to that of cellular phone service, although it is not mobile. To receive telephone, television or data service, the customer needs a small receiver dish in or near a window.

Nextband Communications was the second-biggest winner, bidding $134.7 million for 42 licenses in markets including Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and San Francisco. WinStar, a wireless data company in Northern Virginia, was the third-largest winner, bidding $43 million for 15 licenses, including one in San Francisco.

WNP's principals include former MFS Communications Co. president Royce Holland and Trygve Myhren, former cable TV executive and president of the Providence Journal Co. Backers include venture capital funds Norwest Capital and Chase Manhattan Venture Fund.

Nextband Communications is backed by Nextlink, a local phone company in Bellevue, Wash., and Nextel Communications, a wireless company in McLean.

Other auction winners include: Baker Creek Communications, $25.6 million bid for 232 licenses; Cortelyou Communications Corp., $25.2 million for 15 licenses; BTA Associates, $16.9 million for seven licenses; Alta Wireless Inc., $15.1 million for four licenses; Eclipse Communications Corp., $14.3 for 51 licenses; ARNet Inc., $11.6 million for 16 licenses; and CoServ, $10.3 million for six licenses.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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