Agreement would let Alaska Native Wireless keep frequencies

Posted: Friday, December 07, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Alaska Native Wireless would retain the rights to billions of dollars worth of telephone radio frequencies it won in an auction earlier this year, under a settlement between the government and NextWave, the original owner of the frequencies.

Late last month the U.S. Justice Department approved an agreement with NextWave Telecom Inc. That step that could end a dispute over whether the bankrupt NextWave still owns two large blocks of wireless spectrum.

Three Alaska Native regional corporations, Doyon Ltd., Sealaska and Arctic Slope Regional Corp., joined with AT&T Wireless to purchase the disputed spectrum in January.

The Federal Communications Commission had reclaimed the spectrum from NextWave due to non-payment and put it on the auction block. But NextWave took the FCC to court to invalidate the auction and the court agreed.

The Justice Department announced a proposed settlement of the dispute on Nov. 27. Congress and the courts must still approve it.

Under the proposed deal, the disputed wireless spectrum would go Alaska Native Wireless and other January auction winners. In exchange, NextWave would get $6 billion of the $16.8 billion paid by winning bidders. The government would receive $10 billion.

Because Alaska Native Wireless is a minority-controlled business, the government offered it and other ''designated entities'' two advantages in the bidding. It set aside some spectrum only for such companies. And it offered a 25 percent bid preference for the spectrum open to all bidders. Alaska Native Wireless was successful in both arenas.

Alaska Native Wireless won spectrum in New York City, Los Angeles, Denver, Tampa, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Minneapolis, New Haven and Portland. The spectrum is in the PCS, or personal communication service, band.

Even if Congress or the courts reject the deal, Alaska Native Wireless will retain some wireless spectrum, Todd said. A small portion of the spectrum it bought in January was not previously held by NextWave, he said.

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