Cingular's Spectrum Dance

The spectrum licenses that Cingular Wireless hopes to buy from bankrupt carrier NextWave Telecom Inc. could enable the second largest mobile operator in the U.S. to roll out more 3G high-speed data services.

However, the carriers are still hammering out the details of the deal. "A definite agreement has not been reached and there can be no assurance that an agreement will be reached, or, if reached, that any transaction will be consummated," Cingular said in a statement [ed. note: sounds like they're reaching].

On Friday morning a release was issued by NextWave's PR agency claiming that Cingular was planning to buy licenses in 34 markets for $1.4 billion from NextWave (see Cingular Buys Licenses). Cingular later refuted the release, insisting that it was still in talks over the licenses.

Cingular operates a GSM/GPRS digital network in the U.S. and has just started to offer enhanced data for GSM environments (EDGE) services, which crank the data transfer rates offered by its wide-area networks up to a hundred kilobits or so (see Cingular EDGEs Out Rivals). Analysts note that the operator still needs more wireless bandwidth in order to plug coverage holes in its network and increase high-speed data offerings (see US: 3G or Not 3G? ). One way for Cingular to get the spectrum it needs would be for Cingular to buy some of NextWave's licenses.

However, even if the two carriers do eventually end their little dance and come to an accord over the licenses, the deal is still subject to approval by the bankruptcy court (see Nextwave Case Drags On, Drags 3G Down and {27521} for more on the NextWave saga.).

Cingular did not return calls for comment on this story. Neither, somewhat disappointingly, did it dance the meringue or the cha-cha-cha.

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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