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Supreme Court Decision in NextWave Case May Have Positive Implications for Financial and Wireless Telecommunications Sectors

January 01, 2003

By Carl W. Northrop and Christine M. Crowe

The United States Supreme Court released its long-awaited decision in the NextWave case on January 27, resolving almost five years of litigation and uncertainty surrounding spectrum that NextWave won at Federal Communications Commission auctions in 1996 and 1997. NextWave’s appeal arose out of the FCC’s cancellation of NextWave’s licenses after NextWave had initiated Chapter 11 bankruptcy  proceedings and defaulted on installment payment obligations to the FCC. After canceling NextWave’s licenses, the FCC reconfigured and re-auctioned the spectrum in 2001. Twenty-one entities bid nearly $16 billion for the spectrum previously encompassed by NextWave’s former licenses, in sharp contrast to the $4.7 billion NextWave originally bid for the spectrum.