Wireless carriers abandon challenges to MSS land-based networks

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WASHINGTON-Mobile-phone carriers have abandoned legal challenges to a Federal Communications Commission rule permitting mobile satellite service operators to build land-based cellular networks with some of their frequencies to supplement satellite operations.

Verizon Wireless, the No. 2 mobile-phone operator, last night filed a motion to dismiss its suit at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Last week, Cingular Wireless L.L.C. chose not to file an appeal by the June 13 deadline for challenging the February FCC decision affirming MSS authority to implement an “ancillary terrestrial component.”

The mobile-phone industry, which has spent billions of dollars on licenses and faces potential competition from the small handful of remaining MSS operators, has long argued allowing financially troubled MSS licensees to use satellite frequencies to provide cell-phone service indistinguishable from their own-without giving others a chance to compete for land-based spectrum at auction-was illegal.

A Verizon Wireless spokeswoman declined to comment on the carrier’s withdrawal of its appeal.

Cingular Wireless did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On a related front, the cell-phone industry continues to spar with TMI Communications Co., an MSS licensee, over the satellite firm’s attempt to acquire additional spectrum reclaimed from MSS after several operators filed for bankruptcy a few years ago. Some MSS licensees emerged successfully from bankruptcy, while others have turned in their licenses to the FCC or lost their licenses for failure to meet construction milestones.

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