AirCell affiliate pays $31M for ATG spectrum

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WASHINGTON-With a $31.3 million offer, AC BidCo L.L.C., an affiliate of AirCell Inc., looks to be the winner of a 3-megahertz license to offer air-to-ground services in the 800 MHz band.

Bidding continues between Space Data Spectrum Holdings L.L.C. and JetBlue’s LiveTV L.L.C. for the remaining 1-megahertz license. At the end of round 83, LiveTV was on top with a bid of almost $3 million.

Due to auction rules, none of the qualified bidders can discuss their plans for the spectrum, but company backgrounds may provide some clues. AirCell already offers air-to-ground voice services for private aircraft. AC BidCo is also backed by Ripplewood Holdings L.L.C., a New York-based private-equity firm. Last year, AirCell told the FCC it would offer a voice and data service as soon as possible if Verizon Airfone (which presently uses the spectrum but must give it up by 2010) transitions off the channels. AirCell has not released pricing information.

While JetBlue has not said what it will do with the 1-megahertz license if it comes out as top bidder, the airline offers DirecTV service on its flights and speculation is that it would use the license for some type of complementary service.

Space Data uses balloons instead of towers to offer broadband services.

Other qualified bidders all appear to have dropped out.

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