VIEWPOINT

The Oct. 28 deadlind for those applying with the Federal Communications Commission to participate in next month’s auction for broadband personal communications services licenses has come and gone.

And with it comes the end of the anticipation, hype and hoopla-for now-over the courtships and possible alliances among many of the telecommunications giants, who during the past several weeks have strutted their marketing prowess, deep pockets, territorial claims, service offerings and brand name clout in front of one another like peacocks preparing to mate, yet frightened by the thought that any one bird could end up with more feathers than the others. Paranoia runs rampant among such proud birds.

For most, it was a race to beat the clock, and time will tell whether all the partners within any given alliance will remain friendly, given how quickly they were all thrown together.

In all, the FCC received applications from 74 candidates for 99 PCS licenses that will be put on the auction block Dec. 5. Two licenses in each of 51 markets will be offered, less the three licenses already spoken for as a result of the FCC’s pioneer preference awards to Omnipoint Corp., Cox Enterprises Inc. and American Personal Communications.

Based on the applications filed, bidding is expected to be intense for most of the major markets when it begins next month. That’s no surprise to anyone; the government expects to raise as much as $10 billion from the broadband PCS auctions.

What is interesting, however, is to look at the apparent strategies of some of the players, and which markets they’ll be going after.

San Francisco, for instance, attracted relatively few of the heavy hitters. Pacific Telesis Group had fired warning shots late last month when it announced it would aggressively pursue markets within California and would spend whatever was needed to remain competitive in its own backyard.

Apparently, the shots were heard throughout most of the industry. The coalition between Sprint Corp. and the cable television companies filed for the San Francisco licenses, as did Craig McCaw, who became an 11th-hour bidder after he decided last month not to sit on the board of AT&T Corp., and, instead, pursue entrepreneurial opportunities on his own. McCaw, by the way, plans to bid on licenses in 22 of the 51 markets. However, barring a couple of other applicants, none of the Baby Bells or other major telcos opted for the Bay Area license. A similar situation surfaced in Dallas.

But that will not be the case in markets such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston and Washington, D.C., where bids could easily run into the hundreds of million of dollars.

Another strategy came at the hands of John DeFeo, who recently called it quits as president and chief executive officer of U S West Newvector Group Inc. DeFeo, along with partner Winston Himsworth, formed U.S. AirWaves Inc. and applied for licenses in 40 markets, all but the top 11.

The deadline has passed; the thrill is gone. All that remains is the mundane task of 74 possible participants trying to outbid one another at the tune of millions of dollars for a chance to take home their piece of the PCS pie. Stay tuned.

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