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NEXTEL WINS 177 LICENSES

Nextel Communications Inc. said the 177 licenses it won at auction are a “relatively small thing” considering the enormous holdings it has already.

Nextel has been quiet for the last year, silently building out digital networks, completing large acquisitions and swapping properties with other specialized mobile radio operators.

It received thousands of channels from Motorola Inc. It traded away 120 900 MHz channels to Geotek Communications Inc. and received 74 channels at 800 MHz in New York in return. It bought 43 channels at 800 MHz in Philadelphia from Comcast Corp. And the deals continue.

Nextel wants to use its 800 MHz spectrum primarily for digital service. Analog customers now on 800 MHz may be moved to 900 MHz spectrum. Nextel bid as FCI 900 Inc. and paid a total of $29 million for the new 900 MHz channels.

The Rutherford, N.J., company hasn’t been aggressively marketing its digital service because it’s waiting for the next-generation handset, said company spokesman Paul Blalock.

Nextel’s digital service provides an all-in-one mobile solution-dispatch, interconnect (phone), short messaging and data in one handheld device.

Motorola provides the digital technology, iDEN (integrated dispatch enhanced network). Nextel’s current digital customers are using 6-to-1 handsets, which split the channel into six paths. The handset weighs 16 ounces and doesn’t have the voice quality Nextel is seeking, Blalock said.

Motorola now is beta testing a 3-to-1 handset called reconfigured iDEN, which contains an enhancement to the telephone interconnect system.

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