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TDS BEARS AERIAL LOSSES

Aerial Communications posted $21 million in operating losses for the first quarter, which the company said was slightly below expectations.

Aerial’s parent, Telephone and Data System Inc. of Chicago, reported good first-quarter growth in its core telephone business and its subsidiary cellular operations.

Executives said those strong performances offset the costs incurred by Aerial, which is building and launching personal communication services networks.

No depreciation and amortization was noted in Aerial’s first-quarter report, but that will change now that one network has been launched and five more are scheduled for launch in the second quarter.

Company executives expect those costs will be prominent in the second and third quarters. Capital expenditures for the first quarter were $121.4 million, with the expectation that capital costs will rise to $345 million by year’s end.

Aerial’s net loss was $22.3 million, or 31 cents per share, for the first quarter, compared with a net loss of $6.7 million, or 11 cents per share, for first quarter 1996.

Aerial has a position of leverage not enjoyed by all PCS companies. Aerial and its TDS sister, United States Cellular Corp., are housed in the same Chicago building, and the two place vendor orders together when possible.

“In the long term, success is doing the little things that make the network work,” said Perry Walter, vice president and telecom analyst for Robinson-Humphrey Co. of Atlanta. And U.S. Cellular has experience in exactly those “little things,” such as billing systems and customer service.

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