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NORTH AMERICA BRIEFS

A number of new licenses will be up for grabs early next year in the United States as the majority of C-block Personal Communications Services licensees opted to return their licenses to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC said 175 licenses will be returned in full. Another 130 portions of licenses will be returned, giving the FCC a total of 305 licenses to re-auction.

The FCC is the subject of a handful of lawsuits challenging its C-block Personal Communications Services restructuring rules. Petitions filed by Sprint Spectrum L.P. and John DeFeo of U.S. Airwaves ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review and overturn some of the rules. In particular, Sprint and DeFeo are opposed to allowing C-block licensees to pick and choose among several options. They say licensees should pay what they promised to pay or return their licenses to the government.

A satellite owned by U.S.-based PanAmSat Corp. in late May spun out of control and was unrecoverable, cutting off service to an estimated 90 percent of paging users in the United States. Every paging carrier in the country relying on the satellite for their direct satellite broadcast system-virtually all of them-lost service, affecting nearly 40 million customers. Much of the service was re-established within days, and the paging industry since has been focusing on back-up planning in case anything like that ever happens again.

The North American GSM Alliance L.L.C. said it is planning an advanced testing and evaluation facility for wideband CDMA, the third generation of GSM. Microcell Connexions Inc., a subsidiary of Canada’s Microcell Telecommunications Inc., will set up and operate the facility. Testing is expected to begin this fall.

Telesat Canada has formalized plans for the launch of its new Anik F1 satellite by signing a contract with Arianespace, a supplier of space launch systems. The new satellite, which is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2000, will enable Telesat to bring wireless telecom and other services to customers across North America, Telesat said.

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