NextWave to Sell Spectrum Holdings

NextWave Wireless is planning to sell its holdings of U.S. airwaves. It is estimated that the licenses held by NextWave are worth billions of dollars. The money raised from the sales will be used by NextWave to pay off debt and invest in the company’s products. NextWave makes telecommunications equipment. Among other things, it makes chips for WiMax, a next-generation wireless standard being deployed by Sprint-Nextel.

NextWave announced late yesterday that it hired Deutsche Bank and UBS to help the company sell its spectrum holdings, which cover 85% of the U.S. population. Coverage includes major markets like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. It is speculated that a company may try to buy most of the holdings to create a new national mobile provider in the United States.

It isn’t clear what the value of Next Wave’s holdings is worth. If the sale goes as well as the recent FCC auction of the 700 megahertz spectrum, the licenses could be worth $6 billion. But NextWave isn’t likely to get that much for its holdings. The radio characteristics of its spectrum make it more expensive to put to use.

According to NextWave’s chief financial officer George Alex, the company paid about $500 million for the airwaves. NextWave shares rose $1.25, or 26%, to $6 in midday trading today.

“The 700 megahertz auction was exceptional in the prices that they achieved,” Alex said. “We’ve had a lot of inbound inquiry … A lot of people were unfulfilled in their needs by 700. They’d amassed the business plans and the money they needed to participate in that auction, so now they’re looking for other alternatives.”