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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bidding begins on Thursday in a crucial auction of government-owned airwaves that is expected to help set the future course of the U.S. telecommunications business.
Companies ranging from AT&T Inc and Verizon Wireless, to possible new competitors like Internet company Google Inc, EchoStar Communications Corp and Cablevision Systems Corp will be able to snap up some of the last remaining wireless spectrum and perhaps use it for a new generation of wireless broadband and other advanced services.
"This spectrum is probably the last spectrum (to be offered) for the foreseeable future," said Tole Hart, an analyst with Gartner Group. "So it's kind of the last crack at the apple."
Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc and Vodafone Group Plc.
Although the flagging economy could crimp some bidders, the FCC has high hopes for the airwaves auction. The sale is seen as a way to spur more competition in the wireless business, create a new network that can be used by public safety agencies and rake in as much as $10 billion into the federal treasury.