Battling for a Slice of Thin Air

Giant firms are racing toward wireless -- but wireless what, exactly?

It was an extraordinary display of last-minute dealmaking, even for an industry that has seen more than its share of shotgun weddings and broken marriages. For the past few weeks, the giants of the telecommunications industry have engaged in a high-stakes game of corporate musical beds that left some of the most eligible partners sleeping alone and created some awfully strange bedfellows.

The immediate cause of all this was an obscure bit of rulemaking from the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC for the past four months has been selling off slices of the broadcast spectrum -- the radio bands used for...

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