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The free market is betting on a lucrative future for the next wave of telecommunications, if frantic bidding at the Federal Communications Commission's first-ever auction of the public airwaves is any indication. As the weeklong event wound up today, a half-dozen companies had dropped a whopping $617 million for 10-year licenses for pager and cellular phone "bandwidths," dwarfing the FCC's wildest expectations. TIME Washington correspondent Suneel Ratan says the high prices won't be passed on to consumers, since the newly sold airwave bands allow for plenty of competition among operators. "The future is those 'Dick Tracy' wrist phones," he says, "and this will make it affordable to the masses."