U.S. wireless group pushes hunt for spectrum

* Senator considering proposals to move spectrum bill

* Progress made on finding budgetary offsets

By John Poirier

WASHINGTON, April 29 (BestGrowthStock) – The U.S. wireless industry
is pressing a key senator to clear the way for a government
study that could accelerate plans to free up airwaves for
devices such as smart phones.

Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, has blocked the
Senate’s spectrum inventory measure from moving through the
chamber because he believes the measure will add to the
country’s budget deficit due to its $22 million price tag.

But a meeting on Tuesday between Coburn and Steve Largent,
who heads the CTIA wireless industry trade group that
represents AT&T Inc (T.N: ), Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel
Corp(S.N: ) and T-Mobile, yielded some progress, raising hopes
the strained wireless industry could get relief.

Verizon Wireless is a venture between Verizon
Communications and Vodafone Group Plc (VOD.L: ). T-Mobile is the
U.S. unit of Deutsche Telekom AG (DTEGn.DE: ).

“We’re making progress and are hopeful this bill will be
fully offset,” Coburn’s spokesman, John Hart, said on Thursday,
adding that Coburn is working with Senator Olympia Snowe of
Maine to find ways to pay for the spectrum study required by
the bill.

Snowe is a senior Republican on the Senate Commerce
Committee, which approved the legislation last July. The U.S.
House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a companion
bill earlier this month.

The Federal Communications Commission unveiled a plan
earlier this year that calls for auctioning spectrum held by
broadcasters and other licensees to wireless companies under a
voluntary program.

The wireless companies need spectrum to meet a burgeoning
demand for wireless devices as more consumers access the
Internet using smartphones and other wireless devices. However,
the broadcasting industry is largely opposed to giving up the
highly sought-after real estate.

The measures being considered in Congress would require
U.S. regulators to conduct a comprehensive survey of the
airwaves being used by the government and all companies and
possibly make recommendations for reallocating blocks of
spectrum for commercial use.

One proposals, that Coburn is not keen on, would use
proceeds from future spectrum auctions to pay for the costs of
the study.

However, he is considering proposals to use funds left over
from the digital television transition program and possibly
tapping into the Commerce Department’s budget for conference
and travel expenses that would total about $10 million.

“CTIA continues to meet with policymakers to discuss this
very important issue,” said CTIA spokeswoman Amy Storey.
“Spectrum is vital to our industry as it fuels the virtuous
cycle of innovation and ensures we can meet consumers’
increasing demands for mobile Internet access.”

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(Reporting by John Poirier; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

U.S. wireless group pushes hunt for spectrum