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Winstar Communications Inc suddenly looks to become one of the hottest dates in the telecommunications industry and the New York-based company says it would be receptive to suitors. Last week the Federal Communications Commission issued a report that put no limit on the accumulation of the 39 gigahertz spectrum, the radio frequency that Winstar uses to provide local wireless service to business customers. In the 38-39 gigahertz spectrum, there are 14 100-MHz channels in each geographical market. The limit for one company’s ownership of the channels in a given market had previously been seven. Winstar is now free to accumulate large chunks of radio spectrum in each of its local markets, rejecting a plea by the satellite industry to have it relocate to another spectrum band. The company is also free to use its spectrum to offer broadcast – or point-to-multipoint – service as well as mobile service. The FCC ruling essentially clears the way for Winstar to forge ahead with plans to build a nationwide system of broadband local networks that will offer voice, data and internet service. The company already has service up and running in 21 cities, with licenses to build systems in 139 more cities, including all of the top 50 US markets. Winstar can also bid for licenses in other cities when the FCC lifts a freeze on the issuance of them that was put in place in 1995. All of this makes Winstar an increasingly attractive acquisition for large players like AT&T Corp or Sprint Corp, who are looking for ways into the local phone markets to offset losses resulting from regional Bells jumping into the long-distance marketplace. Winstar chairman and chief executive William Rouhana told the Wall Street Journal that he would most definitely consider any buyout offers, which he sees as a great move for the company. Wall Street embraced the news last Friday, with Winstar shares jumping $3.375, or 14%, to $28.3125. Monday saw a continued rise, with shares up another $0.9375 to close at $29.25 – its highest level in about 18 months. On October 30, Winstar reported a third-quarter net loss of $65.3m on revenue which rose 77% to $20.2m.

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CBR Staff Writer

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