AT&T Wireless Services Inc. and other mobile-phone companies won House approval of a bill to delay two auctions of airwaves in June and give the industry time to resolve ownership disputes with broadcasters. Television station operators such as Paxson Communications Corp. control licenses to the airwaves until at least 2006 as they upgrade to digital TV. Federal law requires that the government sell rights to the licenses to mobile-phone carriers by September, even though they won't get to use the airwaves until TV stations complete their upgrades.
Mobile-phone companies are reluctant to take part in the June 19 sale unless they can find out exactly when broadcasters will relinquish the frequencies. They worry they may have to pay billions at the government auctions and billions more to get broadcasters to give up the airwaves before 2006.