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High-Tech—Old West, New Economy meet over spectrum bids

Global Photon Set to Begin Undersea Fiber Cable Work

The way Harvey White describes it, the scramble for wireless spectrum is part 21st century telecom phenomenon and part old West poker game. He doesn’t use the metaphor himself, but his talk calls to mind cowboys around a table in a dusty saloon, giving each other mixed signals.

White, chairman and CEO of Leap Wireless International, Inc., is bidding for spectrum licenses along with bigger companies like Verizon Wireless and AT & T; Wireless in a Federal Communications Commission auction that began Dec. 12. The auction was expected to continue into this month.

Companies are making bids, but making sense of them can be tricky. The bids may be no indication of what a company is ultimately trying to buy, White said in mid-December.

Companies have a few chances to sit out a round, but generally must keep bidding to maintain eligibility in the auction. With eligibility, it’s use it or lose it.

The trick, White said, is to keep eligibility as long as possible while not getting saddled as the high bidder on licenses in areas one doesn’t want.

In mid-December, White estimated he was personally spending an hour a day on the auction. He said he’d spend more time on it once the bidding got more serious.

Leap provides low-priced wireless telecommunications service under the name Cricket in cities and large towns. The service operates in city centers but does not work in the rural areas.

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Kelp, Currents And Telecom: Representatives of Global Photon Systems, Inc. of San Diego announced plans to begin laying a 358-mile underwater fiber optic cable system along the California coast this month. The announcement came just after the state Coastal Commission OK’d the company’s plan Dec. 12.

Called the Global West Network, the underwater cable system will run from San Diego to Morro Bay, then continue north on land to San Jose and San Francisco.

The start-up company plans to have telecom centers in Manhattan Beach and Santa Barbara, too. The $150 million network should take four to five months to build, project backers said.

Global Photon Systems is working with equipment maker Alcatel on the project. Deutsche BankSecurities of New York is providing financing.

Company officials predicted their network will be able to support capacity of more than 4 terabits. They said that equals the capacity of all operational terrestrial-based cables in California, or about 60 million telephone calls per second.

They also tout the Global West Network as the first commercially available, high-capacity coastal fiber optic cable system specifically designed to support dense wave division multiplexing without the need for electrical power in the cable. And, they said, it avoids earthquake faults, too.

From MP3 To D.C.: San Diego-based MP3.com will show off the latest technologies for delivering music Thursday, Jan. 4, at the company headquarters at 4790 Eastgate Mall, near University Towne Centre. Formal presentations run from 1:30 to 3 p.m. and hands-on device demonstrations run from 3 to 5 p.m. RSVP at (register@mp3.com).

MP3.com is also co-sponsor of the Coalition for the Future of Music Policy Conference, which will scrutinize copyright law next week at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, will give the keynote address. Company Chairman and CEO Michael Robertson will be there, as will FCC Chairman William Kennard, Hank Barry of Napster, Hilary Rosen of the Recording Industry Association of America, plus others with an interest in the music industry, including recording artists.

In yet another arena, MP3.com is co-sponsoring a contest for would-be composers to write a soundtrack for a silent film in the library of Turner Classic Movies of Atlanta.

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Compaq Pals: Compaq Global Services, part of Houston-based Compaq Computer Corp., will now offer dataConductor, a Web-based product from San Diego’s Syntricity Inc., in its test, assembly and packaging (TAP) suite system. Semiconductor and other manufacturers can use the system to tackle problems in manufacturing execution systems and factory automation. Financial arrangements were not disclosed. Meanwhile, San Diego’s Overland Data, Inc. has extended a 7-year-old original equipment manufacturer agreement with Compaq. Overland makes tape backup products.

Send high-tech news to Graves via e-mail at bgraves@sdbj.com.


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