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SAN FRANCISCO, April 23 (Reuters) - NextWave Wireless Inc WAVE.O said on Wednesday it retained Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) and UBS Investment Bank UBSN.VX to explore the sale of its wireless spectrum holdings in major U.S. metropolitan markets.
NextWave said its U.S. spectrum footprint covers more than 251 million people in markets including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia, Denver, Houston, and Detroit.
NextWave said there is no assurance that the sale of any NextWave licenses will take place and that any sales will have to be approved by the Federal Communications Commission.
In 1998, the San Diego, California-based company filed for bankruptcy after winning a big chunk of U.S. wireless spectrum in the the decade's big 1996 Federal Communications Commission airwave auctions.
After extensive legal battles that went up to the U.S. Supreme Court, NextWave won back control of the licenses in a settlement with the FCC. It subsequently sold rights to some of those airwaves to Verizon (VZ.N) and Cingular, now AT&T (T.N) but NextWave still controls pieces of the original spectrum.
In a statement, NextWave said it has received multiple offers for its U.S. spectrum assets after the FCC recently completed a separate auction of 700 megahertz airwaves. This spectrum will be given up next year by TV broadcasters as they move to digital signals from analog.
"We no longer view our spectrum holdings as critical to reaching our product sales objectives, and believe that now is the perfect time for us to sell these valuable assets while network operators are trying to finalize their band plans," NextWave Chief Executive Allen Salmasi said in the statement.
Edward Dunn, a managing director of Deutsche Bank's media and telecoms practice, said NextWave's 2.5 gigahertz spectrum in the New York region represented a highly attractive wireless capacity for developers of wide area communications networks.
NextWave was founded in 1995 by a former president of Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O) and received initial funding from the telecommunications equipment maker.
Controversy over last decade's auction led the FCC to require bidders to pay the full license bid within weeks of an auction's close. (Reporting by Mark McSherry in New York and Eric Auchard in San Francisco, editing by Carol Bishopric and Louise Heavens)