Desperately Seeking Spectrum

THE SATELLITE VENTURE backed by moguls Bill Gates and Craig McCaw is wobbling in orbit. They are lead investors in Teledesic, which wants to provide wireless phone service to remote parts of the globe. The hitch: Wireless cable-TV companies are occupying the section of the radio spectrum that the Gates-McCaw outfit covets, and they won't make way.

The wireless cable folks, led by CellularVision of New York, offer to share the spectrum with Teledesic and other satellite providers now gearing up. CellularVision wants to blanket the country with wireless cable TV and local phone service. Teledesic and its allies say spectrum sharing would create too much interference. The wireless outfits disagree. Each side argues its service is the more important to the U.S. economy. The entire matter will be refereed by the FCC.

Gates and McCaw each invested $5 million last year in Teledesic--adding undisclosed sums since. Gates is a passive investor; McCaw is more active. McCaw and Teledesic President Russell Daggett have met twice with FCC Chairman Reed Hundt, seeking liftoff.

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