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Verizon Wireless is buying cellular capacity for 23 markets from bankrupt NextWave Telecom for $3 billion, ending the government's long tug-of-war over the never-used licenses and bolstering Verizon against a big new rival created by the merger of Cingular Wireless and AT&T Wireless.

The deal announced Friday gives Verizon Wireless big chunks of additional capacity to handle a growing subscriber base in key markets where it already has its own network, including New York City, Boston, Los Angeles and Washington. It also gives the company its first cellular spectrum in Tulsa, Okla., where it has relied on another carrier's network to provide service.

The licenses represent the last of the cellular spectrum won eight years ago by NextWave with bids totaling $4.7 billion in a series of auctions by the Federal Communications Commission.

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