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NEW YORK – Coming to late-model Sony LCD flat panels: YouTube videos.

Sony Corp. on Thursday said YouTube and Wired.com have been added to the video providers for a $300 module it sells for its LCD flat panel TVs.

The Internet Video Link module is a small box that fits into the back of some 2007 and 2008 LCD TVs. It connects to the home broadband router and is controlled by the TV remote. Video service comes free with the module.

Yahoo, AOL, Sports Illustrated and Style.com are among existing video providers for the device.

Similarly, Apple Inc.‘s Apple TV set-top box streams YouTube videos to a TV set, but it works with any high-definition set.

Also Thursday, Sony introduced two high-end LCD TV models with backlighting produced by light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. The models are 46 inches and 55 inches diagonally. Prices were not announced, but will be lower than the cost of the only previously available Sony model with LED backlighting, a 70-inch model for $33,000.

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By Paul Davidson, USA TODAY

A federal airwaves auction starting Thursday is expected to bring consumers improved wireless broadband services and will likely provide the last opportunity to create a nationwide challenger to the big cellphone companies.

The Federal Communications Commission is auctioning off the last big swath of airwaves for the foreseeable future. While the bidding features such cellphone powerhouses as AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ), Google (GOOG) has emerged as a wild card that could win a chunk of spectrum and use it to provide a new national wireless service.

CHART: Leading players in wireless airwaves auctionSome analysts are skeptical. Yet the online search giant has prodded the FCC to at least carve out conditions for certain airwaves that could help give consumers new choices in handsets and applications.

A total of 214 bidders have qualified to bid on 1,099 local, regional and national licenses that are expected to fetch at least $10 billion for the government. Besides Google, potential bidders from outside the telecom industry include private investor Paul Allen, Microsoft‘s (MSFT) co-founder. The auction is expected to last four to eight weeks and, since bidding is anonymous, no winners will be known until it ends. Resulting new services could start to emerge in late 2009, says Stifel Nicolaus (SF) analyst Rebecca Arbogast.

The spectrum will be returned to the government by TV stations when they switch to digital-only broadcasting in February 2009. The airwaves, in the low-frequency 700 megahertz band, are desirable because they let signals carry lots of data, travel far and easily penetrate buildings. Winners will be able to cut costs by installing fewer antennas.

These airwaves “can be the building blocks for the next generation of wireless broadband,” FCC Chairman Kevin Martin says.

The impact: new wireless broadband services in underserved rural areas and more robust video and Web offerings in cities. “Most of what we take for granted on the desktop we’ll be able to do on a mobile basis,” Arbogast says.

Under FCC conditions, the winners of large regional licenses in the “C” block must open services that use those airwaves to any handset or software a subscriber wants to use. That requirement was pushed by Google, which is seeking to extend its desktop presence to the wireless world. The wireless giants generally have restricted consumers to handsets they sell and steered users to their partners’ applications and websites.

The FCC mandate has prodded Verizon and AT&T to say they will open their entire networks to any phone or application that meets their quality standards. Google has formed a coalition that’s developing an “open” operating system that can handle all kinds of applications. Sprint and T-Mobile have joined the group.

As a result, Google has several ways to push its services on mobile devices, reducing the need to build its own network, says Stifel Nicolaus analyst Blair Levin.

Separately, the winner of the “D” block of nationwide spectrum must share its network with police and fire agencies in an emergency. It gets a deep discount on the airwaves – a minimum bid of $1.3 billion – but must cede much control to public safety representatives who have final say over, for example, the equipment used to build the network. Many public-safety agencies can’t talk to each other in a crisis because their radios operate on different frequencies.

Frontline, a start-up backed by Silicon Valley heavyweights that was considered the most likely bidder for those airwaves, recently shut down. It had planned to lease the airwaves to other providers, paving the way for new entrants.

Now, Levin says, AT&T or Verizon are the likely winners of that spectrum. The auction still holds the promise of new competition, but the outcome will likely solidify the giants’ dominance, he says.

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