LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. -- America Online (AOL) , in a surprising turn, is indicating that it won't bid in the September auction for the U.S. high-speed wireless spectrum.

AOL has long been considered a potential bidder, especially given its pending acquisition of

Time Warner

(TWX)

. The combined company could supplement its cable system with a high-speed wireless system.

But at a gathering of about 700 Internet executives at

The Industry Standard's

Internet Summit Conference

, AOL CEO Stephen Case, while saying he couldn't comment directly on future business plans did say, "There'd be no particular need to be in the carrier business and carry spectrum. We believe that our strategy should be to partner when we can. We have the right relationships with the parts. We employ services that are useful to the customer and drive minutes on the carriers networks."

There has been some speculation that AOL would partner with

Nextel

(NXTL)

. Nextel is looking for a way to defray the expected steep costs of the wireless auction. (

TSC

wrote about this possibility in May.)

The Sept. 6 auction is expected to attract as much as $50 billion because it'll mark the first chance for a bidder to capture a nationwide wireless spectrum at once. (A similar British auction this year brought in $35 billion.) The high-speed spectrum is expected to be used in developing next generation wireless, which could include wireless Internet access as well as video. It could aid everything from cell phones to personal digital assistants like those from

Palm

(PALM)

.

Case, for his part, also indicated the wireless providers need to do more than talk about all the fancy equipment the new technology may bring. "Carriers need to realize that we need to do more than talk about the wonders and employ services that are useful to the customer and drive minutes on the carriers networks," he said. "Because a lot of these wonders on wireless don't really drive too many minutes."

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