FCC OKs Plan To Swap Nextel’s Bandwith

The FCC plan calls for Nextel Communications Inc. to acquire a band of spectrum worth $4.8 billion. In exchange, Nextel will give up other spectrum and pay to reconfigure the airwaves it currently occupies in order to ensure public service communications systems are free of interference.

Radios used by police, firefighters and other first responders broadcast on the same 800 megahertz spectrum currently used by Nextel cell phones. As a result, if a radio dispatch is made at 850 MHz near a Nextel cell tower broadcasting at 851 MHz, the radio signal can be drowned out.

According to the FCC’s press release, since 1999, the Commission has received reports of interference to 800 MHz public safety communications systems from Commercial Mobile Radio Services (CMRS) providers operating systems on channels in close proximity to those utilized by public safety entities. Initially, the Commission’s approach to interference resolution was to urge the involved parties to make voluntary technical changes to prevent or reduce interference at particular sites. In 2000, the public safety and CMRS community formalized this approach as “Best Practices.”  In recent years, however, 800 MHz public safety systems have encountered increasing amounts of interference.

The Commission’s plan will result in an additional 4.5 MHz of 800 MHz-band spectrum, the equivalent of 90 additional two-way channels, becoming available to public safety, critical infrastructure, and private wireless users, including 10 channels for public safety/critical infrastructure interoperability.