RealTime IT News

FCC Approves Spectrum Swap

UPDATED: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved a controversial spectrum swap with Nextel to alleviate congestion of airwaves used by police and fire departments.

Under the agreement, Nextel will license 10 megahertz of contiguous spectrum at 1.9 gigahertz that's currently used by public safety agencies and private wireless licensees. Those users will be relocated to a portion of the 800 megahertz band that will be turned over from Nextel.

The move will be completed over 42 months. The first nine months will be dedicated to frequency planning and data collection. The movement of the largest public safety systems would occur in the final stages.

The FCC's decision sparked an outcry from Verizon Wireless, which called it "bizarre," given that Nextel's cell phone traffic was causing the interference problems.

It deemed the FCC's move a "multi-billion dollar windfall on Nextel at taxpayer expense." It also called on other arms of the government to intervene.

"The FCC has failed to provide a lawful solution to the challenge presented by Nextel's interference with communications vital to the nation's first responders," Verizon Wireless said. "Now Congress must step in to fix this mess."

Verizon Wireless has urged the FCC to auction off the spectrum earmarked for its rival.

Joining Verizon Wireless in opposing the plan was the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA), which also filed its objections with the FCC. CTIA president and CEO Steve Largent was less caustic than Verizon Wireless, however, characterizing the outcome as "disappointing."

The trade group claims that there were more timely and less difficult solutions to the interference problem, including providing a case-by-case review, providing immediate relief for affected parties. The CTIA also recommended that, if necessary, the band be restructured to minimize interference.

"Giving up such valuable spectrum without a public auction means the U.S. Treasury is losing billions of dollars," Largent said. "Those funds could have been used to provide public safety with money to make much-needed improvements in the vital care it provides all of us."

Nextel has said its rivals have misrepresented the value of the spectrum. Nextel added that the spectrum move will cost several billion dollars to pull off.