In 1999 several public safety organizations complained of interference on their radios. After some snooping around, local cellular service, provided by Nextel, seemed to be the culprit.
Nearly five years later, a plan has been adopted (at least by the FCC) to remedy this situation. Under the terms of this plan, called the Consensus Plan, Nextel will surrender its 16 MHz of spectrum spread around the 700, 800 and 900MHz bands to public service agencies. In exchange, Nextel will receive 6 MHz in the 800MHz band for current use and 10 MHz in the 1.9GHz band to offer future services. The move will be completed over 42 months.
Delays over the last couple of years came mostly from critics’ objections. Verizon Wireless has gone through many stages of protest over the sale of the 1.9GHz spectrum, calling for a public auction rather than a private sale. The CTIA also objected, offering that interference issues be dealt with at the local level.
Nextel started as a taxi dispatch radio service and the FCC thought its frequencies, running adjacent to public safety’s, would not cause interference.
Finally, the FCC has offered a deal: Nextel will give up its old spectrum in exchange for the new bands (valued at $4.8 billion), and will pay to reconfigure its old airwaves to ensure they are free of interference. The FCC will deduct from the $4.8 billion value of the new licenses, the value of Nextel’s current spectrum and the cost of reconfiguring the band. Estimates on the actual cost to Nextel range from $1.3 billion to $2.5 billion. •
—Teresa von Fuchs