FCC's Dilemma: Moving Sprint Away From Public Safety Nets - InformationWeek

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FCC's Dilemma: Moving Sprint Away From Public Safety Nets

Ever since the Nextel acquisition, plans to reallocate the 800-MHz spectrum have been bandied about so it doesn't interfere with bands used by public safety agencies.

One of the most pressing spectrum problems -- how to fix interference in the public safety networks -- will be reviewed in part by the Federal Communications Commission, which reported Thursday that it will take up Sprint Nextel's request to modify a requirement that it vacate sections of the 800-MHz band.

The FCC put the issue on the agenda for its Oct. 15 open meeting.

Sprint acquired the 800-MHz spectrum when it acquired Nextel and ever since then the company has been challenged to reallocate the spectrum so it doesn't interfere with bands used by public safety agencies.

The FCC agenda for the October meeting states: "800 MHz Rebanding Transition - An Order relating to the Petition for Relief filed by Sprint Nextel Corporation (Sprint), in which Sprint asks for modification or waiver of the requirement that it vacate its non-border spectrum holdings in the 800 MHz Interleaved Band."

Plans to reallocate the 800-MHz spectrum have been bandied about for years and the FCC has noted that it approved a plan in July 2004 to reconfigure the 800-MHz band "to address a growing problem of harmful interference." Sprint Nextel has maintained that it is working hard to comply with the FCC orders. According to media reports, the FCC is asking that Sprint comply with a deadline of March 2010.

On another front with public safety overtones, the FCC moved this week to pave the way for a new auction of the 700-MHz D Block, which would be used for both public and private uses. The FCC said the "public/private partnership [will] maximize the public safety and commercial benefits of a nationwide interoperable broadband network in the 700 MHz band."

A previous attempt to auction the D Block for more than $1.3 billion earlier this year failed when no serious bids were submitted. The FCC is proposing now that the band could be broken up into 58 public safety regions and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has indicated the $1.3 billion reserve price will likely be lowered considerably.

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