Public-safety agencies nationwide will gain access to new spectrum in the 800 MHz band in 18 months, under proposed rules that the FCC will consider during its next open meeting scheduled for Oct. 15, reports Urgent Communications.
These new airwaves currently are interleaved channels used by Nextel, which is financing the massive rebanding effort. Chairman Kevin Martin said this week that the FCC proposal calls for Sprint Nextel to vacate all of its interleaved channels by March 31, 2010.
“It basically puts a hard deadline on Sprint to vacate the interleaved channels,” said FCC spokesman Rob Kenny during an interview with Urgent Communications. “Although they’re going to start vacating interleaved channels almost immediately, the hard deadline is March 31, 2010, to be completely out of the interleaved.”
Nextel began operations as a dispatch service for fleet operators like taxis. Their frequencies were next to police and fire radios. When the FCC gave them authorization to provide cellular services, their basestations began poping up everywhere. But police, firefighters, and emergency services operating in the 806-824 MHz/851-869 MHz Band, increasingly experienced equipment interference problems and “dead zones” as a result of Nextel operating in the same or adjacent spectrum.
The Consensus Plan, approved by the FCC in 2004, will consolidate Nextel’s frequencies around 800 Mhz and 1.9 GHz. Nextel received new 1.9 GHz frequencies in exchange for abandoning their old interfering frequencies. Nextel is providing first responders with their old frequencies at no cost and is paying for the transition. Sprint also agreed to pay for new tv truck microwave gear, around 2 GHz, in order to make room for the new 1.9 GHz Nextel band (and part of the FCC’s new AWS band).
Nextel also plans to move their customers from their old iDen system to a push-to-talk CDMA system that interoperates with Sprint.
Dan Hesse, Sprint Nextel’s chief executive, confirmed on Wednesday that they have received “significant interest” from potential acquirers of its Nextel iDen unit, but also cast doubt on the prospects for any deal that would require the purchaser to raise additional capital. Sprint, the third largest US mobile network operator, paid $36bn for Nextel Communications and its iDen ‘push-to-talk’ network in 2005 but has struggled since then to integrate the Nextel operations.
Sprint Nextel has proposed that it would be willing to vacate interleaved spectrum in stages, based on the amount of rebanding progress that has been made in a geographical region. Public-safety organizations expressed support for the model but also wanted a hard deadline. The FCC’s proposal is expected to be a “compromise” between the two positions.
Almost 30% of the non-border NPSPAC licensees have completed reconfiguring their 800 MHz networks, Sprint Nextel stated this week in a report to the FCC.
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