Proposals to reallocate public-safety spectrum in the upper 700 MHz band would involve minimal costs to public-safety agencies, which should make them easier to consider, a Motorola official said this week.

As part of three 700 MHz proceedings, the FCC has received several ideas to reallocate the 24 MHz of spectrum in the band that is earmarked for public safety. One of the proposals, from Access Spectrum, calls for the consolidation of narrowband spectrum, which removes the need for one of the internal guard bands and would allow the establishment of 5.5 MHz blocks that would be suitable for public-safety broadband.

Last week, Motorola made an ex parte filing with the FCC that effectively endorsed the Access Spectrum plan, albeit with a modification that would earmark an internal guard band to support critical-infrastructure usage, said Access Spectrum Chairman and CEO Michael Gottdenker. In addition, Motorola indicated that “no incremental costs” would be incurred on radios in the field that are not currently operating at 700 MHz—a significant concern to public-safety agencies.

“In this world, on this matter, it was a fairly major filing,” Gottdenker said.

Steve Sharkey, Motorola’s director of spectrum and standards strategy, said public-safety sources indicate that there are more than 550,000 radios capable of working in the 700 MHz band in the field today. But these units are dual-band radios that also work at 800 MHz, which is the only band in which they operate today. The dual-band units will not be activated for 700 MHz use until the network infrastructure for the band is in place, Sharkey said.

“When they do that, they need to go in and touch each of those radios to program them for the 700 MHz channels they’ll be operating on,” he said. “We have a pretty high confidence right now that, when the software load goes in to program those radios, they can be programmed to operate on a new channel configuration that has the narrowband channels consolidated at one end of the band.

“If you had to touch them anyway, you’re just touching them and putting in another channel load.”

There are a few 700 MHz networks deployed that will require additional costs, but they are rare and represent much less expense than public-safety officials initially feared, Sharkey said.

“There is some cost that people would have to figure out how it’s paid for, but it’s a lot smaller than people anticipated,” he said. “When you look at the advantages of rearranging some of these [spectrum] pieces, it makes a pretty compelling argument to do that.”