Public safety is on quite a roll. This week the U.S. Government Accountability Office removed what should be the final legal hurdle concerning the FCC's 800 MHz reband order (see story), clearing the way for rebanding to begin.

Of course, Nextel still must accept the order, but most observers believe the carrier will do so, rather than challenge it in federal court, especially now that it has settled its legal differences with archrival Verizon Wireless. Simply put, Nextel gains much more from the order than it loses, and CEO Tim Donahue knows it--despite all the rhetoric concerning fiduciary responsibility to Nextel shareholders and customers.

Public safety also won when the FCC this week acted on its recommendation to loosen the emissions masks for equipment operating in the 4.9 GHz band (see story). Motorola had lobbied hard to keep the mask tighter, because it said doing so would cut down on interference in the band. The company has a point. Because all public-safety agencies in a region are authorized to use the 4.9 GHz band--which the FCC set aside specifically for public-safety data communications--the potential for interference could be significant, depending on how many agencies exist within a region and how well they cooperate with each other.

Of course, Motorola would have sold a lot more 4.9 GHz equipment if the FCC hadn't loosened the masks, surely a factor in its lobbying for a tighter mask. The newly approved masks are similar to those being used in the 5 GHz band for unlicensed commercial equipment. The theory is that public safety will have access to more equipment options, much of it of the less expensive off-the-shelf variety.

It's a good theory. While Motorola would have benefited from being at the top of a short list of suppliers had the FCC rejected public safety's argument, simple supply-and-demand dictates that public-safety agencies would be forced to pay a lot more for 4.9 GHz gear in such a scenario, something they can ill afford to do in the current economy, when many of them already are strapped for cash. Let's face it--interference isn't much of an issue if you can't afford to buy the equipment in the first place.

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