By a vote of 52-47, the U.S. Senate yesterday approved a bill that would make 700 MHz spectrum available to public-safety and commercial wireless operators on April 7, 2009.

After being passed by the Senate Commerce Committee on Oct. 20, nothing was changed in the bill on the Senate floor. However, the committee version did not address funding allocations if the 700 MHz auction generates more than $10 billion, which is the current congressional estimate. Amendments on the Senate floor earmarked funding if the auction exceeds this threshold.

Amendments designate the first $1 billion above the $10 billion mark for budget reduction, with the next $500 million for public-safety interoperable communications and the following $1.2 billion for coastal restoration for states hit by hurricanes. Any auction funds beyond $12.7 billion would be earmarked for deficit reduction.

As passed by the Commerce Committee, the Senate-approved legislation calls for $1 billion in state and local interoperability grants and $250 million to help fund E-911 upgrades as part of legislation that was enacted last year.

The Senate bill is expected to differ in several areas from the 700 MHz bill expected to be passed by the House of Representatives. Congress is expected to address the 700 MHz issue by the end of year, after the legislative proposal are debated in a conference committee.