Round One, and B&I’s already on the ropes
You got your heavyweights, your middleweights and your lightweights.
When it comes to fighting for allocations of electromagnetic spectrum, broadcasters and wireless telephone carriers are the heavyweights; public safety agencies are the middleweights; and business and industrial radio communications service providers and users are the lightweights.
When the B&I radio industry segment wants to get some spectrum, it gets the best results when it can align itself with one of the heavier fighters. For example, B&I won some spectrum at 700MHz, the “guard band” spectrum, by showing how it would be a better neighbor for public safety users than wireless telephone carriers. B&I systems would cause public safety radio systems less interference, if any.
Wireless telephone carriers argued that there should be no guard band at all, but they lost to the persuasiveness of the public safety segment. The 6MHz that went to guard band managers otherwise would have gone to the wireless telephone carriers, you see.
What’s on TV?
TV broadcasters, meanwhile, won rights to use one individual channel for digital television for each existing analog channel, and got the digital channels for free. They sit on the sidelines on this latest controversy involving interference to 800MHz public safety and B&I radio systems caused mostly by signals from Nextel Communications cell sites.
Under the advice of “Ask for the moon; somebody might give it to you,” Nextel has asked the FCC to move everybody out of its way and give it perhaps $10 billion to $20 billion worth of spectrum in exchange for a $500 million payout from Nextel’s treasury to public safety agencies and 10MHz of Nextel’s spectrum from various parts of the 700MHz, 800MHz and 900MHz bands.
And the B&I service providers and users? Let ’em pay for their own equipment modifications to get out of Nextel’s way.
It smacks of divide-and-conquer. And it works so well with the radio communications industry.
Representatives of the public safety segment should be careful, though. Some of them have quickly embraced the Nextel proposal. That 10MHz of extra spectrum sounds mighty tempting. And a promise of $500 million sounds good, too.
One of the other heavyweights, the wireless telephone segment, isn’t so happy, though. Where some of the other carriers might have to bid billions of dollars for spectrum at 2,100MHz, this proposal of Nextel’s would give the company that delicious slice for pennies on the dollar. And who knows when the pennies would have to be paid? Sweet.
One of B&I’s best hopes is to persuade the public safety segment that Nextel’s proposal isn’t as good as it seems to believe. Most public safety users are at VHF, anyway, with little prospect of relocating to the higher frequencies.
The rest of the public safety users who might move to the higher bands now have been handed a bucketful of uncertainty to explain to the holders of their government purse strings.
Do any agencies have projects pending for 800MHz NPSPAC frequencies that would have to be vacated? Try explaining why those should go forward. Oh, because they can be moved to 700MHz later? Um, exactly when would that be? And at what cost? With what possibility of disruption?
We hesitate to mention it — well, maybe not much — but what about B&I access to at least half of Nextel’s 4MHz portion of 700MHz guard band spectrum? When Nextel bought that spectrum, wasn’t it required by law to make at least half of it available to B&I users? Nextel plans to give all 4MHz to public safety. What about its obligation to B&I users?
Watch closely. The FCC has been known to cut some deals in the shadows. The commission is the referee for now, and Nextel has a lot to gain.
B&I: Stick together. Don’t let Nextel’s proposal divide you among yourselves the way it has begun to divide you from public safety.
Public safety: Take a close look at Nextel’s proposal. It may look like a gift, yet some gifts come with high costs. Don’t fall for a sucker punch.