Reports: Powell hopes for 800 MHz decision this month
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell yesterday said he believes the commission can issue an order this month in an effort to resolve interference problems plaguing public-safety communications at 800 MHz, according to numerous reports.
After the FCC’s monthly meeting, Powell told reporters that he is “going to shoot for” a decision on the controversial matter by the end of May, according to the Wall Street Journal and other news services. Any order almost certainly will call for the realignment of spectrum users at 800 MHz in a manner that will yield contiguous spectrum in the band for public safety and Nextel Communications, which is expected to pay the rebanding costs and contribute an additional 2.5 MHz of spectrum to public safety.
FCC commissioners must decide what replacement spectrum Nextel should receive and how much it should pay for it. Nextel wants 10 MHz of spectrum at 1.9 GHz and is committed to paying at least $850 million under the Consensus Plan it has backed for almost two years, but most believe it will have to pay significantly more.
But the FCC reportedly is leaning toward adopting the key components of a recent proposal from the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association that calls for Nextel to receive less-desirable spectrum at 2.1 GHz—airwaves Nextel targeted in its original rebanding white paper released in the fall of 2001 but no longer wants. In fact, Nextel CEO Tim Donahue wrote a letter to Powell this week that described the CTIA plan as “untenable” for the wireless carrier’s shareholders.
For the FCC and public safety, the CTIA plan is particularly attractive because the Nextel’s commercial wireless competitors have said they will not challenge a 2.1 GHz award in court. However, those competitors have indicated they will litigate an order that includes premium 1.9 GHz spectrum, which would jeopardize rebanding for public safety.