ASSOCIATIONS ASK FCC TO MODIFY FREEZE ON INTERCATEGORY SHARING

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Two industry associations have asked the Federal Communications Commission to modify the freeze placed on intercategory sharing in the 800 MHz band, suggesting it only apply to specialized mobile radio operators or other groups interloping into industrial/land transportation, business or public-safety pools.

The freeze, announced April 5 by the FCC, affects all new applications for the intercategory sharing of channels in the 806-821 and 851-866 MHz band. The FCC said the freeze helps preserve public-safety spectrum for public-safety use.

APCO, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International Inc., asked the FCC for spectrum protection in a March 1 letter to Robert McNamara, acting chief of the FCC’s private radio division. APCO expressed concern that speculative SMR applications were depleting other spectrum pools, forcing business and industrial/land transportation groups to apply for public-safety spectrum.

A petition by the former Utilities Telecommunications Council, now the Telecommunications Association, asked the FCC to limit the freeze to requests by SMR applicants seeking access to other channels.

UTC said the FCC freeze imposed last summer on applications for 280 SMR channels led to a significant number of the current intercategory sharing requests, with SMRs now encroaching in the industrial/land transportation pool, according to the April 10 filing.

“All utilities and pipelines depend on secure communications facilities,” UTC said. Freezing only SMR requests would permit applicants in the industrial/land transportation, business and public-safety services to continue sharing channels in order to develop radio systems, UTC said.

A response filed by the Industrial Telecommunications Association asked the FCC to allow limited access to public-safety channels for “bona fide” industrial, land transportation and business systems.

Applicants would be required to prove the system would be used solely for internal communications, and that non-public safety requests would be limited to a minimum number of channels, not to exceed 10, according to ITA’s April 13 request for clarification.

ITA President Mark Crosby said the freeze was the FCC’s way of politically appeasing public-safety leaders upset by the FCC’s recent report on future public-safety spectrum needs.

Intercategory sharing is permitted under a 1982 FCC rule. The rule allows an entity eligible for spectrum in one radio pool to obtain spectrum in another if all frequency pairs in the applicant’s requested home pool are already assigned. SMRs are prohibited from using public-safety channels.

ITA argues that safeguards currently exist to protect public-safety spectrum from users who are not public-safety entities.

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