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UTC says 'Balanced Approach Plan' is the way to solve 800 MHz interference

WASHINGTON-Just as public safety confirmed its support for the Consensus Plan, the United Telecom Council, a major proponent of the Balanced Approach Plan, confirmed that it believes this plan will solve the interference problems in the 800 MHz band.

“Nextel’s statements about the commercial mobile radio services industry’s fight against the Consensus Plan are an amazing attempt at distraction. The only party spending ‘millions of dollars’ in this effort is Nextel itself, and its interference is what’s threatening the lives, not only of public-safety personnel, but those of utility linemen and others who rely on 800 MHz band systems for their safety,” said UTC President Bill Moroney.

And so the battle in the press for the hearts and minds of the Federal Communications Commission continues.

Public safety began experiencing interference more than two years ago as more cellular-type systems were deployed. The FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau is drafting a solution to be presented to the commissioners in the coming weeks with a decision expected in April, said WTB Chief John Muleta Feb. 23.

Public-safety groups told Congress late last month that the interference is “significant and increasing.” Earlier this year, the same groups sent a letter to the White House.

Late last month, 23 members of the House Commerce Committee sent a letter to the FCC urging it to reject the Consensus Plan. The signatories represent a cross-section of the country and the House Commerce Committee, but the letter was not signed by any of the House Commerce Committee leadership and still represents less than half of the opinion of the members of the committee from both parties.

Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless, which has been very vocal in its displeasure of giving Nextel Communications Inc. any spectrum at 1.9 GHz, said the FCC should reband at 800 MHz and make Nextel pay for the process without giving Nextel any more spectrum. The argument for rebanding the 800 MHz band without including the 1.9 GHz band is not new, said Verizon Wireless, reminding the FCC that several parties had suggested “In-Band Realignment” as a contrast to the Consensus Plan in 2002.

Nextel was quick to respond to all of the shots from Verizon calling Verizon’s actions, “bullying tactics.”

The Consensus Plan would shuffle the 800 MHz band to eliminate the current situation where public safety, private wireless, Nextel and cellular carriers are intermingled. Nextel has said that it would pay $850 million for the necessary retuning of public-safety and private-wireless radios. Nextel said it would deposit $100 million in an escrow account and secure irrevocable lines of credit for the remaining $750 million.

In exchange for giving up spectrum in the 700, 800 and 900 MHz bands and for paying to retune public safety and private wireless, Nextel has asked for 10 megahertz in the 1.9 GHz band.

RCR Wireless News first reported Oct. 27 that FCC staff is contemplating a proposal that would give Nextel no more than 6 megahertz of spectrum in the 1.9 GHz band.

The Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association and UTC favor the Balanced Approach Plan, which calls for timely resolution of current interference at the expense of the interferor, coupled with technical rules, notification and coordination procedures to prevent new interference.

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