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Spectrum Policy: Public Safety and Wireless Communications Interference

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Congressional rept.

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In mid-2005, wireless communications managers commenced the process of moving selected public safety radio channels to new frequencies. This is the first step in a three-year plan to move public safety users to new channels in order to mitigate persistent problems with interference to their radio communications. The interference usually takes the form of dropped calls or dead spaces with radio transmissions primarily to or from first responders in certain frequencies. The majority of documented incidents of interference have been attributed to the network operated by Nextel Communications, Inc. Nextel in 2005 completed a merger with Sprint Corporation, creating the U.S.s third-largest mobile company. Its new corporate name is Sprint Nextel. As part of an agreement originally made between Nextel and the Federal Communications Commission, some public safety wireless users will be moved to new frequencies, with the wireless company paying all or part of the cost. This agreement is not affected by the merger. In return for these expenditures, and reflecting the value of spectrum that Sprint Nextel will be relinquishing, the FCC will assign new spectrum to the wireless company. The rebanding plan is being implemented by the 800 MHz Transition Administrator TA, created by the FCC for this purpose. The TA is to set priorities, establish schedules, and oversee reimbursement to parties for eligible expenses associated with relocation. Disagreements about the implementation of the plan that the TA cannot resolve on its own or through mediation will in most cases be referred to the FCC. There are ongoing debates about the transition plan, such as maintaining interoperability, scheduling, and reimbursement for costs incurred. If resolution of problems created by the rebanding appears unacceptable, public safety and others that use the affected frequencies could seek assistance from Congress.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Radio Communications

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