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Nextel may pay for airwave switch

Nextel proposes to solve a dispute over airwaves by paying about $512 million to move the electronic news gathering operations of television broadcasters. The FCC is considering the plan.
/ Source: Reuters

Nextel Communications Inc. on Monday proposed paying about $512 million to move the electronic news gathering operations of television broadcasters from airwaves Nextel wants to use.

The proposal, part of a larger plan to resolve interference with public safety communications, would free up airwaves Nextel has been seeking access to from the Federal Communications Commission.

Broadcast auxiliary services are used to send signals, like video footage, between two points, like from a remote truck to a studio. The services are used by local television stations across the country.

The National Association of Broadcasters and the Association for Maximum Service Television joined Nextel in proposing the plan for moving their broadcast news gathering operations from the 1.9 Ghz band to 2025-2110 Mhz band.

"In return for receiving replacement spectrum at 1.9 Ghz, Nextel has agreed to provide relocation compensation for stations and deploy future Nextel service in a way that avoids limiting electronic news gathering operations," NAB, MSTV and Nextel said in a joint statement.

The FCC is contemplating a plan to reorganize the 800 megahertz band where Nextel operates to resolve interference with emergency services communications. The agency is considering moving Nextel to either the 1.9 gigahertz or 2.1 Ghz band, sources familiar with the matter have said.

NAB and MSTV have estimated that the cost to move their electronic news gathering operations would be roughly $512 million. If the costs ran more, Nextel would pay for additional costs, according to the company.

The plan calls for moving the broadcast services over 30 months and is dependent on the FCC approving the whole Nextel relocation plan. An agency spokeswoman said the commission would review the latest proposal.

Nextel, the No. 6 U.S. wireless carrier based on subscribers, has already proposed paying $850 million to cover the costs of reorganizing the 800 Mhz band and moving public safety groups to new airwaves.

Other companies, like Verizon Wireless, have opposed Nextel getting airwaves in the 1.9 Ghz band and said they want those auctioned off to the highest bidder. Carriers are hungry for new airwaves to expand and offer new services.

The Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, which represents wireless carriers and opposes Nextel's overall plan, has urged the FCC to require Nextel pay at least $3 billion for fixing the 800 Mhz band and receive airwaves in the 2.1 Ghz band instead of 1.9 Ghz.

"Nextel's idea is a good one, but perhaps it is better applied to the wireless industry's compromise proposal, which would deliver $3 billion to public safety to help them relocate their spectrum assignments, too," CTIA spokesman Travis Larson said.