Wireless carrier Nextel Communications Inc. said Tuesday it would not accept alternative airwaves as part of its controversial proposal for resolving interference with public safety communications.
The No. 6 U.S. provider has offered to pay $850 million to help move communications for workers such as firefighters and police to new airwaves in a plan that irked rivals because it also would give Nextel valuable spectrum in the 1.9 GHz band.
The Federal Communications Commission has been struggling to solve interference problems and Nextel, known for its walkie-talkie wireless phone service, is anxious as well so it can offer more services like high-speed Internet.
The Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, which represents major wireless carriers, has urged the FCC to give Nextel airwaves in the 2.1 Ghz band and require at least $3 billion be paid, which the company said was unacceptable.
FCC Chairman Michael Powell is leaning toward a plan that would move Nextel's operations to the 2.1 Ghz band, a source close to the FCC's deliberations told Reuters. Any such plan would have to receive the backing of at least three FCC commissioners.
FCC staff are currently evaluating if a decision moving Nextel's operations to the 2.1 Ghz band would survive judicial scrutiny but no formal proposal to that effect has been made to the FCC commissioners, the source said.
"My responsibility to Nextel's shareholders requires that Nextel obtain comparable value in any retuning transaction," Nextel Chief Executive Tim Donahue said in his first written entreaty to Powell.
"Two-point-one Ghz does not meet that test. Nextel cannot and will not accept that result," he said, adding that a move to the 1.9 Ghz band would be easier and cheaper.
Nextel could suffer from interference problems with other users of airwaves in the 2.1 Ghz band and that it would have to develop new infrastructure and handsets which would be time-consuming and costly, Donahue said.
If the FCC and Nextel refuse to budge, the agency has other alternatives to resolving interference problems. It could order solutions on a case-by-case basis instead of granting new airwaves to Nextel.
Nextel's Donahue also blasted the proposal by CTIA because he noted that the group was representing rivals who wanted to hurt the company's future prospects. Nextel is a member of CTIA but did not participate in crafting the proposal.
Verizon Wireless, the U.S. biggest wireless carrier, has said it would be willing to bid $5 billion for the airwaves in the 1.9 Mhz band and that it would challenge in court a decision by the FCC to give Nextel those airwaves.
"To acknowledge you cause a problem, lay out a greed-filled plan to deal with it and then to refuse to even discuss what really helps law enforcement the best rings hollow," said Verizon Wireless spokesman Jeffrey Nelson.