"Compromise" Plan Emerges in 800 MHz Proceeding

Date: Sep 06, 2002

Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission initiated a rule making proceeding to address interference being caused to public safety communications in the 800 MHz land mobile band by cellularized commercial operations (primarily those of Nextel Communications, Inc.).  The agency sought comment on various band reconfiguration proposals, including a controversial proposal by Nextel that would, in essence, have required all entities in the 800 MHz band other than public safety licensees and Nextel to relocate at their own expense to alternative spectrum or to accept secondary status in the 800 MHz band.   

During the comment phase, many parties noted fervent opposition to Nextel's proposal, but no consensus emerged as to how the Commission should instead proceed.  In joint Reply Comments filed on August 7, 2002, a coalition consisting of public safety entities, private wireless groups and Nextel filed a "compromise" proposal with the Commission.  The compromise proposal entails the reconfiguration of the 800 MHz band so as to create two separate, contiguous spectrum blocks: a 10 x 10 MHz block for non-cellularized "high-site" systems (including public safety and private industrial systems) and a 8 x 8 MHz block for systems with a cellular-like architecture (primarily Nextel).  Under this proposal, all existing 800 MHz licensees would be permitted to remain in the band, but some public safety licensees and all entities presently licensed on the "General Category" channels would be expected to retune or relocate their systems to alternative spectrum within the 800 MHz band. 

Other parties, in their Reply Comments, continued to advocate alternative approaches.  A number of utilities, for example, recommended the case-by-case resolution of interference problems, together with various technical changes to the FCC's rules.  Various cellular carriers, on the other hand, have expressed unwavering support for the relocation of 800 MHz band public safety licensees to the 700 MHz band.

For additional information regarding this matter, please contact Wayne Black at 202-434-4130 or black@khlaw.com or Martin Bercovici at 202-434-4144 or bercovic@khlaw.com.