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U.S. agrees with Mexico over wireless spectrum, but fails to resolve nagging broadcast border issues

The U.S. government has struck a deal with Mexico involving spectrum, but not for broadcasters. The deal involves only commercial wireless spectrum and is not related to border issues involving repacking for the incentive broadcast auctions.

The agreements mostly deal in assigning bands within the 800 MHz block to public safety entities to prevent interference between U.S. and Mexican government agencies. They also cover the 1900 MHz band, which allows Sprint to deploy CDMA service along the border. The agreement will increase coverage to Sprint customers in that area.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski participated in discussions with U.S. and Mexican telecommunications officials at the State Department where the United States signed the two Protocols with Mexico for sharing spectrum in the 800 MHz and 1.9 GHz bands along the U.S.-Mexican border. The signing of these documents marks the beginning of the final phase for rebanding in the 800 MHz band across the country.

“These agreements with Mexico will unleash investment and benefit consumers near the borders by enabling the rollout of advanced wireless broadband service and advanced systems for critical public safety and emergency response communications,” Genachowski said.

The United States and Mexico also signed an “expression of support” for continued coordination of spectrum along the border and cooperation on telecommunications policy issues, through 2014.

The agreement sets the stage for future negotiations with Canada and Mexico to accommodate repacking TV spectrum along the Mexican and Canadian borders. The government has already termed this process a difficult engineering challenge.

Specifically, the new 800 MHz Protocol allots band segments between the United States and Mexico; specifies the technical parameters for operation on these band segments within 68 miles of the common border; and creates a bi-national Task Force to support the transition of incumbent operators along the border to the new allotment plan.

Sprint obtained access to the 1.9 GHz band in 2004 as compensation for vacating its spectrum holding in the lower segment of the 800 MHz band in accordance with the rebanding project.