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FCC Releases NPRM on 700 MHz Public Safety Channels

The FCC is considering modifying the 700 MHz Public Safety band plan to support broadband communications. The commission has now released the Eighth Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 06-34) in the 700 MHz proceeding. It seeks comment on specific band proposals submitted by Lucent Technologies, Motorola and the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) to rechannel 12 MHz of the band for broadband communication.

The NPRM asked commentators to address the merits of: "(1) adopting a band plan such as those proposed by Motorola and NPSTC, in which RPCs and users would decide whether to implement wideband or broadband in the spectrum currently dedicated to public safety wideband spectrum; (2) adopting a plan such as that proposed by Lucent, which would abandon the concept of wideband and wideband interoperability channels in the 700 MHz band in favor of creating broadband channels or (3) retaining the current 700 MHz band plan."

NPSTC commented that additional spectrum was needed, especially below 1 GHz, for mobile broadband purposes. NPSTC recommended that the FCC investigate how the existing 700 MHz wideband and reserved channels could be used to provide broadband services that can't be met with the 4.9 GHz public safety spectrum.

Motorola suggested a band plan that would allow for both wideband (for greater coverage) and broadband (for greater data rate) channels. The plan called for combining the reserve, general use and interoperability wideband channels and allowing licensees to operate using the current 50 KH wideband channel structure through the band. However, a 3.1 MHz segment in the center of the band would be allocated for optional broadband use.

NPSTC would also combine the reserve, general use and interoperability wideband channels. This spectrum would consist of 50 kHz channels between the 767-773 MHz and 797-803 MHz bands. As compared to Motorola's plan, that offered by NPSTC would have slightly smaller guard bands, larger broadband channels and greater flexibility for regional planning commissions (RPCs) to determine the number and location of the wideband interoperability channels.

Lucent suggested combining the reserve, general use and interoperability wideband channels, but unlike Motorola, recommends that the wideband spectrum be re-channeled for broadband use and does not recommend setting aside channels for wideband interoperability. The NPRM notes, "Lucent points out that under its proposal, the same channels would be used in adjacent cells/sectors. Therefore, it claims, no frequency planning is required as the same channels are used throughout the network." Lucent's plan focuses on CDMA2000 wireless technology. In the NPRM, the FCC asks whether Lucent's band plan could be used with other broadband technologies.

For more information on the band plans the FCC is considering for the upper UHF TV channels that have been reallocated for public safety use, refer to the Eighth Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 06-34).