Nextel proposal, with broadcaster support, hits turbulence at FCC

Nextel Communications last week proposed paying about $512 million to move the electronic newsgathering operations of television broadcasters from spectrum that Nextel wants to use for telephony services.

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

The NAB and the Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV) joined Nextel in proposing the plan for moving broadcast news gathering operations from the 1.9GHz band to 2025-2110MHz band.

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

The FCC is now considering the plan to reorganize the 800MHz band where Nextel operates to resolve interference with emergency services communications. The agency is considering moving Nextel to either the 1.9 or 2.1GHz band.

Nextel wants the 1.9GHz spectrum. However, its competitors want it to pay a hefty fee in return for that spectrum. Verizon Wireless has concluded that Nextel should pay about $5 billion for the spectrum it wants, far more than Nextel proposes to pay.

Nextel wants to pay only to move existing broadcast and public service users. In return, it wants a swath of spectrum in the 1.9GHz range. At the end of last week, it appeared the FCC was leaning toward offering only the less valuable 2.1Ghz band, which Nextel does not want because its currently deployed equipment in incompatible with that frequency.

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

The broadcaster-favored plan calls for moving the broadcast services over 30 months and is dependent on the FCC approving a Nextel-approved relocation plan.

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