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Communications The Almighty Buck

Nextel and FCC Swap Bandwidth 124

evilninja writes "Techweb is reporting on the sale of 10MHz worth of bandwidth to Nextel by the FCC. One term of the agreement will solve a problem that has been frustrating the FCC for some time. Nextel will return some of their bandwidth to the public domain, since it has been interfering with local emergency channels in some areas."
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Nextel and FCC Swap Bandwidth

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  • the fcc (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fuzzy_Nuts ( 740151 ) <ArronLorenz@gmail.cCOLAom minus caffeine> on Thursday July 08, 2004 @08:05PM (#9648452) Homepage
    So the FCC couldn't just force Nextel to stop useing the bandwidth that was used for emergeny channels?
    • Re:the fcc (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      If I used an emergency channel they'd send a group of jackbooted thugs to kick down my door and smash my head in with a baseball bat.

      If you've got $$$ you're above the law.
    • Re:the fcc (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Nextel did not use emergency channels, they were using cellphone channels. Emergency frequencies happens to be next beside cellphone frequencies. Guess what happens when you cram a ludicrous amount of soccer moms screeming sensless in their phone while driving? That's right, it overlaps in neighboors frequencies.
    • Re:the fcc (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      So the FCC couldn't just force Nextel to stop useing the bandwidth that was used for emergeny channels?

      That's what I was wondering. If my car blocks a fire hydrant, they tow it. If my house blocks the path for a new highway, they tear it down. Apparently, eminent domain only applies to the little guy.
      • Re:the fcc (Score:3, Informative)

        by Suppafly ( 179830 )
        except if your house blocks the highway, they pay you fair market value for it.. its the same thing here.
        • Thing is, it would be fair market value for the worth of the property if the buyer knew they were about to run an interstellar super galatic highway thru what is currently the dining room. Which is to say about 1/4 of what it really is.
        • if your house blocks the highway, they pay you fair market value for it.

          And what's fairer than an equal-size slice of RF bandwidth?
  • by Neil Blender ( 555885 ) <neilblender@gmail.com> on Thursday July 08, 2004 @08:06PM (#9648459)
    ...it hertz.
  • Hopefully... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Count of Montecristo ( 626894 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @08:11PM (#9648493) Homepage
    Although the article does not mention a lot of detail, I do hope that this will fix some of the reception problems i've been having in the LA Metropolitan area with Nextel.

    It used to be pretty reliable almost anywhere, although lately there were some 'lossy' spots to say the least.

    On the other hand, since i'm no iDEN expert.. will this require an upgrade to the handset's codeplug?

    • Don't bet on it. I'm almost convinced that Nextel's reception problem in Los Angeles is in their code, rather than interferance.
    • Re:Hopefully... (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Don't count on it. Chances are, it'll get worse because their towers are spaced for 800MHz and since 1900MHz doesn't have as big of a signal radius, Nextel will now have huge gaps in their network.
    • Re:Hopefully... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tmack ( 593755 )
      Most of the field techs I work with have nextel phones. The reception sucks for all of them in the 4 market areas across the US I work in. Texas, Georigia, Denver, they all have crappy reception. Trying to call a tech thats got a Nextel normally requires 2 calls, the first either goes into their voicemail or gives some Nextel error message, the second usually goes through if they have a signal. And when porting (LNP) phone numbers for our customers (I work for a CLEC), the techs cant test the porting with t
    • It'll require all new handsets. Nextel's current phones only support 800MHz iDEN, and with the network changing to 1900MHz (or possibly 2100MHz..I've heard both) it will require handsets that support 1900MHz iDEN. I'm sure they'll start selling dual mode iDEN phones, and eventually when the new network goes online most people won't even notice the change (except all of the new holes brough by the 1900MHz's smaller transmission area and lack of building penetration...but thats another story).
      • So Nextel is going to 1900MHz while the GSM providers (pardon me, I meant the two providers that actually have licenses for it) go to 850MHz. Somewhat ironic, I think, and an interesting reversal. Currently where I live Nextel has a slight advantage in coverage because their network is 800MHz and can go farther from a single tower, while AT&T is still converting TDMA 850 towers to GSM. I'll be interested to see if this changes when Nextel moves to 1900MHz on towers spaced for 800, etc.
        • So Nextel is going to 1900MHz while the GSM providers (pardon me, I meant the two providers that actually have licenses for it) go to 850MHz. Somewhat ironic, I think, and an interesting reversal. Currently where I live Nextel has a slight advantage in coverage because their network is 800MHz and can go farther from a single tower, while AT&T is still converting TDMA 850 towers to GSM. I'll be interested to see if this changes when Nextel moves to 1900MHz on towers spaced for 800, etc.

          I believe AT

          • I think AT&T figured out that going from TDMA 850 to GSM 1900 was a mistake and is now changing over to GSM 850 because I've noticed improved coverage in a couple spots over the last few months. And I know T-Mobile doesn't use 850.. I used to have a T-Mobile account and the reception was crap. Dunno if that's because they use 1900 and have some of the towers spaced wrong or if it's because of the funky situation in the NY market, but I was surprised by the difference when I went to AWE from T-Mobile.
  • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @08:12PM (#9648499)
    The spectrum is a public trust and if the FCC can eliminate the interference without killing off the company that they issued the origional spectrum to they should. Verizon is stupid for demanding that the spectrum be auctioned to the highest bidder because Nextel and the FCC are doing what is in the publics best interest.
    • Seems like revoking the interfering license and auctioning the new spectrum would be the public best interest.
      • How does destroying a competitor through fiat help the public? It was the FCC's fault for granting the infringing license in the first place, now Nextel is willing to play nice and swap spectrum with them.
      • Seems to me that having a government body suddenly grab someone's possessions without compensation is a very bad idea. Not that it doesn't happen all too often.
      • Then again, Verizon got most of its cell-phone bandwidth simply for being the Baby Bell company of record... not at an auction.

        It's hard to claim the "free lunch" argument when you're munching on one as well...
        • Verizon is a landline company.. Verizon Wireless is a cellular company and bought all their bandwidth. They are entirely seperate companies with Vodaphone PLC owning the majority of the company not Verizon.

          Either way verizon wireless arguement is valid. Just giving Nextel a 10mhz peice of spectrum for free is a slap in the face to all the other companies that have paid billions for their specturm. Nextel cannot tell me they were not aware that there could be problems with them moving in on the 800mhz ar
          • That's a true statement about the state of Verizon Wireless today, but neglects the history of where the bulk of their bandwidth licenses come from...

            Verizon Wireless has heritage in the fact that FCC handed out the original cellular licenses in pairs in each area.. one went to the Baby Bell company of the area, and another went to a competor company. (Celluar being an unproven business at the time, the competitor slot went to the first company to stand up and be willing to invest in the technology... and
            • And to further complicate matters... the company that is today Verizon Wireless (majority owned by Verizon PLC) also has the cellular licenses that were brought into it by Airtouch, an American cellular company bought by Vodaphone which was a spinnoff of Pacific Bell, yet another RBOC (Regional Bell Operating Company aka Baby Bell).

              So really, the bulk of Verizon Wireless was built from these initial grants by the federal government.

              Don't take this the wrong way, without those grants cell phone bandwidth l
          • "They are entirely seperate companies with Vodaphone PLC owning the majority of the company not Verizon."

            Actually, Verizon owns 55% of Verizon Wireless, and Vodafone owns 45%.
      • Well you see (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @10:06PM (#9649048)
        That would be against the Constitution, you know, that pesky little document that is the supreme law of the land. In Ammendment 5 it declares "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." This is why you are paid if a city emmenent domains your house to build a highway. They'd much rather just force you out and not have to pay. That would be better for the public good, since it wouldn't require using taxpayer dollars to pay for your house. Rather unfair to you, hence why Ammendment 5 is in there.

        Well, same basic protections apply to corperations. When they buy something, be it land, or slices of RF, they expect that it then belongs to them. Now they can face emmenent domain too, but just like individuals, they need to be compensated. If you get down to it, it's just basic kindergarden level concepts of fairness. You don't take something from someone without giving them something in return.

        And trust me, you don't want a government that can just take shit for "the public good" because that WILL get abused.
      • Except that in most cases it isn't Nextel's fault. There are many public safety radio systems that are not designed to reliably operate in a hostile RF environment. More transmitter sites and higher quality radio equipment costs money. Doing it on the cheap saves money at the cost of coverage and reliability.

        The general rule is that if the interfering transmitter is operating within FCC rules and sound technical practices, it isn't responsible for solving interference problems that are the result of defic

  • Bah (Score:4, Funny)

    by Billobob ( 532161 ) <billobob AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday July 08, 2004 @08:25PM (#9648575) Homepage Journal
    Who needs emergency cha- wait, where the hell did that tornado come from...
    • I really don't know how Nextel's direct talk works, but I am sure its uses a repeater type mechanism. Trust me if that tornado were in area Nextel's direct talk service will be fubar.
  • Public domain? (Score:1, Redundant)

    by hugesmile ( 587771 )
    Nextel will return some of their bandwidth to the public domain
  • Public Domain? (Score:5, Informative)

    by hugesmile ( 587771 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @08:35PM (#9648635)
    Nextel will return some of their bandwidth to the public domain

    I don't think this part of the spectrum is in the "public domain" as if anyone can use it. More accurately, it's been returned to the highly regulated, unaassigned pool of the spectrum.

    • Nextel will return some of their bandwidth to the public domain

      I don't think this part of the spectrum is in the "public domain" as if anyone can use it. More accurately, it's been returned to the highly regulated, unaassigned pool of the spectrum.

      Heh. Yeah, it's "public" in the sense of "we're hoarding it and selling it off to the highest bidder, but we're doing it FOR YOUR OWN GOOD!"

  • I wonder if this will have much effect on Nextel's service? Previous to this, Nextel had some of the best coverage around. I am obviously no expert (as someone here is bound to point out) but is it possible that a change in the spectrum Nextel will be using will result in a change in their service? Then we have the whining. It sounds to me like some rivals (verizon) are fuming because they see their company's fortunes as being more important than the greater good of society (i.e. the ability to use emerg
    • Won't Nextel incur significant costs to facilitate this switch anyway, partially offsetting what other companies see as a "giveaway"? Yes, actually. The FCC is making Nextel acquire a 2.5 Billion Dollar letter of credit, to facilitate switching all the existing sytems. $2.5B liquid dollars isn't anything to laugh about. Also, per RCRNews.com: "If the relocation costs, including Nextel's own costs plus the value of the spectrum it relinquishes, is less than $4.8 billion, Nextel will pay an anti-windfall
  • by bstone ( 145356 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @09:05PM (#9648767)
    What happens to Nextel customers with phones that operate on the frequencies that they just sold back to the feds? Do the customers now "get to" buy a new phone from Nextel (with a new two year service contract, I assume)? If so, it sounds like a windfall for Nextel.
    • Funny thing about the whole deal. I work for a 2-way radio company that has a table in a back room full of 800 Mhz radios. The radios came from companies that were using them. When Nextel purchased the 800 Mhz spectrum, we (back before I started) had to sell all of these companies new radios in a different spectrum. Well, Nextel has yet to build out in my area and it has been several years since all of this took place.

      I overheard some of our current customers complaining that they thought the whole deal wa
  • by XMichael ( 563651 )
    Yes, they've returned it to the extremely regulated, overly monitors, beaucratic to the max, over enforced, over regulated, over monitors public domain.

    Sweet!
  • Dumb Question (Score:1, Redundant)

    This may be a dumb question; does this mean the Nextel cell phones will have to be reprogrammed to work with the new frequency?
    • Re:Dumb Question (Score:3, Informative)

      No, it just means the Nextel cell phones will have to be replaced with ones that work on the new frequency. Unless Motorola has been very forward thinking...
  • by Lifix ( 791281 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @09:18PM (#9648821) Homepage
    The issue here is simple: if the current allocation of frequencies is cutting into emergency services, then that needs to be fixed.

    The FCC was debating letting Nextel reorganize the 800MHz band in return for their slice. This no doubt pissed off all their competitors who had to pay millions for their GHz freqs.

    Usefull links:
    Slashdot: FCC to Reorganize 800 band. [slashdot.org]
    FCC Options and Alternatives for 800 band [fcc.gov]
  • It doesn't make much sense to me, if they are supposed to be regulating the RF spectrum, then why are they allowed to sell any of it? That's about the worst thing for the "public" you can let them do.

    If what this article is saying (it does not specifically say anything directly related to a "sale", but pretty much draws the inference on. That would mean Nextel now "owns" that part of the spectrum from the FCC?

    Just sounds fishy, hope i'm interpreting that incorrectly.
    • This has been the FCC's way of dealing with spectrum allocations since the Clinton administration...

      They're trusting the free market economy to decide who needs the bandwidth the most... an auction shows who is willing to pay the most for the right to use it, and assures the government gets the most money possible out of the transaction.
  • Nextel gets a steal (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fishbert42 ( 588754 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @09:30PM (#9648880)
    So, Nextel a mere $1.6 billion for bandwidth rights which should've cost somewhere between $3 billion or $5 billion.
    "Oh, the poor emergency responders! Of course we'll trade bandwidth with you... it's for the good of the nation."
    Give me a break!

    Verizon must be pissed [oregonlive.com].
    • by Durrik ( 80651 ) <pwright@ryksyl[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday July 08, 2004 @09:58PM (#9649004) Homepage
      Verizon is probably just pissed because they don't like competition. As for the 1.6 vs 3 billion, I'm not sure its that big of a steal. The 800 MHz mobile band is much more valuable then the 1.8 GHz PCS band, from the providors point of view.

      One of the rules of RF cost/design is that as frequency goes up the electronics to increase the power and quality of the signal goes up, while the cost/size of the antennia goes down. The problem is, that the cost goes up faster for the electronics then the cost goes down for the antennia.

      So they gave up an 800 MHz block that would probably be worth at least 1.5 to 3 billion to them, and bought another block. The money almost works out the same. What would have really sucked for Nextel and probably what Verizon wanted was for them to give up the 800 MHz block. And then lose the auction for the new block, cutting Nextel out of the market and reducing competition.

      Also the higher the frequency the worse it is for distance. I can't remember the exact figures but I think for PCS you need 3 - 4 times the number of base stations as you need for the 800 MHz band.

      As for upgrading the customer's phones, it won't be much if they already support the new band as many newer phones do. If they don't the customers are going to have to get new phones. In BC when Telus upgraded their PCS base stations to 3G the old 2G phones wouldn't work. They gave out their cheep phones to the old customers and didn't make them get a new contract. Nextel can do the same thing.

      For the phones that already support the new frequency. The new frequency plan can be downloaded over the air during off hours, or even when the customer is talking on the phone.
    • I'm quite sure, if they ask the FCC nicely, the FCC will happily remove Verizon's 850MHz allocation (you know, the bands they received by default because they, for the most part, are made up of various old Bell companies who all got nice "B" frequency allocations) and give them some crummy 1900MHz spectrum instead.

      Verizon doesn't have a leg to stand on.

    • Nextel isn't really getting that great a deal. But it's not a bad deal, either.

      They're spending close to $5B in spectrum and cash for a solid 10MHz block in the 1.9GHz band. The spectrum that they're trading in (non-contiguous chunks in the 600-700MHz bands) is woth about 1.6Billion, sure. But the cost of retuning all those other license holders is gonna run close to $3.2B. And if Nextel doesn't spend that much while doing this switch, then they have to pay the diff. to the treasury in an anti-windfal

    • Nextel is not getting a trade for trade deal out of this. The FCC valued Nextel's spectrum around $1.8B and the new block around $5B (which is funny since that is the amount that Verizon suggested they would open the BIDDING at). Nextel has to put up the cash for the difference.

      Verizon Wireless doesn't like this because they want to buy the spectrum but they have no chance because the FCC is only giving Nextel the option to buy it. Nextel IS getting the better end of the stick here in the fact that they
  • Was I the only one who saw the story title and thought, "hm, bandwidth swap?...swingers....kinky..."?
  • Nextel Plans (Score:4, Informative)

    by SolidCore ( 250574 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @10:19PM (#9649101) Homepage
    Federal regulators said that they would vote next week on a proposal aimed at resolving problems with cellphone interference in police and fire communications systems. According to an agenda released, the FCC vote will come at the agency's monthly meeting. Nextel Communications is largely blamed for causing the interference. Radios used by police, firefighters and other first responders broadcast on the same 800 Mhz spectrum as Nextel phones. So, if a radio dispatch is made at 850 Mhz near a cell tower broadcasting at 851 Mhz, the radio signal can be drowned out. The commission is expected to approve a Nextel backed plan in which the company would abandon some of its airwaves in exchange for more lucrative spectrum in a band that won't disrupt the radio communications of emergency officials. Nextel would be relocated to more valuable spectrum in the 1.9 Ghz frequency range, where most other cellular companies operate. Nextel's competitors, Verizon and Cingular Wireless, have staunchly opposed the move.
  • Uh oh... (Score:3, Funny)

    by stienman ( 51024 ) <adavis@ubaBOHRsics.com minus physicist> on Thursday July 08, 2004 @10:21PM (#9649113) Homepage Journal
    Nextel and FCC Swap Bandwidth

    FCC has reportedly denied having mono, and sources claim that HIV test results should be available soon.

    -Adam
  • by Talisman ( 39902 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @10:32PM (#9649152) Homepage
    Dispatcher: "Unit 9, we've got a head-on collision on I-70. Multiple casualties. Can you respond?"

    Unit 9: "Roger that, dispa...zzzzzfffzzzkkkkkrkrkk...so I'm all like WHATEVER! he wasn't even cute enoug... Dispatch? Did you copy?"

    Dispatcher: "Unit 9, negative. There appears to be interfe... and then he CALLED me and asked me out aga OH hold on, got another call *click* Hello? Hey babe! Yes, I watched American Idol last night. Can you BELIVE that bitch won?!?"

    Unit 9: "Dispatch come back. Got chatter on the frequency."

    Dispatcher: "Roger that, Unit 9. Hold on a sec. (alters voice) This is Nextel customer service. Sorry to interrupt your call, but we are investigating cloned numbers and we think you may be a victim. Can you please verify your billing address for us?"

    Female teen voice: "OMIGOD where did that come from hahahaha! OMIGOD OK it's 5233 South Downing Lane."

    Dispatcher: "That will be fine, ma'am. We'll be with you shortly. Unit 9, standby. SWAT, we've got what looks like a drug deal gone bad at 5233 South Downing Lane. Advise that you have permission to use deadly force and should go in locked, cocked and ready to rock."

    SWAT: "Roger that, dispatch." (sounds of guns loading)

    Dispatcher: "Unit 9, we've got a head-on collision on I-70. Multiple casualties. Can you respond?"

  • FCC to blame (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Fujisawa Sensei ( 207127 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @11:45PM (#9649514) Journal

    I believe that in this case the FCC is entirely to blame. Isn't it their chartered duty to make sure that crap like this doesn't happen.

  • by saikou ( 211301 ) on Friday July 09, 2004 @01:31AM (#9649918) Homepage
    So in worst case scenario Nextel PTT service would be hit. More grief to local construction crews, some joy for people eating out at local chinese buffet [Prr-BEEP] JOHN GET YOUR $%^$ HERE, MIKE JUST SCREWED UP THE LINING ON THE SECOND FLOOR.
    But seriously -- this plan is quite old.
    See this article (Motorola drops 800 MHz bomb) [findarticles.com]

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