The infighting between the US mobile operator Nextel Communications and its rivals continues unabated.
Ostensibly the disagreement between the two parties is over ways to minimise the interference Nextel’s mobile traffic can have on public safety communications networks in the US but it’s really about the perceived value of mobile spectrum and above all its about money.
Basically, Nextel originally and proactively proposed that it would solve the interference problem by unilaterally relinquishing some of its bandwidth and also offered to pay the sum of US$850 million to move the emergency services' communications to less congested parts of the radio spectrum.
Many hundreds of emergency service organisations across the US applauded and endorsed the move and want to see it completed as soon as possible.
The quid pro quo for Nextel was that it would be permitted access to a swathe of bandwidth in the 1.9GHz range.
Originally the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) favoured Nextel’s plan but later came under intense pressure from the carrier’s rivals who claim that Nextel is getting an extremely valuable asset, out of which it will make untold sums of money, for next to nothing.
They want Nextel either to pay the going rate that the spectrum might expect to make in auction or, failing that, to be allowed themselves to bid for the bandwidth in open competition.
Since then Nextel has made several counter-proposals and last Friday made another offer whereby it will give up more spectrum to the police and other emergency services. Again the emergency services liked what they heard and Robert Gurss, the director of legal affairs for the US Association of Public Safety Communications said that Nextel’s new ideas were “a win-win for us in that it provides some additional channels and could further reduce interference."
However, Nextel’s latest stratagem has gone down with Verizon and its allies like the proverbial lead balloon. Steve Zipperstein, Verizon’s general counsel was blunt in the extreme. He said, “Nextel’s new scheme doesn’t provide an additional cent for public safety. Public safety needs money, not lousy spectrum.”
Nextel’s rivals are pushing for the adoption of a plan originated by the wireless industry trade body Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) under which Nextel would be required to pay US$3 billion in cash for bandwidth in a more crowded part of the spectrum.
Needless to say, Nextel is not amused. A company spokesperson, Leigh Horner, said that Verizon’s intervention is “disingenuous and inflammatory” and insisted that the carrier will continue to work with the FCC, and only the FCC, to resolve the issue.
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