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FCC's Powell Pulls Plug On Nextel Spectrum Move

Nextel Communications' hope for relocating much of its traffic to the 1.9-GHz band are fading, after Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Michael Powell withdrew his support for Nextel's plan to acquire rights to the coveted spectrum.

The focus now moves to the 2.1-GHz band, which Nextel calls "inferior replacement spectrum."

Why is 1.9 GHz so coveted and 2.1 GHz, the higher frequency, so disdained?

"There's a big increase in cost with 2.1 GHz," said Angus Dougherty, president and CEO of wireless-infrastructure company Air Cover, in an interview. "The higher the frequency, the worse the propagation. For instance, you need many more cell sites [towers] for 2.1." Dougherty noted that the 2.1-GHz band also requires more energy than does 1.9 GHz.

The matter of Nextel moving out of the 800-MHz band has come to the fore in recent months because that bandwidth is also home to many public-safety agencies, such as police and fire departments. Nextel has backed what's been called the Consensus Plan, which would shuffle Nextel and public-safety agencies around. The main bone of contention arose when Nextel asked for a 10-MHz chunk of the 1.9-GHz band--in fact, the last remaining swath available in that band. Nextel's competitors, led by Verizon Wireless, complained that Nextel is seeking to cash in on a giveaway worth billions of dollars, further demanding that the 1.9-GHz swath be auctioned.

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