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Verizon Wireless's $5B Spectrum Bid Seeks To Block Nextel

The wireless spectrum war is intensifying. Nextel Communications and Verizon Wireless are battling over the 1.9-GHz band, while many public-safety organizations continue to back a proposal that would reshuffle most of Nextel's traffic into the upper end of the 800-MHz spectrum.

With the Federal Communications Commission considering a vote at an Open Commission Meeting next Thursday, Verizon Wireless has complicated an already complicated situation by stating it will start off an auction for the spectrum with a $5 billion bid. The current proposal has Nextel picking up 10 MHz of 1.9-GHz spectrum without going through an auction.

In a letter to the FCC, Verizon's vice president of Business Development, stated: "The fact the Nextel has demanded this spectrum as its price for promising to rectify interference to public safety operations does not justify the Commission's acquiescence in Nextel's demand. The only proper action for the 1.9-GHz spectrum is to auction it to the highest bidder."

The issue revolves around growing interference problems plaguing the country's public-safely radio channels. Nextel operates primarily in the 800-MHz band, along with most of the nation's public-safety organizations-mainly police and fire departments--and Nextel has been identified as creating the most interference.

"The core problem is Nextel, and to some extent some others," said Bob Gurss of the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials, in an interview. "Nextel's architecture intermixes with public safety [radios]."

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