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Nextel Resolves Cell Phone Snarl

Firm Gets Access To New Airwaves As Compensation

By Yuki Noguchi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 8, 2005; Page E05

Nextel Communications Inc. yesterday gave final approval to a deal that gives it control over valuable new airwaves, ending a years-long lobbying battle among interest groups over how to reduce cell phone interference with police and fire radio systems.

Nextel will gain access to new airwaves valued at about $4.8 billion. In what is intended to be an even exchange, the company will give up some of its old airwaves and pay up to $2.8 billion to retune public safety radios across the country for new frequencies.

Nextel Communications agreed to a plan by federal regulators aimed at ending the interference between its phones and police and fire communication systems. (Jeff Chiu -- AP)

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Michael K. Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, hailed the deal as the culmination of a complicated technical process that will benefit public safety.

"It's always gratifying to untangle a knot," Powell, who plans to leave the agency next month, said at a news conference with Nextel executives and public safety officials. "I would never have left if this was [not] done."

Winning approval for the new airwaves is a big victory for Nextel, which spent millions and hired a lobbying team to counter a campaign by rival Verizon Wireless to derail the plan. Verizon Wireless called the exchange an illegal giveaway, although it later settled with Nextel and agreed not to challenge the company's deal in court.

The five-member FCC unanimously approved the plan last summer. Nextel will have three years to complete the transition, which it has said will not affect customer service.

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