AT&T cuts frequency on cell towers that jammed police radios

The Oakland, Calif., cell-phone towers were found to be interfering with officers' ability to communicate with each other and with their dispatcher.

Cell towers from an unknown service provider being installed on the roof of a building in downtown San Francisco.
Cell towers from an unknown service provider being installed on the roof of a building in downtown San Francisco. James Martin/CNET

AT&T has temporarily disabled a frequency emitted by 16 towers that were found to be interfering with police and firefighter radio communications in Oakland, Calif., the San Francisco Chronicle reported today.

The towers were causing radio failures, particularly when a police car was within a quarter to half a mile of one of them, said David Cruise, Oakland's public safety systems adviser.

After the U.S. Federal Communications Commission confirmed the interference, AT&T shut down the 850MHz frequency for 2G customers on the towers last Friday, but the carrier left the 1,900MHz and 700MHz frequencies for its 2G, 3G, and 4G service untouched, according to AT&T spokesman John Britton. The move will affect only people using older phones, he said.

Sprint Nextel, meanwhile, paid $10.5 million to move Oakland's $7.5 million radio system last year to a frequency that would not be affected by its network, according to Cruise.

The city is looking at possible interference from cell-phone towers of T-Mobile and other companies as part of its broader investigation into failures with the public safety radio communications that left officers unable to connect to dispatchers or communicate with each other, Cruise said.

About the author

Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service, and the Associated Press. E-mail Elinor.


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