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Nextel's radio interference plan--a tough call

The company's proposal to clear the way for police radios is running into potentially deal-killing static.

A new proposal to end Nextel Communications' interference with police radios is running into potentially deal-killing static, according to a cell phone industry source.

Originally, Nextel's "Consensus Plan" suggested moving all its phone calls out of the radio spectrum that was causing the problems. In exchange, Nextel would pay about $2 billion for new spectrum in a different area, 1.9 gigahertz. That plan has raised hackles from competitors, including Verizon Communications, which says the spectrum is actually valued at $7.2 billion.

The source said the Federal Communications Commission, Nextel and Verizon Wireless have recently discussed the possibility that Nextel instead get spectrum in the 2.1-gigahertz range. It's a patch of airwaves that's "far less controversial," the source said.

For decades, police in major metropolitan areas have found that Nextel's cell phone towers often interfered with their own communications. The company broadcasts its calls in various portions of the 800-megahertz range, which is dominated by law-enforcement communications equipment.

Nextel recently met with FCC officials to discuss the 2.1-gigahertz alternative, according to FCC filings. The company is expected to file a report with the FCC about the 2.1 bandwidth as soon as Wednesday. The FCC is expected to rule on the matter by the end of the month.

A Nextel representative would not elaborate on the company's plans, saying Nextel doesn't "comment on any rumors coming out of the FCC."

The new plan, however, has one powerful detractor: Verizon Wireless, which along with Cingular Wireless is the loudest opponent of Nextel's plan. "We would not view 2.1 as any more saleable (than) 1.9," a Verizon Wireless representative said.