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US, Mexico reach border spectrum agreement

The deal clears spectrum for public safety agencies to use along the border

The U.S. and Mexican governments have reached agreements on the sharing of wireless spectrum on the border of the two countries, opening up spectrum in the 800 MHz and 1.9 GHz bands to commercial services and public safety agencies, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission said Friday.

The signing of two agreements Friday allows the FCC to move forward with longtime efforts to reband, or reconfigure, the 800 MHz spectrum across the U.S. and give public safety agencies contiguous spectrum to operate wireless emergency response services, the FCC said.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski participated in discussions between the two countries Friday at the U.S. Department of State, the FCC said.

"These agreements with Mexico will unleash investment and benefit consumers near the borders by enabling the rollout of advanced wireless broadband service and advanced systems for critical public safety and emergency response communications," he said in a statement.

The 800 MHz agreement, replacing an earlier agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, allots band segments between the two countries and sets the technical parameters for operating in those segments within 68 miles of the border.

The agreement for the 1.9 GHz band allows Sprint Nextel to deploy mobile service along the border with Mexico. Sprint obtained access to the 1.9 GHz band in 2004 as compensation for vacating its spectrum holding in the lower segment of the 800 MHz band as part of the rebanding project.

Public safety and commercial mobile services were originally "mixed together" on the same spectrum in the 800 MHz block, according to the RadioReference.com wiki. In the late 1990s, the FCC found significant interference with public safety communications, leading the agency to work on rebanding the 800 MHz block.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.


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