Regulators will consider comments on Nextel's (NXTL) effort to cut $452 million off the price of a proposed radio spectrum swap.
Nextel hopes to get a price break on the cost of vacating emergency services airwaves, saying the Federal Communications Commission underestimated the value of its wireless licenses. Last month, Nextel filed a
request to have the FCC modify its order.
In response, the agency will now solicit comments from others in the industry and has extended the deadline for the discussion process another 45 days. Nextel rivals, led by industry leader
, have argued that the FCC could attract a much higher price by auctioning off the spectrum.
In July, the FCC moved to accept most of Nextel's offer to swap its 800MHz spectrum for unused 1.9 gigahertz airwaves in order to reduce interference of cell-phone calls with radio transmissions by police and fire departments. In exchange, the agency said Nextel would have to pay $3.25 billion for relocation costs and new airwave licenses.
But Nextel argues that the agency undercounted the population within the company's national 800-megahertz radio frequency by roughly 52 million people.
Nextel says the FCC used old spectrum license information from 2002 to arrive at a population of 234 million people within reach of the company's 800MHz network. The company says newer information shows that Nextel's network actually covers 286 million people.
Observers say the FCC could reduce the price without seeking additional industry comment, but by seeking input can avoid potential legal challenges.
On an earnings call earlier Friday, Nextel CEO Tim Donahue said he expected the issue to be resolved in 60 days. An FCC representative declined to comment on whether the agency would lower Nextel's tab and could not be specific on time frames.