- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 8, 2001

The Federal Communications Commission is likely to step in early next week to resolve a dispute between satellite radio broadcasters and a group of wireless telephone companies.
An FCC decision would end a dispute that threatens to ground XM Satellite Radio Inc. The D.C. company had planned to begin beaming its radio signal using a pair of satellites Wednesday in a limited rollout of its subscription radio service.
Wireless phone companies argue some of the equipment XM and Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. of New York will use interferes with voice and data communications because it is too powerful.
While the FCC is expected to make a decision to resolve the debate, it is not clear whether the agency will give XM and Sirius wide-ranging approval to beam their signals to all areas nationwide.
"The FCC is trying to allow service to be activated without interfering with [wireless] users," an FCC source said.
Separately, FCC Commissioner Kathleen Q. Abernathy said at a conference in New Orleans the agency hopes to release rules governing the equipment soon.
XM Satellite Radio Senior Vice President Lon Levin said the company expects to earn FCC approval to begin service next week.
The FCC must approve the use by XM and Sirius of ground-based repeaters that improve satellite signals in urban areas, where buildings can block transmissions. The FCC has not adopted rules governing the use of repeaters for satellite radio service, although the agency did let companies build the devices.
Wireless companies including BellSouth Corp., AT&T; Wireless and Verizon Wireless argue that signals from repeaters could block some of their voice and data signals because the ground-based equipment boosting the satellite signals is too powerful.
XM has 778 repeaters, according to FCC filings, and Sirius has 151. Both companies want approval to operate some repeaters at up to 40 kilowatts. Wireless phone companies argue XM and Sirius should not be allowed to operate repeaters at more than two kilowatts.
"If they turn on their repeaters at the 40 kilowatt level they have requested, they will blow us away," BellSouth spokesman Bill McCloskey said.
Wireless and satellite companies operate side by side on the same wireless spectrum. Interference from high-powered repeaters could block signals from wireless phones and prevent subscribers from using the devices, wireles phone companies say.
XM has said AT&T; Wireless has identified only 16 repeaters that would interfere with its wireless services.
"All indications are that there are technical solutions that will allow us to go ahead," Mr. Levin said.
FCC Commissioner Kevin J. Martin said at the New Orleans conference yesterday that satellite broadcasters and wireless phone companies must "strike some reasonable balance" between the interests.
XM is set to beam signals next week to subscribers in San Diego, Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. The company plans to introduce service to the rest of the country by early November. XM subscribers will pay $9.95 a month for 100 channels of static-free music and news.
Sirius plans to begin beaming its signal to subscribers in the fourth quarter, and it will charge $12.95 a month. Both companies have lined up numerous contracts with auto manufacturers to have satellite radios installed in upcoming models.


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