T-Mobile USA has stepped up calls for the Federal Communications Commission, the US regulator, to sell-off swaths of airwaves reserved for the emergency services to commercial operators. According to Dow Jones Newswires, the Deutsche Telekom-owned operator made its request in a letter on Wednesday, a day ahead of a US government hearing on the issue. T-Mobile’s rival, AT&T, by contrast, has recommended that lawmakers give the spectrum band to regional public safety groups and allow them to use it as they see fit to raise funds to build their own networks. AT&T also called for the new public safety network to use the next-generation technology being developed by itself and Verizon Wireless. However, this is considered controversial as it would exclude different types of networks, such as Clearwire’s WiMAX network. “The plan should try to avoid distorting or disrupting the commercial wireless marketplace by giving an unfair advantage to certain carriers over others,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman at the hearing.

Lawmakers are considering how to facilitate a nationwide, interoperable public-safety mobile network, which is one of the key recommendations of the 9/11 commission. The FCC failed in its last effort to sell a block of public-safety channels to private companies because potential bidders did not want to share that spectrum with the emergency services. In its letter, T-Mobile said an auction of the airwaves could raise US$2 billion to US$9 billion, which could help fund the public safety network.