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Frequency fix signals time of change in Colonie

Sprint Nextel is expected to clear up long-standing radio interference between its wireless network and Colonie's emergency frequencies.

The company is making its way to Colonie after more than two years since a Federal Communication Commission report ordered it to fix the interference.

The multi-billion dollar fix involves a cross-county reconfiguration of municipal radio towers to the 800 megahertz radio band.

For Colonie the fix couldn't have come at a better time.

The town has been phasing out analog radios in favor of new digital radios. As Sprint Nextel fixes the problem, Motorola, the provider of the new town radios, will be tuning in.

Board members approved a resolution Thursday, Sept. 27, to enter into an agreement with the company to fix the problem.

Although the interference was noticeable, it never posed a problem for police and first responders, said Colonie Police Chief Steven Heider.

There was some interference that we detected in some of our radio broadcasts. Throughout any radio systems there are dead spots, but throughout the county, their cell phone transmitters are on the same towers as emergency transmitters, said Heider.

Positioning the transmitters on the same towers was only a part of the problem, and a small one. Across the country, the telecommunications giant was operating and rerouting its cellular phone service on frequencies too close to the emergency bands.

"The steps they are taking is to make a bigger gap between public safety frequencies and general public frequencies used for cell phones and such," said Joseph Fitzsimmons, Colonie deputy police chief.

Fitzsimmons has been charged with monitoring the transition of town radios to digital.

News accounts following the FCC mandate in 2005 put the price of the operation at around $2.5 billion. Colonie, like other municipalities countrywide, does not have to pay for the tower tinkering.

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