NEW YORK -- Nextel Communications Inc. and Verizon Wireless unexpectedly resolved a heated dispute yesterday over a federal proposal to clear up interference between cellphones and emergency response radios by moving Nextel's signals to a more valuable band of spectrum.
In exchange for Verizon dropping its opposition to the spectrum proposal, Nextel is withdrawing its claim of trademark rights for the phrase "Push To Talk" and the word "push" to describe the popular walkie-talkie service that Nextel introduced to cellphones and which Verizon and other rivals now offer.
The agreement ends a battle in which each company accused the other of putting business interests ahead of public safety concerns -- often invoking memories of Sept. 11 and the need for reliable emergency communications. Verizon Communications Inc. is 55 percent owner of Verizon Wireless.
"It was getting ridiculously bitter, and I think they reached a point where saner, cooler heads could prevail," said John Ryan of the research firm RHK. He noted that both sides may have decided the dispute was an unneeded distraction now that Cingular Wireless and AT&T Wireless have completed their merger.
The dispute involved a proposal by the Federal Communications Commission calling for Nextel to give up spectrum that overlaps with frequencies used by emergency responders in exchange for licenses to use another part of the airwaves with greater value.
Public safety officials have said personnel are endangered any time they respond to a call and cannot communicate.
Verizon said Nextel wasn't being asked to pay nearly enough for the upgrade. Nextel argued that the spectrum it would turn in was being undervalued by nearly a half-billion dollars by the FCC.
As it became apparent early this year that the FCC was close to adopting the basic structure of the Nextel plan, Verizon Wireless mounted an aggressive lobbying and publicity campaign.
But more than a month ago, Verizon toned down its rhetoric, suggesting talks between the companies might have begun at about that time. Both companies declined comment yesterday.