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AT&T Cellphone Towers Blamed For Oakland Police Radio Failures

OAKLAND (CBS SF) - Dual investigations by the City of Oakland and the Federal Communication Commission have determined AT&T cellphone towers are responsible for the glitches plaguing the Oakland Police radio system.

Officers using the city's $18 million, year-old P25 radio system have reported numerous communication failures and dead zones, most recently during President Barack Obama's visit to Oakland on July 23.

A review of communications logs in August and field testing determined an AT&T Wireless cell tower on East Ninth St. was causing "significant interference" to the city's P25 system, according to a statement issued by the City of Oakland.

The investigation also showed that many other cell sites were exhibiting the same radio frequency interference problem, according to the statement, and FCC rules giving public safety users absolute priority required AT&T to resolve the situation immediately.

The wireless carrier issued a statement Monday, saying "AT&T is working closely with the City of Oakland to understand if the issues they've raised are connected in any way to AT&T's network. In the interest of public safety and as a cautionary measure while we're looking into the matter, we have temporarily taken some 2G frequencies out of service at some cell sites in Oakland. We continue to operate on other 2G frequencies and our 3G and 4G service throughout the area is unaffected."

AT&T said it has partially disabled 16 of its towers using GSM 2G frequencies operating at 850 megahertz. The companies said customers with the oldest phones would be most affected, but expected disruptions to be minimal.

Crews were still working to identify other sources of interference with the police radio system, including cell sites used by other wireless carriers and sites in neighboring cities that transmit into Oakland.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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