Basic Exchange Telephone Radio Service

Developed in the mid-1980s, Basic Exchange Telephone Radio Service (BETRS) is a fixed radio service that uses a multiplexed digital radio link as the last segment of the local loop to provide wireless telephone service to subscribers in remote areas where it would be impractical to provide wireline telephone service.

The wireless link allows up to four subscribers to use a single radio channel pair simultaneously without interfering with one another. Licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under the Rural Radiotelephone Service, BETRS may be licensed only to state-certified carriers in the area where the service is provided and is considered a part of the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) by state regulators.

This service operates in the paired 152/158- and 454/459- MHz bands and on 10 channel blocks in the 816- to 820-MHz and 861- to 865-MHz bands. These channels are also allocated for paging services. Since BETRS primarily serves rural areas in the western part of the United States, it typically does not conflict geographically with paging services. When there is a conflict, the FCC provides a remedy.

Rural Radiotelephone Service and BETRS providers obtain site licenses and operate facilities on a secondary basis. This means that if any geographic area licensee subsequently notifies the Rural Radiotelephone Service or BETRS licensee that a facility must be shut down because it may cause interference to the paging licensee’s existing or planned facilities, the Rural Radiotelephone Service or BETRS licensee must discontinue use of the particular channel at that site no later than 6 months after such notice.

BETRS primarily serves rural, mountainous, and sparsely populated areas that might not otherwise receive basic telephone service. Although the industry has raised concerns that auctioning spectrum for BETRS would have the effect of raising the cost of the service, which could deprive these areas of basic telephone service, the FCC does not distinguish BETRS from other services that use radio spectrum to provide commercial communication services.