Much has been written and said about how the effort to reconfigure the 800 MHz band so that operations by Sprint Nextel no longer cause harmful interference to first responder communications is well behind schedule and likely won't be completed by the June 26, 2008 deadline set by the FCC. But not much has been written or said about what's being done to get the derailment back on track.

A big step in the right direction is the implementation meetings that the Transition Administrator is holding with 800 MHz licensees across the country. TA representative John Bush reported during last month's IWCE-MRT Wireless Summit in Orlando, that 15 sessions had been held, involving 170 public-safety licensees that collectively have 350,000 radios affected by the reconfiguration. "The meetings have been very useful for getting people on the same page," he said.

Participants held similar views of the meetings, which bring together licensees, vendors and Sprint Nextel in attempt to help them to better understand the mechanics and timetables of the reconfiguration effort. MRT contributing writer Alan Tilles, an attorney with Shulman Rogers Gandal Pordy and Ecker who represents numerous 800 MHz licensees, described the meetings as "the most boring meetings I've ever been in -- but probably the most useful." According to Tilles, each meeting has contained an "ah-hah moment," when licensees realize the complexity of the reconfiguration and the importance of planning. For that reason alone, the implementation meetings have been "hugely useful," Tilles said.

Chuck Jackson, a vice president for Motorola, agreed. Jackson said during the summit that concerns are growing that the vendor giant almost certainly will encounter a chokepoint it might not be able to overcome because of the avalanche of reconfiguration requests he's expecting over the next 18 months, due to the FCC's turning of the screws regarding completion deadlines. The commission said in September it still expects rebanding to be completed by June 26, 2008, and that waiver requests attributed to delays by vendors and Sprint Nextel would not be granted easily.

"We just don't have the resources to do 350 customers at the same time," Jackson said. For that reason, he called the implementation meetings "tremendously valuable" from a resource-allocation perspective.

They've also been valuable in terms of uncovering situations early in the process that could turn out to be unpleasant surprises at the later stages. Bill Jenkins, a vice president for Sprint Nextel, told of an encounter with an air ambulance company during one meeting. The company is not an 800 MHz licensee but operates on four systems in the state where they do business. "They could have been overlooked," Jenkins said. "The meetings have been uncovering a lot of interoperability issues, which is very important as we move forward in the process."

Several more meetings are scheduled for next year. More information can be obtained at www.800TA.org.

Radio Club of America: It's always a treat to attend the annual Radio Club of America's awards dinner in New York City, but this year was even more special for us because it gave us a chance to be in the same room as two journalistic icons, Andy Rooney of "60 Minutes" fame, who delivered the keynote address, and Walter Cronkite, the long-time anchor of the CBS Evening News who once named the "most trusted man in America," who received the Armstrong Medal for important contributions to radio art and science.

Also in attendance was a young woman who attends New Jersey's Montclair State University, who was one of 13 recipients of RCA scholarships this year. It was announced during the dinner that the Enterprise Wireless Alliance had contributed $5000 to the scholarship fund. Kudos to the EWA and its president and CEO, Mark Crosby, for this generous contribution. For more information on how you can get involved, visit www.radioclubofamerica.org.

E-mail me at gbischoff@mrtmag.com.