Some comments regarding a proposal to realign the 900 MHz band to make room for broadband while preserving space for narrowband show a lingering hopefulness among utility and critical-infrastructure entities that they eventually could secure dedicated broadband spectrum.

But Elizabeth Sachs, regulatory counsel for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA), said during Tuesday's EWA member regulatory forum teleconference that she doesn’t “see any realistic likelihood that that is going to happen.”

The EWA supports the Pacific DataVision (PDV) proposal to transition 3 MHz of 900 MHz land-mobile-radio (LMR) spectrum to broadband, leaving 2 MHz of spectrum to support existing narrowband LMR systems in band. The proposal would require many incumbent licensees in the band to reconfigure their systems to operate on new spectrum.

“I absolutely understand: nobody likes to have their system disrupted at all, and so you only see the downside,” Sachs said during the teleconference. “Even the people who are incumbent and said, ‘No, no, we don’t want this,’ all said ‘Absolutely, there needs to be a broadband allocation for private enterprise and critical infrastructure because commercial networks just don’t meet all of our requirements.’

“I don’t know whether they still think they’re going to get a set-aside allocation. I think anybody who has followed this at all thinks that (to call it) ‘a long shot’ is being wildly optimistic. I just don’t see that happening. It hasn’t happened after the last 10 years that they’ve been asking for it and with $45 billion in the bank [from the FCC’s ongoing auction of AWS-3 spectrum], I just don’t see that as a realistic possibility.”

PDV and the EWA on Tuesday filed joint reply comments with the FCC, stating that—given the absence of “greenfield” broadband spectrum—the PDV proposal “represents a meaningful option for this critical part of the telecommunications user community,” according to the reply comments.

That isn’t the way commenters viewed the proposal, though.

“The Petition proposes radical changes to the 900 MHz band – band clearing, forced migration, realignment, and introduction of broadband into a narrowband environment,” Sensus USA wrote in its comment filed Tuesday. “Done improperly, these actions could cause widespread disruption to (critical-infrastructure industries) systems. The commission should move cautiously and deliberately, if it acts further on the Petition. The maxim, ‘First thing, do no harm’ applies here.”

The PDV-EWA joint reply addressed the recurring concerns expressed in the comments submitted to the FCC during the proposed rulemaking process. That response can be read in its entirety here.

“The regulatory and technical issues in the Petition are not novel. They can and should be addressed in a NPRM, not an NOI, which would only serve to further delay a PE/CII broadband option. The Commission has ample experience with rule changes that permit the deployment of more advanced, efficient technologies in existing bands and is well versed in broadband technology below 5 GHz. It is fully capable of resolving the issues under consideration in this proceeding without reverting to an NOI,” according to the reply comments document.

In a recent interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications, PDV Vice Chairman Morgan O’Brien addressed some the main technical concerns raised in the comments. O’Brien also said PDV would cover any costs incurred during an incumbent’s transition during the process.

Sachs said the response to the PDV’s proposal reminded of her what transpired with 800 MHz rebanding, when O’Brien’s former company—Nextel Communications—agreed to billions to realign operators.

Aside from the PDV proposal, there are many other spectrum matters awaiting FCC action, such as the T-Band freeze and pending proposals related to VRS systems.

“Some of these are a bit controversial,” Sachs said, referring to the 3.65 GHz item, in particular. “But a lot of these things… [are] not complicated stuff. Frustrating.”