Sprint Nextel has made tremendous progress with rebanding public safety and private wireless licensees since the start of the year. As of mid-May, 96% of Phase 1, Wave 1 licensees have signed Frequency Reconfiguration Agreements, or FRAs, and they are well into their retunes. For Wave 2 of Phase 1, 97% of licensees have completed negotiations. Nearly all of the remaining licensees that have not completed FRAs are using their planning-funding dollars to prepare for discussions to complete their FRA.

We have now completed Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) for Phase 1, Waves 1 and 2. I'm pleased to report that ADR has produced much success. Only four cases were referred to the FCC for review in Phase 1, Wave 1 reconfiguration. At the time of this writing, it appears that only two cases were headed to the FCC for resolution from Phase 1, Wave 2. The ADR process has functioned as the FCC anticipated.

We're also well into negotiating agreements with Phase 2 licensees for NPSPAC systems. Phase 2, Wave 1 contains more than 400 licensees, many of them with large, complex systems in major metropolitan areas. The number and complexity of public-safety communications systems in Phase 2, Wave 1 is a challenge for everyone — licensees, the Transition Administrator (TA) and Sprint Nextel — and we all have asked the FCC to grant additional time to negotiate retuning with Phase 2, Wave 1 incumbents. We remain hopeful the FCC will provide additional flexibility to get this done.

There have been two recent additions to the world of 800 MHz reconfiguration — both of which are designed to make the process smoother for public safety.

First, several members of the first responder community have joined the Sprint Nextel Public Safety Advisory Board (see story on page 18). The advisory board will enhance the experience of the public-safety community during 800 MHz band reconfiguration by providing an additional channel for public-safety incumbents and Sprint Nextel to share information, lessons learned and each other's views and perspectives. The advisory board will supply expert advice on difficult issues and unique retuning requirements, and will provide communications continuity for first responders around the country.

The members of the advisory board are each extremely well-qualified to advise Sprint Nextel on the issues involved in 800 MHz reconfiguration from a public-safety licensee's perspective. If you are in need of advisory board members' contact information, please send a message to 800MHz@sprint.com.

Second, under certain circumstances, public-safety licensees may apply for planning funding to assist in their planning for reconfiguration prior to negotiating an FRA with Sprint Nextel. Unfortunately, the planning-funding process has tended to take too long and has been cumbersome for many applicants. Under a new process, agreed to by public-safety leadership, the TA and Sprint Nextel, public-safety incumbents meeting certain guidelines will automatically have their applications for planning funding put on a fast-track approval process.

In general, if the costs in an applicant's request for planning funding (RFPF) aggregate to the equivalent of $55 or less per primary subscriber unit and do not exceed certain limits on project management and legal fees, the request will be expeditiously incorporated into a Planning Funding Agreement (PFA) with Sprint Nextel without any negotiation. The PFA fast track follows the standard RFPF process, and specific application, eligibility and processing criteria can be reviewed at www.800TA.org.

It is important to note that an incumbent's responsibility to incur “least cost” obligations are unchanged under the fast-track review process and remain subject to the FCC's true-up requirements at the end of reconfiguration. For those licensees that do not meet the fast-track criteria, the RFPF will follow the existing 60-day negotiation process established by the TA on Feb. 1.

Sandy Edwards is Sprint Nextel's vice president for spectrum resources.