Rebanding of the 800 MHz band is not proceeding as quickly as scheduled, and areas hit by Hurricane Katrina were moved to Wave 3, the Transition Administrator team overseeing the three-year project reported to the FCC this week.

Designed to alleviate interference problems Sprint Nextel--formerly Nextel Communications--has caused public-safety and other wireless operators in the band, the 800 MHz reconfiguration will leave all operators with contiguous spectrum instead of the current interleaved airwaves that are a primary reason for the interference. Sprint Nextel is obligated to pay all costs incurred by licensees that are associated with rebanding.

The first step in this process is to relocate operators in the Channel 1-120 frequencies, which will free that spectrum for public-safety operators. However, the TA’s quarterly progress report released Tuesday indicated that negotiations between Sprint Nextel and licensees are not generating as many deals as hoped. As of Oct. 28, only 115 of the 386 licensees in the Channel 1-120 frequencies had finalized agreements with Sprint Nextel.

“It appears at this time that a significant number of Wave 1 licensees will not have completed negotiations with Sprint Nextel and executed an FRA as of the end of the mandatory negotiation period,” the TA report states. “Sprint Nextel estimated to the TA that as many as 50 public-safety licensees, plus some additional number of non-public-safety licensees, will not have entered into an FRA by the end of the mandatory negotiation period on December 26, 2005.”

TA Project Manager Brett Haan described the slow pace of negotiations as “a significant issue,” as the Channel 1-120 agreements are expected to be much simpler than those associated with large public-safety systems. With this in mind, Haan said the TA has added a procedure on requests for requests for planning funding (RFPFs)--a vehicle many large public-safety entities are expected to use--to insure that it is kept abreast on the status of negotiations.

“When licensees submit requests for planning funding to Nextel, we’ve asked that they concurrently inform the TA, so we can track and monitor it,” Haan said.

Another notable change was the decision to move 800 MHz licensees in Louisiana--many of which are focused on recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina--from Wave 2 to Wave 3. Haan said the change was made after TA officials discussed the situation with licensees in the state.