As expected, the FCC has approved a three-month extension for Sprint Nextel and most Wave 1 public-safety licensees in the 800 MHz band to negotiate and execute rebanding agreements, and the TA established a new deadline for these licensees to ask for planning funding.

Under the new schedule, the mandatory negotiating period for 800 MHz licensees operating in the NPSPAC channels will end on Oct. 31 instead of the July 31 date in the previous schedule, as requested by the 800 MHz Transition Administrator (TA) in April. In addition, the TA today asked these licensees to submit their planning-funding requests by July 17.

"The TA believes that adjusting the length of time for Wave 1, Stage 2 mandatory negotiations will allow licensees and Sprint Nextel the additional necessary time for these complex systems to negotiate a frequency reconfiguration agreement," TA Director Brett Haan said in a statement.

Supported by Sprint Nextel and affected 800 MHz licensees, the revised schedule was proposed after TA estimates indicated that it would take almost eight months to complete all Wave 1 NPSPAC rebanding agreements. Those estimates were based on the time taken for agreements to be reached with Wave 1 licensees operating in Channels 1-120—systems that lack many of the complications inherent in public-safety communications networks.

The Wave 1 schedule-revision proposal was submitted at the same time as similar changes for Wave 2 and Wave 3 NPSPAC licensees. However, while the FCC quickly approved the Wave 2 and Wave 3 revisions, the Wave 1 schedule change did not receive the commission’s blessing until last Friday, which was announced by the TA today.

“We believe that affording Sprint and the NPSPAC licensees in Wave 1 a limited additional period for planning and negotiations will facilitate the transition and maintain the integrity of the overall rebanding timetable,” the FCC’s order states. “We emphasize that the TA has not recommended—and our action does not affect—the interim milestones or the 36-month deadline for completion of rebanding established by the commission.”

Given these circumstances, most in public safety expected the FCC to grant the Wave 1 extension.

“I think it was inevitable,” said Ron Haraseth, director of automated frequency coordination for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO). “At the rate things were going, it was something that needed to happen.”

Haraseth said APCO is working with the TA to promote several rebanding-related activities, including use of the newly created fast-track program for planning-funding requests.