Licensees affected by the 800 MHz rebanding process can apply for planning funding under streamlined guidelines released by the Transition Administrator (TA) last week.

Designed for licensees that require no more than $55 per subscriber unit in planning funding, the “fast track” mechanism was announced last month at the IWCE conference in Las Vegas, but licensees were asked not to apply under the program until after the TA released detailed guidelines. Starting tomorrow, all planning-funding requests must be made using form version 2.6 or later, which is available on the TA website at http://www.800ta.org/content/documents/rfpf_forms.asp.

"The PFA Fast Track Option expedites the planning funding process, and provides licensees more runway time to reach a Frequency Reconfiguration Agreement (FRA) and prepare for the actual retuning process," TA Director Brett Haan said in a statement.

Under the fast-track option, licensees—primarily public-safety agencies—submitting a planning-funding request can bypass the need to negotiate the deal with Sprint Nextel if the proposal seeks no more than $55 per subscriber unit from the wireless carrier in planning funds, Haan said. In such cases, Sprint Nextel simply will write a contract after the TA deems the planning-funding request is reasonable.

While this portion of the fast-track option was announced last month, the detailed guidelines also require “fast track” licensees to spend no more than 8% of their planning-funding costs on legal expenses and no more than 25% of their planning funding on project management.

These new thresholds could make it more difficult for licensees to qualify for the fast-track option, said Alan Tilles, who represents many public-safety entities in rebanding negotiations as a partner in the law firm of Shulman Rogers Gandal Pordy & Ecker.

“Unfortunately, the size of the legal fee has little to do with the size of the reband,” Tilles said. “Legal fees are directly proportional to the cooperation of the licensee, Nextel, the TA and consultants in the rebanding process. I have seen very small deals with very large legal fees, and very large deals with very small legal fees.”

In addition, the TA has released detailed guidelines regarding licensees’ use of intermodulation studies. The principles are consistent with the policy guidelines on the subject released previously by the TA, but the new document includes much more specific information. A copy of the guidelines is available at http://800ta.org/content/PDF/reconfiguration_materials/IMGuidance.pdf.