Sprint Nextel today announced that the Transition Administrator has approved the company’s planning funding agreement with the Utah Communications Agency Network (UCAN), one of the largest and more complex systems to be part of 800 MHz rebanding.

TA Director Brett Haan said the UCAN deal represents the first planning-funding agreement with a “significant” public-safety entity, although a handful of other planning-funding deals have been approved. Officials anticipate a complete frequency relocation agreement will be signed by June 30, 2006.

News of the UCAN-Sprint Nextel agreement was announced during the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) Winter Summit at the beginning of the month, but the deal had just been submitted to the TA for approval at that time. In an interview with MRT, UCAN Executive Director Steve Proctor said he received a letter confirming the TA’s approval of the planning funding agreement on Feb. 6.

“Our negotiations with Sprint Nextel have resulted in a fair deal for public safety in Utah,” Proctor said in a prepared statement. “While this will be a challenging process, we look forward to working with Sprint Nextel to complete reconfiguration, making potential interference to public safety radios at 800 MHz a thing of the past.”

That approval was provided more than seven months after UCAN submitted its request for planning funding—a process that “took longer than anyone had hoped for,” Haan said.

Many in the public-safety community have expressed dismay at the slow processing of planning-funding requests. In an effort to improve this process, the TA established a new planning-funding process designed to help licensees and Sprint Nextel reach a planning-funding agreement in less than three months.

Future planning-funding requests must utilize the TA’s template for such applications, Haan said. These items can be found online at www.800ta.org/content/documents/rfpf_forms.asp.

Contrary to some reports, UCAN did not use the TA template, but rebanding officials agree that other licensees should be encouraged that an agreement could be reached on such a large system. UCAN’s 37-license radio system serves 115 public-safety agencies across Utah and covers 28,000 square miles spanning over diverse geography.

“Utah serves as an example of how an appropriate planning funding agreement can be reached in a complicated spectrum environment,” Sandy Edwards, Sprint Nextel’s vice president of spectrum, said in a prepared statement.